With the rapid advances in technology and medicine, steady growth in population, and hundreds of future intellectuals in the making, our world has improved significantly over the last few centuries. While most people who live in cities are worried about the speed of their WiFi connections, what to wear to the mall, and which flavour of ice cream is the best, they tend to forget there are still people living in the wild and hunting for food out there. Despite the progression of the world around them, several indigenous tribes continue to thrive, continuing to live as their ancestors did many years ago. There are 705 ethnic groups that are recognised as Scheduled Tribes in India, as of 2022.
The Toda people are a pastoral tribe who live in the Nilgiri hills of south India. They were the first to inhabit the Blue Hills (Nilgiris), which were an ancient dwelling place for tribes like the Kurumbas, Irulas, Todas, and Kotas. “Toda” is derived from the word “tundra,” which means “the sacred tree of Todas.” The Todas speak Tamil, Kannada, and Malayalam, as well as their own Toda language. This community belongs to the Dravidian ethnic group.
Their main occupation is herding buffaloes. The Todas do not eat the buffaloes; instead, they use the buffalo milk to make a variety of other dairy products, which they then trade, along with the occasional sacrificed buffalo flesh, with other tribes for other foods.
Todas wear simple clothes. Men wear a white loincloth over their shoulders, and a dhoti. Women typically wear a thick cloth around their bodies, but more recently, they are opting for stitched garments. Women also use a variety of ornaments made of different metals. The Toda women are experts at needlework. Tourists have recently become interested in their embroidery, which has benefited the Todas economically.
Todas strictly adhere to their religion. They are polytheists and worship hill gods such as Lord Amodr [the realm of the dead], Goddess Teikirzi, and Goddess Tokisy—the creator and supporter of people and their social and ritual institutions. As a part of their culture, the Todas protect nature and are taking efforts to safeguard their language. Despite this, they need our help and support to develop their language and culture. Hence, it is our responsibility to serve as motivators and facilitators in the Toda tribe’s development process.