Badaga Ballads

I am not too sure about the exact word in Badaga  for ‘ballad’ – Could it be  Paamay’ which also means ‘story?

[A ballad is a narrative poem, usually set to music; thus, it often is a story told in a song. Any story form may be told as a ballad, such as historical accounts or fairy tales in verse form. It usually has foreshortened, alternating four-stress lines (“ballad meter”) and simple repeating rhymes, often with a refrain. If it is based on a political or religious theme, a ballad may be a hymn (Wikipedia)].

There are quite a few ballads [‘traditional folk songs’] in Badaga narrating many stories that talk of the valour of heros [Kamarayya, Bala Sevana, Bela Madha], beauty of Badaga women [Giriji Madhi, Kolli Tippe], witchcraft of Kurumas , hospitality of Badagas [Unige Madha] etc.

I have heard these ballads narrated in a beautiful and melodious musical format by Kerban Bella Gowder and Kotagiri (Kurudu) Kada. Unfortunately both are dead now. Kada was blind but had an unique style of rendering these ballads and other Badaga songs. Of course, I can say without any hesitation that Bella Gowder’s songs were a sheer bliss to listen. His was the most accomplished voice. His SAVU SONGS can make the most hardened hearts melt and shed tears. He could create songs on the spot, known as – kadhe kattodhu

Listen to Kara Chenne – a great Ballad by Kerban Bella Gowder here :

The following information is found on the SPECIAL ISSUE of 1982 released by Kovai Badagar Sangam and I feel it deserves the attention of all of us who believe in our traditions, though some of the lines – the last few ones- are a little difficult to understand.

By Dr.K.K.Mathan M.Sc (Agri)., Ph.D
From the special issue published by Kovai BADAGAR SANGAM in 1982
Kovai Badagar Sangam Dr.KK Mathan

We have heard about from where Badagas migrated, where they settled initially, what sort of dress they wore, the type of food they had and what type of houses they dwelled from many researchers. Badaga ballads and true epics are quite famous from these researchs. These ballads and epics have blended with our blood. Even a five year old would sing ‘HANAYA MANNU, SOLUR HENNU’ when asked.

A surprising information is that our ballads have been printed in book format nearly two hundred {now, 225years} ago ! we are proud to learn about that. A German has translated ‘HANAYA MANNU’ song into German language. The English version of the same written by H.B.GRIGG in 1880 appeared in the ‘MANUAL OF THE NILGIRIS DISTRICT IN THE MADRAS PRESIDENCY’ on pages 281-225.

I reproduce and dedicate the same for the information of all ;


Once in the village of Hannia Mannu,

Near to the fortress of Koleya Kambe,

Lived there a youth named Bala Sevana,

Also, his brother, Bela-Madha.

Like were they to one another,

E’en as the spreading horns of a buffalo.

Nineteen men had Bela Madha,

Nineteen ploughed the land for Bala Sevana.

Once in the field of the gravel slope, they,

Met by the corner of the sacred seal stone;

First to Circar made they obeisance,

Then they made a salaam to the temple,

Folding their hands to the moon above them.

Deep in the earth they scooped a hollow,

Then they fetched an armful of hillus,

Played with a golden ball and with a Bat silver the game of Hillatta.

Lo ! the daughter of Yerugatta, The twice fallen Yerade – Bellie,

Took unto her eighteen maidens.

There stood she upon the green slope,

‘Neath the richly laden Khavilu;

There did she unbind her tresses,

Thick were they as the churn-stick, Mathu.

Meanwhile skillful Bala Sevana,

Caught the lillus of Bela Madha;

Madha caught not those of Sevana.

Then said Yeragatta’s daughter,

To twice fallen Yerada Bellie,

“Has not Bela in Temple”

In the grazing ground of Madha,

To the brim milked eighteen pailsful?

Then his loins with pure white kerchief Girt

he not and made the butter,

Made it with coir and churn of Pangni,

Allamaada was frame work?

Therefore Bela-Madha weary

Tho’ his have still their cunning

Widows sons are three times gifted.

But had skilful Bala Sevana

To the brim milked eighteen pailsful,

He forsooth had been too weary,

Poorly fed is Bala Sevana,

Drinking washings of the milk pails.

Art thou rich like Bela Madha?

Thus spake mocking Yerade Bellie.

Prone fell Bela ‘mid the rushes.

Bala Sevana too exhausted,

Fell among the Hubbe bushes.

See his face is dull and faded,

Which anon shone like the platter,

Fatal word of Yerade Bellie,

Word of dark and evil omens.

So the some time loving brothers,

Like were they to one another,

Even as the spreading horns of a buffalo

Part for aye from that same moments.

The ballad, which is very lengthy, goes on to relate the adventures of Bala Sevana, how he labored 12 years with his wife, became rich, performed heroic deeds and eventually was appointed the Chief Monegar of the Hills, receiving the seal of office from the cutcherry at Satiamangalam.

JP’s footnote :

HB Grigg’s’ Manual of the Nilgiris…’ can be accessed here

Here is another ballad  called ” UNIGE MADA ” on the hospitality and love shown by Kinnakorai Joghee to a Kurum(b)a called Mada from Folktales of India  By Brenda E. F. Beck



One response to “Badaga Ballads

  1. mlle_sumathi

    It is so interesting.These ballads were written so long ago. Thanks to the efforts of people who have documented them, if not they would have been lost …… We can visualise the scene while reading the ballad and it is part of our identity .


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