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Sunday, 10 May 2015

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Marriage Proposals
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Government Gazette

When the Vedda young fall in love...

...and get married:

Dating, courting, falling in love... getting married... Heady stuff that turns romance novels into bestsellers and movies into box office hits, is an intriguing ritual in the jungles of Dambana, when the Vedda young fall in love.

Courting is a dance of subterfuge with the Kekula and Kekuli (Vedda boy and girl) creating opportunities for their rendezvous in the jungle. Kekula while on his way to hunting or gathering wild honey, Kekuli while going for a bath in the river, collect firewood or while plucking fruits from trees.

Love is a beautiful feeling, an action, an experience, no matter who you are or where you are. And it is no different for this young Vedda couple in Kotabakkiniya, deep in the jungles in Dambana.

The Kekula and Kekuli who fell in love on a jungle footpath, had been meeting each other deep in the forest for about a year, before the Kekuli decided to share their secret with her Thathilai Aththo (father).

The affair

Thathilai Aththo, advises the Kekula to apprise to his parents about the affair and get their permission to be away from home for three months. This is part of the Vedda courtship ritual where the Kekula has to stay with the Kekuli's father for three months, proving himself man enough to take on the responsibilities of being husband and father. He is given a range of activities to perform, testing his skills, talents and intelligence.

The three-month period, while literally a probation period to check the Kekula's suitability as a husband, with many trials and tests to overcome, is also a testing tightrope walk on future father-in-law - son-in-law relationship.

Thathilai Aththo tests the Kekula with many skills, including hunting, gathering honey, knowledge about the way of the jungle, skills with the bow and arrow and how he handles the varied dangers of forest life.

In this three months if the Thathilai Aththo finds the Kekula suitable to marry his daughter and if he is happy with his skills and talents, he approves for the marriage to go ahead takes the necessary steps to make discuss it with the Kekula's family.

Livelihood skills

The Vedda community has a caste system, but it is usually brushed aside when it comes to marriages, with priority being given to livelihood skills.

According to the traditions of the Vedda community, all young Vedda couples need the permission of the Vedda's leader, Vishvakeerthi Wanaspathi Uru Walige Wannila Aththo to get married. In this instance the Kekula and the Kekuli when to meet the tribal leader in the company of their parents and elders, taking a huge gift basket for the leader in order to get a warm welcome. The basket contained bee honey, kurakkan rotty, kurakkan flour, sweetmeats such as kokis, kevum, maize and dried hunted meat, all wrapped beautifully in traditional style. Such goods are considered very valuable gifts to receive the leader's blessing and permission.

The parents tell the leader about the couple. In Vedda's language they say, ''Me ettho mangachchawa me eththange kekula me etthige kakulita mana pojja thibenawa. Nayka etthoge manapa pojje thibeynawanam me eththo dekama wiwana pojjata manapa pajja thibbenawa,'' meaning they like to give their daughter and son in marriage. Thereafter the leader asks the couple whether they like each other.

A family life

After the leader's permission for the marriage is obtained, the bride's parents present a winnowing fan, an axe, bow and arrows, a puppy and a mat to the couple. They consider those to be the major necessities to start a family life.

The wedding present from the Kekula's family is essential items that would enable the new couple to live comfortably for about three weeks. Thereafter it becomes the duty of the Kekula to make his own living. He is told by the father-in-law to find a suitable place inside the forest and build a hut of their liking.

The Kekula has to make a home from leaves and barks for him and his love to live together after marriage.

After Wannila Aththo grants permission for the marriage but the marriage takes place and the couple start living under one roof, they are taken to the Danu Muttak who is considered the wise and intelligent person in the forest. The Danu Muttak advices the couple on how to start a fresh and beautiful life and how to plan for a happy future. He is given a tray of sweetmeats, a gesture of happiness by the couple's parents.

They go back to Wannila Aththo for the second time with a Kadak Kachchuwa, which is gift pack with sweetmeats. The whole village is given sweetmeats as part of the celebrations. There are no ceremonies, grand functions and pretty dresses. The wedding, as in the life of the Veddas is a very simple affair.

The marriage and family life of the Veddas is simple and uncomplicated. There is no lavish spending, and the suitability of a boy to be a husband is not determined by the wealth he owns, but his strength as a hunter gatherer. Soon after a marriage if the village is able to hunt well, they believe it is due to the luck of the newly wedded couple.

The blessings and the happiness of the kale ponja which means the forest, suwande ponj, a which means the sweet fragrance from the flowers and the chappi, which is the beautiful songs of the birds surround the new couple. They bless them to live a healthy and a long life.

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