Dilmah Conservation Empowers the Nomad Telengu Community of Sri Lanka
November 18, 2013
Dilmah Conservation presented the ancient, nomadic Telengu community of Sri Lanka its first Cultural and Community Centre on the 16th of November 2013 in the area of Thambuttegama in North-Central Sri Lanka. The Centre is intended to celebrate the Telengu heritage whilst enabling the community to adapt socially and economically to the 21st Century. It will houses a museum of artifacts and will serve as a tourist attraction where the community could showcase their history, through art and craft. The Sri Lanka Nomad Cultural Centre and People's Theatre was declared open by Dilmah Founder Merrill J. Fernando amidst a gathering of the community and representatives from the Provincial Council.
'I hand this centre over with great enthusiasm and joy to the Telengu people. As business people, sharing our success with those who need help is an obligation, a duty. It is not for merit or for our benefit,' the Founder of Dilmah stated at the opening ceremony. This underlines his revolutionary commitment to making business a matter of human service.
The centre stands as a symbol of empowerment for the Nomad Telengu people of Sri Lanka. It is the first of its kind to be built for this community. The leader of the community ' Nadarajah said 'I offer our heartfelt respect and felicitation to Dilmah and to its Founder. You have utilised your own funds to build this centre and it will be a shining light for all Telengu people around Sri Lanka'. The Chairman of the North-Central Provincial Council thanked Dilmah profusely for empowering this community and for being a pillar of strength to the Government in helping these people.
The opening ceremony included cultural items performed by the community such as traditional dances, snake charming and cultural ceremonies. The-Varigasabha' or traditional gathering was held in the evening where they were able to discuss their common problems and conduct a dispute resolution tribunal. A compilation of the common issues they face was handed over to the Provincial Council representatives which will be taken up for discussion at an official level.
The Sri Lankan Telengu or-Ahikuntika' community is a group of ancient nomads who originated from Andra Pradesh in India. They speak Telengu and earn their living through snake charming, palm reading and entertainment acts with monkeys and other animals. Due to changes in society, this community has faced hardship and has been stigmatized to an extent where they find it difficult to find work. They are scattered around Sri Lanka in different villages where they cultivate land in order to make ends meet.
The next generation of this community is more focused on education and is slowly assimilating into the mainstream. As a result, the culture and traditions of these people are slowly disappearing. Dilmah Conservation under their Culture and Indigenous Communities initiative stepped in to help empower this community with dignity. The programme aims to foster entrepreneurship amongst the Telengu people whilst honouring their heritage.
A comprehensive publication on the lives and traditions of these people titled ' Traditional Communities in Sri Lanka ' The Ahikuntaka ' was published in 2012. Dilmah Conservation facilitated the first Varigasabha held after a lapse of 30 years in 2011 which enabled the community to meet and discuss their common problems and seek solutions to internal disputes. The establishment of this centre is a further step in helping to empower and preserve the vanishing culture of this ancient nomadic tribe.
For more information on this initiative and the work of Dilmah Conservation please visit www.dilmahconservation.org