dambana vaddha village, the primary home of the last surviving aboriginal people of sri lanka, lies about 20 kms from mahiyangana on the boarders of the maduru oya wildlife reservation.
called yaksha tribe in the pre christian times, vaddha (hunter) in the past and now called ‘aadi waasi’ (aborigines) identifies themselves as “wannila aththo” (forest dwellers). in the course of history, most of these original inhabitants have been more or less absorbed into mainstream sinhala society (as in the north central and uva provinces) or tamil society (as on the east coast) leaving only few thousand wannila aththo tribe living in small pockets in many parts of the dry zone bordering forests. most of the aboriginal villagers have become farmers moving away from hunting.
wannila aththo have their unique language which closely resembles sinhalese and their own religious beliefs. they make offerings to number of gods and believes their dead come back as yakkas to protect the family.
the indigenous settlement of dambana is the home the leader (called maha-huura) of all the “wannila aththo” tribe and his house is one of the main attractions to visitors. when he’s not present, a brother will take over duties of entertaining the visitors like in the photo above. were told that chief was in the jungles in his chena cultivation.
his main duty was to entertain and educate the visitors. he will strictly speak in his own language but understands sinhalese well. there are 2 clay huts where the meeting with the elders will happen.
from there, the next place to see is the tomb of tisahami. the late leader of the wannila aththo who passed away in 1998 at the age of 116 years. born in 1882, he was appointed as the chief at the age of 15 and guided the tribe for over 100 years. the tomb lies about 1/2 km in to the maduru oya jungle from the huts of the maha huura.
some one from the community will volunteer to take you to the tomb which you will probably need if you are not been there earlier. there is no charge to visit the dambana vaddha village but they do expect some contribution from the visitors.
unfortunately the kids are in the habit of staking you starting from the car park, first offering you the services of being a guide and if refused asking donations for school books.