The Multi-ethnic World of the Nilgiris

Statistics:Badagas;105,000 (1972 survey), Toda;765 (1965 survey), Kota; 862 (survey 1961), Kurumba (Alu), Kurumba(Betta) 2000-5000, Kurumba (Jenna), Irula 4000 (survey 1985). 

The Toda

The Toda represent the herding component of Nilgiri life. They were closely tied to their herds of semi-wild buffalo, who moved about the countryside according to season. The buffalo are intimately connected with community ritual, from the preparation of milk products to death. The Toda reject any participation in agriculture, although they traditionally exchanged pastoral products for grain and forest products produced by other Nilgiri ethnic communities. The Todas are indeed a community rich in tradition and ritual with a very limited system of administrative hierarchy.

The People

Three individuals standing in front of a traditional Toda house. Two of them wear the beautiful Toda embroidered robes.

The Conical Temple

This conical temple, a sacred Ti temple, is one of two presently utilized by the Todas. Previously there was at least one additional conical temple in use. The surface covering consists of dried grass. 

The Barrel-shaped Temple

This form of temple (also formerly the dominant house-type) is common in Toda communities. 

The Kota Community

The Kota Nilgiri community is made up of seven villages, each one of which is essentially autonomous. The Kota carry out agriculture and cattle herding, but are particularly noted for their craft activities. They are the traditional Nilgiri artisans, producing iron implements, making the local pottery, producing jewelery, doing carpentry work. For these services they received grains, milk products and the right to utilize the meat of sacrificed cattle of other communities. Traditionally they also provided music for Toda and Badaga events but no longer do so. Again we are confronted with a society with very rich traditions and a rich ritual life. This close-knit Nilgiri community claims aboriginal status in the hills along with the Todas and the Kurumbas.

The Priest and His Family

A picture of the priest and his family from the Kota community bordering Kilkotagiri. This photo was taken in 198x.

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