Kethorai Rajamma, who made all those known her , especially the Badagas, very proud by winning an award from the President of India, recently has written to say,
My earnest greetings..Your efforts for the beautiful bagadas of the the most beautiful Nilgiriis make me elated beyond Doddabetta’s height…May the sway of tall dignified trees, the tinkling water falls, the smiling colourful flowers and the hugging chill breeze shower wonderful and abundant blessings to you by laying a green carpet welcome by the tea plantations. God bless you..
Thank you ever so much for these kind words. If I could achieve a small percentage of what you have achieved [that has been recognised by all], then I am truly blessed. With the warmest of regards, JP
Rajamma of Kethorai village has made us proud once again. She won an award from the President of India.
Santhosh Kumar JB has sent the info and the link in ‘The Hindu’ and we have great pleasure in sharing the same with all Badagas.
It was not before the age of 15 that she was first taught the English alphabet. Now, 35 years later, she is a successful teacher in the same subject and is getting ready to leave for New Delhi to receive the Dr. Radhakrishnan Best Teacher Award from President Pratibha Devisingh Patil.
The fact that R.Rajammal is the first generation learner from her family may not be uncommon. But that she belongs to the Badagar community from remote Kethorai Village of Kethi Village Panchayat in Nilgiris District and has come thus far is an inspiring story. People travelling on the famous Nilgiri Mountain Railway might have noticed the Kethi railway station Coonoor and Udhagamandalam. Her native village Kethorai is a good five-kilometre trek from there.
Ms. Rajammal teaches English and Science to primary students at Kendriya Vidyalaya (II) at Madambakkam near Tambaram. Recognising her rise from modest backgrounds, her contribution to teaching and the Guides movement, the Ministry of Human Resource Development selected her for the prestigious award.
“I am the eldest among five children. I still remember the hardwork of my parents who toiled through the day in tea plantations and small farms raising vegetables,” Ms. Rajammal recalled her childhood days at Kethorai. Five decades back, education in remote hilly areas was scarce but Rajammal made the best of it, excelling in academics till high school.
Being a first generation learner did come in the way but having imbibed the quality of sheer hard work from her parents M.Ramachandran and R.Saraswathi, she never gave up. “We used to walk eight kilometers to high school and back home. It was not before class nine that we were first taught the English alphabet,” Ms. Rajammal said.
As those were the days of college education immediately after S.S.L.C., they had very little time to master English and when she joined Providence College, Coonoor, she found it even more difficult in the initial days. However, with the help of her teachers and classmates, she finished her B.Sc in Botany in high grades and came to Chennai, where she managed to get the job as a teacher at St. Michael’s Academy in Adyar.
Deputation to Moscow
Seven years later, she joined the Kendriya Vidyalaya. After a nation-wide test, she was selected to go on a three-year deputation to Moscow where she served the KV school there. A compere for programmes at INS Rajali in Arakkonam and also during passing out parades of Central Industrial Security Force establishments, Ms. Rajammal has earned popularity for her motivational speeches and also for her work among the underprivileged sections involving school students.
Her association with welfare homes for the senior citizens, destitute women and children had its origins in her childhood. “I visit my native village at least six times a year and spend a long time during the summer vacation. I insist on the importance of education and encourage young girls never to give up till they succeed in life,” Ms. Rajammal said.
Actively involved in the Girl Guides movement, Ms. Rajammal has received the NCERT Award in 2003 for Innovative Teaching Practices in Environmental Studies and the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan Incentive Award in 2008.
She wants to be a role model for rural women, especially among her Badagar community. Ever indebted to the Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghatan for the exposure that she has received, she said that she would be only too glad to serve KVS even after her retirement.
She lives in Madambakkam and can be reached at 2229 2403 and 98413 57720. E-mail:
In the olden days, Badagas lived a very simple but highly cohesive life. Evey village -hatti, consisted of one or two ‘families or Kudumbas’. Each kudumba, as the name indicates, consisted of brothers and they usually lived in the same street – ‘thara’. The ancestral home was given to the youngest son and, due to space constraints, the elder brothers moved out to build separate houses.
The youngest son [when married] was expected to take care of the elderly parents. The sister(s) married off to other hattis were always welcome to the parents house and for the children of the these females, their parents house was a source of great safety and security and the brother’s house was a sacred house known as ‘GURU Manay’. Though the property was given ONLY to sons, the married daughters could come back to the parents house anytime in case of any matrimonial discord. The daughters were given all the respect and they never felt neglected. Mind you, this was a time when girls were married off at a very young age and in most of cases, not educated.
Every family lived a contented life with total cooperation. This, of course, was the time when the undivided Hindu family wealth and property was given to only sons in our Country.
But all that changed over time. Material lust took control over conventional matters. The daughters, more often than not, were not welcomed by the brothers (generally due to their wives pressure). This combined with lack of education and absent of other alternatives, forced many daughters to suffer in silence. If they had children and a wayward husband who indulged in wasteful life with drinking being an eternal curse, the life was not only miserable but unbearable. Like in all other communities in our great country, the girls were forced to live a condemned life.
This is the time visionaries and forward looking Badaga leaders like Rao Badahur Ari Gowder insisted that the girl child should be educated and equal rights and property be given as the boys among Badagas. Empowering women. Now, even the laws in our country has been amended wherein the boys and girls have equal rights on the property of the parents.
Sadly, even in this day and time, in many hattis, the property is recommended to be given ONLY to sons by the so called hatti ‘elders’ in what can be termed as ‘kapp’ panjayats to sort out property disputes. As you may be aware KAPP panjayats are popular male dominated forums in Hariyana and wester UP who had given the ‘OK’ for honour killings, acting as extra constitutional authorities and are in trouble as Supreme Court is looking into their actions.
The problem is, in olden days a complaint was made to the common wisdom of hatti elders when the disputes could not be solved within the family – Kudumba. The Badaga proverb – doddaru shloka – ‘manay ya maathaadi, mandaga hogu’ aptly describes this. Also, in olden days, the options of going to the court or seeking remedy through legal channels were not easy. Tthe ‘core committee’ of elders looking into complaints was made up of non partisan, experienced and where available educated people and their rulings were acceptable to all.
These days, in most of the hattis the ‘Gowda’ chosen is the one who does not have a permanent or regular job as he has to attend to a lot social functions both in his as well as in other hattis. Other members of the ‘problem solving’ group are youngsters selected for collection of tax – wari and to organise temple festivals – habbas etc. By no stretch of imagination, they can can be considered as competent or qualified and least of all experience which is a must.
And, most importantly, when it comes to property allocation to daughters, how can these panjayats go against the law of the land? The feeble argument that only a son can be called a ‘WARISU’ is blatantly brutal, one sided, gender biased and ‘anti-female’ like many other social issues in our society.
A personal note:
We have a son and a daughter. We have educated them in the best of schools like Lawrence School, Lovedale and both have done their Masters from Canada and USA. Our [two] flats in New Delhi and Bangalore along with our property in the Nilgiris and Mettupalayam have been equally divided between these two. Rao Bahadur Ari Gowder, the only Badaga leader who is still remembered even after forty years of his death, gave his property equally to his two grand daughters and one grandson along with their mother. Being his nephew and grand daughter, I and my wife would like to follow his footsteps.
Nilgiri Hills from atop Doddabetta Peak - wikipedia
I am firmly of the view that our history viz Badaga Origin is much older- may be thousands of years – than what many scholars including Badagas consider and my initial ‘research’ confirms that. The general belief, over a period of time thrust down our throats, is that we migrated from Mysore area mainly due to the simple fact that Badaga means from the north. Ridiculous, it sounds.
In “ Paamé ” – The history and culture of the Badagas of the Nilgiris by B.Balasubramaniam, a highly educated Badaga, feels that Badagas migrated from Southern Karnataka [then Mysore State] about 700 years back, much before Tipu’s time, around 1311 AD during the plundering raid of Malik Kafir.
Though I am in agreement with Bala that ‘some‘ Badaga migration, if at all, took place much earlier then Tipu’s time [ late 1700s], I am firmly of the view that “It is possible that Badagas have lived in the Nilgiris for thousand of years like the Thodas [Thodhamaru ] or Kothas [Kotharu] and migration theory is an attempt by historians and anthropologists to explain away a ‘historical puzzle“.
Only based on the name ‘Badaga’ or on the so called local legends that are open to many interpretations or on the basis of similarity of Badaga [language] with haliya /mid Kannada, can we conclude that Badagas migrated from Southern Mysore? When there is no definite evidence about the origin of Todhas or Kothas, how can we presume that they predated Badagas as natives of the Nilgiris??
I am sure the mystery of migration is far from over. If you look at the issue as of ‘definitive migration’ then you try to guess about the dates but what happens if we believe that Badagas have always been there in the Nilgiris much before or along with Todhas or Kothas? Uncomfortable questions that are very interesting and worth digging deeper into.
Given the diversity but highly commendable unity and uniformity with minor changes in their customs, it appears that Badaga Migration could have taken place even within the Nilgiris Hills [reverently called ‘Naakku Betta’ by the Badagas].
What we DO NOT know about Badagas is more than what we know about them. Such is the mystery of Badaga Origin.
D.Rajesh writes :
I visited Nilgiris recently and was starting to wonder about Badagas and Thodas.
Having seen your website about Badagas, here are my thoughts on their origin.
To start with and to be frank I did not know much about Badaga culture except for the fact that they are unlike general “hill people” that one could see. That is, I was aware that Badagas were much more advanced in culture and civilization (should not misunderstand that hill people are of less culture; I am just trying to contrast two different things and hence nothing is inferior here) than normal tribal population. Now that I am trying to understand the origins of Badagas, my theory will be as below……….
[Read the complete article here]
Image via Wikipedia
BABU [email@example.com] ‘Just had a glimpse of the site and its really wonderful and amazing that we have an identity in the e-world which is remarkable .. I just went through some of the burning issues and all were genuinely right .. but I feel there is also a concern to be raised when it comes to justice disparity between the rich and the poor in hatti gatherings .. most of the time the decision is based on the status … the problem here I would like to emphasis is people of our community are too good in knowing what is good and bad but they dont have the courage to go against a wrong decision at many hatti gatherings … its totally dominated by a finger counted so called big people namely hatti gowda, his relatives and friends .. there are lot of examples i could qoute bt people should understand this … PLS BE COURAGE ENOUGH TO FIGHT INJUSTICE …THINK BROAD AND HELP FELLOW PEOPLE WITHOUT SENSE OF JEALOUSY …‘
Thanks for the comments and I am 100% in agreement with you.
These comments remind me of our docile [anjuguLigu] nature and general tendency to run away from realities instead of being bold and face the truth.
The undisputed Nakku Betta leader Rao Bahadur Ari Gowder, when he was an independent MLA in 1940s and 50s, had an appointment with the then Chief Mininster of Madras State Rajaji. But when the CM did not turn up, Ari Gowder informed the PA and walked out. The great Rajaji personally apologised to Ari Gowder followed with a letter. Incidentally, the present CM was a Junior in those days of Justice Party in which Ari Gowder was a leader along with Periyar.
Ari Gowder used to urge our people that we should not be like ‘hebbathays’ (Cockroaches) which run away when they see light and hide in darkness.
One of the recent incidents, that when Lawyer Bobbli from Chennai was elected as the President of Badaga Associations, there was strong objection from a powerful politician and his supporters who wanted the elections annulled and I am not sure what is the latest position.
Unless we, the ‘ahm’ people change our mind set that ‘might is always right’, we cannot call ourselves as ‘developed people – JP