The Todas of Nilgiris – Study projects to understand the origins, history, culture, habitat, social organization, rituals, inter-tribal relationships & dynamics and current livelihood & economic challenges
One Earth Foundation recently organized 3 study projects involving IBDP students from Bangalore, Pune & Mumbai in the Upper Nilgiri areas to visit, interact with and understand the history culture & livelihood challenges of the Toda tribe of the Nilgiris. These study projects were conducted in 2 Toda hamlets a) Avalanche area, and b) Bikkapathi Mund. Our visiting students had diligently prepared detailed questionnaires on various aspects of Toda tribal life and gathered first hand information through informal sessions with Toda elders. Some interesting points that emerged from these interactive sessions are given below:
Who are the Todas and where did they originally come from are questions that remain largely unanswered.
They were primarily pastoral and with the steady decline and disappearance of the grasslands, were forced to settle down in hamlets in the upper Nilgiris region
The Todas now live in about 65+ settlements called ‘munds’ and most are located around the few remaining shola forests of Nilgiris.
A typical Toda mund will comprise of 4 – 10 Toda homes, 1-2 temples, a buffalo pen and sometimes a calf pen. Almost all munds have a temple and a few remaining Toda huts. In most settlemnts we see a growing trend of constructing brick houses. There are 2 main Toda temples that are conical in shape and called ‘Po’
The Toda society is Patrileneage.Women do not have the legal right to share the property of their parents except allowing their husbands to accept dowry in the form of buffaloes.
The life cycle rituals of the Todas are very unique. Some of these are relating to child birth, pregnancy, ear piercing, initiation and completion of marriage, death – first and second funeral.
The Toda women are good in embroidery.
The Todas consider themselves and are largely recognized by other tribes to be the superior tribe of the Nilgiris.
Most Toda men will suffix the title Kuttan to their names.
The buffalo is central to most Toda beliefs and culture. Even till date most families earn a livelihood by herding buffalo, selling milk and milk products.