TRIBALS IN OOTY OF THE
TRIBE IN OOTY
or Irulas, a Scheduled Tribe, are one of the major tribes if Tamil
Nadu and are distributed in twelve districts which includes the
Nilgiris. The Irula total population in Tamil Nadu, according to
2001 census is 155606 (77942 males and 77664 females) and their
literacy rates is 34.30 per cent. In Tamil Nadu, the Irula are known
by several names as Irular, Iruligaru, Iruliga, Iruvan, Villiar,
Kadu Poojaris etc, but the Irula people who are dwelling in Nilgiris
district prefer to call themselves as "Irulas". The name
Irula is supposed to be derived from the Tamil word "Irul"
meaning darkness which may refer to their black skin complexion.
The Government of India, identified the Irula as one of the six
primitive tribal groups of Tamil Nadu.
Nilgiri District, Irulas are spread over in four taluks, Kundah,
Kotagiri, Coonoor and Udhagamandalam and their total population
in Nilgiri district as per survey(Jakka Parthasarathy 200) was 8714,
total families 1913 and they are inhabiting in 67 villages. They
speak Irula, a dialect which is a south Dravidian language of the
Tamil-Malayalam sub group. Irula settlement is called as aral, represent
many houses built contiguous to each other. Typical man wears a
short piece of cloth around the waist and a towel on his shoulder,
woman wears thundu, (a piece of cloth) around the waist in combination
with the modern blouse. They are non-vegetarians.
Irulas in Nilgiri district have three social divisions known as
Mudumars (southern Irulas of Kotagiri base), Kasabas (northern Irulas
of Masinagudi base), Urali Irulas of Attapady (Karala) base. Irulas
are further divided into seven exogamous groups called Kulams, which
regulate their marital alliances. They practice cross cousin marriages.
Monogamy is the common form of marriage. Child marriages are common,
They are rigid regarding taboos connected with pre delivery, Post
delivery, tonsure ceremony, puberty and death. They follow the male
equigeniture mode of inheritance. Irulas were hunters and gatherers.
Shortt (1868:62) wrote that, " Irulas collected wild fruits,
herbs and roots to appease hunger along with beeswax, drugs, dyes,
gum, honey and medicinal herbs. The gathered products where exchanged
with lowlanders for cloth or food". Now most of the Irulas
are wage labourers working in tea estates. The Irula have headman
called "Maniyakara". Who presides over their tribal council.
The Irula are partly Hinduized, but have their own autochthonous-indigenous
religious system .An Irula priest performs rituals at the famous
Rangaswamy temple of rangan peak in Nilgiri hills As mentioned elsewhere
Irulas are suffering because of much interference of non- tribals
into their aesthetic, social and cultural unchanged preserves .According
to some anthropologists, the Irula of the Nilgiris afford a case
for study of modes of adaptation, acculturation and modernization.