weisheng3302: Tribes of Nilgiri, Tamilnadu, India

Tribes of Nilgiri, Tamilnadu, India

Dec 6 2015 at 03:22am

TODAS ?Tribes of Nilgiri District By Dr. M Regina Mary, Associate Professor, Fathima College, Madurai and Mrs. K.R.Meenakshi Baiju, Research Scholar, MKU, Madurai Introduction

Tribal people are commonly known as indigenous people (or) native inhabitants of a country, state or region. Tribal lives in the hills and forests and naturally isolated regions. Thus the tribal societies of India are characterised as solated in ecology, demography, economy, politics and other social behaviour from other ethnic groups?

In Tamil Nadu state, according to 2001 census, the total scheduled tribes population is 651,321 that constitutes 1.04% of the total population. In Tamil Nadu, 36 scheduled tribes are identified by the Govt of India, they are spread over into different districts. In the Nilgiri district, according to 2001 census, the total general population is 7.64 lakhs out of which the total scheduled tribes population is 28,373, constituting 4.32% of the total general population.

This paper is an attempt to understand the Toda Tribal Society in Nilgiri District of Tamil Nadu.

Todas: Who are they?

In India, Todas are found only the Nilgiri District of Tamil Nadu state. The Todas are a small community who live on the isolated Nilgiri plateau. They lived there in aboriginal days, that is prior to the early 19th century, in coexistence with the Kotas, Kurumbas and Badagas. Different researchers have different views on he origin and history of the Todas? Several writers have stated that the Todas believe that they came to the Nilgiris from elsewhere, but that they had always been on the Nilgiri hills. The Todas are also said to believe in their descent from Ravan.

W H R Rivers enumerated a number of points in which there is a close resemblance between the customs o the Todas and those of the people of Malabar.

Colonel Marshall research reveals that Todas have come from the jungle tract of interior hills situated between the Kaparese and Tamil districts in the direction of the Hasanur pass in the Eastern Ghats, north east of the Nilgiris.

Mr. Metz and Dr Caldwell declared that their Roman noses and flowing robes gave indications that they were the survivors of the Roman colony in South India.

The Toda Habitat And Population.

In Nilgiri districts, the Todas live in 69 settlements. The Toda settlement is referred to as und? These Munds are unethnic villages where only Toda population is very interesting. James Wilkinson Breeks (1873) concluded on 15th Nov 1871 that the Todas in the Nilgiris numbered 639 by the census. In the year 1892, the total population of the Todas was estimated to be 739 and in 1901 their population was 714. According to census of India 1981, Todas population was 874 members. In the year 2004 it was found that 1648 Todas live in the Nilgiri district. At present they live in 69 occupied settlements. Todas were pastoral people often moving from one place to another on the hills along with their buffalos in search of grazing lands into cultivable lands by non tribal, grazing lands disappeared and the Todas stopped moving to other areas along with their families and buffalos. They started permanently living in settled settlements.

A typical Toda settlement comprises of three to nine dwelling huts, one to three dairy (temple) huts, at least one buffalo pen (circular open shelter), one or more calf shed. The Toda huts are usually built close together, sometimes in a row or a line and a single hut is usually surrounded by a low level stone fence with an entrance, narrow enough to admit a single person at time. The design of the traditional dwelling hut and dairy hut is barrel vaulted with the half barrel shaped roof and side walls projecting a little. A noble curiously commented that his kind of building is found nowhere else in India.

The dairy building is also the Toda temple and it must be kept apart from the dwellings and the women folk. Todas use their traditional garment (shawl) called ut kuli? a thick white cotton cloth embroidered by Toda women. It is identical for both. Todas are lacto vegetarians. They never eat meat. Their food is cooked or soaked in milk or ghee and they drink plenty of butter milk, jewellery is worn by both men and women. Todas jewellery was formerly made by Kota artisans. The tattooing of Toda women is still mandatory. Todas speak their own language, which is an independent language of the Dravidian family.

Social Organisation

The social organisation of any society involves mutual relations, obligations, anticipated behaviour and actual behaviour of community members. This social organisation is the network of relations existing among individuals and groups in a society. Generally the tribes form a small community of their own in a particular territory. Their relations are direct and intimate. Their social organisation is michael kors commonly seen in their social design.

The Toda society is a patrilineage i.e. a descent group whose membership is based upon a rule of patrilineal descent. Patrilineal descent is a cultural principle which automatically affiliates a child at birth through his father to a descent group that consists of all kinsmen who are related to him through his male ancestors. The Toda community is divided into two endogamous groups, namely: a.Tharthazoll. b.Therelioll.

Among the Todas the clan system is territorial (Munds-wise). Each clan owes a number of Munds (Toda settlements) and takes its name from the chief of these Munds. In Toda society, the clan is a definite unit in the social organisation with a certain amount of power in regulating its own affairs, owning property and buffalos and to regulated marital alliances, rituals and religious ceremonies. Tharthazoll have 12 clans and the other endogamous division. Therelioll has only six clans.

In Toda society marriage is initiated in childhood and completed at maturity, when the husband takes his wife from her parental home to his own Mund, but in ritual terms the children are as truly married as the adults. Korewily, bride price and Arpin, dowry giving practice are followed strictly by the Todas in the form of giving (or) accepting buffaloes. The number of buffaloes given depends on the wealth of the parents of the girl and boy.

Many michael kors watches australia changes in marriage rules occurred during the Todas after the disappearing of the polyandrous form of marriage. Monogamy has brought many changes in the rules and marriage. There is an increase in age at marriage, changes in rules of residence observed, incidence of divorce shows a decline, liberalisation of rules for remarriage is reported.

In Toda society a family is the basic social, commercial and economic unit. It is the family within which children get socialised in cultural mixes, rituals and tradition and learn their language.

Economic Organisation And Change.

The economic organisation exists in all societies, simple or complex and change in culture and in society is also natural with the usual effects of innovation, diffusion and syncretism. The following occupations are described here in understanding the present economic organisation of the Todas.

?Todas pastoralism. ?Agricultural/horticulture. ?Embroidery. ?Modern employment. ?Miscellaneous activities.

Toda pastoralism.

Todas were purely a pastoral people and they wandered over the Nilgiri hills along with their buffaloes in search of grazing lands. Gradually Todas stopped their nomadic pastoral life of pasturage of buffalos on the Nilgiri hills because of extension of agriculture/plantain activities by non tribes into grazing lands. Promotion of tourism and development of Nilgiri upper plateau as a hill station. The Toda due to these reasons, switched over to tall feeding?and became permanent settlers in their selected clan. Due to these chares Todas stared deriving income by selling raw milk, ghee, dung and also a buffalo or calf. Now a days, a Toda family with less than twenty buffalos is considered as poor.

Agriculture and Horticulture.

In the past, cultivation of crops, the land was completely unknown to Todas. The earlier and first attempt on the part of Todas to try cultivation was made in the year 1892 during the British period, in response to a petition by Todas to cultivate potatoes and other vegetables on their own grass lands. As many of the Todas took to potato cultivation with enthusiasm and with good results they were allowed to cultivate other crops such as wheat and barley as rotation crops. In 1955, Todas submitted representations both to the state government and to the then Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru requesting that the Toda lands be permanently assigned to the community. Heeding the Prime Minister recommendation, the Madras State Government decided to assign permanently to the Toda a total of 1,393 acres of patta land which lay outside the wenlock down areas. Now Todas have become experts in cultivating tea and other vegetables on their land. They sell their agricultural/horticultural produce in the market at Mettupalayam.


The Toda women, besides doing their domestic duties, do embroidery work in their leisure hours and make the famous Toda shawl on Puthkuli. The Puthkuli shawl is a thick white cotton cloth with red and blue strips which is further embellished with embroidery by the Toda women, it is thrown around the body by men and women. The Toda shawl is now a days symbolic continuity of their culture.

Now the women have started selling these embroidered shawls to visitors to their settlements and because of lot of demand for these shawls and designs of the Toda embroidery, a Toda woman preparing different types of products such as bread spread, table clothes, jackets, vanity bags, pouches to keep cell phones by using the embroidered cloth. The Toda women self helps groups promoting this trade with a touch of the Toda tradition of embroidery.

Modern employment

Educated Toda man and women started to seek employment in the local industries like Hindustan Photo Films (HPF), Needle Industry, National Textile Corporation, Tribal Research Centre (TRC), Central government establishments like Railways, Post & Telegraph Offices. A few Todas are even working as Managers or tea estates. The literary rate among Todas is 19.17% among males and 17.29% among females. Totally among the Todas there are three post graduates (two females and one male) and seen graduates (five females and two boys).

Miscellaneous activities

A few Todas are directly involved in running petty shops in their Munds, a few are working as tourist guides and few are selling wooden replicas of the barrel shaped Toda hut to tourists. The table reveals the Toda economic activities in Nilgiri district.

Occupational activities of the Toda households in Nilgiri district. S noOccupational activities Percentage 1Pastoral activity (herding by wandering)3.71 2Buffalo herding nearby settlement and milk, ghee selling62.80 3Manufacture and sale of shawls in the market15.15 4Cultivation (agriculture/horticulture)13.69 5Modern employment2.15 6Miscellaneous activities2.50 T o t a l100.00

Political organisation

The political organisation, refer, usually to the means of maintaining order and conformity in a society. The headman, tribal leader, in a tribal society maintains social control in their small and primitive community. After independence, for first time, a few leaders of the Todas of Nilgiri upper plateau with a motto o, get world knowledge?constituted an association and registered it in the name of ilgiri Thokhuvar Munnetra Sangam? in the year 1956. The main objectives of this association are:

1.To maintain unity among the people of the Toda community, to work for their upliftment, to establish and run schools, to promote adult education, etc.

2.To help the Todas, to avail medical aid and other public health amenities to promote agriculture, to arrange for land and to avail government help in all aspects for the betterment of the conditions to Todas.

3.To strive for the eradication of bad habits prevalent among the Todas.

4.To cooperate with the government in the execution of all plans successfully which would be arranged to improve Todas. michael kors watches australia 5.To arrange for sports and other forms of entertainment to encourage the members.


It is very difficult to understand the religion of the Todas. Todas religion was described as peaceful religion. Todas is highly ritualised with the concept of purity around buffalos, dairies, priests, Shola forests, natural elements like mountains, rivers, animals, etc. Todas have a number of Gods and Goddesses who are believed to reside in Toda Munds, inside the Shola forests, rivers and mountains.


At present Toda culture and society is a state of transition. Some traditions continue while others are changing.

References and Bibliography.

Jakka Parthasarathy, Tribes - Inter Ethnic Relationship in The Nilgiri Dt. HADP Publicationm, OOTY.

Walker Anthony, Between Tradition & Modernity, B R Publishing Corporation, Delhi.

Vidyarthi L P, The Tribal Culture of India, Concept Publishing Company, Newdelhi

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