The Todas are the original inhabitants of The Nilgiris Hills and they are
one of the most picturesque tribes in India. Eventhough , there are six major
primitive tribes in the district, the Todas have attracted for greater
attention both here and abroad, than any other single tribal Community. Thier
language, though of Dravidian origin, has no script. According to their creation
myth, Goddess Teikirshy and her brother on first created the buffalo by waving
a magic wand, and then created the toda man. The first toda woman was created
from the right rib of the man. The Toda's first contact with civilization
occurred. When the East India Company annexed the Nilgiris in 1799. In 1823,
John Sullivan, the then Collector of Coimbatore, built the first stone house
in ooty on land purchased from the Todas. Today there are only about 1,100
Todas left.The believe
even today that their ancestors inhabited The Nilgiris Hills from the
beginning of mankind. Todas are pastoral people and to a certain extent,
Most of the Todas, possess large herd of buffaloes; and milk products are
their main source of living.
Large extents of land are set apart as Toda patta lands over which the Todas
have partial right to live., graze their cattle and to take cultivation.
women have a great skill in embroidery work. The Toda embroidery garments
are in great demand with visitors from other parts of India and abroad.
The Kotas, live in Seven settlements, generally known as Kotagiri or Kokkal.
They are village artisans, who are good in carpentry, blacksmithy and pottery.
But only a few families are engaged in these skills as a means of living. Most
others are engaged in cultivation. Happily, most of the Kota families in all
the settlements have their own patta land. Unlike Todas, they do not shy away
from personal cultivation and are generally hard working people. In the field
of education also they have stolen a march over other tribal communities. Today,
many of them are working in the Government and non Governmental departments.
Kurumbas and Irulas
The Kurumba houses known as "GUDLU" are
temporary constructions in the forests. The traditional occupation
of the Kurumbas is food gathering, like collection of honey and
forests produce. They are also cultivating millets like ragi
and samai on
a small scale mainly on hill slopes and mountain ridges. Honey
fetches considerable remuneration for the Kurumbas. It is relished
much by the public. Honey is collected mostly in the summer months
from the cliffs, rocky crevices and the branches of giant trees.
their usual diet with ample quantity of honey. Kurumbas are known
to possess keen eyesight, gained possibly from constant watching
of the honey bee to the hives. Now, they are mainly engaged in
agriculture and those who do not own lands work as casual agricultural
The Kurumbas are had working people, but the economic condition
of the Kurumbas is very poor.
Irulas with a few subsects among them are living in Masinagudi
area, and in parts of Kotagiri and Coonoor Taluks. They are
generally engaged in collection of minor
forest products. This is a seasonal operation and they work as casual agricultural
laborers on local estates. Some of them are also engaged in looking after
the herds of cattle belonging to others. Some are engaged
in agriculture in the patta
lands, conditionally assigned to them, where they have raised tea, coffee,
jack trees, guava etc. However, due to their poor maintenance
of their land due to
lack of finance, the return from these lands is meagre. The general economic
condition of these tribes is poor.
literally means "workers" in local usage) are found
in Gudalur taluk and many more in Kerala. Paniyas were found
under a subtle from of bonded labour. They were released from
a few have been since rehabilitated in various schemes. They
are scattered throughout Gudalur Taluk and are one of the most
tribal communities. Under an age old system, most of the Paniyas
were working under local land owners for low wages with little
and no liberty to work for others for competitive wages. After
however, the majority of the Paniyas broke away from their
masters and started working as casual agricultural labourers,
cutters and estate labourers. The Paniyas, by and large, live
irrespective of whether they are bonded or not. During 1976,
481 Paniyas in 252 families were freed from bonded labour and
have been rehabilitated in the Paniya Welfare Land colonisation
society and other schemes.
The Mullukurumbas of Gudalur are a District group
and are believed to belong to a pre agricultural tribe, since
they still use bow
and arrow for occasional hunting.They live in nine settlements
in Erumad area and Cherangodu village. They are mainly agricultural
labourers. They are hard working people
but their economic condition is poor.
This tribal community is also found only in Gudalur
Taluk. They are like Paniyas, farm labourers and their condition
than that of Paniyas.