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Nobody knows for sure!

The Toda are one of the most ancient Indian tribes found exclusively in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu. The Nilgiri hills are well known for nestling the popular tourist destination of Ooty. The Toda are a primitive tribe whose population has hovered in the range 700 to 900 over the last century. They are an interesting lot with their own bunch of traditional quirks and customs. The Ooty Tourism Board has never actively promoted them, but you must add a visit to a Toda village to your list of places to visit in Ooty. The best time to visit Ooty is during the summer when the breeze is still cool and the flowers are in full bloom.

In traditional hand made attire

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Todas is that no one really know how they got here or from where they came from. It has been inferred that the Toda people are not aborigines, but came probably as conquerors or immigrants from the sea. The earliest record of the Todas is a manuscript written by a Portuguese priest named Finicio after his two day’s stay in the Nilgiri hills in the year 1602. From then, upto the English occupation of 1812, there is no documented information relating to this tribe. The Todas of today believe that they have always been on the Nilgiri hills. They speak a distinctive dialect which is not a blend of other languages.

Toda & Kota tribes have shared genes which separate them from the other Nilgiri Hill Tribes and share their closest affinity to the Greek Cypriots. Is that strange or what ?!

Interesting Toda Trivia

  • The Toda dress consists of a single piece of cloth, which is worn like the plaid of a Scottish highlander over a dhoti for men and skirt for women.
  • They are primarily cattle-herders, and trade dairy products with their Nilgiri neighbour people.
  • Toda religion centres on the buffalo; consequently, rituals are performed for all dairy activities as well as for the ordination of dairymen-priests. They believe the buffalo was created before man. During festivities and funeral, songs about the cult of the buffalo are composed and chanted.
  • They live in thatched houses called dogles, constructed in the shape of half-barrels and spread across the slopes of the pasture.
  • The Todas are vegetarians and do not eat meat and eggs which can hatch. Some villagers eat fish. Dairy products are consumed in all forms.
  • They practiced fraternal polyandry, which is now declining. A Toda woman when married was automatically married to her husband’s brothers. One of the husbands who is arranged to perform the ceremony of giving bow and arrow to a child becomes the father when a child is born. When the next child is born, another husband performs the duties and thus becomes a father.

Toda Hut

Today, you will find the new generation of this solitary tribe in old Reebok trainers speaking broken English. Change is inevitable, whether for better or for worse, only time will tell. Visit http://www.indiantribalheritage.org if you’re interested in knowing more about Indian tribes.

As the newest member of the content team, Shivangi Rajendran comes from the world of professional dancing. With a passion for travel and a flair for writing, the Masters in Mass Communication is just an added advantage. A gypsy at heart, she doesn’t believe in planning and is always ready to pack her bags and leave.

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