Asian Ethnology 81 1&2 | research note Sri Lanka’s Ahikuntika and Kuravar Communities Language and Culture

Steven Bonta

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Sri Lanka Telugu Telugu dialectology Kuravar Ahikuntika

Sri Lanka’s small native population of Ahikuntika and Kuravar itinerant communities continues to be a very visible part of Sri Lankan society, with snake charmers and monkey dancers a common sight in Sri Lanka’s tourist areas. Sri Lanka’s Ahikuntikas and Kuravars speak a highly idiosyncratic dialect of Telugu that has never been fully documented. Based on ethnolinguistic research carried out in Sri Lanka during the first half of 2015 and in the summer of 2017, I tentatively conclude that Sri Lanka’s Ahikuntikas and Kuravars probably originated from Telugu-speaking populations in Tamilnadu between two and three hundred years ago; that the continued viability of the Sri Lankan Ahikuntikas’ and Kuravars’ traditional lifestyle is increasingly precarious; and that their language Sri Lanka Telugu (formerly known as Sri Lanka Gypsy Telugu) may be in danger of disappearing within a generation or so. I also examine the question of ultimate provenience, enquiring whether this itinerant caste may bear any ethnic kinship with other itinerant castes on the mainland subcontinent.