Unique Hut Temple of Toda Tribes in Nilgiri Hills Ooty

Ooty is a popular Hill Station located in the Nilgiri Hills which means ‘Blue Mountains’, is a small town in Tamilnadu state of South India. It is capital of the Nilgiris district, located 80 km north of Coimbatore. It being a popular summer destination attracts tourists, and also holds some spiritual insights which are very less known to the world. Most of the hills in India, had got their identity through the deities present on them and some of the saints who meditated there. But here today we are going to know about the "Toda Tribes" who are a small pastoral tribal community, by occupying this land had built homes to live on this isolated Nilgiri plateau.
 
Nilgiri Hills in Ooty
 
Nilgiri Hills in Ooty
 
There are total of 18 tribes present in Ooty, the Toda's are one of them. The Nilgiri's is the abode of many other interesting tribes few are Kotas, Kurumbas, Irulas, Mullukurumbas and Paniyans. Toda people have built a 'Unique Hut Temple' which one should not miss when on trip to Ooty. During the end of 20th century, some Toda pasture land was lost due to outsiders who used their lands for agriculture or afforestation by the State Government of Tamil Nadu. Today, this has threatened to undermine Toda culture by greatly diminishing the buffalo herds. 
 
Nilgiri Hills Abode of Toda Tribes
 
Nilgiri Hills Abode of Toda Tribes
 
Who are the Toda Tribes? Where did they come from?
 
The Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu are the home to the ancient tribes known as Toda, who are found exclusively on these hills above the Botanical Gardens at Ooty. These hills being popular tourist destination are also well known for nestling in Ooty. It is noted that during the 20th century, the population of Toda (a primitive tribe) has hovered in the range 700 to 900. They have an interesting and different traditional quirks and customs. Till today, the Ooty Tourism Board has never actively promoted "Toda People", but a visit to this Toda village when on trip to Ooty will be unforgettable in one's life. 
 
Now the Toda lands are a part of "The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve", a "UNESCO-designated International Biosphere Reserve"; and their territory is declared as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The carrots are grown abundantly in this place. 
 
The most interesting part about the Toda's is that no one really knows who were they and where did they come from. It has been inferred that these people are not aborigines, but might have come in the form of conquerors or immigrants from the sea. A manuscript written by a Portuguese priest named Finicio, is the earliest record of the Toda's, when he stayed in the Nilgiri hills for Two days in the year 1602. Since then, upto the English occupation of 1812, there is no other documented information available related to this tribe. The Todas of today had a belief that they had always been on the Nilgiri hills.   
 
Culture and Tradition:
 
Before British colonisation and during 18th century, the Toda coexisted nearby with other ethnic communities, like the Kota and Kuruba, in a loose caste-like culture, among which the Toda are of the top ranking. Research says that there are shared genes between Toda & Kota tribes which separates them from the other Nilgiri Hill Tribes by sharing their closest affinity to the Greek Cypriots.
 
Today a lot of things have changed in the lifestyle of Toda tribes due to the forced interaction with other peoples with technology. Primarily, they used to be a pastoral people but today are ventured into farming and other occupations. These tribes judge time with the opening of the evening primrose which they call the 'six o'clock flower'.
 
Evening Primrose Flowers
 
Evening Primrose Flowers
 
They practiced fraternal polyandry (Religious Marriage), 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.
 
Houses of Toda Tribes:
 
Toda people lives in small cultural houses constructed totally of different shapes which restrict wild animals into their houses constructed in dense forest slopes of the pasture. They live in thatched houses called dogles, an oval, pent-shaped constructions in the shape of half-barrels, spread across the slopes of the pasture, on which they keep domestic buffalo. These huts are usually 10 feet (3 m) high, 18 feet (5.5 m) long and 9 feet (2.7 m) wide, made from bamboo, grass and cane. Thicker bamboo canes are used to give the hut its basic pent shape and thinner bamboo canes (rattan) are used to tie them close and parallel to each other over this border. Over the top it is thatched with dried grass. Each hut is enclosed within a wall of loose stones. The front and back of the hut are usually made of dressed stones (mostly granite). These huts have a small opening at the front – about 3 feet (90 cm) wide, 3 feet (90 cm) tall, from which people has to crawl through to enter inside it. The front part of the hut is decorated with the Toda art forms, a kind of rock mural paintings. The Toda village is made up of such several windowless bamboo huts known as "Mund". Each mund consists of 4-6 huts only which are spread all over the nilgiris. Today these hamlets have lost their original appearance which are now build with modern materials instead of bamboo, grass and cane.
 
The Old and New Toda Houses
 
The Old and New Toda Houses
 
Religion of Toda Tribes: 
 
The people of Toda belong to pastoal community, having fair-skin complexion, curly hair, and are strict vegetarians. According to their creations 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 women was created from the right rib of the man. The todas first contact with civilization occured when the east India company annexed the nilgiris in 1779. The first stone house was built in Ooty (On Toda Land), in 1823, by John Sullivan, the then collector of Coimbatore, who purchased land from the Todas. Today, there are only 1000 Todas left. Toda religion features the sacred buffalo; consequently, rituals are perform for all dairy activities as well as for the ordination of dairymen-priests. The religious and funerary rites provide the social context in which complex poetic songs about the cult of the buffalo are composed and chanted. 
 
Hut Temple of Toda Tribes:
 
There are separate temples built for men and women. Toda temples are constructed in a circular pit lined with stones which are quite similar in appearance and construction to Toda huts. Conical in shape, is decorated with sun, moon, serpent and buffalo head motifs. Only men priest are allowed to go inside the temple and rest have to stay outside only. Today one can visit a Toda temple in Muthunadu Mund near Ooty, India.
 
Toda Tribes Hut Temple above the Botanical Garden Ooty
 
Toda Tribes Hut Temple above the Botanical Garden Ooty
 
Toda Temple Side View
 
Toda Temple Side View
 
The paluvarsh temples have the same shape with slight differences. The poovarsh temples appear to be cylindrical with a long conical roof. The main festivals of Toda are conducted at poovarsh which is considered more sacred than paluvarsh.
 
Conical Toda Temples Ooty
 
Conical Toda Temples Ooty
 
The Traditional Decoration on Door of Toda Hut
 
The Traditional Decoration on Door of Toda Hut Temple
 
Deities of Toda Tribes:
 
"Pithi" is considered as the first deity of this Toda tribe. "Goddess Teikirshy" is the main deity among the Toda tribes. The division of dairies between the sub castes and clans and the sacred buffaloes are attributed to her, who is believed to be the creator,  supporter of the social and ritual institutions of the Toda tribe. It is also believed that she is the one who is omnipresent and all-pervasive. These are the gods of the dairy-complexes. 
 
"Teipakh" is a river god and brother of 'Goddess Teikirshy's'. Another important deity is "Tell" who lived a similar life of that of the Todas who tend to their buffaloes. The 'Clans' have different deities and it is regarded that most of them reside in the hills. It is believed that the deities living at a higher alter reflect the proximity of the Todas to the deities, which implies superiority over other races in regards to divinity. 
 
Language of Toda Tribes:
 
The Toda language is associated to the Dravidian family and has no evidence of script, it is totally distinctive dialect spoken which is not a blend of other languages. This language is typologically aberrant and phonologically difficult. Linguists have secret Toda (along with its neighbour Kota) as a member of the southern subgroup of the historical family proto-South-Dravidian. It got split off as South Dravidian, before Malayalam and after Kannada and Telugu. In modern linguistic terms, the aberration of Toda results from a disproportionately high number of syntactic and morphological rules, of both early and recent derivation, which are not found in the other South Dravidian languages.
 
Cuisine of Toda Tribes:
 
The Todas are mostly vegetarians who doesn't eat meat and eggs which can be hatched. By the changes in modern era some villagers are eating fish. The milk of Buffalo is used in a variety of dairy forms: butter, butter milk, yogurt, cheese and high plain. Rice is a staple food, often eaten with dairy products and curries.
 
Clothes of Toda Tribes:
 
The homespun cotton shawls called 'puthikuzhi' have black and red embroidered motifs. These are worn by both Toda men and women, tied around their waist, with one end thrown over the shoulder, almost like a Roman toda.
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.
 
Traditional Dress of Toda Tribes of Tamilnadu
 
Traditional Dress of Toda Tribes of Tamilnadu
 
Women of Toda Tribes in Traditional Hand Made Attire
 
Women of Toda Tribes in Traditional Hand Made Attire
 
Economy of Toda Tribes:
 
Buffaloes: Their sole occupation is grazing buffaloes and doing dairy-work with neighbouring peoples of the Nilgiri Hills. They have Holy dairies built to store the buffalo milk. The buffaloes are Pale brown with long horns, and deeply reserved as they believe the buffalo was created before man. A custom of sacrificing buffalo is often followed in festivities and funeral to accompany the deceased's soul in the after life, along with songs stating the cult of the buffalo composed and chanted.
They sell the tribal art such as knitted cotton cushions, shawls, table covers etc..
 
Buffaloes of Toda Tribes in Ooty
 
Buffaloes of Toda Tribes in Ooty
 
Customs and Festivals of Toda Tribes:
 
1)All the Elders in this tribe are treated with great respect, and greeted by lifting their right foot and putting it on one's head for their blessings.
2)The dairy ceremonies are the first festive occassion's generally celeberated by them with dance and music. The lively songs consist of simple stanzas, describing important events from the Todas' past.
 
Method of Toda's Taking Blessings From Adults
 
Method of Toda's Taking Blessings From Adults
 
Other Attractions in Ooty:
 
Annamalai Temple at Kil Kundha Post in Ooty, is the most visited sacred shrine. Although it is situated outside the main hill town, its always visited by the tourists and devotees who come in large numbers. Some other shrines which one must visit are Toda Temple in Vannarapetai, Murugan Temple on Elk Hill, Muniswarar Temple near Bombay Castle, etc in Ooty. The others attractions are Ooty Lake (6.3km), Adam's Fountain (4.6km), Rose garden (5km), Botanical Garden (2.9km) and Doddabetta (9.6 km).
 
Best Time to Visit:
 
The best time to visit Ooty is during the summer when the sun is at its peak and the breeze is still cool. This whole place is filled with the full bloomed flowers and gives a perfect picture of natures beauty. 
 
Significance of this Temple:
 
This Hut temple is famous for God lovers and Nirvana Seekers.
Please view this small video of Toda Temple by The Hindu
 
Today, upon visiting Ooty we can find the new generation of this solitary tribe in old Reebok trainers speaking broken English. The Change is inevitable, whether it be for the better or for the worse, only time will tell us. The one interested in knowing more about Indian tribes and their heritage can visit "Indian Tribal Heritage Organisation" and for more assistance can visit the "Tribal Research Center", in Ooty.
 
Address:
Above Botanical Gardens, Ooty, Tamil Nadu 643002, India
 
Temple Timings: Can be visited at any time.
 
How to Reach: Located in Vannarapettai in Ooty town, the Toda temple is easily accessible.
 
By Train: There are three railway stations nearest to this temple namely Udagamandalam Railway Station (2.8 km), Lovedale Train Station (4.2 km) and Nilgiri Mountain Railway Station (12.9 km).
 
By Road: Toda Temple is one of the tourist spot in Ooty, which is 15 km from Ooty Bus Stand. All  the other villages are also accessible by bus from Ooty - perhaps one has to take a little trek from the bus destination.
 
By Air: The nearest airport to reach Toda Temple on Fernhill road of Ooty is Calicut International Airport and Vayittiri is 89 km away from Ooty City Centre.
 
 
Image Courtesy:www.weareholidays.com, www.indiamike.com, www.ooty.com, sivatravelogue.blogspot.in
 
 

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  • Unique Hut Temple of Toda Tribes in Nilgiri Hills Ooty
    Vannarapettai

    Ooty, Tamil Nadu - 643002
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