Tribes of Tamil Nadu, India - Informative & researched article on Tribes of Tamil Nadu, India
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Tribes of Tamil Nadu, India
Tribes of Tamil Nadu are settled mainly in the Nilgiris district. They mostly reside in the forest regions and also celebrate various festivals throughout the year.
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 Todas Tribe of Tamil Nadu , IndiaAccording to census 2001, tribal population in Tamilnadu is 6,51,321. There are around 38 tribes and sub-tribes in Tamilnadu, and Literacy rate is 27.9% of the population. The tribal people are predominantly farmers and cultivators and they are much dependant on the forest lands. Tribes of Tamil Nadu are concentrated mainly in the district of Nilgiris. Of all the distinct tribes, the Kotas, the Todas, the Irulas, the kurumbas and the Badagas form the larger groups, who mainly had a pastoral existence. Other tribes include, Kattunayakan and Paniyan amongst others.

Men from the family of the tribes are occupied in milking and grazing their large herds of buffaloes. This tribe is distinguished by their traditional costume, thick white cotton cloth having stripes in red, blue or black, called puthukuli worn by both women and men over a waist cloth. The women are noted by the long ringlets of tresses hanging on either side of their face and the men are distinguished by their closely cut hair. The ornaments are made of iron and silver. Their settlements are known as Munds comprising of five-six typical wagon shaped, windowless split bamboos, reeds and thatch huts. There is a sacred temple in each mund called boa of a similar construction of Toda huts with a rounded ditch bordered with stones. They do not worship any god and their consciousness is cosmic. Today, there are about a thousand Todas left and many young people leave the munds to join the mainstream. The ratio of males to females is about five to three.

The Badagasbelong to the backward class and are not classified as tribals. They are an agricultural community, dwelling in the higher plateau of the Nilgiris district in the state of Tamil Nadu. In the Nilgiri district, Badagas are the largest settlement, with approximately 350,000 in population. They are engaged in tea cultivation and potato growing. They speak a language which is a mixture of Tamil and Kannada language. They form the largest group of tribes and boast a rich oral tradition of folktales, songs and poetry. These tribes are Hindus and belong to the Shiva sect. Their temples and shrines are numerous and they celebrate various festivals including Deva Hubba, Dodda Hubba, Sakklathi Hubba, Mangkali Hubba, Hethe Hubba, and Jadeswami Hubba. The Badagas also celebrate some of the most prominent Hindu festivals which include Pongal, Diwali, Ayutha Puja, etc.

The Kotas are mainly concentrated in the Tiruchigadi area in the Nilgiris Hills. They are distinguished by their colourful folk dances and are basically musicians, who play at Badaa funerals. They are mainly engaged in producing handicrafts. These tribes of Tamil Nadu are expert iron smiths, potters and carpenters. Their population is very small and they live in huts that have a living and sleeping area and a place of worship. They speak a language derived from Tamil language and Kannada language. In order to maintain distance and status in society, the Kotas implement elaborate tattoos.

The Kurumba tribes of this state inhabit the intermediate valleys and forests in villages and were known for their black magic and witchcraft in the past. Their way of living today has changed from their original gathering and hunting existence to working in coffee and tea plantations as labourers. Kurumbas are perhaps the only main caste in southern India that has a specialised and distinctive Kurumba Language. Most of the Hindu festivals are celebrated by the Kurumbas.

The Irulas tribes of Tamil Nadu occupy the lower slopes and forests at the base of the Nilgiri Hills. They constitute the second largest group of tribes after the Badagas and are similar to the Kurumbas in many ways. This tribe produces honey, fruits, herbs, roots, gum, dyes etc., and trades them with the people in the plains. The Irulas are scattered in various parts of India, but are centralised in Thiruvallur. In the recent times the Irulas help in catching snakes and collect the snake venom.

The tribal way of living is slowly changing from their original forest dweller existence to one close to the mainstream and modern civilisation.

(Last Updated on : 24/06/2011)
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