PEOPLES OF THE NILGIRIS
The Multi-ethnic World of the
Views of the Nilgiri Hills
Views of Western Ghats and the Nilgiri Hills (The Blue Mountains)
A characteristic feature of the Nilgiris is the ethnic (caste-like)
division of peoples. These groups were linked through a division of labor
organized along ethnic lines (jajmani-like in structure).
Today these peoples are engaged in a wide range of tasks, from agriculture
and/or herding, to education and administration. Most have retained their
close ties to their ethnic communities. They make up the complex weave
of the greater Nilgiri community.
Statistics: Badagas;105,000 (1972 survey), Toda;765 (1965
survey), Kota; 862 (survey 1961), Kurumba (Alu), Kurumba(Betta)
(Jenna), Irula 4000 (survey 1985).
The Lingayat community is a regional
priestly caste with Karnataka connections. They are Badaga-related
and had/have extremely high prestige in the Nilgiri hills area.
Badaga Fire-Starting (using a fire-drill) Ceremony
(Lingayat) Ceremonial Dance
This is a picture of the family of Vijay, one of my guides and translators
over several years of work. His intelligence and support greatly aided
my work in the Moyar Basin. He is a Lingayat living in the
village of Thangamarahada. From left to right, his wife, Vijay, his father
and mother. (photo taken in 1991).
The Kurumbas were dwellers in the forests of the Nilgiris when reported
upon ethnographically, and lived on jungle resources. Some of these goods,
along with their magical abilities, were exchanged with other Nilgiri groups.
The Kurumbas presently live in villages, working as day laborers on plantations
and/or carrying out extensive agriculture, and often exploiting the forests
to varying degrees. Because of their supposed magical powers they were
often feared and often blamed for epidemics and other misfortunes and were
frequent victims of other communities' anger.
This photo shows a Kurumba priest and fellow villager in front
of a small cave some distance from the village where objects connected
to rituals are stored. These objects included animal horns and pottery.
The pottery vessels are revered as divinities.
The Irula are quite similar to the Kurumbas.
The consist of several groups of forest dwelling peoples, subsisting on
jungle products and small gardens. The various groups live on the eastern
and northern slopes of the Nilgiri hills.
Pictured here is a typical Irula dwelling constructed out of
strips of wood, mud and straw.
The Moyar River on the northern fringe of the Nilgiri hills
(the Moyar Ditch) is crossed at several points by a pontoon ferry service
(if one is lucky).
of the Nilgiris 2
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