The Badagas of the Blue Mountains

Who are Badagas?

First of all, both the people and the language are called Badaga. The question, though appears to be a simple and straight forward one, is more complex than initially assumed. It was taken for granted that anyone speaking Badaga language ( also known as Badugu/Badagu) was considered a Badaga. The initial ‘research’ done by the westerners, in fact a large number of them being Italian/German missionaries whose ‘mission’ was to convert the hill tribes to Christianity (later joined by British officials and some anthropologists) wrongly clubbed all Badaga speaking people together and wrongly assumed that Badagas to be a community who migrated from the plains of Mysore (Karnataka).

Though, the Badagas were, initially divided into three distinct groups known as Odaya, Gowda and Thoraiya, and the Gowdas further sub-divided themselves into sects like Gowda, Haruva, Kanakka, Adhikari, Lingaites etc.

But a deeper analysis and research may lead us to come to the conclusion that the title Badaga should belong ONLY to Gowdas who were/are one of the original indigenous tribes of the Nilgiri hills in Southern India. Living in the hills for thousands of years. The myth of migration was thrust upon them due to the fact that a smaller number of, Vokkaligas from the plains of Mysore (Chamaraja Nagar), might have migrated to the hills during the reigns of Malik Kafur in the 12th centaury and later the ruthless regime of Tipu Sultan.

The clear distinction that divides the Badagas is due to the fact the the Gowdas do not marry Odayas or Thoraiyas.

Odayas consider themselves superior to Badaga Gowdas, being initially temple priests. Confined to a few villages and generally economically weaker, the Odayas, especially the males, would not enter individual Badaga houses (inner rooms like Ede Mane) though they would come to Badaga villages (hattis) and take alms of grains (mainly rice and millet (Batha). They would cook the food outside hattis and eat among themselves.

Thoraiyas were considered as domestic help (Aevil Thoraiyaru) in olden days, and were deployed to carry out errands between the hattis mainly to convey messages. Now, Thoraiyas do not like to be known as inferior to Badagas. They also live in cluster of villages and marry only among themselves.

So, it may not be out of place to call only the Gowdas as Original Badagas who live in 274 villages called hattis spread around the length and breath of the hills of the Nilgiris called NAKKU BETTA in the four Seemes (Nadus).

Please do give your views in the comments column.


2 responses to “The Badagas of the Blue Mountains

  1. Sudha Arjun

    Sir, with the evolution of science in every field, this is the right time to further explore the truth about the origin of the Badagas. I have read most of your articles on this website which insist that Badagas have not migrated from the plains towards Mysore but the proximity of the language to Kannada cannot be denied in spite of centuries of isolation. Even to this day a Badaga can easily understand Kannada because of the major similarities between the two. We have genetics, anthropology and social sciences which will be able to provide a far more accurate picture than the lore of the Badaga forefathers- much of it lost in transmission from one generation to another. Due respect must be paid to the in-depth research of Prof Paul Hocking, without casting aside all that he has studied. On the topic of Odaiyas and Thoriyas, am not clear what you would like to prove- that they should no longer be included as Badagas, though the exact same customs, language and culture is followed for centuries as far as we can remember? The Odaiyas seem closer to the royal family of Mysore by name (Odaiya/ Wodeya) and further research into this is definitely merited. On the Thoraiyas- there could be several possible reasons why they have been made the servants of the Badagas. These could only be because- a) they were living in the mountains before the Badagas but were subjugated b) they came after the Badagas, therefore had no claims of their own and had to be subservient to them c) for reasons unknown, a few people were set aside and made servants within the Badagas themselves. If I am right, there are less than 10-15 Thoraiya hattis which itself makes the claim that they were servants to Badagas of 274 hattis require more investigation.
    Leaving aside the topic of the original Badagas, would like to know what you plan to achieve through further separate of these 3 groups- do you want the Odaiyas and Thoraiyas to stop calling themselves Badagas and continue to maintain the rigidity of exclusion for the next 100 centuries?
    Either way in the spirit of seekers of the truth, let us hire/ engage scientists who can give us an accurate view of the past, starting with genetic and DNA matching to identify the truth about the origins of all these groups.


  2. Absolutely. This is what we heard from our forefathers during “pame jama”, during bedtime.


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