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lives of the last Buddha, Gōtama-the most recent stories of which are at any rate of earlier date than the period of the compilation of the Dipavansa, while others date from the fourth or fifth century B.C.-some interesting evidence is forthcoming regarding the tract inhabited by the Yakkhas.
After the usual introductory remarks, the Valāhassa Jātaka (No. 196) begins as follows: 'Once upon a time, there was in the island of Ceylon a goblin town called Sirisavatthu, peopled by she-goblins. When a ship is wrecked these adorn and deck themselves, and taking rice and gruel, with trains of slaves, and their children on their hip, they come up to the merchants.' The story relates how they entice the traders to accompany them to the goblin city; 'then, if they have any others already caught, they bind these [other men] with magic chains, and cast them into the house of torment. And if they find no shipwrecked men in the place where they dwell, they scour the coast as far as the river Kalyāni [Kaelaṇiya, which enters the sea at Colombo] on the one side and the island of Nāgadipa on the other. This is their way.' Then follows an account of the ensnaring of five hundred shipwrecked merchants in this manner, and the escape of two hundred and fifty of them by the aid of the Bodhisattva [Gōtama Buddha, in this former life], who assumed the shape of a wonderful flying horse which carried them back to India. When some new men were entrapped the Yakkhas are described as killing and eating the two hundred and fifty who were left behind. This anecdote implies that the Yakkhas occupied all the coast districts outside the limits of Nāgadīpa and Kaelaṇiya.
The 'goblins' were Yakkhas. It is to be regretted that the translators of these stories, as well as other translators, decided to transform the appellations of the various inferior supernatural beings who are mentioned in them, into words that are assumed to be their English equivalents, but in reality belong, in some cases, to beings of different characteristics. The word 'goblin,' for instance, would never mean to the ordinary reader both a being, Yaksha, who was sometimes ranked in India close to the Gods-in the Atharva-Veda Yakshas precede the Rishis and the Fathers—and also a ghūl, Vētāla, an eater of dead bodies. 'Demon' and 'fiend' are used to designate such different beings as Danavas, Daityas, Rākshasas, Yātudhānas and Pisachas.
Taken with the information gleaned from the histories, this Jātaka story renders it clear that the old authors believed them to have held the southern two-thirds of the island, including one-third of the western coast. The fact that the Nāgas are described as being in possession of two-thirds of the western coast districts tells very strongly in favour of their coming from some part of the Malayalam tracts.
There is good reason to suppose that the accounts which the early writers have given respecting the Yakkhas have some foundation in fact. If so, they must necessarily refer, not to any supernatural beings who had made Ceylon their home, but to the aborigines, who in any case must have been driven out of the northern districts of the island by the intrusion of the Nagas. It is the general consensus of opinion that they are now represented by the Vaeddas, the hunting and fishing tribe who at one time occupied all the central forests as well as the southern coasts.
The late Mr. H. Nevill, of the Ceylon Civil Service, and others, have traced the identification of the Vaeddas with the Yakkhas, by the old authors, to a similarity of the names of the two classes of beings. According to this view, the Pāli expression Yakkha was wrongly applied to the aborigines because of its resemblance to a title which is supposed to have been given to them as descriptive of their calling as hunters. It is believed by these writers that they were known as ' Arrowpersons'; this would be expressed by the word iya, 'arrow,' plus the personal suffix ka, forming the word Iyaka, which in sound is sufficiently close to Yakkha for such a confusion to arise. Although the arrow is certainly given a very prominent place in the ceremonies and worship of the Vaeddas, there appears to be no other evidence in favour of this derivation of the name applied to them by the ancient authors.
On the other hand, we have unmistakable evidence that they were known in pre-Christian times by the name which they still bear. The statement of the Mahavansa that in the fourth century B.C. King Paṇḍukābhaya provided a site at Anuradhapura for the Vyāda-Dēva, 'the Vaedda deity,' and erected special dwellings for the Vyādas there, appears
to prove conclusively that at that early date the aborigines were known as Vyādas or 'hunters,' that is, Vaeddas, and not Iyakas. In the Mahāvansa they are also once termed Pulindas, that is, savages or barbarians, a name applied by Indian writers to the Bhils; and in place-names they are Sabaras, a word with the same meaning. It was probably due to exaggerated tales about these hunters, which the primitive Indian traders told their credulous countrymen on their return from their long and arduous expeditions to Ceylon, that the aborigines came to be denominated Yakkhas, that is, demons or goblins. For the original home of these first comers we must search in the nearest aboriginal tracts of the adjoining continent, the hills of Southern India, or their neighbourhood. It has been already noted that the Rāmāyana mentions the existence of Yakshas on them. Professor R. Virchow has shown that the character of the skulls of the present Vaeddas indicates a race with an affinity to some of the South Indian hill tribes. In several respects their customs incline to those of other South Indian hill-men, and their supreme deity is the HillGod, whose cult prevails throughout the Western and Southern Ghats. Perhaps the strongest evidence of the country of their origin is their own tradition that this deity came to Ceylon from Malawara-desa, the Country of the Hill-region,' that is the Malayalam hills. It remains to be seen whether any affinities can be recognised between their dialect-which is practically a compound of modern Sinhalese, old Sinhalese, and a few Tamil words-and those of the South-Indian hill tribes.
There is nothing to indicate that the Vaeddas were ever the cannibals that the Jātaka story represents them to be; the tale of their eating shipwrecked persons is an embellishment regarding the truth of which the later legends of the supposed habits of the true Yakshas would leave no doubt in an Indian mind. It may be taken to have no better basis. than the fact that like many other aboriginal tribes they may have robbed and perhaps killed some of the traders wrecked on their shores, and seized the cargoes of their ships. On the other hand, the statement that the Pulayars of Travancore,
who are believed to be the aborigines of the plains in Southwest India, habitually file their teeth1 must be admitted to afford some evidence that cannibalism was formerly a practice of that race, the habit of sharpening the teeth being almost always associated with anthropophagy. Had man-eating been also a custom of the aborigines of Ceylon, however, some distinct reference to it, in addition to the very doubtful story of the habits of the Sirisavatthu residents, would almost certainly be found in the Sinhalese historical works, and the teeth of the Vaeddas would probably be filed to the present day, like those of the Pulayars.
On the whole, it may be concluded that the advance of the Dravidians to the south of India, which may have occurred before the entry of the Aryans into the north-western regions, may have eventually led to an exodus of an aboriginal and probably pre-Dravidian hunting and fishing tribe across the shallow strait that separates Ceylon from India.2
That this tribe in early times obtained food by fishing as well as hunting, may be gathered from the facts (1) that some Vaeddas live entirely by fishing at the present day; (2) that they are stated in the Valāhassa Jātaka to have wandered along the shores round the southern and eastern part of the island; and (3) especially that in the eastern part of Ceylon, where the people who retain the name of Vaeddas are still found, the shark is a forbidden food to the Kapuwas (or demonpriests) of the jungles of the interior who conduct the worship in honour of their supreme deity. This prohibition must have arisen from an acquaintance with the man-eating proclivities of the shark, regarding which the natives of the interior could have no direct knowledge. Such a prohibition would never be thought of by any but residents on the sea coast who were accustomed to catch and eat the shark, and it would be quite useless among others who lived far from the sea. The shark is not a forbidden food to the Kapuwas in other parts of the
1 Rev. S. Mateer, Native Life in Travancore, p. 41.
Dr. R. Virchow has already stated that we cannot avoid the conviction that they stand in a close affinity to the Aborigines of India. (The Veddas of Ceylon, Translation, p. 131.)
island. The custom is an evident survival from a time when a considerable part of the race gained a living by sea-fishing, and were aware of its necessity in order to preserve from defilement the officiators at the services in honour of their deity. I may add that it appears to completely negative the Indian story of the cannibalism of the aborigines. If they were eaters of human flesh they could have no reason for declaring the shark an impure fish because it ate the same food as themselves.
Many centuries must have elapsed before these wanderers could penetrate and spread through all the dense forests of the interior, and in considerable numbers occupy all the southern coast districts, as they are represented to have done by the fifth century B.C. It may thus be accepted as certain that their advent dated, at the latest, from the second millennium before Christ, if the primitive state of the wilder members among their descendants, and the advanced state of the more civilised portion of the race in early historical times, do not indicate an even more distant arrival in the island.