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have lost all tradition of their origin; but it is possible that patient inquiry by a competent person might elicit some interesting facts, or legends at least, regarding their ancestors.
Pending the publication of Dr. Seligmann's researches, there is not much definite information concerning their social customs. The Village Vaeddas have a simple but formal ceremony similar to that of the Sinhalese, on the day when the child first tastes the food of adults. When the infant is about seven months old the parents fry some Indian corn, or cook some millet porridge, and give a little of this to it, together with a taste of any other food that they possess. It is probably at this ceremony that a name is bestowed on it.
As regards their marriages, Mr. Nevill has condemned the inaccuracy of those who stated that the Vaeddas are accustomed to marry their sisters. This was an Indian custom of early times, however, and the Mahāvansa mentions two traditional cases at least-the parents of Wijaya, and the children of Kuwēni-in both of which the contracting parties were the children of the same parents. According to the Dasaratha Jātaka (No. 461) Rāma married his sister, Sītā. It seems also probable that Mahā-Nāga, the brother of Dēvānam-piya Tissa, married his sister Anula; while in the Kunāla Jātaka (No. 536) we find the people of Koliya reviling the Sakyas of Kapilavastu (from whom Mahā-Naga was descended) as persons who' cohabited with their own sisters.' Regarding the practice of the Vaeddas I have no direct information; I should accept Mr. Nevill's statement on the subject in preference to those of others who had not the same opportunities of obtaining correct accounts of their ways. Such marriages with sisters are unknown among the Sinhalese of the present day.
Mr. Nevill learnt that among the first eight clans marriage into another territorial section was usual. His remarks are so interesting that I quote them rather fully: Thus if A and B are adjacent territories, the bachelor in A goes to B, and marries a wife, if possible his mother's brother's daughter, or the nearest collateral relative similarly connected [that is, through the mother]. The difficulty of finding out who this might be was remedied by adopting the territorial title as a
quasi-gotram division; and our bachelor in A, whose mother came from A and bore that name, would go to B, and marry the first eligible maiden of the B name, with perfect confidence that she belonged to the correct division of the family.
'This caused an apparent division into family clans [subdivisions] which, however, are better termed territorial clans [sections], to avoid confusion with the true hereditary clan. The necessity of taking a wife from a territorial clan [section] C, D, or E, if no available maiden could be found in B, often led to breaks in the propinquity of the descent, and even intermarriage with a new waruge, as distinguished from a territorial section of the same waruge. The waruge divisions [clans], once political or ethnic in origin (at times of mixed ethnic origin by intermarriage out of the Vaedda race), have now become quasi-gōtra or family clans, and are thus to be distinguished from what I term the territorial clans [sections, which are] all branches of the one true gōtra or family clan.
'The rule for marriage was stringent. The daughter represents her mother's family, the son also represents his mother's family [? father's family, as among the Kandian Sinhalese]. In no case did a person marry one of the same family, even though the relationship was lost in remote antiquity. Such a marriage was incest. The penalty for incest was death. Thus the daughter must marry either her father's sister's son or her mother's brother's son, neither of whom would be of the same clan name. [This is the common Kandian custom also.] Failing these she may marry any of their name, and should no such bridegroom be available, marriage into a third family becomes necessary.
'The Vaeddas marry young, and are strict monogamists. Consequently the husband and wife are watchfully jealous, each of the other, and love intrigues are few and far between. Nothing short of murder would content the injured party. This strict morality extends to unmarried girls, who are protected by their natural guardians with the keenest sense of honour. It does not extend, however, to widows, however young and pretty, and a widow who avoids exciting the jealousies of the wives may have love affairs with half the men around,
without exciting any wish for revenge among her relations, who would have given their lives at once to avenge any impropriety of conduct while she was single. The women also are said not to show any excessive jealousy of a widow, if her allurements be not too openly talked of.
'As might be expected, when a wild race marries young and the husband and wife remain constant, any unusual festival is often the occasion for riotous sensuality between husband and wife, who then discard all decency in their private intercourse, and break out into licentious love-songs and gestures.
'There are no special marriage ceremonies.' 1
I was informed by the Village Vaeddas that when a young man thinks of marrying, he selects a suitable girl himself, and speaks on the subject to either her father or mother. Having obtained the necessary consent, he takes up his residence at their house without further ceremony, and the girl becomes his virtual wife. After three or four months have elapsed, and he has cut, and sown, and reaped a temporary clearing in which millet is grown, or has otherwise assisted in providing a supply of food for the family, he is considered to be formally united to the girl. Prior to this, I presume that the union is looked upon as a probationary one, according to the similar practice which is still occasionally followed in the more backward Kandian villages of the interior. It is also a common custom of Kandian villagers not to register their marriage until after the birth of the first child; this leaves the parties free to separate, if they desire to do so, without the trouble of applying for a formal divorce. In such cases the marriage prior to registration is practically a probationary one, like that of the Vaeddas.
The formal consent of a parent, or of the natural guardian if the parents be dead, is the only absolutely necessary part of the Kandian marriage ceremony, which is thus in agreement with the practice of the Vaeddas, and is doubtless derived from them. This consent having been obtained, the living together of the young couple, with or without any other ceremony, constitutes a valid marriage, by ancient Kandian custom. I have known several cases of this kind, in which the permanent union 1 The Taprobanian, Vol. i, p. 177.
was unaccompanied by any ceremony. A recent law of the last decade renders registration compulsory in order to secure the legality of all marriages.
To show that this practice of the Vaeddas is not a mere primitive trait, it is only requisite to refer to the custom in China, where we are told that the only essential feature of a Chinese wedding is the delivery of the bride at her husband's home.'1 Among the West African Mandinkō and Jōlas, too, who are certainly not primitive, the consent of the parents renders any marriage valid, and among the latter people there is no formal ceremony.
I am obliged again to borrow the following information regarding funerals from Mr. Nevill's account of them: Bodies were never buried until the English Government endeavoured to enforce burial. The Vaeddas have not the least objection to the corpse being buried, but object greatly to being forced to dig the grave, a waste of labour, over mere perishable matter, from which the spirit has gone free, they say.
'The Vaedda religion seems to have been such that the spirit alone was recognised as human, and the flesh, when the spirit has left it, receives neither veneration nor superstitious reverence. Where the life left the body, there the body was left, if safe from wild beasts, or if the family were in a hurry. It was usual to put it in a crevice between rocks, or to cover it with boughs; if no rocks were near, boughs were laid over it. This was merely done in a sense of decency, to prevent wild beasts from feeding upon it. Spirits were not thought to haunt the spot, as among Sinhalese and Tamils, nor did superstition require any funeral rites. Two to five days after the death, however, the relatives were invited to the scene of funeral, and a feast was held. The original object of this seems not to have been religious, but civil. It was in fact a coroner's inquest, and was held to satisfy relations that there had been no foul play. I have hitherto had great difficulty in getting real Vaeddas to discuss the funeral, as they seem to think that I am secretly
1 Rev. Dr. Smith. Village Life in China, p. 269. The italics are his. The Taprobanian, Vol. i, p. 179.
laughing at their want of etiquette on such occasions, and there is nothing a Vaedda dislikes and dreads so much as being despised as a savage.
'The Vaeddas of Bintenna, however, having assembled relations and neighbours, procure rice or other grain, and decorate the pot in which it is cooked with sprays of the Liniya tree (Helicteres isora), a shrub with leaves like our hazel, but with bright scarlet flowers. If no flowers can be got, bits of red cotton or other cloth should be used. The celebrant then dances round the pot of food with an arrow in his hand, singing any chant he knows, and making obeisance to the food by a wave of the arrow. The food is then distributed, and it is etiquette not to revisit the spot until the flesh has decayed away. There does not seem to be a dread of pollution; but rather that feeling which makes us think it bad taste to be seen in a nightdress, etc., by our friends makes the Vaedda think it bad taste to go and stare at the decayed and abandoned body of his friend and neighbour.
'It is evident that this custom cannot apply to those who formerly did not eat grain. These, however, were few. Roasted game would probably with such take the place of grain, and the latter seems only used as the best and most unusual food procurable, much as our poor try to provide cake, and not bread and cheese, etc., at weddings.'
My own information regarding this ceremony is scanty. I was told by them that a few days after the burial they prepare food, in the same manner as the Sinhalese make ready a' dāna ' or feast for the Buddhist monks who attend at their houses on such occasions, and proceed with it to the grave, upon which they place it. They then call the deceased loudly by his name, to come and eat it. After waiting a little time, during which the spirit is supposed to partake of the essence of the food, all the persons present at the grave themselves eat up the whole of the food. After this feast they return to their houses.
The summoning of the dead to share in the repast makes it clear that this ceremony is a farewell feast with the spirit of the deceased person, who, as the honoured guest, is first fed before the rest of the party take their shares of the food.