Thursday, February 16, 2012

In Pictures: Toda and Kurumba Tribal Village

Walking out to the temple in the hills
This past weekend on our trip to the hills, we were able to visit several different tribal villages in the Nilgiri mountains. Our first visit was to a Toda village, where we learned about the Toda’s reverence for the buffalo, whose milk provided sustenance (and could be made into ghee, a staple of Indian cooking as well as daily and spiritual life!)
Todas are a hill tribe and live in the beautiful, green Nilgiris.
Looking at the Toda temple and asking questions of our Toda tour guide.
Buffalo milk products were used as currency, in exchange for grains, tools and medical services.
Another Toda temple. This one has buffalo horns painted on the door.
Our Toda tour guide shared a little bit about the Toda’s worship of nature with us as well as some of the rituals surrounding their temples. Anyone can choose to become and be a priest in the Toda’s religious tradition. Though considered Hindu, the Toda’s religion is uniquely different from a traditional understanding of Hinduism.
Toda women are famous for their intricate, beautiful embroidery, typically done on white cotton fabric using black and red woolen threads. Historically, the women only made shawls to keep warm in the chilly Niligri climate. Now, through partnership with various para-church organizations and non-governmental organizations, the women embroider bags, placemats, table runners and wall hangings as both a way to preserve their culture and earn some income.
A Toda woman working on embroidery. The designs are always geometric and always inspired by nature.
Sunday, we visited a Kurumba village on the border of Tamil Nadu and the neighboring state of Kerala. The Kurumba people traditionally live in thick forests.
Asking questions of the elder
While with the Kurumbas, we asked questions about culture, traditions and religion of one of the village elders, who told us he was at least sixty years old, but probably older, though he couldn’t say for sure!
The village elder we spoke with
Some of the women in the village then taught members of our group some of their traditional dance steps while three men formed a small band of two drums and a wooden horn and played for us.
A drummer drums while another elder looks on
Being informed that the villagers would like to teach our group a few dance steps
Dancing with the women of the village

We then shared loaves of bread and jam with the villagers and learned a few words in their language, which is a mixture of both Malayalam, the language of the state of Kerala, and Kannada, the language of the state of Karnataka.
Jake gettin' down with his bad self

Looks a little like the hokey pokey, no?

Celiz, Becky and Jamie laugh as they stumble over words in the Kurumba language
To see more photos of our weekend trip, visit our Facebook album here.

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