Monthly Archives: July 2018



Prof.Paul Hockings

Dear JP,
    I have been meaning for some time to send you something  that has been troubling me. While it is a great improvement in things that we now have Badagas publishing books about their culture, most of these books seem not to be based on well-established scholarship on South India, but rather personal impressions. Contrary to what Trump might say, in the long run you can’t have alternate histories of a people, some of which are based on critical research and others of which are not. The critical research is what will last while at the same time being modified by further research.
    Anyway, it would be nice if you can publish what I have written, in the hope that some rather more critical discussion will take place. I have interviewed some 700-800 Badagas (which I don’t think anyone else has done) and I have tried in my books to distill the essence of their thoughts while acknowledging that there are always differences of opinion depending on what part of a society you are located in.  – Paul

The ubiquity of the internet these days, and of Badagas who are perfectly capable of using it, has allowed for a lot more discussion about Badaga matters than used to be the case. And the proliferation of books about the Badagas over the past half-century, when there had been virtually none before that, has given plenty of people food for thought. This is all to the good, of course, and contrasts greatly with the earlier situation. But I would like to point out that some serious yet pervasive misconceptions have arisen in recent years that should be addressed.
The first one to mention, because it is perhaps the oldest, is that it was “western scholars” who decided that the Badagas of the Nilgiris came there from southern Mysore several centuries ago, and that those same scholars decided this because the name of the people means “northerner”. Since I am one of those scholars let me make several point in response.

First of all, from the 1820s onwards, the only writers who showed the slightest interest in Badagas were Westerners. Badagas themselves were certainly unconcerned, no doubt thinking that without literacy they could not have had history. I can mention only two exceptions to this statement. Pandit S.M. Natesa Sastri was a noted Brahmin folklorist (1859-1906) who was reputed to speak 18 languages, Badaga being one of them. Of course, one could not make a decent living being a folklorist in the 19th century, and so Natesa Sastri was employed as a warden in the Ootacamund jail. This gave him ample opportunity to question its Badaga inmates, of whom there apparently were several dozen. As a result of these investigations he published several articles in the Madras Christian College Magazine that are full of valuable and highly accurate information, including verbatim prayers and other samples of the Badaga language. It is of course a great regret that he never made his findings more accessible. The other exception to my statement about Western scholars was a Badaga, M.K. Belli Gowder of Accanakal (Achchanekallu), who early in the 20th century collected a great deal of factual information about the folklore; but he kept it all in notebooks and published almost nothing except for several letters in the South of India Observer. These two writers aside, Indians have shown no interest in Badaga culture until quite recently.

The second point I need to emphasize is that Western scholars never made up their identification of the Badaga homeland in southern Mysore: THIS WAS WHAT TRUSTED BADAGA ELDERS TOLD THEM. In my own research I was told by numerous elders, from 1962 onwards (in other words, by people born around 1900 or just before), that the names of some of the ancestral villages were still known; and they dictated to me Accalli, Agasvadi, Belladi, Gundulupete, Hasanuru, Honnahalli, Jakkalli, Kakkadur-Karahalli, Kavaspadi, Kongahalli, Sulur, and Urigaddige. All of these places (except Hasanuru) lie within a very restricted area not far from Nanjurugudi, a pilgrimage centre which Badaga informants regularly visited because, even in the 19th century, they claimed it was their ancestral home. None of the above sentences were made up by me: I am simply reporting what reliable elderly informants told me half a century ago. Why would I falsify this matter, and why would they lie about it? Ever since the 1820s Europeans have occasionally been asking Badagas where their ancestors had come from, and always got answers along these lines. Even Father Fenicio, visiting Kunda in 1603, met Badagas who told him they lived in three villages and had come from the plains to the north.

Another point of contention arises over the very name “Badaga”. We are all agreed it is a Kannada word originally, and means “northerner” or “from/in the north”. But this apparently has led one modern Badaga writer into real confusion. I have not read his book because my Tamil is pretty hopeless these days, but Sivaji Raman’s book Badaga Samudayam, as reported in this website, seems to make wild and totally unsubstantiated claims about how “Badaga language finds extensive mention in old – purana – Tamil literature like Tholkappiam”. This is nonsense because, first, the language of the Nilgiri Badagas did not have any separate existence from Kannada until several centuries ago; and secondly, the “Badaga” referred to here were people who, from a Karnataka perspective, were indeed “northerners” but were people who we know spoke Telugu! In short, they had nothing at all to do with the Nilgiri peoples, as they were living in what we now know as Andhra. The Tolkappiyam dated to around the 3rd century AD, a time before anything is known about any Nilgiri peoples, and some 1400 years before Badaga became established as a Nilgiri language. That great Tamil work was in fact referring to the early Telugu language. For scholars of Dravidian literature this fact about “Badagas” has been common knowledge since at least the 19th century, so it is sad to find people who are not really familiar with Indian philology still making this baseless claim about mention in the Puranas in the 21st century.

There have been a few Badagas who in recent years have claimed a great antiquity for the Badaga occupance of the Nilgiris. One person recently wrote on a website that the Badagas had been on these hills for “8000 years”. Not only is this totally preposterous, as we know nothing about the names or locations of ethnic groups anywhere in India prior to the adoption of writing, least of all on the Nilgiris; but such ludicrous claims just serve to make Badaga history laughable to any serious scholars of South India. There were Mesolithic cultures in parts of India 8000 years ago, but even if archaeologists eventually demonstrate presence of humans here on the Nilgiris even 1000 or 2000 years ago, there would still be no evidence that the people involved were Badagas in any sense. In fact, the earliest Nilgiri occupants were probably Kurumbas, because (a) there are some Badaga hattis with Kurumba placenames, as the Kurumbas had already left, and (b) Kurumba magic seems to be identical with Buddhist magic, which otherwise disappeared from South India around 1000 years ago, along with Buddhism and Jainism generally.

I don’t doubt that IF evidence were to show a greater antiquity for the Badaga occupance of these hills it might bolster some current political arguments. But the fact remains that there is a great deal of evidence for the Badagas having arrived 4-5 centuries ago and virtually none for any earlier arrival. The relevant evidence has been examined closely by a number of anthropologists and historians over the years, so it is not just a matter of one man’s “opinion”. Indeed, old Toda and Kota folktales don’t even mention the presence of Badagas. I need hardly add that creating imagined or false histories of the Badagas that are not based on a scrutiny of all available facts will be an irreparable disservice to future generations, who are likely to ask more searching questions about their ancestry.

Though I may not agree with some of the views, specially on the origin of Badagas, of Prof. Paul Hockings, there is no denying the fact that he has spent considerable amount of time and efforts in his research on and of Badagas and brought them out in his books. Also, there is no denying the fact that some Badagas had migrated from the plains of Mysore about four/five ceneturies ago.

Can it be that Badagas existed  in a very few hattis in the Nilgiris for a long, long time much before this migration, a view I strongly believe in?

Rao Bahadur Hubbathalai Bellie Gowder, (he could speak eleven languages),  a contractor (he was called Bellie Maistry) who was instrumental in laying the mountain railways from Mettypalayam to Ooty, presented a memorandum, listing Badagas as one of the original tribes of the blue mountains (The Nilgiris) along with Thodas, Kothas, Kurumas and Irulas, to the Governor of Madras in 1923 who visited Hubbathai hatti on his personal invitation. I have some of the photos taken on that occassion.

Is it correct that Thodas and Kothas have not mentioned Badagas in their folktales ? What exactly is the origin of these two tribes?

Do Thoreyas and Odeyas really consider themselves as Badagas? Are their traditions, rituals , customs and culture, specially marriage and funeral rites same as other Badaga groups (which have mingled so much that you cannot distinguish a Gowda from a Haruva, Adhikari or Kannakka)? In one of the funerals at Sakkalatti, I noticed some changes that are different from other ‘main stream’ hattis. Incidentally, I was told that, in the Kattery group of hattis (Lingyats/Lingakuttis) have decided to accept Basavanna as superior to Shiva. Marriages with Mysore brahmins(non Badagas) is still common in these hattis.

Unless we, Badagas, undertake extensive research to an alternative Prof.Paul Hockings’s views with scientific proof, our contention will remain as personal impressions, as he says.

Critical discussions are most welcome.

Wing Commander Bellie Jayaprakash



Badaga Population

What is the Size of the Badaga Population?


Prof.Paul Hockings

A quick Internet search suggests there is no authoritative figure for the total of Badaga speakers — and language is the best indicator in earlier censuses as to who was a Badaga and who was not, since virtually no one spoke that language unless they were Badagas in culture too. What one does find in the Internet today is some people claiming there are 135,000 and some claiming 400,000 Badagas. Claims for an unusually large Badaga population might be useful in making certain political arguments, but they appear not to be based on any facts. I would like to speak about the issues that lie behind this discrepancy, however, without entering into political topics.

Very early counts of Badagas were probably not so far from the truth. Thus B.S. Ward’s count of 3,778 Badagas in 1821 might have been a slight undercount, but even if they were under-enumerated by 10% (a pure guess on my part) the real figure would still be little more than 4,000. Slowly improving diet and public health over the 19th century in the Nilgiris District could therefore reasonably lead to the figure of 19,476 in the “official” census of 1871, half a century after Ward’s count (which was done for the administration of Coimbatore District).

Moving on a whole century to the censuses of independent India, we find in 1971 a count of 104,392 Badaga speakers. But after this things seem to go awry, because we get no official figure in the 1981 census. So far as I know this was a result of a political decision at some high level: to treat the Badaga language as a dialect of Kannada, and so to lump all the Badagas in with all the Kannada speakers who lived in this District. This gave quite a large figure, but no indication as to how much of it was to be accounted for by Badaga speakers.

After two books were published by Christiane Pilot-Raichoor (who sadly passed away earlier this month), working in collaboration with me — namely “Counsel from the Ancients” (1988) and “A Badaga-English Dictionary” (1992) — I think it came to be accepted that Badaga is a separate language rather than a dialect of Kannada.

A dictionary documenting the language of the Badaga community of the Nilgiri Hills in Southern India, based on linguistic data recorded throughout the period from 1963 to 1990, and designed with the requirements of the non-native English speaker in mind. For such users, first, the method of transcription of Badaga words is phonetic, and bears no reference to either English or Tamil ways of transcribing the language. Secondly, several English words are commonly listed together as translations of one Badaga lexeme

By 1991 we get a census total of 134,187 Badaga speakers. This is obviously not out of line with the 1971 figure (above). Accepting these census figures as accurate, the population had increased by 55% over the period 1951-1971, and by 28.5% over the next 20 years, 1971-1991.

What we see here is a not-unexpected drop-off in the rate of population growth. I say it was not unexpected (at least to me) for these reasons:
As spelled out in my book “Kindreds of the Earth” (Hockings, 1999), Badaga women in their fertile years began to adopt family planning from 1975 onwards, whereas before that date there was strong opposition within the Badaga commuity to that practice even though many people already knew about it. So from 1981 onwards one would expect the reduction in the rate of population increase that the censuses document, and a reduction in average family size.
In 1971 very few Badagas were living outside the Nilgiris District; for the most part, just a few hundred students at South Indian colleges. So the enumeration up to that census was an accurate reflection of the District’s Badaga population.

Front CoverThis book focuses on the household of the Badagas, a community that lives in the Nilgiri Hills in southern India. Paul Hockings reports his unique longitudinal study of this community, covering 27 years of measurement and sociocultural change in four sample villages, where he conducted censuses every nine years. Combining his knowledge of anthropology, demography, and linguistics, the author focuses primarily on demographic transition and social change over time. He also studies kinship, marriage, household structure, and various aspects of Badaga contemporary life, including the influence of the mass media

But in the half-century since then we have seen more and more Badaga families settling in large Indian cities elsewhere, as well as in North America, Europe and Australia, largely as a result of the scintillating opportunities to be found within the information technology industry. The fact that today a visit to almost any Badaga village shows a large number of homes either locked up or rented out to non-Badagas is a reflection of the new situation. The continuing low price for tea, together with high levels of education, jointly brought about this situation.

Badaga Christians may number today about 4,500, but it is difficult to be precise about their number. While nearly all Badaga Hindus still choose another Badaga for their marriage partner, according to custom, and speak Badaga, there is not such a strong tendency among the Christians, who quite often marry someone who is a Christian from elsewhere in South India. This means that such families may not have been enumerated in recent censuses as Badaga speakers if they were mainly speaking Tamil or some other language.

One must conclude therefore that if the census enumerated 134,514 in 2001 — an increase of only 0.0025% over the 1991 figure — any claim of a total of 400,000 is altogether baseless. It would require an increase in the rate of population growth that has not been seen in modern times even in the most explosive parts of Africa: an increase of something like 300% during the present century!
My very detailed study of four central Nilgiri villages over a 27-year period, spelled out in the 1999 book “Kindreds of the Earth” referred to above, found an overall “increase”, in families where the woman had completed her fertile years, of only 1.6 children per couple — hardly enough to maintain the population at its current level towards the end of the last century. This meticulous calculation, based on sixteen village-level censuses, was in fact borne out precisely by the 0.0025% rate of increase mentioned above.

Reduction of family size to where a couple has only one or two children is characteristic of modernization, as it allows the parents to concentrate their resources better on the care and education of the children do have. When I completed the 1999 study the rate in Japan was also 1.6 children per older couple, exactly the same as I found in the central Nilgiris.

Christiane Pilot-Raichoor (1951-2018)

Christiane Pilot-Raichoor

Raichoor 1

All photos from

Along with Prof.Paul Hockings, Christiane Raichoor had done extensive research on Badaga, both the people and language. As a Badaga myself, I consider her view that Badaga is an independent language, has added enormous weight to that view. The Bdaaga Dictionary that she co-authored with Paul Hockings is truly a treasure trove.

She passed away on 16 July 2018.

Badagas have lost a great friend and guide.

May her soul RIP.

Badaga – census

படகர் மக்கள் தொகை

        டாக்டர் இரா. கு. ஹால்தோரை

இந்திய நாட்டில் பத்து ஆண்டுக்கு ஒருமுறை மக்கள்தொகை கணக்கெடுப்பு நடைபெறுகிறது. அவ்வகையில் கடந்த 2011ஆம் ஆண்டு எடுத்த மக்கள்தொகை கணக்கை அண்மையில் இந்திய அரசு வெளியிட்டுள்ளது. இதன்படி படகர் மக்கள் தொகை 1,33,550 ஆகும். இதில் கவனிக்க வேண்டியது என்னவென்றால் 2001ஆம் ஆண்டில் படகர் மக்கள்தொகை 1,34,514 என்று இருந்துள்ளது. அதாவது 2001ஆம் ஆண்டில் இருந்த படகர் மக்கள் தொகையைக் காட்டிலும் 2011ஆம் ஆண்டில் படகர் மக்கள் தொகை 964 குறைந்துள்ளது. இந்தக் கணக்கு சரியானதுதானா? உண்மையில் படகர் மக்கள் தொகை குறைந்துள்ளதா? இல்லை என்றால் இப்படிக் குறைவாகக் காட்டுவதற்குக் காரணம் என்ன?

2001ஆம் ஆண்டில் 6,07,93,814 ஆக இருந்த தமிழர் மக்கள்தொகை 2011ஆம் ஆண்டில் 6,90,26,881 ஆக உயர்ந்துள்ளது. அதைப்போல் 2001ஆம் ஆண்டில் 3,79,24,001 ஆக இருந்த கன்னடர் மக்கள்தொகை 2011ஆம் ஆண்டில் 4,37,06,512 ஆக உயர்ந்துள்ளது. இந்திய அளவில் 2001ஆம் ஆண்டில் 1,028,737,436 ஆக இருந்த மக்கள் தொகை 2011ஆம் ஆண்டில் 1,210,726,932 ஆக உயர்ந்துள்ளது.

இப்படிப் பிறமொழியினர் மக்கள் தொகை எல்லாம் கூடி இருக்கின்ற சமயத்தில் படகர் மக்கள் தொகை குறைந்திருக்கிறது என்பது நம்பத் தகுந்ததாக இல்லை என்பதனை மேலோட்டமாக இதனைப் பார்ப்போரும் உணர்ந்துவிடலாம்.

2011ஆம் ஆண்டில் மக்கள்தொகை கணக்கு எடுக்க வந்தோர்க்குப் படகர்களில் ஒரு பகுதியினர் அளித்த தவறான தகவலே படகர் மக்கள்தொகை குறைந்ததாகக் காட்டுவதற்குக் காரணம்.

கணக்கெடுக்க வந்தோர் தாய்மொழியைப் பற்றிக் கேட்டுள்ளனர். அதற்கு மக்கள் அளித்த தகவலையே அவர்கள் பதிவு செய்துள்ளனர். கணக்கு எடுக்க வந்தோர்க்குத் தாங்களாக ஒருவரது தய்மொழியைப்பற்றி எதையும் குறிக்க கூடாது என்றும் தகவல் தருவோர் தருவதை மட்டும் குறிக்க வேண்டும் என்னும் அறிவுரை கொடுக்கப்பட்டிருந்தது என்பது கவனிக்கத் தக்கது.

படகு மொழிக்கு இதுவரை எழுத்து உருவாக வில்லை. ஆகையால் இதற்குத் தாய்மொழி என்னும் தகுதிப்பாடு இல்லை என்று படகர்களில் சிலர் தாங்களாகவே நினைத்துக் கொண்டிருக்கின்றனர். அதனால் உங்கள் தாய்மொழி என்ன? என்று கேட்கும்போது சிலர் தமிழ் என்று குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளனர். வேறு சிலர் கன்னடம் என்று குறிப்பிட்டுள்ளனர். இதுவே படகர் மக்கள்தொகையைக் குறைவாகக் காட்டுவதற்குக் காரணம் ஆகும்.  

எழுத்துள்ள மொழிதான் தாய்மொழி என்னும் தகுதிப்பாடு கொண்டுள்ளதா? எழுத்தமையாத மொழிக்குத் தாய்மொழித் தகுதி இல்லாயா? என்றால் அவ்வாறான வரையறை எங்கும் இல்லை. படகுவைப் போன்று எழுத்தில்லா மொழிகள் இந்திய அளவில் பட்டியல் மொழிகள் 22-ல் இடம் பெற்றுள்ளன என்பதைக் கவனிக்க வேண்டும். போடோ, டோக்கிரி போன்ற தமக்கென்று தனியாக எழுத்தமையாத மொழிகளும் பட்டியல் மொழிகள் 22–ல் இடம்பெற்றுள்ளன. அண்மைக் காலத்தில் படகுமொழி தமிழ், ஆங்கிலம் ஆகிய மொழி எழுத்துகளைக் கொண்டு எழுதப்பட்டு வருகின்றன. ஆகையால் படகுமொழியை எழுத்தமையாத மொழி என்று குறிப்பிடுவதனையும் இனி தவிர்த்து விடுதல் நல்லது.

ஒருவரது குழந்தைப் பருவத்தில் அவரது தாய் பேசுவதே அவரின் தாய்மொழி என்று 2011ஆம் ஆண்டு மக்கள்தொகைக் கணக்கெடுப்புக் கையேடு தெளிவாகக் குறிப்பிடுகிறது. ஒருவர்க்கு அவரது தாய்மொழியைப் பற்றிக் குறிப்பிடும் சூழல் மிக அருகியே ஏற்படுகின்றது. ஆகையால் தாய்மொழியைப் பற்றிப் பலர் தெளிவில்லாமல் இருக்கின்றனர். ஐயம் சிறிதும் வேண்டாம். படகரது தாய்மொழி படகுதான். இதனை படுகு, படகு, படக என்று எப்படி வேண்டுமானும் குறிப்பிடலாம்.   

மக்கள்தொகைக் கணக்கெடுப்பில் படகுமொழியைக் கன்னடத்துக் கிளைமொழி போலக்கொண்டு கன்னடத்துடன் சேர்ந்தே கணக்கிட்டுள்ளனர். படகு கன்னடத்துக் கிளைமொழி அன்று. அது தமிழ், கன்னடம், மலையாளம் போன்று தனியான ஒரு மொழி என்பது மொழியியல் அடிப்படையில் ஆணித்தரமாக நிறுவப்பட்டுள்ளது.

ஒரு மொழி அதைப் பேசும் மக்களின் இன்றியமையாத இயல்பண்பினைக் காட்டுவதாக இருக்கிறது. இந்தியாவைப்போன்ற பல மொழிகளும், பல இனங்களும் பல மதத்தினரும் இருக்கின்ற நாட்டில் மொழி தனக்கே உரிய தனித்தன்மையைப் பெறுகிறது. அதுவும் மொழிகள் அடிப்படையில் மாநிலங்கள் அமைக்கப்பட்டிருப்பதால் இயல்பாகவே மொழிகள் சிறப்பிடம் பெறுகின்றன. மொழிதொடர்பான தகவல்களைத் தருவதில் இந்திய மக்கள்தொகைக் கணக்கு முதன்மை இடத்தில் இருக்கிறது. பட்டியல் இனத்தவரைத் தவிர்த்து பிறரிடம் இனம் தொடர்பான செய்திகள் எதுவும் கணக்கெடுப்பில் கேட்பதில்லை. ஆகையால் மொழிக் கணக்கே ஒருவகையாக இனக்கணக்கையும் கொள்வதற்கு எடுத்துக்கொள்ள வேண்டிய சூழல் ஏற்படுகிறது. ஆகையால் இனிவரும் காலங்களில் தாய்மொழித் தொடர்பாகச் செய்தி தெரிவிக்க வேண்டிய இடங்களில் சரியான தகவலை அளிக்கவேண்டும். இச்செய்தியை மக்கள் அனைவரும் அறிந்திருக்க வேண்டியது கட்டாயம்.

இந்தியாவில் 121 மொழிகளும் 270 தாய்மொழிகளும் இருப்பதாக 2011 ஆம் ஆண்டில் எடுத்த கணக்கெடுப்பு தெரிவிக்கிறது. 121 மொழிகளில் 22 பட்டியலில் இடம்பெற்ற மொழிகள். மீதமுள்ள 99 மொழிகள் பட்டியலில் இடம்பெறாத மொழிகள். 270 தாய்மொழிப் பட்டியலில் படகு மொழி இடம்பெற்றுள்ளது.


Rare Photos


Some of the rare photos of the Nilgiris – Nakku Betta.

We thank Dr. Vivek Raju, [son of Dr.K.M.Raju from Kerada – Ketti Kerkandy] presently at Durban, South Africa for forwarding these photos.

Since the original source is not known, we thank those pioneer photographers, mostly and probably British

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The Badaga Ladies have always been with a head scarf called Pattu. Since in the above pix the ladies are without pattu, wonder whether they were actually Badagas.

Oh Mother


Seventh Death Anniversary (13-7-2018)

Idyammal Bellie Gowder

You were everything for us in all those glorious 99 years and 10 months when you were ‘here’.

As we were preparing to celebrate the ‘century’, you chose to leave this earth just a couple of months earlier…seven years ago.

How time flies!

Elle idhale’yu engava harachu

[Bless us all from where ever you are]

MOM 5.jpg
Idyammal Bellie Gowder
Born September 02, 1912
Hubbathalai, The Nilgiris
Died July 13, 2011 (aged 99 years 10 months)
Parents Rao Bahadue HJ Bellie Gowder and Nanji Hethe
Sister of Rao Bahadur HB Ari Gowder
Spouse B.K.Bellie Gowder [Bearhatti]

[Autographed pencil sketch of Mom by JP in 1968 while she was reading an issue of Femina ]

“I know my mother looks much older than what she is but those wrinkles have the charm of their own. They indicate the signs of her great endurance; and the hard life she has to lead through to bring her children to lead a life that is respected and regarded by others” – JP 24-1-68

Dear Hands

[Grace Noll Crowell]

My mother’s hands were beautiful,
They are not always smooth and white
They were so busy making dull
And lusterless things clean and bright.

They reached so often to caress
A hurt child crying in the night
They moved as quick as fluttering birds
Among the cups and spoons at tea

They did a thousand lovely things
And did them all so graciously
There is no way to sum them up
The countless things she did for us.

[photo of Idy Hethe’s hand by her grandson Abhi Ari -2010]