Sri Lankan Food Recipes In Sinhala Language Essays

Foods in Sri Lanka can be hot or very mild or can be combination being very much a question of individual preference. Sri Lankan food is unique for their Culture. Many Sinhala food items are derived from Chena cultivation. Sri Lankan cuisine plays a vital role in the islanders’ life from the most auspicious Sinhala/ Hindu New Year to normal day-to-day practices. They make milk rice and special sweets with coconut milk, floor and Honey at cultural festivals. It is recognized as one of the sixty- four types of art, “Siu Seta kalawa”. The curries come in many verities of colors and flavors blended in Sri Lankan Hot Spices has a great ayurvedic value when used in curries.

Most of the Sri Lankans eat vegetables. With a large community of farmers the Rice and curry is the main food in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka curries are known for their fiery hot spicy flavors and coconut milk is very distinct feature of Sri Lankan cuisine that different regions of country specialize in different types of dishes. The specialty in Sri Lankan food is that same food is differently made in different regions. Dishes from the North region of Sri Lanka have distinct south Indian flavors.

Dishes from the South region of Sri Lanka can be Spicy, Hot or Mild. The meals of the southern region of Sri Lanka are known for their variety and fishing village though the coastal strip. Ambulthiyal a unique spicy fish preparation with thick gamboges “Goraka” paste.

Foods in Sri Lanka

Certain types of fish Balaya , Kelawalla are native to Southern seas. “Lunu dehi” (lime pickle) and jaadi (Pikled fish) are food items made from methods of preserving since they could dry them in sun during rainless days. Western region of Sri Lanka has foreign influence much more than other regions. Many items made using wheat flour always had made Sri Lankan dishes foreign. Since upper western coastal region is dry, fish is dried with salt as a preservative. This is called “Karawala” (dry fish).

Spices such as Cloves, Cardamoms, nutmeg and pepper are found in abundance throughout Kandy and Matale District in Central region of Sri Lanka. Eastern province constitutes three major ethnic groups. Sinhala, Muslim and Tamil, Chena cultivation, Game meat from nearby forests and dry Weather have influenced many food items. Staple diet of Sri Lanka is ‘Rice and curry’ the word ‘curry’ convering a multitude of dishes which are made according to different methods of cooking from Soups, meat, Sea food, Lentils, Vegetables, Sambols, Mallums, Phies to Achcharus. Curd and Treacle and Sweetmeats made from Rice flour and palm treacle, jiggery along with various types of fruits are additions to the meal as the dessert. The Palm, Coconut, Kithul, Palmyra from which the treacle is made will vary accordingly. Sri Lankans also like several juicy sweetmeats like Kavum, kokis, Halape, Thalaguli and Wattalapam etc. Sri Lankans also like to have drinks like tea and coffee.

Foods Highlights

Milk Rice (Kiri Bath)

Milk rice or Kiribath is a traditional Sri Lankan dish made from rice. It is a popular festive dish or any auspicious moment.The dish is prepared by cooking rice with coconut milk, hence this name. The recipe for Kiribath is fairly simple.

How to prepare Milk Rice in Sri Lanka


1) 2 cups short grain white rice
2) 3 cups water
3) 2 cups thick coconut milk
4) 2 teaspoons salt
5) 1 stick cinnamon, optional

Milk Rice (Kiri Bath)

Wash rice and put rice and water into a pan and bring to the boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Add coconut milk, salt and cinnamon, stir well with handle of a wooden spoon, cover pan and simmer on low heat for further 10-15 minutes, when all the coconut milk should be absorbed. Remove cinnamon, cool slightly, then turn out on to a flat plate. Mark off in diamond shapes and serve with bananas, Jaggery or chili paste.

Rice and Curry in Sri Lanka

Rice is the staple food of the Sri Lankans. Almost every household in Sri Lanka takes rice and curry as its main meal. Meat, fish and vegetables are prepared as curries. Sliced onions, green chilies, black pepper, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg and saffron are used to add flavors. A basic rice and curry requires one fish (or beef or chicken) curry, two different vegetables, one portion of fried crispy stuff like ‘papadam’, a ‘mallum’ of chopped leaves and coconut, and a gravy or ‘hodda’ of spiced and cooked with coconut milk.

Rice and Curry in Sri Lanka

Sour fish curry (Malu Ambul thiyal)

Malu Ambulthiyal a unique spicy fish preparation with thick gamboges ‘Goraka’ paste. This is a very popular dish of a fish steak (usually an oily fish like kingfish) in a sour curry sauce. Sri Lanka has a great selection of delicious fish. Best accompaniment if you want to bring down a few blocks of milk rice or a few hoppers and pittu as well.

How to prepare Sour fish curry (Malu Ambul thiyal) in Sri Lanka


1) 500g fish
2) ½ onion- sliced
3) 8 tablespoons black pepper
4) 10 gambooge (goraka)
5) ½ tablespoon chili powder
6) ¼ teaspoon turmeric
7) 3 curry leaves
8) salt – to taste
9) 3 cups water (It is depend on the size of the saucepan)

Sour fish curry (Malu Ambul thiyal)

* In a small saucepan boil gambooge with 1/2cup of water. When it is boiled take out the gambooge and minced it with little boiled water. It should be a fine paste in the end.
* Cut the fish into pieces and wash it well with salt mix water and put it into a saucepan. Then put all the rest of the ingredients, including gambooge paste into the saucepan & mix well with fish pieces with little water. Do not break the pieces.
* Final step is put the rest of the water (2 1/2cups) in to the saucepan and cook the fish in medium heat till the gravy is become so thick.
Taste for salt.

Potato Curry (Ala Hodi)

Boiled potatoes well cooked on thick coconut milk is the basic recipe of this particular food item. Selected as one of the favorite curries among the local citizens, Potato curry can be accompanied with almost any main course and nutritious wise the curry it self stands on a stable stage.

How to prepare Potato Curry in Sri Lanka


1) 2 Large potatoes (peeled, washed and chopped into cubes)
2) 1 Large onion chopped length wise
3) 2 Green or red (dried) chillies
4) 1 tbsp Fenugreek
5) 2 tbsp Oil
6) 1-2 tbsp Curry powder (adjust to taste)
7) Curry leaves
8) Salt to taste
9) Cocunut Milk
10) Tamarind water
11) Lemon juice (optional)

Potato Curry (Ala Hodi)

* Heat the oil in a wok or a saucepan and add fenugreek first followed by onions (Fenugreek goes brown very fast ).
* Add chillies and curry leaves, fry till golden
* Add potato fry for 2 minutes
* Add salt and chilli powder fry for another minute
* Then add water or coconut milk to cover the potatoes
* Let it cook for about 10 minutes while stirring in between (Taste test the salt)
* Once the potatoes are cooked stir well and the curry is ready. At this stage add milk or coconut milk to make more gravy. Can also add tamarind water or lemon juice to finish it off.

Crab Curry

How to prepare Crab Curry in Sri Lanka


1) 4 Crabs shelled ,cleaned and well washed, cut in half with claws attached
2) 2 tbsp Oil
3) 4 Garlic (crushed)
4) Spring onions
5) 1 inch Ginger (finely chopped)
6) 3 small Red chillies
7) 1 tbsp Oyster sauce
8) 2 tbsp Light Soya sauce
9) 1 tbsp Chopped Coriander leaves
10)1 tbsp Sugar
11)1 tbspTomato puree
12)½ Chicken stock or water
13)2 tsp cup Corn flour
14)Salt to taste

Crab Curry

* In a large pan heat oil and fry ginger and garlic
* Add the crabs and cook for 10 minutes, turning it to cook evenly
* Add the sauces, stock, tomato puree and rest of the ingredients and cook for further 5 minutes
* Dissolve the corn flour in a table spoon of cold water and add to the sauce to thicken it
* Finally add the spring onions and coriander leaves


Made with green chili, onions and mustered cream.

How to prepare Achcharu in Sri Lanka


1) 15-20 small Onions (pearl or red onions)
2) 10-15 small green Chilies (each split into two halves)
3) 2 large Carrots (cut into thin strips)
4) 1 small Turnip (cut into thin trianguler shaped pieces)
5) 15-20 small Cauliflower florets (optional)
6) 2 cups Vinegar (Coconut vinegar if available would be ideal)
7) 1 inch piece Ginger root (crushed)
8) 6 cloves Garlic (crushed)
9) 2 tbs black ground Mustard seed
10)1 tbs black ground Pepper
11)pich of Turmeric
12)Salt to taste


Heat 1 cup vinegar in a saucepan. Add onions and simmer for few minutes. Drain the onions and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Add green chilies to hot vinegar and simmer for few minutes. Drain the chilies and add to the onions. Repeat same process with carrots & cauliflower and add to the onions and chillie. Do not heat the turnip but add to the onion mix once cut into pieces. Mix all the vegetables well. To the heated vinegar in the saucepan, add the remaining 1 cup of vinegar and all other ingredients and boil for few minutes. Pour the hot vinegar mix over the onions and vegetables and mix well. Pack into a bottle and leave for a day or two to mature.

Hoppers (Appa)

There are various types of Hoppers in Sri Lanka. Plain hoppers, egg hoppers, milk hoppers, honey hoppers and string hoppers.

* Plain hoppers are bowl-shaped thin pancakes made from fermented rice flour.
* Egg hoppers are the same as plain hoppers, but an egg is broken into the pancake as it cooks.
* Milk hoppers have a spoonful of thick coconut milk/coconut cream added to the doughy center. When cooked, the center is firm to the touch but remains soft inside and is sweeter as a result of the coconut milk.
* Honey hoppers are crispy pancakes cooked with a generous amount of palm treacle. Some people also like to add some jaggery just before serving to make it extra sweet.

How to prepare the Hoppers (Appa) in Sri Lanka


1) 2 cup(s) raw rice soaked for 4-5 hours
2) 4 cups coconut shavings
3) A pinch of yeast granules dissolved in some coconut water or little hot water
4) salt and sugar to taste

Hoppers (Appa)

* Drain the soaked rice and grind it along with the coconut shavings and cooked rice to a fine thick paste. Do not add too much water.
* Coconut water may be preferably used instead of water for grinding. Add the yeast and mix lightly. Mix in the salt and sugar to taste.
* Allow to ferment at room temperature for at least 6 hours.
* Heat a small appachatti. Pour approximately half a cup of batter and quickly but gently swirl the pan around such that only a thin layer of the batter covers the sides and a thick layer collects at the bottom.
* Cover with a lid and cook each appam on medium heat for about 3 minutes or till the edges have become golden crisp and the centre is soft and spongy.

String hoppers (Indiappa)

String hoppers is made from rice noodles curled into flat spirals. It is served for breakfast and dinner with a thin fish or chicken curry, containing only one or two pieces of meat, a dhal dish, and a spicy sambol or fresh chutney.

How to prepare String hoppers (Indiappa) in Sri Lanka


1) 3 cups rice flour -roasted
2) 2 – 3 cups warm water
3) Salt to taste


* Heat the water in the saucepan of the steamer and bring it to boil.
* In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and water together.
* Mix it well and form a nice ball which is not sticks on your hands.
* cover it and keep it aside.
* Fill the indiappa maker with the dough, and squeeze it on the top of indiappa watti (Small round trays, which are very special for string hoppers) Make a lace circle with the dough.
* Steam it for nearly 5 – 10 minutes.
* If string hoppers are well cooked, you can just remove it from the tray very easily.
* Repeat the process till the dough is finish.
* Serve with Kiri Hodi (White coconut gravy), Pol Sambola (Coconut Mix with chili), Maalu Ambulthiyal or Chicken Curry.

String hoppers (Indiappa)

Coconut Roti

Roti is a quick meal- and easy to prepare. Wheat, rice or kurakkan (Eleusine coracana, a strongly flavored brown millet)-meal is mixed with fresh grated coconut and a touch of oil and baked on a hot griddle in thin flat cakes.Roti is equally good with chillie relish or with syrup.

Shallots, green chillies, curry leaves and Maldive (cured) fish flakes are akked to ring in the changes. In Sri Lanka also have koththu roti and godamba roti as well.

How to prepare Coconut Roti in Sri Lanka


1) 200g Medium Wholemeal Flour
2) 150ml Luke warm water
3) 2 Tablespoons oil
3) Ghee or butter to spread
4) Salt to taste
5) Grated Coconut

Coconut Roti

* Take a mixing bowl and add the flour,scraped coconut and oil. Mix the two together with your hands and whilst kneading gradually pour in the water.
* Put the dough on the floured surface and knead it until it is smooth. Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes.
* Return the dough to the floured surface and divide it into equal parts. Roll each into balls approximately the size of a small peach.
* Flatten each ball using the palms of your hands. Add a little more flour to the work surface and rolling pin, and use the rolling pin to roll the flattened ball into a circle.
* Heat some butter in a cast iron skillet, on medium heat, and place the dough in the pan. Cook it for about a minute, or until it is golden brown and bubbles begin to appear. Turn it over and cook the other side.

Koththu Roti

Kothu roti is made from Gothamba roti and vegetables, eggs, or meat and various spices. It is a delicious meal generally eaten at dinner time. Apart from the commonest form of Kothu with meat, eggs or vegetables a newer variety with cheese has been introduced. The Gothamba roti is cut or chopped with the use of two metal blades on wooden handles held on both hands on this sheet or skillet.

The clashing of metal blades and the skillet creates a very distinctive musical sound which kind of announces the making of this Kothu to the passersby. This can be made using Parotta and that is how this is made in South India where Parotta is popular as with Gothamba roti in Sri Lanka. The ingredients and method are the same as for Kothu roti using Gothamba roti.
Koththu Roti

How to prepare Koththu Parotta/Koththu Roti in Sri Lanka


1) Parotta finely chopped (Godamba roti)- 4
2) Onion finely chopped – 1
3) Tomatto finely chopped – 1
4) Curry Leaves – 15
5) Chilli – 2
6) Pepper Powder – 1
7) Chilli Powder – 1/4 spoon
8) Salt to taste
9) Scrambled Eggs – 3
10) Turmeric Powder – 1 pinch

Koththu Roti

* In a Pan pour 4 spoons oil and then Fry Curry Leaves.
* Put Onion and then fry.Once onion is fryed put tomatto and fry the same.
* Put chilli and fry after tomatto is fryed.Put Chilli Powder ,Pepper Powder , Turmeric Powder,Salt and fry the same.
* Once Step C is done add the scarmbled eggs and then add Parotta and fry the same.Scramble if possible. Check for spice level.Kothu Parotta is ready.


Pittu is a popular and frequently prepared food item among Sri Lankans, both Tamils living in Northern and Eastern parts of Sri lanka as well as Sinhalese living in the rest of the areas of the country.

Traditionally the main ingradient of “Pittu” is rice flour, but kurakkan flour or wheat flour also can be used.

How to prepare pittu in Sri Lanka


1) 1/2 Kg Raw Rice
2) 1/2 grated Coconut
3) Water to sprinkle
4) Salt to taste


* Soak rice in water for 4 hrs, then drain it and grind it to make fine powder.
* Roast the powder for 5 minutes. Stir it well, while heating. Keep it for cooling.
* Mix salt with water ant then sprinkle this to the powdered rice, just to make the powder wet.
* Put a handful of grated coconut in the puttukutty and then put rice powder till half then add another handful of grated coconut.
* This is done till the top. Close the lid steam it for 2 mts in cooker.
* Serve it with potato curry


The Tamils of Sri Lanka who mainly live in the northern and eastern parts of the island have preserced sone of their on distinctive ethnic breakfast. Thosai is a great favourite, delicious and nutritionally perfect. The base for this lentil pancake is oorid,a back-skinned pulse of delicate flavour which is soaked and ground to a smooth batter. The batter is then allowed to rise, flavoured wih fried shallouts, curry leaves, fenugreek and cummin and cooked on a hot griddle greased with sesme oil. Thosai which resembles a tortilla, is eaten with a finely ground coconut and chilly sanbal and is a delicious and satisfying meal.


Uduwel (Peni Walalu)

Peni walalu or Unduwel is a very sweet food, specially in Sinhala & Tamil New Year Season Sri Lanka. Pani Walalu is a Deep Fried Coils of Urad dal & Rice Flour Mixture Soaked in Sugar Syrup.

Uduwel (Peni Walalu)


Aluwa is a sweet food, specially in Sinhala & Tamil New Year Season in Sri Lanka.

How to prepare Aluwa in Sri Lanka


1) 1 1/2 lbs. Rice flour
2) 4 cups Coconut Treacle (available in Sri Lankan Grocery Stores)
3) 25 raw Cashews chopped


* Boil the treacle in a saucepan.
* Add the rice flour and Cashews. Stir until all three are mixed well.
* When the mixture thickens transfer on to a well floured board, spread and form into a 1 inch thick block. Cut into pieces of any shape you prefer.


Mun Keum

Mun Keum is a sweet food, specially in Sinhala & Tamil New Year Season in Sri Lanka.

How to prepare Aluwa in Sri Lanka


1) 1 lb Rice flour
2) Mung flour
3) 3 cups Coconut or Kithul Treacle
4) 1 tbs. Ghee or Butter
5) 1 tsp. Salt
6) Vegetable oil for deep frying

Ingredients for the BATTER

1/2 lb Rice flour
1 cup Coconut milk
1 egg
pinch of Tumeric
1/2 tsp. Salt

Mun Keum

* Mix the rice and mung flour to get an even mixture.
* Boil the treacle in a saucepan.
* Add the flour mix.
* When the mixture starts to thicken add butter and salt.
* Transfer the thickend mixtue into an aluminum tray (cookie tray) and
allow to cool.
* Add about 1/2 cup water into the saucepan, leave on the hot plate and
stir until thick syrup like consistency.
* Remove from heat.
* Add small amounts of this syrup to the flour mix in the aluminum tray
and spread into 1/2 -1/4″ thick block.
* Cut into shapes.


Kokis is a food, specially in Sinhala & Tamil New Year Season in Sri Lanka.

How to prepare Kokis in Sri Lanka


1) 2 cup rice flour 2 eggs
2) 1 tbsp sugar (optional) Salt to taste
3) 2 c coconut milk
4) Oil for frying


* Put flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl
* Add about half of the coconut milk to make a smooth paste.
* Beat eggs and gradually add to the batter with the rest of the milk. Beat together until smooth.
* The batter should be thicker than pancake batter.
* Have ready a deep pan of boiling oil. Dip 3/4 of a kokis mold in batter, taking care not to let the batter run over the mold. Plunge the mold into


Saw Dodol (Welithalapa)

Saw Dodol (Welithalapa) is a food, specially in Sinhala & Tamil New Year Season in Sri Lanka.

How to prepare Aluwa in Sri Lanka


1) 2 lbs Rice flour
2) 4 cups thick Coconut milk
3) 4 cups Kithul or Coconut trealce
4) 2 tsp Salt


* In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt thoroughly.
* Add a little coconut milk to the flour and mix until the flour forms into small balls like beads. Do not add water.
* Cover and steam the flour beads for abourt 30 minutes or until cooked.
* Remove from the steamer and separate the flour beads and set aside.
* Boil the treacle and coconut milk in a large saucepan and add the flour beads while stirring.
* Keep stirring the mixture until oil starts to separate.
* Remove from heat. Transfer into a greased dish and shape into a block.
* Cut into pieces of any shape.

Saw Dodol (Welithalapa)

Fruits in Sri Lanka

There are various types of fruits in Sri Lanka.

Fruits in Sri Lanka


There are various types of Banana Categories in Sri Lanka.

Banana Category
*Embul Kessel: Relatively gives a bit of a sour taste when you eat and much softer yet tastier.

* Seeni Kesel :This is very much sweeter compared to all the other banana types that you will find in Sri Lanka. Average sized and commonly found in all around the island.

* Koli Kuttu: This banana type was mainly used among the up class category and one of top selections when it comes to desserts. It is not that sweet but it will give this welcoming taste which you will tend to eat two or three more and will make your mouth water if you use this as an accompaniment with plain hoppers.

* Aana Maalu :Competitively large in size, this fruit is served for patients recovering from illnesses due to the fact of the teaming nutritious facts of the fruit. Suggest as a dessert after a heavy meal.

* Rathambala :These Bananas are red color.



Mangosteen is a dark purple fruit with luscious translucent segments within. Its flavour may be described as a combination between strawberries and grapes. They are seasonal and are available from July to September. Mangosteens are commonly sold by the roadside at Kalutara.



Mangoes Categary

* Rathu Amba (Red Mangos): Immigrant to Sri Lanka from Malaysia. This fruit is relatively sweet but you have to be lucky to get a tastier one since most of them are sour due to the fact of the various deliberate fruit ripe maneuvers.

* Kartha kollomban (Jaffna mangos): Tropical endemic fruit mainly have roots in Jaffna. This fruit is the sweetest of all the other mangos. Comparatively large in size this fruit (ripe one) will give a heavenly taste when you take the first bite.

* Pol Amba: Large round fruit with small stone.Very fleshy.


The Rambutan tree was originally brought to Sri lanka from Malaya or Malayasia. This fruit is a bright red, maroon or golden skinned and covered with short,fleshy hairs. Inside there is a mouvth- watering, sweet-sour pulp,which covers the single seed. The pulp is sweeter in the better varieties,those in which the pulp easily peels off seed.



The Duriayan is propably the most motorious of tropical fruits due to its unpleasant odour. This fruit, which is round to ovoid and coverd with sharp spines,has a white,custard like pulp regaeded as an aphrodisiac.


Cashew Apple

The cashew apple is the yellowish-orange part . It is known everywhere as the nut, and the “fruit” sold for eating is a swollen stem. It has a very thin skin-green when unripe and turning to yellow, pink, or more rarely, bright scarlet, when ripe. The ripe fruit is sweet, crisp and juicy with a faint rose perfume.

Cashew Apple

Papaw (Papaya)

Considered one of the classic tropical fruits, papaya can be small or large. Papaya juice is a delicious fruit drink and Papaw is often served at breakfast. It is also pickeled and used in curries when unripe.

Papaw (Papaya)


Pineapple in Sri Lanka are generally small but thirst quenching. A variety of pineapple known as ‘rock pineapple’,which is green and smaller than the mauritius or Kew,grows wild in Sri Lanka.



The wood apple is a fruit with a hard-shell which is a favorite with Elephants, as the wood apple mostly grows in jungle.When ripe the pulp within has a brown color and has slightly sweet sour taste. The pulp is most popular preparation is a drink called divul kiri made with the pulp, treacle and coconut milk.


Custard Apple

Four varieties of Custard apple are grown in Sri Lanka and each has an unmistakable flavor,whether sweet or tart. The Custard apple is a lumpy, green fruit with a sweet, custerd-like white pulp embedded with black seeds.

Custard Apple

Not to be confused with Vedic people or Venda people.

"Veddas" redirects here. For the language, see Vedda language. For articles with similar titles, see Veda (disambiguation).

Vedda man and child, Sri Lanka.

Total population
Between 2,500 - 6,600[1][2]
(less than 0.20% of the population) (2001)[3]
Regions with significant populations
 Sri Lanka       2,500 (2002)
Vedda, Sinhala
Buddhism, Hinduism[4]
Related ethnic groups

The Vedda (Sinhalese: වැද්දා[ˈvædːaː], Tamil: வேடர்Vēdar) are a minority indigenous group of people in Sri Lanka who, among other self-identified native communities such as Coast Veddas, Anuradhapura Veddas and Bintenne Veddas[5], are accorded indigenous status. The Veddha minority in Sri Lanka is in threat of becoming extinct.[6] Most speak Sinhala instead due to the near-extinction of their indigenous languages.

It has been hypothesized that the Vedda were probably the earliest inhabitants of Sri Lanka and have lived in the island before the arrival of Sinhalese from India[7]. [8] According to the 5th-century genesis chronicle of the Sinhala people, the Mahavamsa ("Great Chronicle"), the Vedda are descended due to Prince Vijaya (6th–5th century BCE), the founding father of the nation, who originated from Eastern India, through Kuveni, a woman of the indigenous Yakkha (Odia/Pali for yaksha) whom he married. The Mahavansa relates that following the repudiation of Kuveni by Vijaya, in favour of a Kshatriya-caste princess from Pandya, their two children, a boy and a girl, departed to the region of Sumanakuta (Sri Pada or Adam's Peak in the Ratnapura District), where they multiplied, giving rise to the Veddas. Anthropologists such as Charles Gabriel Seligman believed the Veddas to be identical to the Yakkha.[9]

Veddas are also mentioned in Robert Knox's history of his captivity by the King of Kandy in the 17th century. Knox described them as "wild men", but also said there was a "tamer sort", and that the latter sometimes served in the king's army.[10]

The Ratnapura District, which is part of the Sabaragamuwa Province, is known to have been inhabited by the Veddas in the distant past. This has been shown by scholars like Nandadeva Wijesekera. The very name Sabaragamuwa is believed to have meant the village of the Sabaras or "forest barbarians". Place-names such as Vedda-gala (Vedda Rock), Vedda-ela (Vedda Canal) and Vedi-kanda (Vedda Mountain) in the Ratnapura District also bear testimony to this. As Wijesekera observes, a strong Vedda element is discernible in the population of Vedda-gala and its environs.


Ethonyms of Vedda include Vadda, Veddah, Veddha and Vaddo.[11] "Vedda" is a Dravidian word and stems from Tamil word Vēdu meaning hunting.[11][12][13]


Main article: Vedda language

The original language of the Veddas is the Vedda language, which today is used primarily by the interior Veddas of Dambana. Communities such as Coast Veddas and Anuradhapura Veddas, who do not identify themselves strictly as Veddas, also use Vedda language for communication during hunting and or for religious chants.[citation needed] When a systematic field study was conducted in 1959 it was determined that the language was confined to the older generation of Veddas from Dambana. In the 1990s, self-identifying Veddas knew few words and phrases in the Vedda language, but there were individuals who knew the language comprehensively. Initially there was considerable debate among linguists as to whether Vedda is a dialect of Sinhalese or an independent language. Later studies indicate that it diverged from its parent stock in the 10th century and became a Creole and a stable independent language by the 13th century, under the influence of Sinhalese.

The parent Vedda language(s) is of unknown genetic origins, while Sinhalese is of the Indo-Aryan branch of Indo-European languages. Phonologically it is distinguished from Sinhalese by the higher frequency of palatal sounds C and J. The effect is also heightened by the addition of inanimatesuffixes. Vedda language word class is morphologically divided into nouns, verbs and invariables with unique gender distinctions in animate nouns. Per its Creole tradition, it has reduced and simplified many forms of Sinhalese such as second person pronouns and denotations of negative meanings. Instead borrowing new words from Sinhalese Vedda created combinations of words from a limited lexical stock. Vedda also maintains many archaic Sinhalese terms prior to the 10th to 12th centuries, as a relict of its close contact with Sinhalese. Vedda also retains a number of unique words that cannot be derived from Sinhalese. Conversely, Sinhalese has also borrowed from the original Vedda language, words and grammatical structures, differentiating it from its related Indo-Aryan languages. Vedda has exerted a substratum influence in the formation of Sinhalese.

Veddas that have adopted Sinhala are found primarily in the southeastern part of the country, especially in the vicinity of Bintenne in Uva Province. There are also Veddas that have adopted Sinhala who live in Anuradhapura District in the North Central Province.[14][15]

Another group, often termed East Coast Veddas, is found in coastal areas of the Eastern Province, between Batticaloa and Trincomalee. These Veddas have adopted Tamil as their mother tongue.[16][17]

Cultural aspects[edit]


Main article: Vedda language

The parent of Vedda language is of unknown linguistic origin, is considered a linguistic isolate. Early linguists and observers of the language considered it to be either a separate language or a dialect of Sinhalese. The chief proponent of the dialect theory was Wilhelm Geiger, but he also contradicted himself by claiming that Vedda was a relexified aboriginal language.[18]

Veddas consider the Vedda language to be distinct from Sinhalese and use it as an ethnic marker to differentiate them from Sinhalese people.[19]


The original religion of Veddas is animism. The Sinhalized interior Veddahs follow a mix of animism and nominal Buddhism; whereas the Tamilized east coast Veddahs follow a mix of animism and nominal Hinduism due to Brahminicalsanskritsation, which is known as folk Hinduism among anthropologists.

One of the most distinctive features of Vedda religion is the worship of dead ancestors, who are called "nae yaku" among the Sinhala-speaking Veddas and are invoked for game and yams.[20] There are also peculiar deities unique to Veddas, such as "Kande Yakka".[21]

Veddas, along with the Island's Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim communities, venerate the temple complex situated at Kataragama, showing the syncretism that has evolved over 2,000 years of coexistence and assimilation. Kataragama is supposed to be the site where the Hindu god Skanda or Murugan in Tamil met and married a local tribal girl, Valli, who in Sri Lanka is believed to have been a Vedda.[22]

There are a number of less famous shrines across the island which are as sacred to the Veddas and to other communities.[22]


Vedda marriage is a simple ceremony. It consists of the bride tying a bark rope (diya lanuva) that she has twisted, around the waist of the groom. This symbolizes the bride's acceptance of the man as her mate and life partner. Although endogamous marriage between cross-cousins was the norm until recently, this has changed significantly, with Vedda women even contracting marriages with their Sinhalese and Moor neighbours.

In Vedda society, women are in many respects men's equals. They are entitled to similar inheritance. Monogamy is the general rule, though a widow would frequently marry her husband's brother as a means of support and consolation (levirate marriage). They also do not practice a caste system.[23]

Death, too, is a simple affair without ostentatious funeral ceremonies where the corpse of the deceased is promptly buried.


Since the opening of colonisation schemes, Vedda burials changed when they dug graves of 4–5 feet deep and wrapped the body wrapped cloth and covered it with leaves and earth. The Veddas also laid the body between the scooped out trunks of the gadumba tree before they buried it. At the head of the grave were kept three open coconuts and a small bundle of wood, while at its foot were kept an opened coconut and an untouched coconut. Certain cactus species (pathok) were planted at the head, the middle and the foot. Personal possessions like the bow and arrow, betel pouch, were also buried. This practice varied by community. The contents of the betel pouch of the deceased were eaten after his death.

The dead body was scented or smeared with juice from the leaves of jungle trees or lime trees. The foot or the head of the grave was never lit either with fire or wax, and water was not kept in a vessel by the grave side.[?]

Cult of the Dead[edit]

The Veddas practice a cult of the dead. They worshipped and made incantations to their Nae Yakka (Relative Spirit) followed by other customary ritual (called the Kiri Koraha) which is still in vogue among the surviving Gam Veddas of Rathugala, Pollebedda Dambana and the Henanigala Vedda re-settlement (in Mahaweli systems off Mahiyangane).

They believed that the spirit of their dead would haunt them bringing forth diseases and calamity. To appease the dead spirit they invoke the blessings of the Nae Yakka and other spirits, like Bilinda Yakka, Kande Yakka followed by the dance ritual of the Kiri Koraha.[24]

According to Sarasin Cousins (in 1886) and Seligmann's book - 'The Veddas' (1910).

"When man or woman dies from sickness, the body is left in the cave or rock shelter where the death took place, the body is not washed or dressed or ornamented in any way, but is generally allowed to be in the natural supine position and is covered with leaves and branches. This was formerly the universal custom and still persists among the less sophisticated Veddas who sometimes in addition place a large stone upon the chest for which no reason could be given, this is observed at Sitala Wanniya (off Polle-bedda close to Maha Oya), where the body is still covered with branches and left where the death occurred."


Until fairly recent times, the raiment of the Veddas was remarkably scanty. In the case of men, it consisted only of a loincloth suspended with a string at the waist, while in the case of women, it was a piece of cloth that extended from the navel to the knees. Today, however, Vedda attire is more covering, men wear a short sarong extending from the waist to the knees, while the women clad themselves in a garment similar to the Sinhalesediya-redda which extends from the breastline to the knees.


Bori Bori Sellam-Sellam Bedo Wannita,

Palletalawa Navinna-Pita Gosin Vetenne,

Malpivili genagene-Hele Kado Navinne,

Diyapivili Genagene-Thige Bo Haliskote Peni,

Ka tho ipal denne

(A Vedda honeycomb cutter's folk song)

Meaning of this song - The bees from yonder hills of Palle Talawa and Kade suck nectar from the flowers and made the honeycomb. So why should you give them undue pain when there is no honey by cutting the honeycomb.


Veddas were originally hunter-gatherers. They used bows and arrows to hunt game, harpoons and toxic plants for fishing and gathered wild plants, yams, honey, fruit and nuts.[25] Many Veddas also farm, frequently using slash and burn or swidden cultivation, which is called "chena" in Sri Lanka. East Coast Veddas also practice sea fishing. Veddas are famously known for their rich meat diet. Venison and the flesh of rabbit, turtle, tortoise, monitor lizard, wild boar and the common brown monkey are consumed with much relish. The Veddas kill only for food and do not harm young or pregnant animals. Game is commonly shared amongst the family and clan. Fish are caught by employing fish poisons such as the juice of the pus-vel (Entada scandens) and daluk-kiri (Cactus milk).

Vedda culinary fare is also deserving of mention. Amongst the best known are gona perume, which is a sort of sausage containing alternate layers of meat and fat, and goya-tel-perume, which is the tail of the monitor lizard (talagoya), stuffed with fat obtained from its sides and roasted in embers. Another Vedda delicacy is dried meat preserve soaked in honey. In the olden days, the Veddas used to preserve such meat in the hollow of a tree, enclosing it with clay.

Such succulent meat served as a ready food supply in times of scarcity. The early part of the year (January–February) is considered to be the season of yams and mid-year (June–July) that of fruit and honey, while hunting is availed of throughout the year. Nowadays, more and more Vedda folk have taken to Chena (slash and burn) cultivation. KurakkanEleusine coracana is cultivated very often. Maize, yams, gourds and melons are also cultivated. In the olden days, the dwellings of the Veddas consisted of caves and rock shelters. Today, they live in unpretentious huts of wattle, daub and thatch.

In the reign of King Datusena (6th century CE) the Mahaweli ganga was diverted at Minipe in the Minipe canal nearly 47 miles long said to be constructed with help from the Yakkas. The Mahawamsa refers to the canal as Yaka-bendi-ela. When the Ruwanweli Seya was built in King Dutugemunu's time (2nd century BCE) the Veddas procured the necessary minerals from the jungles.

King Parakrama Bahu the great (12th century) in his war against the rebels employed these Veddas as scouts.

In the reign of King Rajasinghe II (17th century) in his battle with the Dutch he had a Vedda regiment. In the abortive Uva-Welessa revolt of 1817-1818 of the British times, led by Keppetipola Disawe, the Veddas too fought with the rebels against the British forces.

Current status[edit]

Historical population
1989 (est.)—    
Source:Department of Census
& Statistics[26]
Data is based on
Sri Lankan Government Census.

Some observers have said Veddas are disappearing and have lamented the decline of their distinct culture.[15][27][28][29] Land acquisition for mass irrigation projects, government forest reserve restrictions and the civil war have disrupted traditional Vedda ways of life.[15][27][30][31] Between 1977 and 1983 under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Project and colonization schemes, approximately 51468 hectares were turned into a gigantic hydroelectric dam irrigation project.[27][32] Subsequently, the creation of the Maduru Oya National Park deprived the Veddhas their last hunting grounds.[32] In 1985, the Veddha Chief Thissahamy and his delegation were obstructed from attending the United Nations Working Group on Indigenous Populations.[32] Dr. Wiveca Stegeborn, an anthropologist, has been studying the Vedda since 1977 and alleges that their young women are being tricked into accepting contracts to the Middle East as domestic workers when in fact they will be trafficked into prostitution or sold as sex slaves.[33]

However, cultural assimilation of Veddas with other local populations has been going on for a long time. "Vedda" has been used in Sri Lanka to mean not only hunter-gatherers, but also to refer to any people who adopt an unsettled and rural way of life and thus can be a derogatory term not based on ethnic group. Thus, over time, it is possible for non-Vedda groups to become Veddas, in this broad cultural sense.[34][35] Vedda populations of this kind are increasing in some districts.[36]


A spider genus endemic to Sri Lanka was named Wanniyala as a dedication to Sri Lanka's oldest civilized people.[37]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Hunters and Gatherers, editor Richard B. Lee. (ISBN 978-0-521-60919-7 | ISBN 0-521-60919-4)

External links[edit]

A great deal of information on them can be found at

Most prominent Vedda chief late Tisahamy Aththo.
Tisahamy Aththo with Some Vedda Women.
A traditional Vedda settlement on the coast.
a veddah ritual about to be performed
Main entrance of the inner complex of Kataragama temple, Sri Lanka.
Vedda villagers from Mankery in Batticaloa district wearing sarongs and other traditional attire.
A Veddah hunter with bow and arrow.
Traditional Vedda bow and fishing harpoon.
some of the bows used by the veddahs
  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^Jayasuriya, S. de Silva (2000). The Portuguese Cultural Imprint on Sri Lanka. Lusotopie 2000. p. 255. 
  4. ^
  5. ^"Vedda facts, information, pictures | articles about Vedda". Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^Seligman, Charles Gabriel and Seligman, Brenda Z. (1911). The Veddas. Cambridge University Press. Digitized here:
  10. ^Knox, Robert [1681] (1981). An Historical Relation of Ceylon. Tisara Prakasakayo Ltd (page 195).
  11. ^ ab"Vedda facts, information, pictures | articles about Vedda". Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  12. ^Boyle, Richard (2004). Knox's Words: A Study of the Words of Sri Lankan Origin Or Association First Used in English Literature by Robert Knox and Recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary. Visidunu Publication. ISBN 9789559170679. 
  13. ^"வேடன் | அகராதி | Tamil Dictionary". University of Madras Lexicon. Retrieved 2017-09-18. 
  14. ^Brow, James (1978). Vedda Villages of Anuradhapura. University of Washington Press.
  15. ^ abcNira Wickramasinghe. "Sri Lanka's conflict: culture and lineages of the past". Sri Lanka Guardian. Retrieved Feb 20, 2016. 
  16. ^Sri Lanka's coastal Vedda indigenous communities
  17. ^East Coast Veddas
  18. ^Van Driem 2002, p. 227
  19. ^Dharmadasa 1974, p. 81
  20. ^Seligmann, Charles and Brenda (1911). The Veddas. Cambridge University Press (pages 123-135).
  21. ^"Seligmann", Charles and Brenda (1911). The Veddas. Cambridge University Press (pages 30-31).
  22. ^ abThe Kataragama-Skanda website
  23. ^Vadda of Sri Lanka
  24. ^Prehistoric time line of Sri Lanka - Accessed 2015-12-5
  25. ^Survival international - Wanniyala-Aetto
  26. ^"Population by ethnic group, census years"(PDF). Department of Census & Statistics, Sri Lanka. Archived from the original(PDF) on 13 November 2011. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  27. ^ abcAddress of Warige Wanniya to the UN, Retrieved 4-12-2015
  28. ^Spittel, R.L. (1950). Vanished Trails: The Last of the Veddas. Oxford University Press.
  29. ^Difficulties faced by our original inhabitants
  30. ^Deforestation, farming and encroachment on to their forests (3:10min)
  31. ^The plea of the great chief - Vanniatho speaks (1:40min)
  32. ^ abcSri Lanka's Indigenous Wanniya-laeto: A Case History, Retrieved 4-12-2015
  33. ^
  34. ^Brow, James (1978). Vedda Villages of Anuradhapura. University of Washington Press (page 34).
  35. ^Obeyesekere, Gananath. Colonial Histories and Vadda Primitivism
  36. ^Brow, James (1978). Vedda Villages of Anuradhapura. University of Washington Press (page 3).
  37. ^"The pholcid spiders from Sri Lanka: redescription of Pholcus ceylonicus and description of a new genus"(PDF). Retrieved 6 May 2016. 

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