Monthly Archives: January 2017

Let us know about ourselves – Nangava Nanga Arivo

Let us know about ourselves

Nangava Nanga Arivo is the topic underwhich Nelikolu Trust is organising a ‘wake up meeting’  to preserve ‘Badaga Culture’ at Bakkamora, Kaguchchi Village in Thodhanaadu Seemay on 28 Jan 2017 at 10.30 am.

A laudable effort by Nelikolu Trust, Yellanalli, Ketti under the leadership of Dharuman and ably assisted by Dr.R.K.Haldorai [based at Chennai] and others. [I want to put my deep gratitude and appreciation to Dr.Haldorai and other organisers for inviting me to this meeting- Wg.Cdr.JP]

Unfortunately, the notice/information sent about the meeting is only in ‘pure’ Tamil and hence difficult to give the correct translation in English. My request to Dr. Haldorai, who is a Tamil Scholar as well, is, please in future kindly give the information in English also, since most of Badaga youth is more familiar with English [being tech savvy, active social media and internet users].

This sort of awareness meeting is overdue and hopefully, something concrete will emerge. The sad but true fact is, of late, Badaga community, is slowly but surely losing its unique customs and culture.

Starting at the very basic and fundamental fact of Badaga Origin, our community is not able to say and asertain with any sort of authority [based on facts and figures] about our very origin. The western researchers supported by some ill informed local Badagas, have succeeded in spreading the ‘Migration from Mysore plains’ theory over the years, just based on the meaning of the word Badaga. It is high time, we assertain that we are one of the indigeneous tribes of the Nilgiri hills and are eligible to be considered under the PTG – Primary Tribal Group.

Three of the topics that would be discussed as indicated in the notice are :-

1.Badagar samaya kotpadum, munnor vazhipaadum – by Dr.Sundaradevan

Badagas have been nature and ancestor worshippers. Though they followed the traditional theories and practices of Hinduism, in the ancient days, there were no temples in any Badaga Village . The practice of worshipping Hethai is comparitively a new phenemenon of a few hundred years old. But now, in every village, there is a temple around which all functions and festivities are centered .

In some rare cases, the temple/temples themselves have become a point of conflict and confrotation. The forced or otherwise, conversion to Christianity has become a big threat shaking the very foundation on which Badaga values have been built. Every Badaga had a ‘PURE’ Badaga name, based on their ancestors in the family – Muthe mupparu and hethe hepparu hesarikki bandharu. Now some of the Badaga names are there only on paper and sadly even the few Badagas with original Badaga names have added at the end ‘n’ to their names and distorted the originality completely. Madha has become Mathan, Nanja has become Nanjan.

Hopefully Dr.Sundaradeven will touch on these issues.

2.Badaga mozhi’in thani thanmaigalum sirappugalum – by Dr.RK Haldorai

Dr. Haldorai is blessed with deep knowledge of Badaga and Badaga baashay. But, I am afraid that, he is also biased in favour of Tamil. Though the Ha word and pronounciation is an integral part and beauty of Badaga language, I notice a reluctance to use it in his writings. He prefers to write his name as Aalthorai in Tamil instead of Haldorai. I beleive that it shoul be only Hatti and not Atti when you refer to a village. Haalu for milk not aalu. Aalu in fact means anger. Ha and Ja are part of our language and let us retain them in all its glory.

Badaga language is being literally decimated by the influence of Tamil and English. When you see some of the videos on Badaga, you feel so disgusted to hear some words being used. ‘In search of love – is gavava thedi’ and not ‘gavava arachi’. Purunjoley for artha aappiley [not understandable] has become a common word.

Humble request to Dr.Haldorai to address this urgent issue – as he has rightly put it ‘let us know our mother tongue – avvaiya maaththa arivo’.

3. Badagar thirumana uravu muraigalum Badagar kaala kanukkum – by N.Raman

One of the main reasons why many Badagas marry from outside is the confusion created based on the so called MORAY. We assume that the village gowda is the ultimate in assertaining about morey. High time, this great tradition is followed in the correct and scientific way instead of in an adhoc manner.

Hope and pray that this sort of meetings and seminars are held more often.

My last but a very important request to Nelikolu and other groups, please involve our Badag ladies in these meetings and give them equal opportunities to freely express their views. Let us accept that they are ‘half’ of us.

May Hethe bless and give us the strengh to overcome the threats that are facing our great community and enlighten us to know about ourselves.



Badaga Origin – the big mystery ?!

The origin of Badagas is a big mystery.

What is the origin and how old is the history of Badagas?

How long have they been in the Nilgiris – the hills known to Badagas as Naakku Betta [though literally Naakku Betta means four mountains it actually refers to many surrounding mountains]? When researchers and anthropologists on a scholarship [or funded by universities] in the west can stoutly claim that tribes like Todas and Kothas [Thodhamaru and Kotharu to Badagas] are original inhabitants of the Nilgiris and termed as PTGs [ Primitive Tribal Groups], why are they hesitant to offer the same classification to Badagas whose language, customs, traditions, rites and rituals are unique, is a big mystery!?


[ the link to above – ]

Because, apart from some explorers, especially Europeans and ‘trained’ anthropologists along with some local ‘well informed'[ should it not be ill informed?] Indians including Badagas have come to the conclusion that since the predominant meaning of Badaga is northerner and hence they have migrated from the north – Mysore plains. Yes, just based on the name Badaga and it its meaning.

Even if the theory of migration is to be accepted [with not a pinch but a handful of salt], the ‘so called researchers’ seem to overlook the fact that north of the Nilgiris does not end at Mysore plains but stretches much beyond. One researcher, to whom I have plenty of respect, goes to the extent that Badagas, themselves, had told about this migration in 1603 to  Finicio.

How clever, can one get? Badagas are divided into many groups. One such group, Lingyats who still have matrimonial connections with other Lingyats in the Mysore plains, may have migrated. Only of late, they have started marrying into other groups like Gowdas . That does not mean that all Badagas are migrants. In 1603, people in any remote village surrounded by thick forests and jungles and generally cut off from rest of the world, couldnot be expected to give correct answers about their ancestry to wandering missionaries

In early 1603, Giacomo Finicio, a Jesuit priest in the service of the Roman Catholic church in Malabar, was assigned to undertake a journey to Todamala (as the Nilgiris was known then) with a mission to bring the long-lapsed Christians (mistakenly believed to be Todas) back to the Christian fold









[The Badagas are the only ones with turbans – called mandarey]

The information given above by British Library – does it not convey a big ‘fact’

[More to follow..]

Pray include Badaga Culture in Tribal Cultural Centre, Ooty

The following letter was addressed to the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Chennai and this website endorses the views and concern expressed by Dharmalingam Venugopal and requests for a favourable and early action – Wg Cdr. JP

Respected Sir,

Pray include Badaga Culture in Tribal Cultural Centre, Ooty

The newly constructed Tribal Cultural Centre at Ooty, a parting gift of the late, lamented Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, is likely to be opened for public any time now.

Sir, it is learnt that the Badaga Culture may not find a place in the Centre. If it is true, it will mean a grave injustice to the Badaga community and to the Nilgiris.

In recent years there have been a misleading supposition that the Badagas do not belong to the original tribal communities of Nilgiris and that they were migrants from somewhere in Mysore. Nothing can be more preposterous and mindless than such claims or views.

This needless controversy has surfaced in the past few decades following some publications by foreign anthropologists. According to them Badagas might have migrated from Mysore as they believe the word ‘Badaga’ denotes ‘Northeners’. The assumption itself is highly questionable and without foundation.

Even assuming the correctness of such claims, according to such anthropologists the migration took place sometime in 1550s. That is, some 500 years ago when the world, as we know now, had hardly been formed. There was no United States or Britain or Europe; nor India or Madras or Tamil Nadu!! The people of the whole world was migrating and yet to settle down.

Is not five centuries enough to accept the Badaga claim as a native tribe of Nilgiris? Besides, there is absolutely no evidence as to who came first and who came later among the Todas, Badagas, Kotas, Irulas and Kurumbas, the main tribes of Nilgiri uplands.

The very question of Badagas or any other tribes of Nilgiris having come from somewhere is meaningless and needless. How many communities or castes in Tamil Nadu can trace their origin or where they originated? Unlike most other communities and castes of Tamil Nadu, the antiquity and social and cultural uniqueness of the Badagas have been well researched and documented by Indian and foreign scholars.

The Badagas claim for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Tribes may not have been accepted. But none can deny their status as a Nilgiri Tribe.

Just as Tamilians include various tribes, castes and communities the Badagas too include several groups of people. A small group of Badagas even today marry from Mysore. One group of Badagas has obtained the Most Backward Class status from the state government while the rest are classified as Backward Class.

The needless controversy over Badaga history has already led to serious social, cultural, economic and administrative consequences in the Nilgiris. The discontinuation of enumeration of Badaga as a separate language in the last two census has led to a peculiar problem of not knowing how many Badagas, the largest social group, are there in the Nilgiris.

Preservation of socio-economic and cultural tradition of Badagas is paramount to the future of the Nilgiris and Tamil Nadu. Therefore, we pray your honorable self to consider this representation favorably and seek your kind intervention to :

a) Provide due space and content for Badaga Culture in the Tribal Cultural Centre before its inauguration.

b) Institute an enquiry as to why Badaga language, unlike in the previous census, had not been enumerated as a separate language in the last two census and restore its separate enumeration from the 2021 census onwards.

c) Constitute a high-level committee to confer a suitable categorization to the Badaga community, such as Mountain/Hill Tribe or Indigenous People, pending their representation for the status of a Scheduled Tribe.

Sir, your kind attention and intervention will certainly gratify the departed Chief Minister’s noble soul; for, the Badaga community was always very close to her heart.

Dharmalingam Venugopal Honorary Director, Nilgiri Documentation Centre, Kotagiri, The Nilgiris .

Comments and counter views:

Prof.Paul Hockings writes :
Dear Venu,
I applaud your appeal for the inclusion of Badaga culture in the cultural centre display, but you weaken your case somewhat in the early part of your letter by some very obvious errors. These suggest the writer doesn’t know what he is talking about. First of all, and of least significance here, Britain and Madras were indeed well-established entities five hundred years ago.

As for the word “Badaga”, all linguists agree that it means “northerner”, without any doubt. Badagas told Fenicio in 1603 that they were northerners. Since that date, it is not “foreign anthropologists” who have “claimed” this, but rather the many dozens of Badaga elders who have told them this, and ever since 1832: the literature makes this very clear, and Breeks in particular made it very clear in 1873. So calling this a “misleading supposition” is casting doubt without any supporting evidence to the contrary.

Future generations of Badagas don’t deserve to be bamboozled about their own history! Some elders have in fact told me not just that their ancestors came from Mysore, but from precisely which villages they came. The Todas have also told us that the Kotas too, a Scheduled Tribe, came from the plains, yet you make no mention of this interesting fact. A lot more could be said about this, but it is already in my books or in a 2016 volume on Indigeneity.
This said, the three points you make at the end of your request to the Chief Minister are altogether valid requests, indeed are the least that we should expect of him. The arbitrary decision to “hide” the number of Badaga speakers among Kannada speakers in recent censuses has been especially egregious, in view of the publications of grammars and dictionaries of the Badaga language by R. Balakrishnan, C. Pilot-Raichoor and myself that make the independent status of the language crystal-clear.
Let us hope that the state government takes some constructive action on this long-fesstering issue, and Badaga culture gains true recognition for its role in creating the modern Nilgiris!
Dharmalingam Venugopal counters :
Dear Paul,
I know you will take offence but the stakes are getting higher and Badagas themselves seem so ignorant of what is going on.

You know there have been several instances (starting from Aryan-Dravidian debate) in India when 'academic history' unwittingly spilled over to 'popular history' leading to unwanted consequences. Such histories are also manipulated by vested interests to score their points. So many books have been withdrawn in such contexts. That's is what is happening to the so called Badaga migration. An average clerk in the district administration thinks Badagas came from Mysore some 50 years ago !! Some money making NGOs here also question the status of Badagas as Indigenous People

I mentioned 'misleading suppositions' to mean vague assumptions and not incorrect assumptions. For academicians Badaga origin may continue to be a matter for investigation but it has caused a lot of confusion to the present outsiders and Badagas. No one really bothers to read your's or other's book. It is just word of mouth or some silly newspaper article. That is the reason why I have to do what I am doing now.

Of course, my history is poor but surely the world of today is vastly different from the world of 1800 or 1550s. Why dig up the roots of just one small community? Does it serve any purpose? On the contrary it can and has already caused a lot of trouble.

If I were a migrant from the hot plains of Mysore I would rather settle in the warm lower slopes of Gudalur than claim up all the way, risking wildlife and other unknown dangers, to settle in some remote and cold heights.

Badaga no doubt means Northener. And Badagas evidently had a great sense of geography, astronomy etc but was the name given by outsiders or Badagas themselves to outsiders coming to the hills. It is quite possibly a term to denote those like the lingayats who came to the hills in different periods.

If there had been a original and mass migration it would have found a place in our proverbs, sayings and omens etc. When Counsel of the Ancients laid down over thousand do's and don'ts for the Badagas,why were they silent on the origin. Obviously it was too old for them too !!!

I hope you understand the prevailing circumstances which make it imperative for me to bring out these issues. Of course, it is a thankless task.
Prof.Paul Hockings responds :-
Dear Venu,
I appreciate your well-reasoned letter. My books are directed at the educated public, which is including more and more Badagas. I don’t expect a casual reader in Coonoor to know what is meant by ‘uxorilocal residence’ etc., But people who are serious about this will look it up or know already. The audience I am addressing is not just people in the Nilgiris, either, but the increasingly large diaspora and especially their children who have hardly set foot in a Badaga village. These are the people who later in the century will be wondering about where their fathers and mothers came from.

And this is not an idle thought on my part. Anthropology may not be very popular in India — and one can make a strong point that the studies have been done by ‘foreign anthropologists’ for the simple reason that Badagas are not interested or trained in this. (I know about Verghese, but he studied Kotas, and moreover has been dead for many years.) It is very normal for students of Indian origin going to universities in the West, as thousands do, take some anthropology courses because they are required to take a certain number of social science courses. This often can lead to term papers or theses on Nilgiri topics.

But when they come to look into the available library resources, nearly everything is by me! And if their interest is ‘the origin of….’ they find such nonsense floating around in the heads of their friends and relatives as the idea that the Todas came from Greece (else why would Prince Peter of Greece, a good anthropologist, be interested in them?); or a recent claim on a website that “the Badagas have been on the Nilgiris for 8000 years”; or an idea that Ari Gowder shared with me that the Badagas must have come from Bengal because he saw similarities between the gudikat and decorations at Buddhist funerals in Bengal….. These baseless ideas will be useless to future generations, especially those who, we may assume, will be interested in studying the Badagas seriously. So I am doing the best I can to present all the relevant evidence for my conclusions — which can always be modified by new evidence.

Unfortunately, Prof.Hockings seems to feel that everything  he claims to be correct about Badaga Origin must be accepted unless new evidence is provided. He has quoted Ari Gowder out of context. He laments that ‘I don’t expect a casual reader in Coonoor to know what is meant by ‘uxorilocal residence’ etc….or a recent claim on a website that “the Badagas have been on the Nilgiris for 8000 years”‘. I would like to remind him that Badagas are no more the docile head nodders to accecpt any thing said and claimed by ‘outsiders’ as gospel truth (pun intended) any more. They are highly educated and rightly agitated about false claims. Proof and evidence will follow about Badaga Origin in future. Let there be healthy debates that can correctly come to a conclusion. I am, being an ‘educated’ Badaga whose website has more than 480,000 hits, totally convinced that Badagas are one of the original inhabitants of the Nilgiri hills and their origin may  be thousands of years old. – Wg Cdr JP


 Sent by Dr.RK Haldorai


Revd. P. K. Mulley
[Kotagiri ,January 2017]

It was W.H.R. Rivers, the pioneer of Toda anthropological studies, who first documented (1906) the Badaga names of twelve calendar months (albeit in Toda form). He also indicated that the Todas probably borrowed them from the Badagas. Rivers did not know that the Kotas too, followed the same calendar. What is of great interest is that this calendar, according to Rivers, signalised the beginning of the new year with the new moon in October. Rivers, further stated that the full moon is counted as being on the fifteenth day after the new moon, and the new moon as being the sixteenth day after the full moon. F.J. Richards, I.C.S., tried to pursue this subject (1920), but did not make any headway in this regard.

K.H. Madha Gowder of Achanakal (1979) who prepared a Badaga calendar also suggested that the tenth day of the present day English month should be treated as the beginning of every new month, but without any conceptualisation. He posited that kuuDalu is the name of the first Badaga month. Prof. M. Basavalingam of Kil-Kotagiri, a Lingayat Wodeya antiquarian (a former Professor of English as well as a monitor of astrology) and a noted Tamil Sangam Period historian sought (1982) to make a correspondence of kuuDalu with Tamil maargazhi and stated that the Badaga new year commenced during December-January. Prof. Paul Hockings, the doyen of Badaga anthropology, first in 1989 and subsequently in 2013, tried to investigate the subject, though not with any satisfactory result.

In the light of the above observations, I consider the recent attempts of Dr. R.K. Haldorai, to make a fresh presentation of the subject, quite a tenable one. However, I have my misgivings about kuuDalu or kuuTlu being the first month. The meaning of the name – “culmination or conjunction of the cycle”, obviously makes it the twelfth month rather than the first month. kuuTlu is also the name of the lunar house of the constellation of haalamiinu in Badaga tradition. If and when this astral position is duly synchronized, it may yet throw more light on Badaga new year. The ritual chronometry followed in the commemoration of BeragaNi Hethe during this month further reinforces this position. The Badaga new year most likely then, begins with the appearance of the crescent moon (kattihere) on the third day after the new moon in January. Haalaani, therefore is the first month and kuuDalu, the last one. Moreover, the Badaga month tay when considered as the cognate of das (ten or tenth in pan-Indian vocabulary) actually happens to be the tenth month in Badaga reckoning. Tay in Badaga lexicon is also coupled with kiru (tay kiru) or north eastern monsoon. This month then is incontrovertibly followed by hemmaaTTi and kuuDalu or the eleventh and twelfth months respectively and the cycle is completed. Let us not, in this context try to confuse the Tamil names of months with the Badaga names. The Badaga rhythm of the Nilgiri-year, it needs to be pointed out is certainly anterior to and unknown in Tamil calendar in vogue. It may also be mentioned that the names of the Tamil months seem to have historically undergone a process of distortion (Hart III, 1975) and hence of no use to the Badaga system.

The Badaga system contains some ancient features is also of considerable interest. Dr. Haldorai’s suggestion of Salivahana association (A.D. 78) in the evolution of Badaga lunar calendar is significant. But to promote the mediation of Kannada/Telugu ugaadi in the determination of Badaga intercalary month or saribarasa is not at all necessary. It is not difficult to insert a homologous month every two years and restore to Badaga calendar, the long-forgotten sitre for this purpose. There is an old saying in Badaga – “saribarasado sitre tinguva” (or sitre occurs during an intercalary year). A tender blessing is besought of BeragaNi Hethe to provide golden shade in the month of sitre (“sitreya tinguvado sinnada koDeya naalu”). In the same hymn, summer season is deemed to precede this equalising month. In times of yore, no marriages were held during the intercalary period. But since the time when intercalation was lost track of, a custom of new complexion has come to emerge. Marriages when the spouses are of even-number of years of age, came to be discouraged in the pretext of saribarasa! An authentic intercalary (re) structuring in the Badaga calendar also needs to be less influenced by the almanacs available in the market.

A detailed examination of the etymology of Badaga names of months may not be possible in this account. But the following note on aadhire is of some antiquarian and astronomical importance. This month corresponding to April-May, crucially coincides with the asterism of the same name. Being one of the 27 segments or ‘nakshatras’ it is puzzling to note that this congruent as such does not appear to find a mention in any of the known almanacs. So it may well be that, some original and systematic base can be discerned in the Badaga almanac.

The uujena (waxing moon) and the aujena (waning moon) recalled in Badaga tradition (cf. Emeneau, 1939) can very well be traced back to Sangam times. Sangam texts like Puram 65 and Akam 201 refer to uvaa or uvaanaaL, which linguistically indicate how the cognisance of the movement of moon in earliest times might have been adopted from a common source. Last but not the least, is the Badaga word muTTu (new moon) itself means “to touch”. Astoundingly, the definition of new moon itself, is the phase of the moon occurring when it passes between the earth and the sun and providing the celestial body a touch on its path or an ingress entry into the orbit.