(The following were some of my thoughts on the crucial issues facing the Badaga Community, expressed earlier. They remain relevant even today – JP 13 Nov 2021)
Badagas at the cross roads, need to change with changing times
On the 10th and 11th Feb 2018, a seminar was organised by The Nelikolu Charitable Trust at Coimbatore. The seminar was called “Nangava Nanga Arivo – Let us know about ourselves”. This is to make a select group of scholars/youngsters to present their views on issues concerned/connected with Badaga, both the people and language.
This topic is most appropriate and needed focussed attention.
We Badagas stand at the cross roads, at a crucial time in history. Some of the urgent issues that we face today, if not corrected now, will result in reducing us to history.
I chose to speak on “Badagas at the cross roads, need to change with changing times“
Some of the issues I touched upon are
1. Who are Badagas?
The similarity, differences or otherwise of the Badaga, Odaiya and Thoraiya groups,
2. What is Badaga origin?
The myth, mystery and mistakes of migration from Mysore theory.
3. Badaga language.
The decline of the purity of Badaga language due to inadequate knowledge of the present generation. The systematic omission of HA sound from the language and its impact. The influence of Tamil and English on Badaga in the day to day conversations.
4. Moray system
Is the Moray system playing a major role in the large number of marriages breaking up? Is it time to change the fundamentals?
5. Need to involve the women as equal partners
No elaboration is required about this issue when we consider ourselves as HETHE MAKKA
6. Music, Dance, Chant and keeping the traditions
The originality of our music and dance is lost in the present day blind copying of cinema ‘koothattam’ dances. Are we cutting short the important traditions/rituals like funerals due to paucity of time?
7. Way forward
What we should do? – a COURSE CORRECTION ??
What we know about Badagas is much less than what we do not know.
Are we, the Badaga Community, at the cross roads?
With drastic changes that have engulfed every thing around us, how long can we stay and live unaffected?
With farming, especially growing vegetables [potato in particular] becoming a nightmare with monkey menace and green leaf tea prices on a free fall [mind you, still the tea leaf agents, tea factories, tea brokers are all making money when the actual small tea growers are feeling the pinch of low price that has fallen below Rs.10/- per kg], agriculture that has always associated with Badagas has become an alien word.
With more and more people being forced to leave their villages/Hatties, both for economic and unimaginable reasons [like what happened in Nanjanaadu], following centuries old customs and traditions are becoming difficult.
Added to this is the growing ‘fashion’ among the young and eligible adults to marry ‘outsiders’ that is driving a society to the brink.
Last but the most disturbing is the conversion to ‘another religion’ that has not shown any decline.
Will there be a Badaga Society that is so proud of its unique history, origin, culture, customs, rituals, language and lifestyle, fifty years down the line?
? + ?
Three main factors were high lighted in the last post – Badagas at the cross roads, about the need to change with changing times. One of them is the problem of ‘outside’ marriages and the root causes. ‘Moray’ being one of them. Some clarifications are called for.
Moray, in my opinion, is a very scientifically significant restriction brought in by our Muthappas/Hethappas. This restriction has avoided a lot of health problems associated with ‘in breeding’ and may be one of the reasons for a better health prevailing among Badagas as compared to other native tribes of the Nilgiris.
But, it is mistaken by many that marriages do not take place among people belonging to the same ‘seemay’. Let us elaborate.
A typical Badaga Village [hatti] consists of houses of brothers [both blood brothers and cousins]. Their chiildren are ‘anna thammaru and akka thangairu – brothers and sisters’. So, the ‘moray’ restriction is very much required as otherwise, one will land up in literally marrying a ‘sister’. Many hattis, not necessarily congruent or geographically adjacent, form a OORU. Many Oorus form the Seemay. The number of villages/hattis in one ooru to another differs. Marriages between OORUS within the same Seemay is very much possible and is in vogue. Like for example, in Porangaadu Seemay which has many oorus, HATHTHOMBATTU OORU [19 villages] and AARU OORU [6 villages] have marriage relationship. See the page on Hattis for more information.
There was a time when every Badaga household got their FRESH vegetables from their own holas [vegetable gardens next to their houses or a little away from the hatti [village].
Be it Avare [beans], gaasu [potatos] or kadaley [peas] or the healthy Keerey Soppu. They were part of the daily menu. Ganji Godhumay [wheat] and baththa were grown, harvested and made into flour so that Eragittu, Pothittu and baththa hittu could be made very often if not daily. There was no dearth of haalu [milk], majjigay [butter milk], mosaru [curd] and thuppa [clarified butter].
But now, all these seem to be a dream. The basic reason could be the INVASION of the koda and kaadu emme [monkeys and bisons] which would not spare any thing green. The strict laws related to wild life and their implementation had become a big deterrent in growing vegetables. A family’s wealth was based on the Banda [cattle -number of buffalos and cows] owned. Tho and kottagay [large and individual cattle sheds] were part and parcel of a hatti.
Every Badaga family had atleast a small patch of thotta [tea estate] that would give an assured income. The steep fall in green leaf tea prices and steeper labour wages have made owning and maintaining the estate more of a burden and headache.
Now, everything is uncertain. Health and wealth have become big casualties.
Life in the Naakku Betta [the Nilgiris, the blue mountains] has really become very difficult. Badagas are at the cross roads and in a catch 22 situation.
Future is a big question mark now?? What can we do about it???