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Communicating the tribal way – Actions speak louder than words

The director of Tribal Research Center located in Ooty, C. Maheswaran has revealed some very intersesting facts about the tribal communities while addressing the audience at the Vanavarayar Foundation. The event, ‘Lifestyles of Kongunadu Tribes’ was organized by the foundation as a part of the monthly lecture series.

Mahaswaran talked about one of the tribes, where the people from the boys side approach the potential bride’s family by asking, “We have some seeds, will you give us some land to sow it in?’ and if all goes well, a stick representing the boy will be left behind on the girl’s house, denoting that a bond has been created.

In another instance, the Malayaalis go swirling round a stick over their heads to declare that they are seeking for a bride. The probable sequence that will follow be either that the woman’s family accepts the stick or else they will throw it out, without facing any protest from the boy’s side.

He also mentioned a extremely thoughtful custom practiced by the Todas, is which the husband of a pregnant woman will gift her a Toda shaped house constructed from grass blades and shrubs. This is the way of proclaiming to the world, that the husband is the child’s father and the infant will be heartily welcomed in his clan.

Apart from the ceremonies relating to selection of mates and marriage, there are also tribal traditions of respecting each other’s territory and dedicating one’s life to the community.

Mahaswaran explained about the Aalu Kurumbas, where once every year, seven members of the tribe travel to live in the forest secretly, for a whole week. This is done in hope that the Nature will grant protection to their villages. On their return, the seven of them cooks a meal of pongal in seven pots and feeds the villagers.

While, in a different case the Pazhiyar tasks themselves to dig into the hard ground searching for edible tubers. After a hard work of half a day, the person will tore off the half of the tuber for himself and keep the rest for the community. It is also known that if the similar person finds a honeycomb in the forest while going on the search for tubers, he will mark the tree. And if the same tree is noted by anyone else from the tribe, they will refuse to touch the honeycomb, showing respect for other’s territory.

Finally, C. Mahaswaran concluded that, “This is how tribals communicate. Without many words being spoken”.

To give a little more information, it is established that Kongunadu which is home to six vulnerable tribals like Todas and Kotas, also is the place of origin for the 14 out of 36 tribal communities in the whole of Tamil Nadu.

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