First ever portrait of a Badaga woman?

Displaying 1844 Badaga woman.JPG
First ever portrait of a Badaga woman
Dharmalingam Venugopal (Nilgiri Documentation Centre,Kotagiri)

Dr. James Cowles Prichard, an English Physician and Ethnologist wrote two books. ‘Researches into the Physical History of Man in 1813 and ‘The Natural History of Man: Comprising Inquiries into the Modifying Influence of Physical and Moral Agencies on the Different Tribes of the Human Family’ in 1843.
For the later he had commissioned the pictures of a Toda man and woman. Obviously, there was a mistake and the pictures sent from here were of a Badaga woman.
This print of a hand-colored aquatint engraving of an obvious Badaga woman was published in 1844. This could probably be the first ever picture of a Badaga woman.
An original of the engraving has been obtained by Nilgiri Documentation Centre thanks to the support of Mr. Colin Sullivan, the great grandson of John Sullivan, who visited the Nilgiris recently.

While thanking Venugopal for sending this information, couple of doubts creep into mind. Earlier days, Badaga Jewellery worn by women has distinct designs – the Ear rings – Kivi Chinna, Nose ring – Mookkuthi, and neck chocker – Saradu. In the painting above they are different.

 Badaga women also had very different type of tattoo on their foreheads. Not the Pottu – Bindu[dot].  So is the head cover – Pattu.

Update :- Venugopal feels that “it is 170 years ago and it is a painting and therefore interpretation of the artist. It is certainly not a Toda”. I agree.

– Wg Cdr.JP

Prof.Paul Hockings

I tend to agree with Wg Cdr JP that this might not actually have been a Badaga lady. The earring is not unusual for Badagas then, and is illustrated by Feodor Jagor from his expedition around 1873 (1914: Fig. 70). But the puttu is more of a problem. Jagor also illustrates (Fig. 60) several typical brow tattoos of Badaga ladies, which must have been pretty-well universal at that time, and rather rule out sticking a puttu on top of them. It is certainly not a Toda; but could it be an Irula? That seems most likely to me.


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