Rathugala Vedda Forest Walk
The Vedda or Adivasi, Sri Lanka's original inhabitants, have a fascinating history. The Mahavamsa, the intriguing historical account of the island, claims that they were the offspring or ancestors of Queen Kuveni, a Yaksha who was the legendary first King Vijay's (5th BC) consort. However, anthropologists assert that their origins are substantially earlier, with some placing them in the Stone Age.
The Veddas, a hunter-gatherer people, have a long history of coexisting peacefully with nature. There are three main subgroups of Veddas: the cave-dwelling Gal Veddas, the coastal Muhudu Veddas, and the village-dwelling Gam Veddas, who relied on chena cultivation and lived in modest huts in the countryside.
The Vedda of Gal Oya once lived in caves protected by the forests of the areas, but were moved out by government developments in the early 1950s. These days the Gal Oya Vedda mostly inhabit small mud houses within the forest and many of them have modernized and integrated into the local community. Recent years have brought developments such as TV and internet into the Vedda communities and as such their language, unique religion, extensive knowledge of natural medicines, and ritual customs are being slowly lost. This walk with Gal Oya’s Vedda chief provides a unique insight into a culture which is rapidly disappearing.
You will meet your host, the chief of the Rathugala Veddas tribe, Gunabandila Attho. He is a Vedda that has shaped by the hardship living of the forest. He always has his short axe or the “Moriyan Kekka” clinged upon his shoulder.He has a long beard and long hair that is tangled without using a comb and who is ebony in colour. He will walk you for a short distance towards the forest. From there you will have to walk in the path that only he knows by his senses.After walking short distance in a grassy land you will enter the dense Jungles of Rathugala. Before entering the Jungle Gunabandila Attho will hang some tree leaves on a branch of a large tree and pray fro their long deceased ancestors spirits to give you protection in the forest.The Veddas belive that their ancestors spirits rome the jungles and they must worship them everytime when they enter the forest. These spirits will protect you from the wild animals and other non human entities of the forest.
He will guide you through jungle and along the way he will teach you about medicinal plants that can be used if you suddenly get sick or injured in the forest. He will show you trees with fruits that by anymean if you eat them you will have to pay with your life.Along the way you will come across elephant dung that shows these forest paths are not for the weak hearted. You will come across brightly colourd forest spiders and butterflies with large wings. He will show you how they kill fish in small ponds in the forest by adding some juice of plants to the water. He will show you how to find places where bees have their hives and how to collect them with their primitive wepons. After walking for about an hour or two you will come to the final attraction of the journey. It is a stream of fresh water which is as cold as ice that is named as “Pihille Kandura” by the Veddas. There you will be able to dip yourself in ice cold waters and wash away the fatigue of the journey. You will find these small streams are filled with fish and they will slowly nibble your feet. The Journey ends with Gunabandila ettho singing a song from their Vedda culture that thanking the forest spirits.