Enviro Reach

Kurumbas & Tribal Medicine

The huts in Vellari Kombai - Kurumba Hamlet

Challenging projects for our students – Tribal art & folklore medicine

Kurumba village - study group

One Earth Foundation organized a one day excursion with the DP students from EMWS – Mumbai to the Kurumba village of Vellari kombai  – off Mamaram village in ilgiris. Located at an altitude of about 3,500 ft, this small hamlet is home to about 15 families.  Traditionally the Kurumbas were hunter gatherers, medicine men and painters.  They serviced the needs of other tribes and had a respectable position in the tribal hierarchy in the Nilgiris region.  However, over the last two centuries, they have not adapted and not taken up agricultural practices and economically are amongst the most weakest tribal groups in the Nilgiris.  


The objectives of our excursion and study  were twofold:

  • To visit and interact with Kurumba tribals in their settlement at Vellari kombai to understand their history, culture and current economic challenges, and
  • To study & understand their traditional skills of painting and forest medicine,.
Challenging projects for our students – Tribal art & folklore medicine

One Earth Foundation organized a one day excursion with the DP students from EMWS – Mumbai to the Kurumba village of Vellari kombai  – off Mamaram village in Nilgiris. Located at an altitude of about 3,500 ft, this small hamlet is home to about 15 families.  Traditionally the Kurumbas were hunter gatherers, medicine men and painters.  They serviced the needs of other tribes and had a respectable position in the tribal hierarchy in the Nilgiris region.  However, over the last two centuries, they have not adapted and not taken up agricultural practices and economically are amongst the most weakest tribal groups in the Nilgiris.  


The objectives of our excursion and study  were twofold:

  • To visit and interact with Kurumba tribals in their settlement at Vellari kombai to understand their history, culture and current economic challenges, and
  • To study & understand their traditional skills of painting and forest medicine,.

EMWS students at work in the forest

An art workshop was conducted (more on this later) where several students from Ecole Mondiale (Mumbai) participated and were taught by one of the leading Kurumba artists – Krishnan.  

An exciting and challenging  project was undertaken by a few students to go into the forest surrounding the village (a major elephant corridor area) along with a village elder (Sellama – wife of the village headman) and to locate, identify and catalogue at least 15 plants and trees that are used by the Kurumbas for preparing medicine and their medicinal uses.  The study was constrained by time and changing weather condition, yet the results and findings were astonishing.  The students returned with data of over 15 medicinal plants amongst which were Dalbergia Sissoo (Kurumba name Beedi) and used to remove body heat, Wendlandia thyrsoidea (Kurumba name Kadambam) and used for curing jaundice. And many more. 

The lessons learnt were plenty and chief amongst them were that the Traditional Knowledge Systems of our indigenous and tribal communities are remarkable and need to be studied and explored further.  As tribes shrink and tribals leave their native habitat and move to urban areas – this vast pool of ages old knowledge will disappear.  Is there something, is there anything we can do to harness this knowledge for the benefit of all………………

The Trek to the Kurumba Tribal hamlet

The scenic setting of Vellari Kombai Tribal village - our study site



For further information please contact
Raminder Chowdhary
raminder14@gmail.com
Tel: +91-80-41616120
Mobile: +91-9008000338

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