« PreviousContinue »
which at a first glance it somewhat resembles. It is a fatbodied little insect, less than a quarter of an inch long, and is extremely tame; when one perspires with the heat in the jungle several of them often alight on one's hand to drink the moisture. It is black in colour, as are also its comb and honey. There is very little of the latter in a hive, but it is the sweetest of all. The nest is often found in a small dead branch or stump; and the entrance is built up with wax so as to leave an orifice sometimes not wider than the lead of a common pencil, barely permitting the insect to enter. The Wanniyas consider this Bee to hold higher rank than the others, notwithstanding its diminutive size; it is the Himi, 'Lord,' of the Bees, because, they say, its hive is sometimes established at a higher level than those of the other kinds.
The honey of the two last-mentioned Bees is procured by enlarging the entrance to the hive, or cutting a new one, with the little axe which these hunters always carry by passing the handle downward through their cloth belt. The work is easily done, as the stings of the Bees are ineffective and rarely cause injury; in fact, they are not often inflicted upon the hiverobbers; but the Bambara is a dangerous insect when the community is aroused-there being often several combs in proximity on the same rock-and its hive can be cut down only at night, after stupefying the Bees with a smoking torch on which resin has been sprinkled.
Unless the wax be required for household use or barter, the finders divide and eat it, and everything taken out of the hive, excepting only the full-grown young which crawl out of their cells in time to escape this fate; all the rest of the larvae, however much developed, being thought to be little, if at all, inferior to the honey, and having, as a Kandian assured me, "a pleasant flavour like milk."
In districts where there is suitable forest, the Kandian Sinhalese make exactly similar, but temporary, excursions in search of honey, and are fairly expert in observing the Bees, without which they could not expect to meet with any success.
1 I met with a similar Bee, which was equally tame, in the Gambia district in West Africa.
Among some Sinhalese it is a custom for the man who discovers a hive which he intends to take afterwards, to make a cut with his axe on the stem of the tree; the honey will not then be removed by others. It is believed that if more than five cuts were made the Bees would abandon the nest. While on such expeditions in one northern district, it is a significant fact that they still address each other as "Vaeddā.”
All the forests and jungle where the hunting races live are apportioned among them for the purposes of hunting, getting honey, taking fish, and collecting shed deer-horns; and they informed me that they respect each other's rights over them. When I was out in the forest with some Wanniyas on one occasion, one of them observed a half-broken twig hanging at the end of a small branch-a common hunter's mark in the jungle-and remarked at once that somebody had been passing through their forest, which was a wild tract far from villages. It was evidently a matter which caused them considerable misgiving, and they discussed it long and eagerly, and eventually agreed that it was done by a certain person of another hamlet, who was known to them as an unscrupulous character. "It must have been Tikkā," they said, "he is a bad man; no one else would do such a thing. He has been collecting some of our horns."
It is well known that Deer shed their horns annually. the season when they are dropped the hunters wander about in the forest in all directions in search of them, knowing that they are useful for barter at the little roadside 'boutiques,' or shops, which they visit in order to procure cloth, salt, etc. It is somewhat strange that many horns are found badly gnawed, sometimes more than half through; this is said to be done by Porcupines. The work of collecting the horns is laborious, and to our minds would not appear to be worth the little that their finders obtain for them. A Wanniya who was with me carried for three days, at considerable inconvenience, a small gnawed horn for which he only expected to receive a penny. After reaching his home he would still have a journey of eight miles in order to dispose of it, but probably he would carry some honey or other horns with him. At any rate this
work would appear to be performed without much danger; but I have known a man when so engaged to be attacked by a Sambar deer, which knocked him down and broke his collar-bone.
The Vaeddas, and also Kandian hunters, usually go on hunting or honey-collecting trips for a few days at a time; but the Wanniyas are absent in the forests for about two months together, returning home at intervals in order to fetch a little millet-flour, or to leave horns, skins, or honey. They take with them as food merely a small bag of millet-flour. When other food fails they cook the large cakes that have been described above, one of them sufficing for a day's eating. Of course the wilder Vaeddas who do not cultivate millet are without this resource, and live entirely on the forest products and animals at these times.
The Vaeddas are sometimes reduced to starvation if continuous rain fall while they are distant from their home on these trips. At such times, they informed me that they seek a large Riți tree (the bark of which is easily detached in large pieces), and immediately make a long cut across it with an axe, near the foot, and from each end of this a vertical cut of about their own height, or a little more. The piece of bark within the cuts is then lifted off the tree at the lower end, and supported at the loose corners on two sticks set in the ground for the purpose. This makes a tiny watertight shed under which a man can sit and sleep while the rain lasts. I was assured that sometimes they have been obliged by bad weather, when the forest streams were impassable, to remain in such a shelter for three, and in extreme cases even four days, without food. They are so well inured to privation of this kind that they seem little the worse for it, in the opinion of the Sinhalese who know them best. They remarked that they had never heard of a Vaedda's dying of starvation.
When I was in the forests for several days with a party of Wanniyas, a heavy rain-storm came on in the evening, and lasted all night. Using my breakfast-cup as a gauge, I found that the fall amounted to more than three inches. It was an awkward predicament, as we were quite without shelter, and were merely camping under trees. There were no Riți
trees in that part of the country, but the hunters were equal to the emergency, the threatening appearance of the sky having given us warning of the approaching storm, which many earnest supplications addressed to one of their special Forest-Deities, the Sat-Rajjuruwō, the deified King MahāSēna, had failed to avert, though accompanied by abundant offerings of leafy twigs hung over the horizontal stems of suitable creepers.
They scoured the forest all around until they found a tree with a large hollow up the trunk, at its foot. Dried wood was collected, and hastily crammed inside this shelter. Then a fire was made round another large dead tree, which soon became ablaze, and the whole night's rain failed to extinguish it. It will be observed that the fire was taken to the wood, and not the wood to the fire; this is a hunter's custom; a hunter always makes his fire close to a supply of dry wood. Round this tree we all camped, the men lying on improvised beds of small leafy twigs which kept their bodies off the wet ground, while I was in a hammock, between two blankets, out of which the water was wrung in the morning. When the rain at last ceased at 7 a.m., the dry wood was brought out of its hiding-place, and a roaring fire was made at the burning tree. This soon warmed us, and thoroughly evaporated all the moisture in my clothes-no one else was much overburdened with such articles-and the drenching had no injurious effect on any one.
When animals have been wounded by their arrows, the hunters track them through the jungle until they find them exhausted or dead. Elephants are killed by means of heavy arrows with the eighteen-inch blades. These are driven into them behind the shoulder at very close range-a distance of two or three yards-and as both edges of the blade are sharpened, every branch touched by the shaft of the arrow as the animal rushes through the jungle causes it to enlarge the wound, until the loss of blood is so great that the Elephant is exhausted. An old Wanniya, Kōnā by name, told me that he had killed nine Tusk-elephants in this way. Sambar deer are taken in a similar manner. Deer and Pigs are often killed
on moonlight nights, while drinking at small pools in the forest, the hunter sitting behind a low bush or a small shelter of leafy branches made on the leeward side of it. It is on such occasions that the bow, if a very strong one, is sometimes held by the foot.
By the Wanniyas, at least, if not also the Vaeddas, the flesh of the Pig is never removed until the epidermis has been scorched off by fire. On one occasion when one was shot they refused to cut it up until this necessary preliminary work had been done. "Whoever heard of cutting up a Pig before the skin was burnt off," they said; and I was obliged to wait and watch the proceeding. As the Pig is considered to be an ' unclean' animal by the Kapuwas, or demon-priests, in the Vaedda districts, there may be some idea of first purifying the meat by the application of the great purifier, fire, before taking it away. A fire is made against one side of the animal until it is charred, after which the body is turned over and the other side, and, in fact, all parts are equally burnt, firebrands being applied to the legs. The skin is then easily removed by scraping it with sticks.
Kōna was quite an original character. I never saw him sleep in the ordinary way; he merely sat with his back in a comfortable position against a large tree, and he seemed to obtain a good night's rest in this manner. He hobbled about with a bent back, and supported by a long stick, and appeared to be quite incapable of any useful work; but as soon as we began to make our way through the bushes he took the lead and kept it, at a pace that was almost too rapid for me. He knew, he said, every rock and game track in the forests in which he and his friends were accustomed to hunt, and his opinion was always listened to with respect, and his advice. followed.
The idea of locality of these hunters is perfectly developed. On one trip I was taken by some Wanniyas through a piece of wild pathless forest ten or eleven miles across, near Padawiya tank, at the north-eastern boundary of the North-central Province. The jungle was dense, and the journey therefore occupied all day. Of course we were unable to proceed in a