The Tribes of Nilgiris


The Nilgiris or the blue mountain is known as the queen of the hill stations. The district headquarters Ooty, is a major destination for tourists. Hidden amidst the towering mountains and lush forests are a few tribal settlements._MG_9999framed

The Toda tribe is one of seven major tribes that are indigenous to this region and they indulge in a lot of rituals and celebrations. Photographer Buvanesh who is a native of Ooty has been documenting the tribes of Nilgiris for the last two years. He opened up candidly in his conversation with Cambyte on his experience and journey.


“Tribes are a part of a lost ancient culture, that is on the verge of extinction. Being from Ooty, I thought it was my duty to document the living remnants of the Toda tribe. The thing I love the most about the tribes is that they are untouched by development and their way of life has not changed much over thousands of years”


“The government of Tamilnadu runs many schemes for the up-liftment of these tribes and has lifted the Baduga tribe out of the tribal status, which is economically encouraging but then their culture still struggles to thrive successfully. These tribes have their own language and lead a self-sufficient lifestyle. Every hut will have a garden in which they grow maize, potatoes and carrots”



“The main occupation of the Toda’s is making buffalo milk products. They earn a living out of trading these products with the outside world. They maintain a herd of buffaloes and worship the buffaloes as God”


“Come February, there is a grand celebration in the Toda village when they renovate the temple of their god, Teikirshy. The main event is replacing the thatched roof of the temple”

“During these festivals, the Baduga people walk on fire as a part of the ritual while Paniyas add to the atmosphere by playing their indigenous instruments like thappu, thudi, cheeni and chenda, an indigenous drum. The people also dance around the temple while clapping their hands and swaying from side to side. It’s really interesting to watch the pattern and the poise”


“ There was no sound blasting out speakers, out the harmonic sound of the instruments which calm the soul.”


“The tribes of the Nilgiris are known for their hospitality as far as the colonial era when the British first ventured into the hills. As a result, the British rulers were opposed to grabbing land from the tribesmen. Here are some of the pictures that shed light on the thriving culture that is getting meagre of late. Have a look.”

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