Languages of Adivasis

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Region Spoken In : Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra
Number of Speakers : 8798 Approx
Bettakurumba Introduction:

Betta kurumba or Betta kuruba is one of the tribes who live in the Nilgiris district of Ta-mil Nadu and also in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Accord-ing to the Madras Census Report 1981, the Kurubas and Kurumbas have been described as being the modern representatives of the ancient Kurumbas or Pallavas who were once so powerful throughout Southern India, but very little trace of their greatness now remains.


The total population of the Kurumba or Kuruba tribal community in India is 8798.

Census of India (Mitra, 1961)

State Male Female Total
Tamil Nadu 1466 1200 2466
Andhra Pradesh 0 1 1
Karnataka 2654 2780 5434
Maharashtra 325 372 697
Total 4445 4353 8789

Sub-Groups according to 1961 Census of India:

The Census of India, 1961 classifies the kurumba tribal community into five subgroups:

  1. Betta kurumba

  2. Jenu/tenu kurumba

  3. urali kurumba

  4. palu/halu kurumba

  5. mullu kurumba

Different Names:

They are referred by different names such as Betta kurumba in Tamil Nadu, Betta kuruba in Karnataka and urali kuruman in Kerala, etc. In Betta Kurumba language beta means ‘mountain’. Since these people live in mountainous areas they are called by the name Betta Kurumba.

Regional distribution in the Niligiris District: These people love mostly in places such as Kargudi, Theppakkadu, Gudalur, Mayar, De-var Solai, Pandalur and Mudumalai in Gudalur Taluk of Nilgiris district. The total popu-lation of this tribal community who live in the above mentioned area is approximately three hundred.

Physical features:

Betta kurumba people are of normal height (five to five and half feet), their faces are broad with short nose. They are black skinned with uncurled hair. They are never used to move freely with strangers.

Dwelling Places:

The place where the Betta Kurumbas live is called as padi, which are situated in the for-est areas of Nilgiris and each padi is more than a kilometre away from the main road. They do not allow wearing footwear inside their padi either by themselves or by stran-gers. A padi generally consists of only nine to sixteen huts constructed with bamboo sticks, mud, etc. A big hut without any wall but with a raised floor can be seen at the middle of each padi. This is the place where their Panchayat meeting is held and pujas are con-ducted. There are at least two such padis of this type in each of the places. Each padi is headed by a leader called mogaln. The panchayat meetings, marriage ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and other functions take place in the presence of the headman of the padi, as it is a strict social custom. The leadership is hereditary. In absence of a heir (son), the leadership is decided by all the people who live in the concerned padi.


Betta kurumba living in the areas of Mudumalai, Kargudi and Theppakkadu work as ma-houts, watchers or gardeners in the forest department. Some teen aged boys collect honey from interior parts of the forest. The women folk stay at home and confine themselves to house hold duties. Young girls spend most of their time fishing from rivers. Some aged women go to interior parts of the forest and collect edible roots and bamboo rive. Kurumba men also work as musicians for marriage functions, funeral ceremonies and other festivals. The kurumbas from Gudalur, Mayar, Pandalur, etc. work in coffee plantations as labours.

Dress and Ornaments:

Kurumba men normally wear a dhoti and a small towel only. The Kurumba who work in forest department wear a brown colour half pant and a shirt of same colour, which is the uniform supplied to them by forest department. The Betta Kurumba women cover their body by tying a long cloth round the armpits, leaving shoulders and arms bare. They also wear ornaments like brass ear-rings, strings of black beads tied round the neck, glass bangles, etc.

Food Habits:

Betta Kurumbas are non-vegetarians. They eat meat except of bison and drink liquor. All women are addicted to betel leaves. Most of the men and some women folk smoke country cigar (beedi). They eat rice or bamboo rive only once a day (during evening) and they are used to have only ‘tea’ during the day time.


Marriages are performed by this tribal community in a very simple way. Kurumba marry their mother's brother's daughter or father's sister's daughter. Sorarate is allowed but levira is not arranged ones. That is, if a boy and a girl like to live as husband and wife they will begin to meet in the secret places. When this secret comes to light, the girl's father will present this matter to the village Panchayat. The Panchayat will enquire this matter and ask the boy whether he is willing to protect her as his wife. If he accepts his relationship with her and to take her as his wife, then he will be asked to tie tali sacred thread', around the neck of the girl in front of the Panchayat. From that day onwards they begin to live together as husband and wife, in a separate hut. The tali tied around the neck of the girl is made of cotton thread with plastic beads strung to it. Importance is given to the tali only at the time of marriage. Afterwards, it can be removed. That is, it is not a must that every married woman should always wear the tali. Widow marriage is also allowed in this tribal community. But they should not get mar-ried with other tribes. If it happens, the couple will be cast out from their community and they will not be allowed to live in the padi concerned. Now-a-days arranged marriages take place rarely. Divorce is also an accepted social customs and it should be conducted before the village council or panchayat. A person (whether husband or wife) who asks for divorce should give some money to the affected person as per the judgment given by the members of the village panchayat.


When a girl, attaining puberty according to their custom, she should stay outside the house for seven days. During the time of periodical illness also women should stay out-side the limits of the padi for three days.

Belief System:

Betta kurumba tribe have so many beliefs and superstitions. They believe that good men after death will become benevolent Devas and bad men destructive Devas. They also have a strong belief in the spirits of the dead. They believe that spirits of the dead appear in dreams of old people and direct them to make offerings to them (spirits). They worship Goddesses Bagavati, Mariyamma, and Gods such as bumdovan, Visvamittiran. There is a pujari ‘temple priest' who performs pujas in their temples. It is believed that the spirits of the dead used to talk through the pujaris when he is in an unconscious state at the time of puja. Also they have a strong belief that their Gods/Goddesses will not forgive them if they take any medicine (allopathic or ayurvedic) for their sickness, etc. Because of these superstition they avoid-taking any medicine for their illness. Due to this attitude, large number of deaths take place every year. This has resulted in the attrition of their population.

Naming Pattern:

An interesting part about this tribe is the naming system of the new born. They have only sixteen names for males and females together as listed below:

Male Female

bumman bummi

kaetan kaeti

kaln kali

madan madi

manban manbi

maran mari

sadayan sadacci

soman sirtti

They never use any name other than these sixteen names, as they believe if they give other name to their children they would die before their childhood period. As a result of this phenomena, one can find more than one member of a family with the same name.


They celebrate only Onum festival every year.

Kurumba - An Independent Dravidian Language:

Prof. Emeneau says "the only groups of jungle people of the Nilgiri area so far discov-ered, who may possibly speak an independent language, are the Betta kurumba."

Zvelebil also has recognised the speech variety of Betta kurumba as an independent language.

Jayapal (1978) and Coelho (2003) who have described the language variety in their grammars are of the opinion, that the speech variety of Betta kurumba as spoken by the Betta kurumba mother tongue speakers, is a distinct language rather than a dialect of Kannada.

Language endangerment of Betta Kurumba:

The study of language endangerment of Betta Kurumba in Tamil Nadu, betta kuruba in Karnataka and urali kuruman in Kerala has shown that there is no loss of language among the elder generation and middle age group. The loss of the number of basic voca-bulary items is more among male children of all three states. The Maintenance is more among the female children in all the states. The loss in terms of basic vocabulary terms is more in Kerala i.e. 27. 5% lesser in Karnataka i.e. 16.5% and very less in Tamil Nadu i.e. 6%. In general, the language loss among the younger generation is more in Kerala, lesser in Karnataka and very less in Tamil Nadu.

Region Spoken In : Dhule and Nandurbar

Maharashtra has forty-sevenadivasi tribes and most of them have a spoken language of their own. Of the adivasi tribes in Maharashtra, the Bhils are the largest in terms of number. Districts Dhule and Nandurbar constitute western Khandesh, and have a predominantly large adivasi population. The language of the Bhils in this region is Bhilli or Bhillori. Irawati Karve points out, ‘The languages of the adivasis are also part of the language families in India.’ Generally, a language of the adivasis is eponymous with the name of the tribe, e. g., Bhilli of the Bhils, Konkani of the Konkanis, Pavri of the Pavris, Mathawadi or Dongari Bhilli of the Mathwadis, Tadvi of the Tadvis, etc.

Eminent researchers such as Irawati Karve, Govind Gare, Gurunath Nadgonde and Vilas Sangwe have carried out extensive studies of the Bhil tribes. Their works are a useful resource to understand the nature of the Bhilli language.The history of Bhilli, as seen from these works, reveals that many languages evolved from the Shaurseni Prakrit Apabramsha in the fifteenth century and Bhilli/Bhillori is probably one of them. The name Bhilli or Bhillori comes from the name of the tribe, unlike the names of languages such as Gujarati, Assamese, Bengali or Rajasthani which are known after the geographical region where they are spoken.

There aresettlements of Bhils in the northern hills of Maharashtra, the neighbouring hilly region of Madhya Pradesh and in the eastern part of Gujarat adjacent to Rajasthan. In other words, the Bhils are spread over the area extending from the Aravalis to the Satpudas. Modern Bhilli has emerged from theSanskritised language of the Aryans, though the Bhils were not Aryans, as reflected in their sounds and vocabulary of words.

There are many Bhilli languages, each influenced by the Aryan language in its proximity. On the basis of the fact that Bhilli is a sub language of Marathi, and similarly of Gujarati and Rajasthani, the Bhilli language can be classified into four classes, namely, Marathi Bhilli, Gujarati Bhilli, Rajasthani Bhilli, and Khandeshi Bhilli.

The Bhilli language has two subgroups. Ambudi Bhilli is spoken in villages such as Selemba Gon, Amba, Pat and Kelipat in Akkalkuva taluk along the Gujarat border adjacent to the Sagbara taluk. Peladi Bhilli is prevalent in the region between Taloda, Akkalkuva and Khapar, beyond riverTapi.

Language Family : Sino-Tibetan lingustic stock or groups of Indo-Mongolian race akin
Region Spoken In : Saipung, East Jaiñtia Hills District, Meghalaya and in the Sangbar and Kharthong Area of Assam
Number of Speakers : 15000
The Biate Language Introduction and Geographical Location:

The place where the language is predominantly spoken is in Saipung, East Jaiñtia Hills District, Meghalaya and in the Sangbar and Kharthong Area of Assam. Biate Villages in Jaintia Hills are : Saipung, Mualsei, Thuruk, Saibual, Muallian, Lura (Saizol), Mualhoi, Saphak, Tlangpui, Kulpui, Tuidam, Tlangmoi, Jongria Old, Khoingoi, Saitual, Singlei, Mualcheng, Fiangpui, Tuituk, Situng, Saron, New Tlangmoi, Lungmaicham, Jongria New, Artan, Singlei, New Tlangmoi, Zoar and Ngaibang.

Number of Speakers and Population: The approximate number of speakers in Meghalaya is, 8500 and in Assam, 6500. The total population is approximately 15,000.

Group of Language: The Biate Language is believed to be from the Sino-Tibetan lingustic stock or groups of Indo-Mongolian race akin to that of the Chinese language like ‘Kim, Huangti, Shanghai, Hongkong among several others.

History of the Language: According to the oral narration of the ancestors, the Biates came from the Singlung (Khurpuitlabung) stone covered Cave which was believed to be in Central China, which might be the Great Wall of China which they considered covered with stones or a stone wall. They believed that the Biate Script was written on the skin of an animal kept by the king (the Raja) of the Biates. When it was wet in the rainy season, the servants put it outside to dry.

Unfortunately the king’s dog ate it up and lost it forever. Despite having lost their script, it is believed that the Biate language is part of the Chinese largest Mandarin language group spoken in all the three Northern Chinese Provinces referred to in the Classification of Chinese Languages and Varieties of Chinese Languages taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia and also referred to the ‘BIATE ṬOIBUL ZONGNA’. The vocabulary and pronunciation of many Chinese names and words are very similar to the Biate language like ‘Kim, Zao, Padang, Nanchang, Fuzhou, Hongkong, Changsha, Chiangkaisek, Chau-enlai, Shi Huangti, Hubei, Hankou, Wuhan, Zhejiang. The names of Chinese leaders and many other names are similar to Biate names though the meanings might not be the same with that of the Biates. Not only that, the languages of the Mizo, Kuki, Hmar and Singlung tribes are similar to the Biate language and to the Mandarin languages in tone and pronunciation which show that the Indo-Tibeto Burman groups of Mongolian races are of similar stock, having the same language origins from time immemorial. The Biate Language is similar to Mizo, Hmar and that of 12(Baro-twelve) Halam Tribes in Tripura. The Biate Language is believed to be from the Sino-Tibetan lingustic stock or groups of Indo-Mongolian race akin to that of the Chinese language like ‘Kim, Huangti, Shanghai, Hongkong (in Biate the way), Kuala lum pur(Kuala’s footpath), Zoa, Zao, Zing, Zung, Ching, Chung, Chiang, Chuang, Sung, Sang etc.

History of Biate Script: The Biate, Mizo or Lushei alphabet are of the Roman Script, designed and inscribed by J.H.Lorrain and F.W.Savidge the English Missionaries who first entered Mizoram through Sairang Village in Lushei (Mizo) Hills on 1st January, 1894. The Mizo people started reading the A Aw B to Z from 1st April 1895. It was said that the Missionaries first thought that the Bangalee Language and Script (Alphabet) might be simple and easier to adopt for the Lushei-Kuki Tribes. But later they learnt that the Bangalee Script was too difficult for the tribal people. Then they finally decided upon the Roman Script for the Lushei, Kuki, Biate and Hmar. In 1913 Rev. E.H.Williams, the Shangpung Missionary first edited the Biate Alphabet and and printed the “Hadem Khasi First Book”, Lekha Bulphut-Biete Chong ne Khasi Chong.

History of Migration of Biate People: The Biates are one of the sub-tribes of the Lushei-Kuki- Chins of the Mizo Singlung Tribes of Mongoloid stock called Indo-Tibeto Burman groups. The Biates were the first tribe who occupied the Lushei Hills (Mizoram) in between the last part of the B.C. and the first part of the A.D. The Biates migrated to their present lands from China, Burma, Lushei Hills through the Chittagong Hill Tracts to the Arakan, Dacca, Jaiñtapur, Sylhet then to Tripura, Cachar- Ringchar (Silchar), then to Kaiengphai, Bombaithol. Some left for Ngaibangtlang-Haflong and other places, and some for Vangvui, Lairang, Artan, Valamboksip, Singlei, Khoingoi, Thatdung, Jakorsing, Mairangsip to Saiha and to Saipung in Meghalaya in 500-750 A.D; as narrated by the ancestors of the tribe. The Biates are both in Meghalaya and in Assam with an approximate population of 15,000 only who speak the present Biate language. There are some Biates in Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura and in Cachar who do not speak the present Biate language but speak the Mizo, Hmar and the other tribal languages only. The Biates were Christianised by U Khulu Malang of Sutnga on 17th December 1890. The Biates are now hundred per cent Christian from 2000-04. They are a lesser known tribe in North-East India. After the Biates were Christianised by U Khulu Malang of Sutnga on the 17th December 1890 they used the Khasi Bible and the Khasi Hymns and Songs. They learnt only the Khasi language then unaware that their language was closer to the Lushei (Mizo) language. It was only after the Independence of India and the creation of the Autonomous District Councils for Tribals in all the Hill Districts and the establishment of Primary Schools, High Schools and Colleges that the Biates came to know that they were akin to the Mizos, Hmars and the Kukis in language, culture and in many other ways.

Region Spoken In : Garkhon in Ladakh district
Number of Speakers : 544
Brokshat is a member of the Shina sub-group of languages which is spoken in Central Ladhak of Jammu and Kashmir State. Brokshat: Brok means rock and skat means language.

Group of Language:

Brokshat belongs to the Dardic group of Languages which belongs to the Indian Branch of Indo-Aryan Languages. This group of languages is similar to the Indo-Aryan languages in some respects and to the Iranian languages in some other respects and so they are considered to be a separate sub-family within the Indo- Aryan language family. This group has three sub-group of languages namely:

  1. Kaafir group

  2. Khoo-war group

  3. Dardic group

Dardic group has three languages namely Kashmiri, Kohistani and Shina. Shina is a name for a group of dialects/languages which consists of:

  1. Gilgiti of Gilgiit Valley

  2. Astori of Astori Valley

  3. Chilasi of Chilasi Valley

  4. Gurezi of Gurez Valley

  5. Brokpa of Dras Valley (Brokpa is called now as Shina and Brokshat)

The three dialects/languages of Shina sub-group namely Gilgiti, Astori and Chilasi are spoken in Pakistan and the other three dialects/languages namely Gurezi, Shina of Dras and Brokshat.

Other Name for Brokshat Language:**

The language is known by other names such as Dookskat (Dok ‘small hamlet on the top of the mountain’) and kyonko.

Works on Brokshat:

The Linguistic Survey of India gives an account of this language under the title called “Brokpa of Dah-Hanu”. Dah and Hanu are the names of the villages where this language was spoken.

Geographical Location:

Brokshat is spoken in and around the village called Garkhon in Ladakh district. Garkhon which is the biggest village where Brokshat is spoken, is situated in central Ladakh at the bottom of the Indus Valley which is a narrow rocky gorge. It is about seventy kilometres northeast of Kargil. There are also Brokshat speaking villages like Darchiks, Chulichan, Gurgurdo, Batalik and Dah around Garkhon within the radius of fifteen kilometres.

History according to Folk Tradition:

According to the folk tradition, the Brokpas migrated from Gilgit about four hundred years ago and occupied the whole of Baltistan. Later on they moved to other places. Brokpas were originally Buddhists and some of them were later converted to Islam.


According to 1961 census there were only 544 speakers.

Region Spoken In : Saurashtra and Rajasthan

Charani is the language of the races residing in the various regions of Saurashtra and Rajasthan since the middle age.

We can segregate it into two main types or division—

• The one which is profoundly affected by Rajashtani; it is spoken by the bards living in Rajasthan.

• The one which has intense impression of Gujarati; it is spoken by the bard community living in Gujarat

The racial relation of this language, spoken by communities dealing with animals and farming, is with Maru- Gurjar. In western India there came a transformation in Shaurseni language after 800 A.D. that gave birth to Maru- Gurjar. From 12th to 14th century, the structure of Gujarati, Rajashtani and Marwadi transformed and as a result the differentiating characteristics of languages such as 1. Jaypuri 2. Malavi 3. Marwadi 4. Gujarati etc. were formed. At the same time there came some changes in the bhili language of the Maru-Gurjar people living the forests and mountains; the Charani language spoken by the people dealing with animals who descended from the north was also represented as the language of literature and there were some changes in the language spoken by common people as well. Both Bhili and Charani are included into racial division of Maru-Gurjar; Maru-Gurjar- which has its roots in Shaurseni apbhranash. The second type of Charani that is spoken in various regions of Gujarat, can also be sub-divided into two parts. The one division includes the languages, which are spoken in day-to-day life, and the other one has been used by the bard poets as literary language. This unique language was known as Dingali. This language followed the poetical language and hierarchy of Vraj language and experimented with words following the Sanskrit-Prakrut language. Thus, its form was built having great impression of Riti-kaal on its poetry. If we keep aside the controversies about the features and definitions of DIngali, it can be said at least that the Charani language used in literature is definitely different, unique and traditional from the Charani language spoken by common people but the difference is not so prominent that the Charani speaking person cannot understand it. The DIngal language can be understood by anyone who speaks any language of Maru-Gurjar family like Gujarati, Marwadi or Rajasthani. The literary language of Charani, which is majorly known as Dingal is easily accessible to the readers of Rajasthan and Gujarat. The manuscripts of literature created in this language are preserved in Rajasthan and Gujarat. This form of language is the classified form of Charani employed for the medium of literature.

Region Spoken In : Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan

The tribal of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan speak the languages of the group of Bhili origin. The Bhili languages are spoken in the periphery of states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Grierson has identified Bhili languages as of Aryan origin. However, whether Bhili is of Aryan origin or non-Anaryan still remains unanswered. Some scholars prefer to categorize Bhili languages as non-Aryan. Bhili languages consist of many words of the languages like Marathi, Gujarati, Rajasthani, Hindi of Sanskrit origin. But these languages originate from one common source of Bhili. It is difficult to trace the origin of Bhili language. As it consists of many words from Mundari language of Bihar and Utter Pradesh. Moreover the structure of the language has some similarities with some of the languages of non-Aryan family. According to the travelogue of, a Greek traveler that visited India around two thousand years back, Bhilata and Gondali people used to inhabit the terrains of Tapi and Narmada in Vindhya, Aravali, Satpuda mountain ranges. It is believed that the term ‘bhil’ is derived from ‘bilu’, which in a Dravidian language, means a bow. The Bhil community is mentioned in Sanskrit and literature of Megasthenes ancient period.

Chaudhari is the language of Bhili origin. The Chaudhari community lives around the region of the confluence of the rivers Tapi flowing between the hills of Saputara in the north and Sahyadri in the south; and the river Ambika, flowing from the Dang region. Its population is spread in and around areas of Vyara, Songadh, Valod, Bardoli, Vansdaon one side of the river Tapi and Mandvi, Mangrol, Olpad, on the other side. Their concentration is more in the talukas of Mandvi, Vyara, Valod, Bardoli and Mangrol. Around six lakh people is spoken Chaudhri language.

Region Spoken In : Gujarat

As noted in the Gazetteer of India, Gujarat State, Dan District, “In Dang district mainly two tribes Bhil and Kunabi reside, however there are some other tribes like Varli, Mavachi, Gamit among the others also found in small numbers. The language of Dangi people is ancient. It does not have its own script or written form. Whatever literature is found in Dangi is in oral form. Especially there is not much difference between the languages spoken by Bhil, Kunabi and Varli. They are very identical”

Region Spoken In : Gujarat


Area in the west to Sahyadri mountain range is known as the Adivasi belt as it is inhabited by various tribal community groups like Nayaka, Varli, Chaudhari, Kunkana, Vasava and Dhodia. At the heart of the tarrain of Sahyadri mountain range, stretching from river Vapi to river Tapi is occupied by Dhodiya tribe. They also inhabit parts of Dadara and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Mumbai. Many members of this community have migrated to different parts of Gujarat in search of livelihood.

Origin of the community

Dhodiya is one of the 25 tribal communities of Gujarat. However, they do not seem to be living at their present location of the western tribal belt of alongside the Sahyadri mountain range, as one of the characteristics of this community is its sub-types. It has about 249 sub-types, and half of them bears the title of ‘Garasia’. It can be assumed their ancestors might be ‘kshatriya’ – a warrior tribe and must have migrated to this region. One of the major reasons of such migration is narrated in one of their ritual songs:

Region Spoken In : Maharashtra
The name eponymous with the community which speaks this language. Thetime and place of the origin of the Dhorkoli language are not known. TheDhorkolitribals live amidst hills, valleys and jungles. They are also called Tokar Koli. They consider themselves superior to the Katkari community and do not exchange food or have marital ties with them.
People of this tribe are mostly landless labourers,and only some of them own small pieces of land. They produce enough grains for their sustenance and migrate to cities in search of work once theirstoresare exhausted. Some people collect and sell forest produce, chop wood or drive bullock carts.

Theirleader is called Pada khate. His appointment lasts as long as his fellowmen have faith in him. Theyresolve all their disputes by voting. They worship deities like Dev-Mauli, Vaghadev, Hirava, Cheda, etc.

Region Spoken In : Gujarat
Number of Speakers : 80,000 Approx
History of Dungra Bhili:
Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat are the major areas where Bhil population is concentrated. The culture and customs of Bhils reflect impact of their neighbouring cultures and people. For instance, the Bhils of Maharashtra seem to be influenced by Marathis. Similarly, the Bhils of Rajasthan are influenced by Marvadi and Hindi speaking communities of that area; and the Bhils of Gujarat are under the influence of language and culture of their Guajarati counterparts. Because of frequent invading of the Gujjars up to the regions up to the Narmada river the languages of the tribal communities like Rathva, Tadvi, Vasava of Rajpipala area and Dungara Bhil of Nasvadi area are influenced by their Old Gujarati language of the Gujjars.

Dungra Bhils and Rathvas are connected to some extent and they lend and borrow words from each other’s languages. However, owing to its age old customary closeness with Bhili speaking people of Maharashtra, it is similar to Dehwali and Bhilori in form and structure. The shrine of goddess Yahamogi of Devmogra village of Narmada District is like a confluence pooint of the Bhils of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Guajarat. Because of this meeting place the varieties of Bhili languages continue to get intermingled. That is why Dungara Bhili has some similarities with Dehwali of Narmada district and Gamit of Tapi region.

Region Spoken In : Tamil Nadu

Eravallan are a primitive tribe, like other aboriginal tribes of Tamil Nadu

They live in the Anaimalai hills, spread over the Pollachi and Udumalpet taluks of Coimbatore district. Eravallan settlements in Tamil Nadu and Kerala are contiguous. In Kerala, they live in Velli medu, Kannimariand and Chemmanam pathi villages in Chitoor taluk Palakad district. They have no knowledge about their origin and said to have migrated from neighbouring Coimbatore district Tamil Nadu in Kerala. Tamil lexicon gives the meaning for the word Iravular as ‘inhabitants of hilly tracts; hill tribes’: kurinci nils makkal - ‘the people of the mountainous - forest tract’.

Different names of Eravallan: Eravallan is called with other names such as: Irvava, Iravular, eravallar, eravalar, vilvetar and ampuvilluvetar. As insiders, they call themselves as Karinavilu.

Physical Features: People of Eravallan tribe are of mixed race of Negrito, Kolarian and Dravidian with more traits of the Negroid people, as per Keane. The height of an average Eravalan appears to be five and half feet. They are dark skinned with curly hair. But some of them, like other people are fair skinned with long hair.

Food Habits The Eravallan eat rice, ragi and millets as their staple food. They are non-vegetarian but do not eat beef. They eat pulses, and the roots, tuber and greens found in the forest. They drink tea and coffee. They use groundnut oil for cooking. Most of them drink country made liquor. They relish tuber and crabs.

Settlement: Their settlement is called as pati and the house where they live is traditionally called as kure and the modern usage for the same is butu in their speech. The term pati appears to be an old Tamil word, found in Sangam classics with the meaning ur settlement. Most of the Eravallan settlements are found between the paddy fields and the forest. Due to the construction of the Amravati dam, the four Iravallan settlements namely, Mungaliyadipadi, Periyapadi, Kumbabarapadi, Valavadinakkartittu. were uprooted and rehabilitated in 28 other settlements. A pati consists of 15 to 30 huts each. The huts are made of bamboo, mud, grass and reed. According to the 1981 Census, the population of Eravallan in Tamil Nadu is 1,109 of whom 1,048 live in rural areas.

The Eravallan are endogamous and have six exogamous clans:

• Karuppu Kattu Kele,

• Pappu kattu kele,

• Dondi Kele,

• Male Kele,

• Villiri Katu Kele

• Kari Kattu Kele

Each clan (keel - branch in Tamil) is a patrilineal totemic group. The members of Karup-pu Kattu Kele do not eat pork and also do not kill snakes. Those belonging to Male Kele do not kill lizards. The Karuppu Kattu Kele are considered superior to the other clans.


Pre-puberty marriages were common among the Eravallan about two generation ago, But nowadays, their girl are married after puberty. The age of marriage varies from 18 to 22 years for girls and 22 to 27 for boys. In the past, bride-price used to be one rupee. At present bride-price has gone unto to Rs. 300 and even more. The premarital relationships of a girl are tolerated. But after marriage, they cannot have extramarital relationships. Divorce and remarriage are permitted. Three types of marriages are common among them: arranged marriages, marriages by elopement and marriage by service.


The Eravallan family is patrilineal and patrilocal. The nuclear family is predominant. An Eravallan male may have a joking relationship with his elder and younger brothers wives. Girls have a joking relationship with their maternal uncles. All male children have a right to ancestral property. Daughters have no rights to it unless they have no brothers. The eldest son succeeds as head of the family, after his fathers death. Eravallan women have only a secondary status compared to their men. They participate in all social and religious activities. Most women generate an income by working as agricultural labourers. Some of them earn wages by collecting firewood and forest produce.

Child Birth:

Child birth takes place in a small hut built some distance apart from the main hut. Older women assist during child birth. Eravallan women observe birth pollution for seven days. There is no separate ceremony for the naming the child. After five months, the mother has a purificatory bath and enters the main hut. This occasion used to be celebrated with much festivity but not has become a very simple function. Eravallan children are tonsured between the ages of three and five in the following tem-ples: Karupparayan, Kumbaramariamman, Malampittadrianmman and Karumariamman. Coconuts and bananas are offered to the deity on the occasion. The material uncle presents new clothes to the child.

Puberty: When a girl attains puberty, her brother-in-law or maternal uncle builds a hut in front of her home with either free reed or green palmyra leaves. She stays in the hut for seven days during which period she is not supposed to see any men. She bathes every day. Every night, women dance and sing before the hut and matured girls give her company in the hut. The Eravallan puberty ceremony is called tiaratte. On the seventh or ninth day, the hut is burnt.

The ceremony takes place at night, often at midnight. The girl takes a ceremonial bath, sitting on a pestle. After that, she is adorned with margosa leaves and turmeric powder and dressed in traditional costume. The Eravallan chief (muppan in Eravalla) is active in the ceremony. The maternal uncle presents her a sari and other clothes. After wearing the new clothes, she eats a special and separate meal that is prepared for her. All members of the settlement enjoy with men and women dancing accompanied by Folk Songs.


The bridegrooms father visits the parents of the prospective bride with relatives. If the girls parents agree to the proposal, the wedding day is fixed. When the marriage is fixed, the parents of both bride and groom go to their respective landlords with betel leaves, arecanuts and tobacco and inform them of the marriage while the landlord in return gives paddy and meets a part of the marriage expenses. The Eravallan celebrate weddings in the early hours on a Monday morning. The sister of the bridegroom goes to the brides house with few relatives to dress the bride after which she is brought to the bridegrooms house and the wedding takes place. The wedding concludes wight the bridegroom tying the tali - wedding badge, a 25 paise coin strung on a thread around the neck of the bride. At present, all marriage expenses are borne by the bridegrooms parents. The wedding is so simple that it costs around Rs.500 only.

Death Ceremony:

The Eravallan bury their dead. While burying the corpse, they place a stone near the head and another on the left side. They perform the funeral rites on the third or seventh day. In the annual ceremony, they offer a dhoti in case of a male and a sari for a female. They worship the ancestral spirits. While conducting the funeral ceremony, they offer cooked rice to the crows. ** Occupation: Of the total Eravallan population, 68.89% are agricultural as per the 1981 Census. They collect forest produce and sell it to the contractors of the forest department. Some of them work as labourers in crocodile and fish farms. They also work as labourers, guards and watchmen in the forest department. Some are employed as attendants and peons. The Eravallan were good hunters who knew archery.

Village Administration: The head of an Eravallan settlement is called muppan, which is a hereditary post. He acts as the judge and the administrator of the settlement. In disputes, the muppan’s judgement is final. A penalty is imposed for the offences. The Eravallan tribal council for each settlement has three members: muppan, kottukkaran - who is the policeman of the settlement, and tantakkaran who acts as messenger carrying news to the other settlements. The tribal panchayat settles disputes and cases of adultery, rape, divorce and theft. It also organises religious functions.

Religion: The Eravallan follow tribal religion. They believe in demons and ghosts that live in trees and hills, rule the wild animals, and influence human. They worship muni (ghost) for the protection of their cattle and to get good harvests. Karupparayan and Kannimar (the seven virgins) are their clan deities. In addition, they worship the following:

• Marithai • Karuvalatta • Uccimakaliyatta • Kondamma • Kangimari • Muttumari • Mugammari • Kattulupariyammal • Kanumariyatta • Kumbarai • Mariyatta • Malamdariyatta • Sedambaratta • Kali

The muppan officiates at their worship. They also visit the temples of the wider pantheon of the Hindu deities.

Folklore: Eravallar have a rich repertoire of folklore. Their folk tradition consist of folk tales, folk songs, proverbs and riddles, lullabies (tottapattu or tarattuppattu), group songs (kummi pattu), wedding and sowing songs (tanna pattu). Women sing the different types of songs while doing various types of agricultural operations. They sing folk-songs, which appear to be only in Tamil and dance during social occasions such as puberty ceremonies and weddings. The Ervallan have a variety of musical instruments such as kottumara, para mara (drums) and wind instruments like kovalu ‘pipe’.

Folk Songs: Eravallan tribe speak among themselves in their mother tongue Eravalla, they narrate folk stories in Eravalla but folk songs are sung only in Tamil. Very rarely Eravalla words feature in the songs. Words such as kure meaning hut/house and varu meaning will come are found in the collection of the folk songs. This sociolinguistic aspect i.e. use of Tamil in the domain of folk songs is quite unique with this tribe who reside in both states of Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Lullaby: Eravallan call the lullabies as tarattuppattu or tottappattu in their mother tongue which is equivalent to talattuppattu in Tamil. The tune of the lullabies is called nilampari. The maternal uncle occupies a prominent place in the lullabies. The mother of the child, by singing the lullabies, lists the different kinds of gifts - known as cir in Eravalla and as week in Tamil, the maternal uncle of the child is going to present to the child and as well to the mother of the child.

Language Endangerment in Eravalla: An attempt has been made to study the language endangerment phenomenon with respect to speech variety of Eravalla spoken in Tamil Nadu. Also an attempts has been made to quantify the language loss in terms of:

⁃ vocabulary items: basic and as well non basic, and ⁃ basic sentence structures.

The results with respect to the total number of Eravalla vocabulary that are tested, show:

  1. the women of the old age group maintain 100%
  2. the women of middle age group maintain 75%,
  3. the men of all age group inclusive of the younger age group maintain 0% of the Eravalla vocabulary

Region Spoken In : Garo Hills, and in the adjoining areas of Assam, Bangladesh and Tripura Number of Speakers :
Geographical Location:

A•chikku, or Garo as it is called by others including the British colonizers, is spoken by the people called A•chik Mandes who are concentrated in the western part of Meghalaya, named after them as the Garo Hills, and in the adjoining areas of Assam, Bangladesh and Tripura.

Name of Tribe:

The name Garo is said to have originated from the Boro word gar, which means ‘those who left behind’.

It is futile to speculate on the meaning and origin of the name A•chik, although there are some attempts to reduce it to some simpler terms, but arriving at a highly improbable explanation. Suffice it to say that the people call themselves by that name.

History of Migration:

The A•chik traditional narrative of their own history of migration states that, the A•chiks and Boros are the children of two sisters Nambae and Simbae respectively; the sisters parted at Rangamati during the course of their migration. Other theories are there as well, which need not detain us, but the people themselves prefer to call themselves A•chiks, so from now on the term A•chik / A•chikku will be used instead of Garo wherever possible.

Major districts:

The majority of the population of the five districts, namely, West Garo Hills, East Garo Hills, South Garo Hills, South West Garo Hills and North Garo Hills are Garos/A•chik Mandes speaking their language.

Varieties of Garo/ A•chik Language

  1. A•we: Spoken in the Northern part of Garo Hills.
  2. A•beng / Ambeng: Mostly spoken in West Garo Hills.
  3. Chibok: Spoken in parts of West Garo Hills and fringes of South Garo Hills.
  4. Chisak: Spoken in East Garo Hills.
  5. Matchi: Spoken in East Garo Hills.
  6. Matabeng: Spoken in West Garo Hills.
  7. Atong: Spoken in South Garo Hills.
  8. Ruga: Spoken in South Garo Hills around Rugapara area.
  9. Gara-Ganching: Spoken in South Garo Hills.
  10. Dual: Spoken in parts of East, South and West Garo Hills.

Other languages spoken in the three districts of Garo Hills are Koch, Hajong, Rabha and Dalu which are cognate languages of Garo and also the Mann Language spoken by a small community in West Garo Hills. There is also a large community of Bengali, Bihari and Nepali speakers in the three districts of Garo Hills, mainly in the West Garo Hills.

Characteristics of A•chik society and language

At this point, a word needs to be said about the A•chik society, as well as, characteristic features of the varieties of the language, all of which go to make up the language that is A•chikku. In the present exercise a wealth of information has been collected, which is the prime objective of this project. Differences especially in affixes have been seen; lexical, phonological and morphological differences are present in all the varieties to some degree. Though it has always been known, the present information collected confirms the fact that Atong, Ruga, Chibok and Dual are closer to each other to form a group, while Chisak, A.we, A•beng, Matabeng, Matchi and Gara- Gan•ching form another group, though, of course, no sharp line of distinction can be drawn between them.

Festivals and Ceremonies:

In the A•chik society, two major ceremonies-cum-festivals are observed, that is, Dru-Wanbola/Wangala a post-harvest-festival and Mangona a post-funeral ceremony. Both of these are ceremonies in which the whole village community participates; they are community functions in which singing, music, dance and feasting take place. A group may choose to take either one of these two as a major festival, and the other as subordinate. Those groups which take Wangala as the major are classed as wangipa (those who celebrate wangala) and others for which post-funeral is more important are classed as mangongipa (those who observe mangona).

Though separated by space, A•we is culturally closer to Atong, Ruga, Chibok, Dual and Gara- Gan•ching in that the group celebrates the post-funeral ceremonies as a more important festival than Wana or post-harvest thanksgiving ceremonies. Post-harvest ceremonies are held in September end and in October; Atongs, Rugas, Duals, Gara-Gan•chings have their equivalents of this ceremony prior to the partaking of the fresh paddy from the jhum. Atongs call this ceremony Saram Cha•a, the same exists among the Chiboks, Rugas and Duals. This festival is subordinated to the post-funeral ceremony. Though no longer remembered now, the A•wes must certainly have had an equivalent festival, because, as a rule, the A•chik society does not partake of the fresh farm grains and vegetables without offering the first-fruits to the gods. However, it is known that they used to observe the mangona post-funeral ceremonies in a big and elaborate manner. Their gure wata (entertainment of the horse god) ceremony is restricted to a few well-to-do families and has no connection with the community ceremonies whatever.

The major festival for the Atongs is Chougin; the purpose of this is to perform all the rituals connected with the post-funeral ceremony to release the spirit of the deceased to finally travel to Balpakram, the beautiful land of the spirits in the south-east of South Garo Hills. Gara- Gan•chings call this festival Chugan. For Duals, Chiboks and Rugas mangrua is important; here the sacred verses about the myth of the gods, origin of the earth and other created objects and incense are sung at this time. Kabe, the song of lamentation, of course, is a must. It is a festival accompanied by music; singing and dance to entertain the spirit of the deceased and the spirits which come from Balpakram to take the spirit with them. In place of the a•galmaka ceremony of the jhummers performed in the early morning after burning the debris, the Duals, who prefer wet cultivation, have doba kal•a, which involve playful smearing of each other with mud in June – July during the season of rice transplantation.

Among the wangipas, A•bengs may be said to be the leading group. In the past, each A•beng village used to celebrate this Dru-Wanbola for about a week with guests from nearby villages, though they also had post-funeral ceremonies. Matchis have three post-harvest festivals, Wangala in October, Wankadoa in January, and Akal Wana in the dry, hot and windy season, in February-March. This last one cannot properly be called a post-harvest festival, because no harvest is involved; and as the name implies, this ceremony is done without fresh farm products, in the lean period, a season of scarcity, famine or ‘akal’. Matabengs keep a balance between wangala and mangona, which they call dellang so•a. In addition to wangala, Chisaks have gana ceremony which is claimed and observed only by a well- to-do person. This is a special ceremony in which the man ritually wears ornaments and dresses; the ceremony raises him to the status of gana nokma.

The singing of sacred, secular and epic poetry, folk songs and the use of musical instruments is another aspect of their culture. Kabe, the song of lamentation for the dead, during funeral and post-funeral ceremonies is universal.

Rugas, Chiboks, Duals, Atongs and the Braks group in Bangladesh sing the folksongs called rere and rarai; during the mangrua dance Rugas use a unique musical instrument which is a long trumpet called kal made of several pieces of bamboo tubes joined together.

Atong, Ruga, Dual, Matchu, Chisak and Matabeng sing chera and the epic poetry of Gangga and Rutha, the sisters, also called Jingjangmani A•song, the country of the mother of Jingjang. Chera folk song originated from the Gara –Gan•chings. All those who sing chera use as accompaniment the dimchrang, a flat musical instrument made of bamboo and cane which combine the functions of percussion and string instruments. Atongs sing gonda and serejing during Chougin and use a drum and a trumpet of buffalo horn called kal, bells and cymbals. Many myths about the gods and origin of the earth and man, sacred and secular poetry, originated from the Chisaks, namely, Doro, Aje and Katta Salling and Katta doka the epic poetry of the brothers Dikki and Bandi and their ladyloves. Matabeng sing folksongs called gogai, gosai, harara, damik ring•a hoa ring•a and aho hoia. They use the drums, jew’s harp, gongs, bells, cymbals, kimjim or dimchrang, varieties of flutes and a stringed instrument called sarenda. A•bengs observe the dru-wanbola in a grand manner. They sing the sacred and secular songs called Doro, Dani doka, An•chaa during the wangala season, Aje for entertainment and fun. Drums, keyboard, types of flutes, cymbals, tambourine, gongs, tambourine and adil (trumpet of buffalo horn) all make harmonious music for the dance.

Traditional poetry

The genres of poetry , sung by A•chiks of all dialect groups are

i. Kabe, song of lamentation for the dead, sung during the funeral and post funeral ceremonies,

ii. Katta Doka: a epic poetry of the brothers Dikki and Bandi and their lady loves, who are the A•chik ideals of men and women, or cultural heroes and heroines. b) Epic poetry of the two sisters Gangga and Rutha are popular in the South Garo Hills, among the Gara Ganchings and other groups.

iii. Doro is of two types – sacred and secular. Secular Doro is sung during occasions as receiving a respected person, during marriage negotiations, during social gatherings or some other occasions. Sacred Doros can be sung only during the Wangala season. It is sung in honour of the gods, Misi Saljong the gods of blessings and distribution. Minima Kiri Rokkime, the goddess of paddy and fish.

iv. Dani is sung immediatel after burning the incense at the Nokma’s house on the second day of Wangala, by a small group of men, with their hands over each other’s shoulders and dancing to the rhythm of the drums. Dani dokgipa (the leader), sings the verses, the others in the group respond, ho anga. Its theme is the origin of the Wangala ceremony, how incense came to be offered toMisi saljong for man’s fall redemption.

v. Aje is sun mainly during the leisure hours of Wangala festival, when relatives meet each other and guests come visiting. I is sung in rhyming couplets to cut jokes, to poke fun, and among the young men and women in a romantic mood.


As has been said, the early American Baptist missionaries shifted from Bengali to the Roman script during the period 1892 – 1902, finding the latter much more suitable for all aspects of writing, typing, publishing and printing, and especially taking into consideration that the A.chiks learnt to read and write much faster with this script.

Phonemic spelling is used, and the A.chik language sounds are remarkably well represented in the script, including the placing of the glottal stop / • / which has also been regularised. The sign was given the term raka ‘hard’ and it is still known by that name today.

Social Organisations and Customary Laws As social organizations, such as laws of exogamy, matriliny and inheritance, the institution of nokpante/ young men’s dormitory and marriage customs are more or less the same in the whole community regardless of dialect and regional differences, these topics have been included in the introduction itself.

Marriage Customs of the A•chiks As the A.chik Society is exogamous, the laws of eligibility are strictly followed. If a Sangma marries another Sangma, the marriage is termed as bakdong in a pejorative sense, because the alliance is between the same bakska or related clans. If the marriage is between a woman and a man belonging to the same mahari or motherhood, it is termed as ma•dong in a derogatory sense, because the alliance is between the same bakdil of members of the same family.

All Sangmas, regardless of sub-clans, are traditionally regarded as brothers and sisters; that is the reason why a Sangma is not eligible as a spouse for another Sangma. The same goes for Marak, Momin, Shira or Areng. There are many sub-clans or motherhoods within the Sangma chatchi or clan, such as A.gitok, Mangsang, Koksi, and within the Marak clan, such as Raksam, Rangsa, Koknal, Ka•me, Re•ma, Rechil, etc.

Since the changes brought in by the British rule and the progress of education, it has became increasingly difficult toto stick to these norms. Marriages within the Marak chatchi but belonging to different motherhoods has became common, eg. a Koknal Marak marrying a Rangsa Marak, a Tegiti Sangma marrying an A•gitok Sangma. However, bakdong is still frowned upon, and ma•dong is unacceptable.

Inheritance A.chik society is matrilineal and matrilocal. The daughter who is to inherit the property is named as the nokna, and her husband is called nokkrom. As the property in the A•chik custom belongs to the woman, on her death the property passes on to the nokkrom daughter. The father’s own nephew, his sister’s son, is chosen as the husband of the nokkrom daughter; in order that the male line also continues for generation after generation.

Among the Chisaks, Matchi-Duals and the Garos of Kamrup, the eldest daughter is taken as the nokkrom. If the father’s nephew is not available for the elder daughter, a nephew is sought for the next daughter. If none of the daughters marry the father’s nephew, the parents choose the daughter who is found to be more dependable as the heiress.

In groups speaking other varieties, the youngest, or among the daughters whoever marries the father’s nephew, or meets the conditions of the parents, becomes the heiress. Precaution is taken to prevent the passing of property to another clan or motherhood. The property required should remain with both the parent’s families. In recent times, on account of the changes brought about by various factors such as education, modernisation, and exposure, it has become difficult to get a nephew of the father as son-in-law. However, the ideal will survive for years to come.

J. D. Marak in his A•chik Kata (1930) records the origin of matriliny among the A•chiks. At the great gathering was organized at Me•gam Amejang, where the A•chiks and Dikils ‘non-A•chiks’ were living together, at Matia Panchia which is probably area around the present Guwahati, a great crowd, including the chiefs, attended this gathering at the nokpante (young men’s dormitory) of Bonepa called for the purpose of settling the issue of who will stay at the house and inherit the property.

On account of constant conflict with the neighbouring people, men’s lives were at risk and uncertain. The number of men had dwindled, and in the interest of preserving the A•chik tribe, they decided that the daughter should stay in the house and the property would go through her line. They further stipulated that the father’s nephew should be brought as son-in- law, to keep the male line intact.

If a nokna daughter leaves the house, and sets up a separate residence, she loses the right to inherit.

Law of A•kim: A couple is under the law of a•kim, which means that on the death of either of them, the concerned mahari is bound to provide a substitute, and the widow/widower is obliged to accept the offer. The beneficiary cannot marry outside the mahari of his/her spouse. For instance, if the husband is a Tegiti and his wife a Cheran, if the wife dies, the Cheran mahari is obliged to provide a substitute, and the man is under obligation to accept her. He might not marry the one offered, but may choose another Cheran girl. However, he cannot marry a woman who does not belong to the Cheran mahari, unless he is released from the bond of a•kim. If he marries outside his deceased wife’s mahari, he has to forego his home, and his children, too, because they belong to the motherhood. In the present circumstances, it is becoming difficult to meet these norms.

Forms of Marriage Ceremony Traditional

A.chik marriage is do•sia, so called perhaps chickens (do•o) play a symbolic role here. A priest who solemnizes the ceremony, recites the genealogy of the parents of both the bride and groom by turns, and calls upon the gods to witness the union, and advises the couple in to live in harmony and to multiply . He takes two fowls, a hen for the bride and a rooster for the groom; he taps the back of the woman with the hen while reciting, and does the same for the groom with the rooster. The fowls are strangled and released on the floor. If they lie close to each other, it is believed to be a good omen. This is followed by another divination, in which the fowls’ entrails are examined, if the entrails are full, it is taken as positive omen. For those who are Christians it is either the Christian or the civil marriage.

Marriage Negotiations:

The traditional means adopted to bring the girl and the boy together for the purpose of marriage cannot be said to come under this title because they are not negotiations per se. One such traditional way is ‘bridegroom capture’ (chawari sika) prevalent among the A•bengs, Matabengs and Matchis. The second is cha•senga in which a girl is taken to her father’s sister’s home; if the boy (father’s nephew) is unwilling to marry her, she has to slave for the family and try to win the boy’s favour. Seke kima is marriage by elopement; a couple who elopes might be favoured by a formal solemnisation of the union by the relatives.

At present, these practices are dying even among those who follow traditional indigenous religion. The usual way is for the girl to intimate her relatives and family about the man she desires to marry, then the chras or her male relatives take it up and approach the man’s family.

NOKPANTE/YOUNG MEN’S DORMITORY As the name implies, nokpante is a house built exclusively for boys and young unmarried men, to the exclusion of women and girls. Every mahari in a village constructed its own nokpante to house its boys. There was even friendly rivalry among these nokpantes.

According to a source, the traditional institute of nokpante has a mythical origin. It is said that the sungod Salgra and the moongod Susime, the brothers built a nokpante at Saljong Batra Rongdogachol (the stone gate through which the sungod Saljong passed) thought to be at Kamakhya area. The house is called Nokpante Kalkame because Kalkame, the god of strength is believed to dwell in it. Kalkame is associated with its brother Goera, the god of thunder and lightning; both are protectors of the village.

Construction The nokpante building is constructed at the central court-yard of a village called a•tila. Built of the same locally available materials as the traditional houses, its design is different from the typical houses built for a family. All houses are built with a raised floor, but in family houses the first room and the entrance rest on the ground. In a nokpante the entire floor is raised, the floor is woven of flattened bamboo sheets, posts of timber are shaped in such a way as to fix the structure firmly on the ground, and the upper half above the floor to allow flat surface for carvings. Do•kaku or king post is erected over the front crossbeam to touch the roof so that it occupies a prominent position. It is a unique and intricate wood carving, whose symbolic significance has not been satisfactorily explained. Nokpante is the centre of the art of wood carving, and the crossbeams, posts and rafters, and the log ladder to climb to the raised floor, all carry carvings of human beings, of animals like tiger, elephant, wild goats, aringga, iguana? As in other houses the posts of the house have religious significance. It is built so as to be able to withstand whirlwind and storms, and earthquakes, as the whole of the North-East India fall within the earthquake zone.

Only the nokma’s (chief’s) house can take pride in such carvings. In nokma’s houses carvings of the sun, moon, stars, the mother of the prawns, centipedes, elephants, a man on a horse, tortoise and big lizards are found. All the timbers which have carvings on them are considered as abodes of the gods.

The tradition of the nokpante dates from the ancient period, in the epic poetry Katta Doka, it is sung of Dikki, one of the A•chik cultural heroes, that how as a youth, he built his nokpante:

Life in the Nokpante Boys from about the age of seven to eight years go to sleep at the nokpante after supper. Before they sleep, they talk about their daily experiences, such as in the jhum, weekly markets, etc. For the older boys, who stay there permanently until they get married and leave as sons-in- law, mothers or sisters carry their food usually packed in banana leaves and keep them in the baskets hung on the outer walls. Nokpante is a place of informal training for boys. Elderly men and older boys teach the younger ones. They are imparted knowledge virtually in all activities – in the art of living, culture and customs, tradition and history. They are taught skills in making and playing musical instruments – flutes, string and percussion instruments, which are not only for leisure, but compulsory in the religious ceremonies and dance in the festivals. Learning the techniques of defence and attack is important, as they must be prepared to defend the village. The art of working with bamboo and timber, chief materials for all constructions, and making of household goods, all sorts of baskets, containers, skills like weaving, darning, stitching , are imparted here. This is the place where traditional oral narratives are recited, such as epic poetry, sacred and secular poetry, myths, folk tales, proverbs, maxims, riddles are told and passed on. Listening and learning oral literature increases their memory and word power, besides adding to their knowledge of their cultural heroes, heroines and ideals.

They learn about the customs, laws and cultural values; they play important roles in the various sacrificial ceremonies to the gods. Games and contests, such as an•ding oka, a kind of wrestling, jakpong pe•a (arm wrestling), wa•pong sika, (pushing each other with bamboo pole), wal•du rata, high jump, long jump, bamboo pole climbing, tug- of – war, are held to exercise the mind and body. One of their most important duties is to protect the settlement. The boys take pride in belonging to this institution as they are inculcated a sense of duty and achievement.

Laws regarding the nokpante Nokpante is an institution exclusively for the residence and training of the boys. Hence women and girls may enter it from the front door only on the occasion of the annual Nokpante Mese Cha•a ceremony just a few days before the Wangala thanksgiving festival. In this ceremony rats from the village especially from the granaries are caught and killed. A special credit goes to the boy who catches the most number of rats and mice. On emergencies married men may enter through the front door. To get out of the house the back door is used. If necessary, women may enter and leave through the back door only. A fine is incurred on breaking the law.

Nokpantes are also used at times, as the courtroom, to hold court by Nokmas and Laskers, to decide cases and settle disputes; momentous decisions may be taken in such meetings. As a rule only men may attend these meetings. It is also used as a guest house for strangers and visitors. Strangers are not allowed to spend the night at a family house.

Present Status Since colonization and the changes brought in by the British government, nokpantes declined in number and importance. As a consequence of cultural devaluation, the training, imparting of skills and the art of reciting poetry and narratives, telling stories have gradually disappeared, resulting in the loss of oral literature. The consequences of the decay of nokpante are tremendous, though the tribe has to adapt to changing times. With the loss of the historical narratives, the A•chiks are now a confused people, not knowing whether to believe their own traditions narrated and passed on through generations by the forefathers, or whether to believe the anthropologists from the west. Since the last forty years no nokpantes have been built. That is the reason why elderly men ridicule today’s young men saying, “Nokpantea babilsi, sa•ra roa me•chikchi” (their nokpante is the kitchen, they share the courtyard with women). Today only at a few places nokpantes can be found, but they are no longer functional, only the structure exists as a relic of the past.

A by-product of this project is the discovery, or rather the re-discovery of the history of the people, their migration and former and present settlements, in Garo Hills and outside. Taking them all together, the pattern of migration and distribution of the people has become clearer. The pattern confirms the A’chik tradition of migration as preserved in their tenacious oral narratives.

Some cultural features, such as superstitious beliefs regarding unnatural deaths also are found in the folk stories. Another is the environmental awareness, as seen in the story of Mandal falls, emphasizing the importance of living in harmony with nature and its denizens. Presence of spirits in the objects of nature, living in hills and protecting the sources of streams, and some in human settlements, has long been a part of A’chik belief. Humanoids such as the tiny te’teng and the gigantic mande buring ‘forest man’ are said to have been seen and encountered on very rare occasions by certain people; they are subjects of many stories.

Region Spoken In : Gojri is spoken in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Different names of Gojri Language:

Gojri is known by various names such as Gojri, Gujari, Gojari, Gurjar, Gurjar bhasha, Gujjar zaban, Bakerwali etc.

Geographical Location:

Gojri is spoken in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Gujarat. It is also spoken in different states in Pakistan.


There is no census figures available of its speakers.

History of the Language:

The history of the Gojri language is as old as the Gojri people themselves who speak this language natively. The earliest forms of the language are found in the first to fifth century. There are references to the Gojri kingdoms in different pockets of the northern India. The language spoken by Gojars during the period from 6th to 13th century got mixed with other forms of language such as Apbhramsha, Khariboli, and the Gojri of the present-day was evolved. There is an evidence to show that the language was developed adequately to have the earliest forms of literature or folklore. This language was used in certain pockets of the present-day states of Gujarat, Kathiavar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir. It was spread from Chitral to Nepal in the northwest Himalayas, and from Punjab to Gujarat in the plains. It has an important place among the dialects of Gujarati. Rajasthani, Harvanvi and Hindi- Urdu languages. A large number of Gojri vocabulary is found in the languages of expression of Saints in the 16th and 17th centuries like Mirabai, Kabir and Tulsidas.

The fall of the Gojri kingdoms in the seventeenth century had an impact on the Gojri language which remained confined to limited areas. It was in the state of Jammu & Kashmir it became vibrant again around 1950. Radio programmes in Gojri commenced in Radio Kashmir in the year 1969 and later in Radio Kashmir Jammu in 1974. Programmes were broadcast in the radio stations in Pakistan too.

A Gojri unit was started in the Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in 1978. This unit has published hundreds of books so far including dictionaries and grammars in the Language. There are a large number of individual publications by writers, artists too.

Gojri in Education:

Jammu and Kashmiri State Board of School Education has introduced it as an optional language in the state and prepared textbooks in the language for the use in classes from 1st to the 8th standard. Some private institutions and trusts like Gojar Desh Charitable Trust, Jammu, and Tribal Research and Cultural Foundation, Srinagar have prepared and published books and are making efforts to preserve some folk cultural materials. Gojri is spoken not only by Gojars alone but by some Muslim agriculturists, and people of other professions too who live in the neighbourhood of Gojar settlements.

Gojri in Constitution of India:

Gojri has been included in the 6th schedule of the Constitution of the state of Jammu and Kashmir and there is a movement for including it in the 8th schedule of the Constitution of India too.

Region Spoken In : Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Yavatmal, Nanded, Amaravati, Akola, Wardha, Nagpur and Bhandara districts
Number of Speakers : 543,120
Gondiis spoken by the tribal community called Gond,settled in some districts of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. According to the 2001 census, the number of people speaking Gondi was 543,120.In Maharashtra, the Gonds are settled mainly in Chandrapur, Gadchiroli, Yavatmal, Nanded, Amaravati, Akola, Wardha, Nagpur and Bhandara districts. Manyeminent scholars believe that Gondi is a very ancient language.RobertCaldwell and Henry Heras have stated that Gondi is the ancient version of the Tamil language as we know it today. There is a mention in the Chandrapur district gazetteer that Gondi was a part of the family of Dravidian languages. Scholars like Russell, Hiralal and Stephen Fuch also subscribe to the same view. S. K. Chatterji has opined that the Aryans were influenced by the languages of the native Dravidian Kols, who were much more civilised than them. However, this theory is rejected by A. J. Rajurkar, a history researcher from Chandrapur. According to him, Gondi is a forest language. Because of its geographical proximity to Marathi, Hindi, Telugu and Kannada, words from these languages have found their way intoGondi (Rajurkar, 1982). But Gondi has its own unique natureand is much more than the influences of Marathi, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada and Sanskrit.

Motiram Kangali, a scholar of Gondi literature, has said that Gondi was the official language of an ancient kingdom called Gondvana and it had its own script, grammar,figures of speech, etymology and literature, which are available even today. Before the birth of the Himalayas and the Alps, the five continents in the southern hemisphere—South America, Africa, Antarctica, Asia and Australia— were close to each other. Collectively, these five continents are still known as Gondvanaland. This view is re-stated by Anuradha Paul in a recent study. According to this school of thought, the common language that was spoken by the inhabitants of these five continents was none other than Gondi. Of course, this opinion is based on the study of the history and geography of that age. Tribal poet Bhujang Meshram has also contended that Gondi is a pre-Vedic language (Meshram, 1990).One of the objections usually raised in this context is that there is no script for Gondi. According to Vyankatesh Atram, the hieroglyphsunearthed in the excavationsof Mohenjo-Daro are in Gondi script. He further maintains that Gondi was the official language of the Gondvana kingdom as well as the state language of the Kuyava kingdom that dates back to the pre-Rig Vedic period.According to Atram,Gondihad its own script but this script is not in use today because Duryon, the capital town of the Kuyavas, was burnt down to ashes in 3201 BC (Atram, 1989).

Region Spoken In : Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra

Gondi Madia is spoken by the Madia Gonds who are primarily residents of Gadchiroli district in Maharashtra and Abujhamad area of Bastar district in Chhattisgarh. The Madia Gonds are spread over Sironcha and Etapalli taluks of Gadchiroli district as well as in the dense forests east of Bhamragad. The Madia community appears to be divided into two major groups. Those living atop the mountains are called Bada Madias or ‘Big Madias’ and those living at the foot of the mountains or the plains are called Chhota Madias or ‘Small Madias’. Bada Madias are found in the villages around the hilly region near Bhamragad and Laheri, more specifically in Laheri, Bangadi, Gundenhoad, Porekatti, Hidun, Dirangi and Kulakodi villages. Chhota Madias are found in Kayar, Murangal, Goadpadi, Tadpadi, Bodange, Koyar, Puswara, Juwwi, Hodari, Binagunda, Gollaguda, Morametta, Parenar, Kawande, Poyarkodi and Kursinar villages.

Another name for the Gondi Madia language is ‘Gayata Pollo’. According to Stephen Futch, Madia is a member of the family of Dravidian languages. Gonds living on the hills of Chandrapur forests are known as Gattu or Madia and their language is a regional variation of Gondi. According to them, Madia is a localised, altered form of Gondi and it has some Telugu influence.

Shailaja Deogaonkar, a student of the Madia language, opines, ‘Madia belongs to the family of the Dravidian languages and is one of the subsets of Gondi.’ Deogaonkar does not differentiate between the Gonds and the Madias and refuses to accept the linguistic difference between them. A. J. Rajurkar has also considered Madia to be no different from Gondi. According to these researchers, Madia and Gondi arenot two independent and different languages but one language. There is a minor difference between them in terms of pronunciation and some words. Madia appears to be influenced by Telugu and Kannada.

Gondvan, the main part of the Gond settlements,is spread across the plateaus of Vidarbha in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, from Wardha in the west to Balaghat in the east,from Mandla district in Madhya Pradesh and Bastar in Chhattisgarh to Chandrapur in northern Maharashtra and from there to the Telugu-speaking belt of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana (from Vishakhapatnam to Hyderabad). In each of these areas, the Gondi language comes in contact with different languages. From Bastar to Chandrapur in the west, in the area north of river Wainganga, both Gondi and Madia are spoken. In this region, Gondi comes in contact with Marathi and Hindi. Since it was originally very close to Telugu and Kannada, though it carries a lot of influence of Marathi and Hindi, in terms of its structure and form it appears closer to Telugu. Not just that, having come into contact with English during the British rule, Madia contains many loan words from English.

Language Family : Dravidian family of languages
Region Spoken In : Maharashtra

Many tribals in Maharashtra speak languages belonging to different linguistic families. The Gonds, living in a vast region spread over Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, speakthe Gondi language belonging to the Dravidian family of languages. Stephen Hislophas linked the word ‘Gond’ with the Tamil word kond, which means ‘mountain’. While the outsiders call them Gond, they call themselves Koytoor, Koytore or just Koyo, which means ‘human being’. Some scholars divide the Gonds into four types: Devgond, Rajgond, Naagvanshi Gond and Raavanvanshi Gond. Some others mention only two types, Rajgond and Dhurvegond. There are more than sixty sub-types of the Gond tribe. They are known by different names and their occupations also differ. ‘Thatya’ is one of these subtypes.The primary occupation of Thatya Gonds is cattle grazing. These people live in poverty and tend to the cattle in nearby villages.

There is a legend about the origin of Thatya Gonds.Once, the Gonds were worshipping Badadev(big god—Lord Shiva) and were offering food grains. Some cows came there and interrupted the ritual. Those who were actually performing the rites asked some of their fellow tribesmen to drive the cows away. Thereafter,the ones who went after the cows came to be known as the Thatya Gonds. These people call themselves Bansi Gonds and link their lineage of ancestors to lord Shrikrishna. There are two clansof Bansi or Thatya Gonds, Saatdev Wale and Sahadev Wale, meaning ones with ‘seven gods’ and ‘six gods’ respectively. They take surnames like Dhurve, Rakhondya, Sonone, Salame, Madavi, Jambekar, Uike and Porate. Badadev is their chief deity and they celebrate Diwali with great enthusiasm.

The Thatya Gonds are spread over Khargone in western Madhya Pradesh, Badwani hills, Baitul plateau, Chhindwada, Shivni plateau and up to the Paratwada plateau. Situatedamidst the Satpuda mountain range, this region also has the basins of rivers like Tapi, Narmada, Purna and Sipna. Some of the names by which this region is known are Nimad, Gangada, Mahedvache Dongar and Gondwana. The Thatya Gonds live in Khandwa, Baitul, Hoshangabad, Harada and West Nimad districts of Madhya Pradesh and Amaravati district in the Melghat area of Maharashtra. Every village and town in these areas has at least one Thatya Gond household. The influence of other languages spoken in the vicinity can be observed on the language of the Thatya Gonds.

Region Spoken In : Areas of Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura ad Mizoram.


The Hadem/ Sakachep people are a minority group in Meghalaya. They were previously a wandering tribe.

Religious Practises: The Sakachep people have their own customs and religious rituals of idol worship.

Tribe: The Hadem or Sakachep people are believed to be part of the Mongolian Tribe.

Geographical Location: The Hadem or Sakachep people are scatters in areas of Meghalaya, Assam, Nagaland, Tripura ad Mizoram.

Language: The Sakachep people speak their own language different from other languages.

Script: They do not have a script of their own. The Roman script was adopted and a number of words are borrowed from other languages e.g heaven - invan, earth - rengpil, God - Pathian.

Areas in which the language is spoken: The language is predominantly spoken in areas such as Saitsama, Myngngor Khliehmyllong, Sacheng, Umpho, New Langkarcha, Old Langkarcha, Halflong Hanle, in North/ North East Jaiñtia Hills.

Population: There are approximately thirty-thousand speakers, including Assam.


Rualchongrangaingeichuh thing pang kop yat den keh an ni.
A person who listens to the instruction of others is like a tree growing at the edge of a cliff.

Anuapachong don ngeimordichuhan sing sabakngaikeh an ni.
A person who pays attention to the instruction of his father and mother gains wisdom.

Anuapachong don ngeimordichuhan sing sabakngaikeh an ni.

A person who pays attention to the instruction of his father and mother gains wisdom.

Region Spoken In : Tamil Nadu

Irula (Erula)

Introduction: The Irula is a South Dravidian primitive aboriginal tribal community, spread over three Southern states viz. Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka. The tribe is divided into several endogamous sub-groups. Social and cultural differences among the various endogamous groups of Irula may be due to geographical separation, historical and socio-economic factors are the main reasons for the emergence of several dialects of Irula language.

Other Names and Sub-Groups: The terms such as irula, eruliga, illiga, casaba, urali, kadupujari and villiyan are used to designate them in different religions of these three states. The various sub-groups of Irula based on their social, cultural and dialect variations are:

  1. melenadu irula

  2. kasaba

  3. vettakada irula

  4. urali

  5. kadupujari / iruliga Each group speaks a dialect which is quite different from the other Irula sub-groups.

Independent South Dravidian Language:

Diffloth (1968) considered the speech of Irulas as a dialect of Tamil and a Dravidian language belonging to the Tamil-Malayalam group. It is Kamil Zvelebil who tried to show that the Irula speech is an independent South Dravidian language, akin to Tamil particularly old Tamil, with some Kannada like features. Irula has retained many features of old Tamil such as dentals after high vowels in the past tense. The total loss of Proto-South Dravidian retroflex approximate is one of the innovations of Irula language.

Geographical Location: Three Irula groups namely Melenadu Irula, Kasaba and Vettakada Irula inhabit the Nil-giri district but do not live together and are found in different taluks of the district. Melenadu Irula and Kasaba are found only in Nilgiri district while Vettakada Irula are found in other parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala along with the Nilgiri district. Melenadu Irula are found in about 500 hamlets of Kotagiri Taluk, Vettakada Irula inhabit seven hamlets of Coonoor Taluk and Kasabas are found in some settlements of Udhagamandalam Taluk.

Different Kinds of Irula’s: There are different kinds of Irulas such as:

  1. Melenadu Irula

  2. Kasaba

  3. Vettakada Irula

  4. Urali

  5. Kadupujari / Iruliga

  6. Velliyan / Villiyan

  7. Melenadu Irula of Nilgiri District Melenadu Irula speak a dialect which they consider as a superior variety among the di-alects of Irula language. They consider themselves as socially and linguistically superior to Vettakada Irulas because the latter group has the habit of eating rats. Even though ethnically and linguistically these two Irula communities have evolved from a common stock, the Melenadu Irula’s do not have marriage relationships with the Vettakada Irula’s. There were a few violations to this practise and such unions were traditionally disapproved and the couples were excommunicated by Melenadu Irula in the past which was a most powerful and the most serious punishment. The married couples of the inter Irula sub-groups carry some social stigma, even today.

  8. Kasabas of Nilgiri District: Kasabas are one of the Irula language speaking tribes. According to 1961 Census their population is 391 in Nilgiri district. Their settlements are found only in Udhagamandalam talk. Kamil Zvelebil considered the Kasaba speech as a dialect of Irula. Shanmugam has treated the Kasaba speech as a seperate language. The Kasabas have reported the same clans and the same patterns of clan organisation and marriage alliances as that of the Melenadu Irula’s. However, marital alliances between Kasabad, Melenadu Irula’s and Uralis are permitted.

  9. Vettakadu Irula Vettakadu Irula are found in small number in the Nilgiri district :, but they are largely concentrated in Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu and Palghat district of Kerala. They are also called Irula pallars. In the Nilgiri district, Vettakadu Irulas are found in seven hamlets of Coonoor talul and they speak a dialect called Vettakadu Irulas Nallurpadi dialect of Irula language. Vettakadu Irulas speaking Nallurpadi dialect do no inter-marry with Melenadu Irula and Kasabas.

  10. Urali Uralis are found in Satyamangalam area of Erode district, of Tamil Nadu. Based on lin-guistic evidences, the Uralis are considered as descendants of the Irula of Nilgiris who might have migrated to Satyamangalam area in search of food and new lands. They are divided into two endogamous groups base don the two distinct dialects they have devel-oped. These two dialects are Asanur dialect and Kalidimba dialect. Although considered descendants of Melenadu Irula, there is no marital alliance between them. Uralis are in close proximity to Vettakada Irulas, but they too do not inter-marry. Zvelebil uses the term Irual-Urali for those who speak the Irula dialect of Dimbhum.

  11. Kadu Pujaris / Iruluga (Karnataka Irulas): According to the 1971 Census Irulas were found in 7 out of 19 districts of Karnataka. It is found that aphaeresis and sound displacement have not taken place in the Irula dialect of Karnataka, which is largely influenced by the local Kannada dialect. In the words of Kempe Gowda, “This dialect, lexically, phonologically and structurally resembles more with Kannada than with Tamil”. The clan names of Karnataka Irulas are not identical with Melenadu Irulas, Coimbatore Irulas and Attapaady Irulas.

  12. Velliyan / Villiyans (Tamil Speaking Irulas of Tamil Nadu) Excluding the different sub-groups of Irulas found in the district of Nilgiris, Coimbatore and Erode of Tamil Nadu (also Attapaady Irulas of Kerala) all other Irulas found in Ta-mil Nadu speak only the local Tamil dialects. It seem that except the common name Irula, they are linguistically and ethnically different.

The Dialects of Irula Language: The Irula language has twelve dialects which are:

  1. Melenadu Irula Kujopane dialect

  2. Melenadu Irula Garikkayuru dialect

  3. Kasaba dialect of Erode district of Tamil Nadu

  4. Urali Irula asnuru Irula dialect

  5. Urali Irula Kalidimba Irula dialect of Coimbatore district of Tamil Nadu

  6. Vettakada Irula Nallurpadi dialect

  7. Vettakada Irula Atakkallu dialect

  8. Vettakada Irula Velliyangadu dialect

  9. Vettakada Irula Perumal Koyipadi dialect

  10. Vettakada Irula Palamale dialect from Palaghat District, Kerala

  11. Vettakada Irula Kottatture dialect

  12. Vettakada Irula abbanure dialect.

Language Endangerment Study: The Language Endangerment Study phenomenon has been studied regarding the Vetta-kada Irual of Atakkallu village of Coimbatore district jointly by Central Institute of In-dian Languages, Mysore and Department of Linguistics, Bharathiar University, Coimba-tore.

Folk Songs: The Irual folk songs can be classified into seven major types. The ballad songs do not come under this type.

  1. tene pattu - millet song

  2. vere pattu - hunting song

  3. pe pattu - Family deity song

  4. cavu pattu - funeral song or death song

  5. Love song (no specific Irula name)

  6. Lullaby (no specific Irula name)

  7. Miscellaneous songs consisting of:

    a. Puberty Song b. Betrothal song c. Marriage song d. Song of fear

Region Spoken In : Alibaug, Pena, Karjat, Khalapur, Roha, Panvel, Maangaon and Sudhagod taluks

The Katkari language is spoken by an eponymous adivasi tribe in the hills of the Deccan plateau. Traditionally, the Katkarisextracted sap from the heartwood of catechu trees. In Marathi, as in some other languages, catechu is called/kɑ:ṱ/,so the people who extracted it, were called / kɑṱʰɔ:ɖi/, /kɑ:ṱwǝɖi/, /kɑ:ṱʰɔ:ɖiɑ/ or /kɑ:ṱʰɔ:ri/. The Katkaris live in Maharashtra and some parts of Gujarat and Karnataka.

In Maharashtra, the Katkaris are scattered in the interior talukas of Alibaug, Pen, Panvel, Khalapur, Karjat, Roha, Maangad and Sudhagad. The main district in which Katkari is spoken is Raigad, in the Alibaug, Pena, Karjat, Khalapur, Roha, Panvel, Maangaon and Sudhagod taluks. It is also spoken in some isolated pocketsof Thane, Ratnagiri and Nashik districts.

Some Katkaris sing religious and mythological songs accompanied by a musical instrument which consists of a brass pan with a stick attached to it. The singers play upon these instruments creating sonorous notes through vibrations as the sticks strike the brass pans. This singing with the ‘surat’ / su:rǝṱ/, which is the word for the instrument, is called as surat-singing.

Language Family : Austro-Asiatic language family.
Region Spoken In : East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Ri Bhoi district of the state of Meghalaya.
Number of Speakers :
Name of the Language:

Khasi is the name of the language, the community and its traditional religion as well.

Geographical Location:

Khasi has many varieties spoken in East Khasi Hills, West Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Ri Bhoi district of the state of Meghalaya. It is also spoken in areas bordering Assam and Bangladesh.

Language Family:

Khasi belongs to the Austro-Asiatic language family and is usually classified by linguists as belonging to the sub-group known as Mon-Khmer. It therefore shares quite a number of features with other Austro-Asiatic languages, particularly those of the Mon-Khmer sub-group.

Language Similarities:

As is the case with many languages, the varieties are very similar in localities and villages that are adjacent to each other. The differences are greater as the distance between them is further apart. Standard Khasi is one major variety spoken by a majority of Khasis; it also serves as a link language for speakers of the other varieties of Khasi.

History of the Language :

Traditionally, Khasis believe that God the Creator through Ka Hukum (the Law, an important attribute of God; also richly personalised in Khasi thought) first created Ka Ramew (the earth’s surface, nature itself) and her husband U Ryngkew (dry land or the spirit ruling over the earth). Their union brought forth the Sun, the Moon, the Wind, Water and Fire. These five siblings worked together in harmony to create the right conditions for all living creatures. Ka Ramew then became pregnant again and gave birth to plants and animals, causing the earth to teem with diverse creatures, beautiful plants and magnificent trees of different varieties. At that time, special beings Ki Khathynriew Trep (the Sixteen Huts or Groups of Families) that were already in existence resided in heaven. When the creatures on earth began to multiply greatly in number, there arose chaos, confusion and disharmony among them. Ka Ramew then entreated God the Creator to send a wise and able ruler to rule over all the creatures on earth. The first Divine Assembly was convened and a decision was taken to send seven groups of families from Ki Khathynriew Trep or the sixteen groups of families to come down to earth and to rule over it. Every day U Hynniew Trep (seven Groups) came down and tilled the earth during the day and then ascended to heaven before nightfall through Ka Jingkieng Ksiar (the Golden Ladder) situated at Sohpetbneng Peak. This was also the divine tree that God had planted to remind humankind of the Agreement that was made at the Divine Assembly. However, there came a time when the Seven Huts drifted away from their Creator a consequence of which, the Golden Ladder was severed and the Seven Huts or groups of families had to remain on earth and to settle on these hills.

Oral History

Oral sources say that in one of the Divine Assemblies, God the Creator decided to distribute talents, units of power and strength to all the creatures of the earth within seven days of the meeting. The first to receive these talents and strengths were the animals because humans waited for the seven days to be over before they approached the Creator for their share. What remained was a little of physical strength and ka buit (intelligence, reasoning power and the ability to think rationally) for humans. Before that particular meeting, humans and beasts could communicate through a common language but because only humans kept their word to earn righteousness, ka hukum (the Law) took away language from animals and it thus became the sole property of human beings.

The Khasis have a very rich oral literary heritage, which is manifested in the form of their raditional poetry: ki phawar, their folktales, myths, legends, parables, proverbs, ki jingsneng tymmen etc. The Khasis believe that they had a script of their own in the remote past. The story handed down by word of mouth recounts the story of the lost script. It was said that during the great flood, the Khasi survivor along with those from other communities who were returning from their mission which was to receive their script directly from God, had to swim to higher grounds to escape the raging torrents of the flood waters. The Khasi had no place in his person to keep the script. He needed both arms to swim in order to make it to the shore. Desperate to keep the script safe but finding no means to do so, he swallowed it. So unlike his brother from the plains who tied his script on his head, the Khasi swallowed his thus losing it forever.

Non-Verbal Communication:

The Khasis actually had their own means of non-verbal communication. Khasi syiems (kings or chiefs) used u kyrwoh (a ring made of cane) to communicate with those in distant places. A single ring is an ordinary message that requires the addressee’s presence but a double ring indicates a sense of urgency. In fact the more rings used in such a communication, the more urgent is the message. This system of communication was still in use when the British arrived in the Khasi Hills.

Bird Song Communication:

Another form of communication peculiar to the people of Khadar Shnong Village, approximately 27 kilometres from Sohra, is the bird song. Before a child comes to this world, its mother already has a particular birdsong in mind, to be used and identified with the baby soon to be born. Thus when the child grows up, whenever the mother makes the call, everyone is able to identify it with that particular child. In the forest one may hear innumerable birdsongs that are identifiable with various people who are audible but not visible; perhaps working hard in the fields or maybe even fishing somewhere. If one needed to find out the whereabouts of a person out in the fields or forest, one only has to make the birdcall that is identifiable with the person. The answering call, will or will not be returned; depending upon whether the person is in the vicinity of the caller.

Khasi in Written Form:

The first attempt to put the Khasi language in the written form was made by missionaries from the Serampore Mission under the initiative of William Carey around 1824. Krishna Chandra Pal and Alexander Lish were among those who served as missionaries in the southern slopes of the Khasi Hills. These missionaries used the Bengali script to translate the Bible into the Khasi language. The Serampore Mission printed 500 copies of the Khasi Bible written in the Bengali script. The translated Bible was found not to be accurate and the project was abandoned.

A change over from the Bengali script to the Roman script began with the advent of the Welsh Calvinistic missionaries in 1841. From the very beginning, the first missionary Thomas Jones, wanted to establish schools as well as preach the Gospels to the Khasis. He knew that he would be able to achieve his goal by giving them the written language and he therefore devised the Roman Script for writing the Khasi language. Other scholars improved on his work to make it what it is today.

The Khasi Alphabet has been standardized as follows:


The small letters of the Alphabet are shown below:

a b k d e g ng h i ï j l m n ñ o p r s t u w y

The letters Ñ and Ϊ are not found in the Englis alphabet. They were added later by Khasi writers who felt the need to have these two letters. The letter ‘ñ’ is considered important because there is a phonemic distinction between /n/ and /ɲ/ in words such as ‘nia’ (argument) and ‘ñia’ (maternal uncle’s wife). The letter ‘ï’ is also needed to distinguish between words such as ‘iap,' a short form of the word ‘shyiap’ (sand) and the word ‘ïap’ (to die).

Process of Standardisation of Khasi Language:

Since Thomas Jones, the pioneer missionary, settled in Sohra making its variety the automatic choice. This event also set the process of the standardization of the Khasi language in motion. The language has completed the four processes of standardization, namely, selection, codification, elaboration of functions and acceptance, thus making the Sohra variety the Standard variety of Khasi. Initially Sohra was the headquarters of the British administration but the seat of administration was later shifted to Shillong, the present capital of the state of Meghalaya. With the shifting of the headquarters, the Standard variety fast became the most widespread variety to be used by the people speaking the different varieties of Khasi. The possession of a writing system proved to be a landmark in the history of the Khasis for they were then able to document and codify their customary laws, their traditional knowledge, oral literature, folk customs and practices. With the written form, great thinkers and writers emerged to enrich Khasi Language and Literature from the latter part of the nineteenth century onwards. Subsequently, throughout the years books on different subjects have been published by authors with expertise in different subjects.

Khasi Literature:

Written Khasi Literature started with translation where Christian missionaries translated the Bible and other Christian literature from Welsh and English into Khasi. In the latter part of the 19th century, many Khasi writers translated poems, plays and fiction from other languages. The 20th Century witnessed a very rapid growth in the number of books written in the Khasi language which include translation works from different languages. Some of these include transcreated works where the great Sanskrit epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were brought into the Khasi language in the narrative and the dramatic forms. Great literary works from different languages have also been translated into the Khasi language. These include the plays of Sophocles, William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, G.B. Shaw, the fiction of John Bunyan, Aesop’s Fables, Kalidasa, Thomas Hardy, Edgar Allan Poe, Chinua Achebe, Guy de Maupassant, Leo Tolstoy, the poetry of John Milton, Rabindranath Tagore and many others. Dictionaries, Grammars, Poetry, Fiction, Drama, Literary Theory and Criticism, Science, Geography and History books are found in plenty in the Khasi language. During the latter half of the 20th Century many writers have published books on Linguistics, Culture, Folklore, Environment, Mathematics, Science, Geography and History. This, no doubt, was one of the reasons why Khasi was introduced as an academic subject just a few decades after the script was devised.

Khasi in Education:

Khasi was first introduced as a vernacular paper by the Calcutta University in lieu of Latin for Entrance Examinations and Intermediate of Arts Examinations. It was offered as a subject for the degree level examinations in 1919. After the country’s Independence, when vernacular subjects in the University were converted into Major Indian Languages, the Khasi language was included as one of the MIL subjects in 1948. When Gauhati University was formally inaugurated in 1948, it initially followed the Syllabus of Calcutta University and Khasi was automatically offered as an MIL subject. The Khasi language was upgraded into an elective subject and was later accorded a full-fledged literature University course for undergraduate students in 1965 by the Gauhati University.

Three years after the North-Eastern Hill University was opened in Shillong, Honours degree in Khasi was offered by the fledging university. The subject became very popular with hundreds of students opting for Honours in Khasi in the subsequent years. This fact together with the prolificacy of books of high literary quality on different branches of Literature brought many prominent leaders of Khasi society together, to move for the creation of the Post-Graduate Department of Khasi in the North-Eastern Hill University. This move was brought to fruition in 1981 when the M.A. Programme in Khasi was started.The research programmes of the Department were started in 1984, just three years after its inception. At present many students and research scholars have been awarded the M.A, MPhil and PhD degrees in Khasi by the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong.

Currently, the Khasi language is used as a medium of instruction and a subject in the primary schools (Khasi medium schools). It is taught as a second language (vernacular) in secondary schools, a vernacular subject in Gauhati University and Calcutta University, a Modern Indian Language (MIL) subject, an Elective and Honours subject in colleges. It is a subject and a medium of instruction for M.A., MPhil and PhD programmes in the North-Eastern Hill University, Shillong. Standard Khasi has been accorded the status of Associate Official Language in the state of Meghalaya in 2005.

Use of Khasi:

The language is also used in many other domains apart from the home domain. It is used in public meetings at the different levels of society, in church services, in meetings and in performing traditional Khasi religious ceremonies. The theatre, which is a favourite form of entertainment for the Khasis, has seen seen several theatrical groups produce plays and skits to amuse, entertain, and educate people on many important plays. he SBUK, Humour Society of the Khasis have entertained audiences throughout the Khasi and Jaintis Hills with their comedies and satires, and their radio and street plays. The love of Khasi people for music was evident from the number of songs sung during sowing, planting and harvest seasons, which reflected their closeness to nature. The Shillong Chamber Choir which has won many awards and prizes including the much coveted “India’s Got Talent” award is a result of this long tradition of Khasi music and song. Khasi in Media: The media is another domain where Standard Khasi has flourished. flourished. The first Khasi newspaper U Nongkit Khubor was printed at Star Press Calcutta and was circulated to the reading public of Khasi and Jaintia Hills in November 1889. In 1914 a newspaper by the name of “U Nongphira” was banned by the British Government for making unpatriotic comments on the war, i.e. unpatriotic to the British. After the country’s independence Khasi newspapers, dailies and weeklies increased in number. At present, there are innumerable Khasi newspapers in circulation. Thus print media in this language has advanced and developed significantly throughout the last century. Standard Khaki has made great strides in electronic media. The All India Radio has been running various programmes in the language where songs, talks, discussions etc. are a regular feature. The electronic media though television, has made a great impact in Khasi society especially in telecasting news. Apart from Doordarshan, there are several private channels running Khasi programmes. Many film production companies have also produced Khasi films that project the social concerns of society. Khasi Polity: In the Khasi political set up, the dorbar kur or the ‘durbar of the clan’ forms an important unit that looks after the affairs of the clan and elects its representatives to the dorbar raid or the council constituted by groups of villages.The dorbar at the village level looks after the physical welfare of the village notwithstanding the fact that they might belong to different kurs or clans. The dorbar raid normally settles inter-village disputes through customary laws or existent laws. At the highest level is the dorbar hima (the state) presided over by the syiem or chief. In the original political set-up of the Khasis there were 25 states or himas.The head of sixteen himas were the syiems; three himas the lyngdohs; one hima the wahdadar and five himas the sardar (or sometimes spelt sirdar) ; all duly elected heads of states. The kind of democracy practiced by the Khasis is as ancient as their oral heritage. In the Jaiñtia Hills the doloiships were originally the raids under the Jaiñtia Hima. When the Jaiñtias were defeated by the British, the syiem abdicated and left a splintered hima giving rise to doloiship political entities in the respective raids that were taken charge of by the dolois. These were the Elakas. The Matrilineal system in Khasi society: The oral story about the Khasi matrilineal society centres around a decision that was consciously made by the menfolk. It is believed that as Men constantly went to war, there was a fear that the race would be wiped out. In such case, it was decided to make women the keepers of the family name and subsequently of society’s values. they entrusted the family name to the women who would not only be the caretakers but also guard the family inheritance and culture. Another story, apparently lost today, speaks of a more complex bestowal upon women, which ultimately sees women as the upholders of a world view, the custodians of the race. The matrilineal system in the Khasi and Jaiñtia Hills functions from an important basis, that is, that gender roles are clearly defined. Although children bear the mother’s name, the woman is not the reigning matriarch.The inheritance goes to the youngest daughter who also inherits liabilities too. Being the natural custodian of the family she has to look after any unmarried sibling, uncle, aunt, parents, orphaned nieces or nephews etc. After marriage the husband lives with his wife in her house (matrilocal residence). This is the accepted practice even today, until the couple is able to stand on their own feet; except of course, in the case of a man marrying the youngest daughter. The man’s role as father and uncle are equally important. His sister’s children are his welfare too and he feels responsible for their proper upbringing. Ideally, his children too would have their own uncle who would be equally responsible. There have been many changes within the family structure but by and large the Khasi family has still retained its original make-up. The extended family is very important.

The Arts:

In Khasi thought it is considered taboo to make images or carve pictures of ancestors and reigning deities or of anything or anyone who is held in high esteem. An effigy may only be used to divert the attention of wild animals in forests or during festivals and celebrations. This is the reason why the funeral cortege must also be destroyed as it becomes associated with the deceased. In the Behdeinkhlam festival in Jaiñtia Hills the majestic tableaus must all be ritualistically destroyed. The monoliths, cromlechs, cairns and wayside resting places are simple structures with no figures carved in them. Spun cloth has no such pattern; even clothes that are worn only have tassels that give them body and bounce. Baskets are woven for utilitarian purposes. Thus the human face and human body are living dimensions that must not be flaunted even in art and craft. This is the reason why there is no tradition of etching the human body in any medium whatsoever. However, nowadays Khasi art and craft is moving towards newer themes taken from the modern world.

The Origins of Khasi Folk Drama:

Khasi folk drama is deeply founded in religion and ritual. The thepmawbah ritual or the interring of an ancestor’s bones in the ancestral cromlech of the clan symbolises the unity of the clan. Special dances and songs are performed for about three to five days. Effigies of the male and female ancestors are made, Ka puron and U Tyngshop. “Ka Puron who represents the first maternal grandmother of the clan is symbolically projected through a Khasi cone-shaped basket draped with expensive muslin . . . U Tyngshop who symbolizes the first maternal uncle of the clan . . . is made to resemble an old man properly dressed and attired as a Khasi man of olden days.” The ritual of Ka Lyngka Ka Pungrei, performed on the death of an unmarried person, is an attempt to placate the spiritof the dead person who remained unmarried in life. It is a mock marriage ceremony performed between two living persons impersonating the dead. They are made to jump over a mortar and pestle and to eat together from one plate.

For the Khasi procreation is a divinely ordained duty for the benefit of the clan. The phawar formed an important extension of drama for it entailed dialogue and impersonation in an extensively symbolic way. The complex oral exchange, which is traditionally extempore, carried on between the members of two marriage parties, is in effect, a performance of a kind, intended to bring about the union of the two clans in a fortuitous manner.

Linguistic Features of Standard Khasi:

Phonologically, the language has 50 phonemes – 27 consonant sounds, 11 pure vowels, 12 diphthongs and one triphthong.

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Language Family :

Region Spoken In : Wardha, Nanded, Chandrapur, Amaravati, Usmanabad and Yavatmal districts
Number of Speakers :

Kolami is an ancient Dravidian language spoken by the Kolami tribals living in the Gondvanaarea of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. In Maharashtra, the Kolamis live in and around Wardha, Nanded, Chandrapur, Amaravati, Usmanabad and Yavatmal districts. Experts say that 75% of the population of Kolamis is concentrated in Yavatmal district, especially in Wani and Kelapur.Kinwat taluk of Nanded district also has a large number of Kolamis.

According to some experts, their place of origin is in the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu and hence their language is influenced by Tamil; while some others opine that theyoriginally belonged to Lasina in Yavatmal district and from there they moved to Nanded in Maharashtra and Adilabad in Andhra Pradesh.

Kolamis call themselves ‘Kolawar’. Kolawan is singular and Kolawar is the plural form of the name. The community members call their language ‘Kolav pana’ or ‘Kolavan gotti’.According toBahu Mandavkar Kolami is an ancient language.

The Kolami community use the Kolami language to converse with each other. Those living in Andhra Pradesh converse in Telugu while the Kolamis of Maharashtra speak Marathi with people outside their community.

Region Spoken In : Thane, Nashik, Dhule and Nandurbar districts

The Konkana language is spoken by a relatively small number of Konkana tribals on the border of Maharashtra and Gujarat. In Maharashtra, the Konkana adivasis (or the early inhabitants of Konkan) are scattered in Thane, Nashik, Dhule and Nandurbar districts. They also live in some parts of Gujarat such as Surat, Dharmpur, Dang and Ahwa and in the union territory of Diu and Daman. According to some historians, their origin is in the Ratnagiri region of Konkan. They were sent to the Jawahar state that was protected mainly by the Gambhirgad fort. They migrated to the north, especially to Dadra, Nagar Haveli and Gujarat, during the notorious Durgadevi famine between 1396 and 1408. They then went further to the Deccan plateau and to the north of Nashik to Peth, Surgana, Kalwan, Baulan, Sakri, Dhule and Dang. The west side of the Nashik district is generally known as the ‘Konkani region’.

The geographical terrain occupied by the Konkana tribals is roughly 350 by 100 kilometres. Surgana (Maharashtra), Dharmpur and Vasda (Gujarat) were once independent states (Sansthanas) being ruled by the Konkana kings. This region got divided between Maharashtra and Gujarat when linguistic states were created in 1960. Konkana tribals speak Konkana when they are in the company of their family or community members.

Region Spoken In : Ladakhi is the principal language of the Ladakh region
Number of Speakers : 104618

Ladakhi Geographical Language

Ladakhi is the principal language of the Ladakh region (both Leh & Kargil districts).

Other Name:

Ladakhi is generally called Western Archaic Tibetan.


According to the 2001 Census, Ladakhi has 104,618 speakers approximately.

Recognition as State Language: The State of Jammu & Kashmir has recognised Ladakhi as one of the state languages.

Region Spoken In : Ri Bhoi district
Number of Speakers : 2500

Marngar is the name of a Raid located in Ri Bhoi district.

Name of Language and People:

The people residing in this place and their language are also called after the name of the Raid, i.e., Marngar.

Names of Villages language is spoken in:

Marngar language is spoken in seven villages. These villages are

  1. Marngar
  2. Umjarasi
  3. Mawtnum
  4. Umbuda
  5. Mawphru
  6. Nongkhrah
  7. Їew Mawlong

Number of Speakers: The number of speakers speaking Marngar language is approximately 2500.

Region Spoken In : Mikir is spoken by the Karbi of Ri Bhoi District.
Number of Speakers : 20,000

Karbi language which is also known as Mikir is spoken by the Karbi of Ri Bhoi District.

Preferred Name by Speakers: The Karbis of Ri Bhoi prefer to call their language Mikir.

Names of Villages Language is spoken in:

  1. This language is spoken in many villages of Ri Bhoi such as Umwang
  2. Placha
  3. Kharpati
  4. Him Pala
  5. Pyrduwa
  6. Khamar
  7. Umchakait
  8. Umphing
  9. Umta
  10. Umshit
  11. Ingjal (A & B)
  12. Byrmaiñ
  13. Khulia
  14. Belkuri
  15. Umrang
  16. Pahamingding
  17. Pahamdumu
  18. Pahampdem
  19. Rongpharkhang
  20. Umsaw Nongdhi
  21. Umkarpiang
  22. Sohliya
  23. Umstem
  24. Dews

Region Spoken In : Gudalur Taluk of the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu and in the Wynaad district of Kerala Number of Speakers :
Geographical Location:

Mullukurumbas, a distinct tribal community are living in Gudalur Taluk of the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu and in the Wynaad district of Kerala. The eastern part of Wynaad is contiguous with Gudalur Taluk. Though, they have been divided by the inter-state boundary of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, they have close contact among themselves. This area which was a thick jungle until 50 to 60 years ago is multi-lingual with multi-ethnic population of both tribals and non-tribals. The natural resources of this area attracted the people from different parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The tribal languages of this area like Paniya, Betta Kurumba, Kattunayakka and Mullukurumba are not only differ from the non-tribal languages but also from one another. Geographically, Mullukurumbas are living amidst the speakers of South Dravidian languages and their speech is closely related to Tamil and Malayalam.

Group of Language:

Mullukurumba language comes under Dravidian group of languages, specfically under South Dravidian languages.

Name of the Tribe:

Mullukurumbas consider that they belong to the veṭuvar tribe (hunters). They once ruled a part of Wynaad with the capital at Bhuthadi. The king was referred to as Veṭa Raja. According to their folk tales, the present name Mullukurumba is a creation of the Nairs of Wynaad during the Nair supremacy. In addition, there are different legends regarding the name of this tribe. One version is that they are the mūla kurumba (original kurumba) mula > mullu in course of time. They are also called by the local people as muppen. The term muppen means headman in their speech. However, today the term mullukurumba is used to refer to the tribe without any connotation. It is simply an ethnic name. The same name is used in the Government records and for all official purposes.

Physical Features:

Mullukurumba are tall or medium in stature with long and narrow faces. Their colour is mostly brown and some of them are black. But some of them are fair skinned with long hair. They have well proportionate body structure.

Food Habits:

The staple diet of Mullukurumba is rice and they also eat ragi and samai. They cultivate these crops. They are non-vegetarian, but they do not eat beef. The children and adults take meals three times a day. As hunting is rare and Un-profitable, the Mullukurumbas cook vegetables almost all the days. The first meal is called kattalu which consists of rice or millet gruel. The noon meal is cooked rice or rice gruel with vegetables. The same they eat for night. They now drink coffee and tea. They do not eat the flesh of bison or monkey nor do they ever eat the flesh of deceased animals and birds.


They call the settlement as Vitu which consists of a number of houses. They call the house pera which consists of only one room. The number of houses in a settlement varies from one or two to eighty. The houses are arranged in a planned manner facing an open quadrangle. If the settlement is large, there will be more than one quadrangle. There are lanes connecting the quadrangles. In the centre of each settlement there exists a teyvappera (temple house). There are separate sheds to husk the grains called koṭṭulu. The houses are built in the sloppy land, leveled and terraced.

The settlements of Mullukurumbas are considerably distinct from those of others and so they are easily identifiable. The houses are arranged in neat rows with uniform colour scheme of walls and verandahs on four sides, with the lanes. The settlements are kept clean. The roofs are high with their eaves reaching low and covering the varandahs.

The house of Mullukurumba is rectangular in shape consisting of generally one room. But in rare cases, it has been participated into two. Usually the houses are constructed by themselves. They build the house with mud, bamboo, timber and paddy straw. Nowa-days, they use un burnt rectangular bricks for the construction of walls. Exactly opposite to the front door is another door way on the rear side. No windows are found in the houses. The only one room of the house is used for all purposes.


Mullukurumas are strictly monogamic, and hence the practise of Polyandry is not found among them. There are four exogamous clans called Kulam among them. They believe that the members belong to a particular clan are descendants of one mother. So, they cannot arrange marriage with in a clan.

There are four types of marriages among them, i.e. arranged marriages, marriage by elopement, marriage by force and another form of marriage called mukka vazhi (three fourth of the way) in which the bride, who is a widow or a divorcee is met by the groom’s party somewhere halfway between her house and groom’s house and get married. In all the four types of marriages, the residence after marriage is patrilocal.

Among the castes and tribes of South India, it is customary for a boy to marry the daughter of his maternal uncle or paternal aunt. But the Mullukurumbas prohibit any such marriage. The first thing in arranging a marriage is that the alliance should not be from his own clan. They never arrange marriage in the same settlement or among the relatives. So the marriage of Mullukurumbas conform to the principles of tribal endogamy, clan exogamy, veedu exogamy and kin exogamy. Marriages are arranged only after they become adults. The initiative for an alliance should come from the bridegroom’s party.

Mullukurumbas permit divorce and to marry any number of times after widowhood or divorce. The widows do not suffer from any social restrictions. Even the widows do not remove the tāli (marriage badge).

During marriage rituals, when the bridegroom’s father goes to the bride’s house to ask for her in marriage, he first goes and sits on the verandah of the temple house. All the negotiations between bride’s party and bridegroom’s party take place in the temple house. It is here that the bridegroom’s party pays the parisa panam to the bride’s father and fixes the date of marriage. When the bridegroom’s party arrives bride’s house on the marriage day to take the bride to their house, the bride is met in the temple house and the mock fight takes place there. They are served food in the temple house and from there, the bridegroom’s party returns to their settlement with the bride. The temple house is the place where a newly married couple spend their first night.


Mullukurumbas do not practice joint family system. When a boy gets married, he is asked to set up his family separately. So, the nuclear family is predominant. For the purposes of clan succession, Mullukurumbas adopt matriliny i.e. the children belong to the clan of the mother. But they follow patriliny descendance for property succession. However rich a Mullukurumba may be, daughters are not given any share in their property. If there is no male issue they are allowed to adopt a son. Otherwise the property will go to their male relations. The eldest son succeeds as head of the family, after his father’s death. Sons inherit the property only after the death of the father.

Role of Women:

Mullukurumba women participate in all social and religious activities. The women folk play a major role in the economic activities. They assist the men folk in their agricultural activities. They go for fishing in the nearby streams and rivers. Poultry, animal husbandry and hand pounding industry are the additional economic activities which are mainly done by women folk. Some of them generate an income by working as agricultural labourers. Generally, Mullukurumba males and females are hard working and prefer to lead independent life.

Child Birth:

Mullukurumbas observe birth pollution for nine days. On the nineth day, the baby and its mother are taken to the temple house after a bath. Her parents or brother or her clan member bring a piece of new cloth in which they receive the baby inside the temple house. Then the food cooked in her husband’s house is served as an offering to the ancestors after which they all leave for her husband’s house.


When a girl attains puberty she will be kept in a separate hut nearby her home. The pu-berty ceremony takes place in the seventh day on which food is cooked in the temple house and the girl is brought as far as the verandah of the temple house to receive her food. After that all in the settlement will be served food.

Death Ceremony:

Burial is the common mode of disposal of the dead, hut cremation is also allowed for those who wish it, irrespective of the social status. As soon as a Mullukurumba dies in-formation is sent to relatives and friends and the body is brought to the temple house. After the arrival of the relatives the body is washed in the cold water. They bury the body with its head towards south. In the case of males the head is slightly tilted towards the East and his bow and arrows, a knife, a little cooked rice, a bunch of plantains and tobacco are placed by the side of the corpse. In the case of females, the head is slightly tilted towards the West and the articles mentioned above except bow and arrow are put by the side of the corpse. If there is any death in a settlement, all the inhabitants fast till the body is taken away.

The pulekkuḷi (death pollution breaking) is celebrated on any odd day like 3 , 5 or 7 day hut within seven days. On that day the temple house is cleaned and all the members of the family take oil bath. They have the belief that on the third day after the celebration of pulekkuḷi, the spirit of the deceased is joining with the spirits of the ancestors.

Social Organisation (Administration):

A well ordered social system prevails among the Mullukurumbas. In every house the eldest male member is the central figure controlling every activity. Similarly each settlement has a headman called pornan. He is more responsible for the ceremonies than for the social discipline. They have another headman called muppen for the enforcement of social discipline over three or four settlements. They have another tribal head called taleccalu who is above the muppen. Above all they have a headman called putaṭittampiran who is a Nair land lord. He is the supreme headman of Mullukurumbas found both is Wynaad district and Gudalur Taluk. Adultery within the tribe and clan incest are viewed seriously and punished. Adultery with a man outside the tribe shall result in ex-communication.


Mullukurumbas are classified as Hindus by the census enumerators. But they follow folk religion. Mullukurumbas do not have any temple of their own. But each settlement has a divine house called ceyvappera meaning temple house in the main quadrangle. There is no idol inside the temple house. But they believe that their clan deity is living there. The eldest male member of the settlement is in charge of the temple house. They are superstitious and believe in evil spirits. They believe that all people survive after death in the form of ghosts. So during the festivals, they make the offerings to the ghosts before serving others. Nowadays one can find the impact of modern Hinduism on the religious practices of Mullukurumbas.


The system of oral learning and teaching was valued high in Mullukurumba culture. They have a rich repertoire of folklore. They have different types of folksongs, tales, riddles and proverbs. vattakkaḷi and kolkali are the two types of folk dances found among them. They perform these dances during the festivals and ceremonies. But they do not use any musical instruments.

Folk Songs: Four types of folk songs are found among Mullukurumbas viz. vattakkaḷi songs, kolkaḷi songs, songs with storytelling and aintatipattu. During the folk dances vattakkaḷi and kolkaḷi they sing a song called ati at the beginning; followed by ati they sing various songs. The theme of the vattakkaḷi songs are related to their traditional occupation of hunting. But theme of the kolkaḷi songs and the songs followed by the story are related to the theme of Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Now a day the younger generation has started to sing cinema songs during these folk dances.

Folk Dance Vattakkaḷi and kolkaḷi are the folk dances found among the Mullukurumbas. According to the Mullukurumba informants vattakkaḷi is the traditional folk dance found among them. During vattakkaḷi, not less than seven gents will stand in a circular form in front of the temple house and sing songs with clapping and dancing. During kolkaḷi they stand in a circular form, holding two sticks in the hands and sing songs with time beating and dancing. Ladies will not participate in both these dances. At the beginning they sing a song called ati by which they are requesting the help of their deity. Usually these dances will be performed during marriage and puberty ceremonies and during important festivals.

Folk Tale:

The earliest source for the history of Mullukurumbas is the oral literature which has lived long from mouth to mouth. Since there is no written record available to trace the origin of Mullukurumbas, the folk tales exist among them pave some way to trace their pre-history. There are different tales regarding the origin of Mullukurumbas, origin of Vattakkaḷi and kolkaḷi, origin of clan, origin of two settlements, etc. Many folk tales who are being told to the children are also available among them.

Region Spoken In : Ramaranai, Talamalai, Galidimabam and Kodipuram of Talaimalai village and in Uppatti of Asanur village

Madras census report 1891, reports that, “the Kurumbas or Kurubas are the modern rep-resentatives of the ancient Kurumbas or Pallavas, who were once so powerful throughout southern India, but very little trace of their greatness now remains. In the seventh century, the power of the Pallava kings seems to have been at its zenith; but, shortly after this, the Kongu, Chola and Chalukya chiefs succeeded in winning several victories over them. The final over throw of the Kurumba sovereighty was effected by the Chola King Adondai about the seventh or eighth century AD, and the Kurumbas were scattered far and wide, many fled to the hills in the Nilgiris, Wynad, Coorg and Mysore”.

According to Oppert, “Kurubas or Kurumbas must be regarded as very old inhabitants of this land, who can contest with their Dravidian Kingsmen, the priority of occupation of the Indian soil. The terms Kuruba and Kurumba are originally identical though the one form is, in different places, employed for the other, and has thus occasionally assumed a special local meaning”.

Zvelebil has categorised the Kurumba tribal communities according to the present state of knowledge as following:

  1. Alu Kurumba
  2. Palu Kurumba
  3. Betta Kurumba
  4. Mullu Kurumba
  5. Jenu Kurumba or Kattu Naicka
  6. Urali Kurumba

Introduction to Palu Kurumba:

The Palu Kurumbas are a preliterate community and are a pastoral group, living in isolation with other tribal communities. They are now found in the hill tracts of Tamilnadu, Kerala and Karnataka. The Palu Kurumba tribe live in nine villages along the upper course of Bhavani river and South western uplands of the Nilgiris of Tamilnadu. They are also found in Coimbatore and Periyar districts of Tamilnadu and also in some bordering areas of Kerala and Karnataka.

Geographical Location:

The Palu Kurumbas are found in Ramaranai, Talamalai, Galidimabam and Kodipuram of Talaimalai village and in Uppatti of Asanur village. However, they are mostly found in Ramaranai hamlet where 22 families (kudis) are living. In Uppatti and Galidimbam there are 4 kudos and in Talamalai and Kodipuram there are 3 kudis and in all total the population figure of the Palukurumbas is around 180.


There are no written records to state about the details regarding the migration of the Pa-lukurumbas. However, there is some information available in their folk literature. Ac-cording to that it is possible to predict to a certain extent that they have originally mi-grated from the Nilgiris to this part of hill terrain in the middle of 18 century in search of shelter, protection and subsistence.

According to one legend, currently prevalent among the Palu kurumbas that two brothers by name Madan and Mari have migrated to this place along with their family and settled here. It is generally believed that they might have migrated from Nilgiris in the middle of 18 century. They even now have a belief that the spirit will go to Nilgiris after the death of a person. Subsequently, in order to give their respect and homage to the departed soul, the Palu kurumbas mainly during the death anniversary of their dead ancestors visit Nilgiris, do the ceremonies and appease the spirits which are believed to abide in Nilgiris.

Physical Features:

Palu Kurumbas are short and dark skinned people with broad nose and their lips are comparatively thick. It is very easy to identify them from the other ethnic communities living there because of their above features coupled with matted hair, which give a look exclusive to this community.


Traditionally Palu Kurumbas are food gatherers and even now they mostly depended purely on the forest produce and agriculture. They roam about in the forest throughout the year irrespective of seasonal changes. They collect various kinds of edible roots, berries, moss found both in stones and trees, wax, wild grass and forest seeds. Also they exhibit a tremendous amount of courage and skill in procuring honey from the hives of wild bees found in rocky cliffs and in tall trees. Rearing cattle is also common to Palu Kurumbas and almost every family has its own cattle. They take their cattle interior to the forest, daily for grazing and they sell milk to nearby areas. Now their life style has been changed considerably due to the Government schemes. The establishment of tribal co-operative society helps them considerably in maintaining their economy. It is through these co-operative societies that the forest produce collected by them are purchased and sold to outside market. Besides this, they also concentrated on agriculture for their basic needs. The Government assists them by supplying free seeds and financial assistance. In spite of stringent rules imposed by the forest department for hunting and consuming the meat of the wild animals, Palu Kurumbas at times go for hunting as they find the meat of wild pig and mangoose as delicious.


It is uncommon to find Palu Kurumbas live in isolation. Their hamlets consist of ten to twenty huts. The hamlet is called Kudi

The huts in Kudi are built from locally available wood, bamboo, wild grass and mud. The settlement of huts is in a scattered pattern where the huts are located far from one another leaving sufficient space for gardening and rearing cattle etc. The walls of the huts are made up of mud and also there is no cement flooring. The mud floor is kept very neat with frequent smearing of cow-dung. The roof is thatched with either grass or paddy straw.

They build their huts on their own with the help of relatives. The huts normally have one room with a partition. One corner of the partitioned portion is used for cooking and another corner for storage of grains.


Basically Palu Kurumbas are non-vegetarians. The forest provides them plenty of opportunities for it. They hunt wild pig, deer and wild fowl. They have ragi, rice, corn and samai as part of their food. Ragi is their main food and it is mainly cultivated by themselves in the forest land. Rice is considered to be a luxury item and it is not a day to day affair for them.

Consumption of tobacco and smoking beedi are very common among men and even among young people. During celebrations and festive occasions they do drink for the sake of celebration. They have feasts during marriage, ceremonies and festivals when varieties of food and meat are served. A liquor crudely brewed out of rice is the most important item during the celebrations.

Dress and Ornaments:

In the past, the male dress consisted of either a bit of cloth cover around the waist and the women tied a long single piece of cloth around their body leaving the shoulder and arms bare. In contrast to this, now both men and women of Palu kurumbas are seen with dresses as worn by people of the plains. In olden days men knotted their hair into a tuft at the back of the head. Now the younger generation usually cut their hair. During festivity the women wear all of their ornaments like nose stud, ear rings, neck lace, chains, bangles and anklets. Married women always wear a yellow thread, the sacred symbol of wed-lock.


They have a stock of tales and riddles about love and other aspects of life which reflects the aspects of their culture and world view. As a change from grazing cattle and assisting the parents the young children amuse themselves with tales and riddles.

Children of both the sexes are fond of playing hide and seek. Boys normally play kabbadi and also practice wrestling. Now the younger generation is very much attracted towards film songs and they often tune the radio.

Tattooing: Tattooing is a traditional practice of Palu kurumbas. However they could not attribute it to any religious or social importance. Mostly the ladies are seen with tattooed figures on their body. Men also can be seen with tattoo. Generally, the figures of the star, animal and flower are tattooed. The tattooing is done either in the forearm or in the forehead. Normally men tattoo only in the fore arm. The tattooing is done by persons belonging to a nomadic tribal community, who often visit the palu kurumbas settlement exclusively for this purpose.


The clan organisation is an important spherical ring in the tribal design. The Palu Ku-rumba’s clan is called as kula in their speech. The clan system can be defined as an ex-ogamous division and the members of the system are related to one another by same common ties. There are totally eight clans that exist among the Palu Kurumbas of Rama-ranai.

As opposed to the clan system of Palu Kurumbas living in Ramaranai, the Palu Kurum-bas living in Nilgiris have 12 clans. The strict enforcement of clan system and the different social stigmas attached to each and every clan with references to the marriage and other social norms help the community to function smoothly and stay healthy.


Their society is basically a patriarchal society where the male member is the absolute head under whose authority and protection the family lives and functions together. Their family is a self contained unit, which possess a separate hut, livestock, domestic implements and a small piece of agricultural land. Son is the official successor to the rights and duties of his father. He is entitled to perform the rituals and works of his father. The old parents though live separately, are taken care of by their children. Though man plays a dominant role in the family affairs, the women too are not completely neglected.

Political Organisation:

The political life of Palu kurumbas reflect a paradoxical situation in which democracy and monarchy co-exist. Each clan selects its head to represent the clan. Every head of the clan is honoured and accepted as the head of the group. In turn the clan heads select the tribal chief who heads the council. The tribal chief is the supreme judicial authority at the tribal level. The council selects a religious leader called pujari from kurunagar kulam to officiate pujas and ceremonies.

Inter-Tribal and Tribal-Nontribal Communication:

Palu kurumbas are multilingual and they speak Tamil, Kannada and their own mother tongue. The inter-tribal communication is minimal and if such communication takes place, a form of Kannada mixed with their own language is used since the other tribes living there speak a dialect or a language of Kannada origin. Since, there is no market existing exclusively for tribes and they have to go to Talamalai or Talavadi where Tamils and Kannadikas are prominently found. They go to Satyamangalam which is approximately 35 kms. away from their place, mostly for purchasing and meeting officers of the tribal society for seeking financial assistance. Owing to non-tribal settlements present in meeting places such as Dimbam, Talamalai which have risen for business purposes, the interaction between the tribals and non-tribals takes place either in Tamil or Kannada. The choice of the lingua franca used in such a circumstance is conditioned by the mother tongue of the non-tribal with whom the tribes interact. This language choice further reveals the dependence of the tribes over the non-tribal people of the area.

Inter Ethnic Relationship:

In addition to Palu kurumbas there are some other tribal communities living in the adjoining pockets of Talamalai range. They are Soligas, Uralis and Lambadis- a gipsy tribe. Their relationship with other tribes is smooth and no rivalry exists. A clear ethnic seclusion is maintained by them since they believe that they are superior to other tribes.

The other tribes held them in a certain awe and maintain a distance as they are regarded as sorcerers and magicians. Many stories about Palu kurumbas are prevalent among them. One such story is stated by Mandalbaum, which says “A man was first rendered uncons-cious by magical manipulation of plant leaf incantation. They then ripped open his abdomen, extracted the entrails which they cooked and ate, filled the cavity with dirt and stones then closed it so that no scar showed. On awakening, the victim remembered nothing of what had happened to him, but within eighteen days he would sicken and die”.

Region Spoken In : Villages of Ri Bhoi District Number of Speakers : 3000

The Tiwa language also known as Lalung.

Geographical Location:

The Tiwa language is also spoken in some villages of Ri Bhoi District, namely - Maiong, Makadoh, Lumphuit, Amjong, Amphreng, Amdubighat and Amkhang. These villages are situated on the border of Ri Bhoi District of Meghalaya and Karbi Anglong district of Assam.

Names of Clans residing in the villages:

The Tiwa clans who reside in these villages are Punah, Amsing, Kholar, Khukhai, Dewri, Markhang, Mithi, Hugai, Torphang, Khamli and Melang.

Number of Speakers: The number of people speaking this language is approximately 3000.

Language Family : Dravidian Family Group and is grouped under South Dravidian I Region Spoken In : Nilgiri plateau of southern India


The Toda people are a small pastoral community living on the isolated Nilgiri plateau of southern India. The Toda community lives with the other communities like Badaga, Kota, and Kuruba before 18 century. Toda enjoyed prestige and considered elite. Its population has been estimated around 900 during the last century. However, the Toda people and the language attracted a significant number of scholars from the fields of Anthropology and Linguistics, due to their ethnological aberrancy. The study conducted by the anthropologists and linguists would contribute to the creation of Social Anthropology and Ethnomusicology.

Language Family:

Toda belongs to the Dravidian Family Group and is grouped under South Dravidian I.

Living place

They live in settlements consisting of three to seven small thatched houses in the shape of half-barrels. The Todas live in hamlets called as munds and each mund consists of five buildings or huts out of which three are for dwellings, one as a diary-temple and buffalo pen. The dwellers in a mund are generally related and consider themselves as one family.

A Toda hut is built of bamboo fastened with rattan and thatched and closed within a wall of loose stones. The dressed stones (mostly granite) are used in the front and back of the hut. The entrance of a hut is tiny (about 3 feet (90 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) tall). In order to avoid the entrance of wild animals into the hut, these small entrances are constructed at the front side of the huts.

The aesthetic sense of the Todas is revealed through the decoration of Toda art forms at the front portion of a hut, a kind of rock mural painting.


Lives of Todas are centered around buffalos and therefore their religious activities are mainly connected with them. They traditionally trade dairy products with the neighboring communities. They have a tradition of rich poetic songs that are complex. These songs are woven and chanted on the cult of buffalo.

During the last century, the pastoral land of Toda community was lost because of the intrusion of outsiders and due to the afforestation by the Government of Tamilnadu. Modernization in a way was a threat to undermine the Toda culture.

The community was studied and continued to be studied by the international community of scholars from the fields of Anthropology and Linguistics. The Toda lands are now a part of The Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO designated International Biosphere Reserve.

Population & Geographical Distribution:

The population of Todas as per 1981 census is 875. The Todas live in Todanad, Kundhanad, Peranganad and Merkunad in the Nilgiris. Their settlements are found in three taluks Udhagamandalam, Coonoor and Kotagiri. A study of census data reveals that the population of the Todas has remained almost static over the past decades.

Toda Society:

Toda society has two endogamous sub-divisions called Toreas and Towfily. Toda society is traditionally a pastoral society. The Todas and Kotas have shared genes that separate them from the other neighboring tribes of the Nilgiri Hill. It is reported that they have close affinity with the Greek Cypriots


The Todas wear mostly a single piece of cloth over a dhoti for men and skirt for women.


Toda economy is based on cattle-herding and dairy-work.

Practice of Polyandry: It is reported that fraternal polyandry was common in the traditional Toda society but in the age of modern times this practice has largely been given up. They practiced fraternal polyandry, a practice in which a woman marries the brothers of a family.

Male-Female Ratio: The ratio of female and male is 3:5.


The Todas are generally vegetarian and do not eat meat, egg and fish. However, some villagers take fish. Butter, butter milk, yogurt and cheese are produced from the milk of buffaloes. They eat rice along with the dairy products and curries.


There are many theories regarding the origin of the Todas. Some are of the opinion that they migrated to the hills about 800 ago years from Karnataka and those who hold this view consider them as a people who have descended as a result of isolation. There is evidence for the fact that the Todas were in the Nilgiris by 1117 AD

The Todas have their own story about the origin of human beings and the buffalo they worship. It is said that the goddess Teikirshy and her brother first created the sacred buffalo and then the first Toda man. The Toda man then created the first woman from his right rib.

Position of Women in Community:

The Toda Religion places restriction on the movement of women of Toda community. The women from Toda community are supposed not to cross the bridges of the river. But they are permitted to cross the river either by foot or swimming.

Religious Practises:

The temples of Todas are constructed in a circular pit lined with stones and they look like their huts in appearance.

The holy milkmen while acting as priests of the sacred diaries are subjected to heavy restrictions during the whole time of their incumbency. It may last for many years. He has to live at the sacred dairy and not allowed to visit his home or ordinary village. He is a celibate and if he is married, he must leave his wife and live in the diary. Since both the holy milkman and the dairy are considered to be pure and holy, ordinary persons are not allowed to touch the holy milkman and the dairy. The touch of an ordinary person on the holy milkman is viewed as defile and that would forfeit him his office. An ordinary layman of Toda community could approach him for two days only in a week (Mondays and Thursdays). The distance between a layman and the holy milkman is supposed to be a quarter of a mile when he comes for any business on other days. Further, the holy milkman is neither permitted to cut his hair nor trim his nail. He should not cross a river by a bridge but may go through a ford or certain fords. He is prohibited to attend the funeral or death ceremony of a person belonging to his clan. He could attend the ceremony only when he resigns his office and descends from the rank of the milkman to the level of ordinary person. These heavy constraints are imposed in their entirety only on milkman of the very highest class.

Social Organization:

The social organization which plays an important role among the Todas is the caste panchayat (noym), disputes and divorces are referred to the panchayat. Offenders pay the penalty by kind, here buffaloes. Elderly people bless young members’ head and then lift their foot and do the same. This is known as kolmil fidi ‘leg show salutation’. Salutations among the Todas take the form of specific expressions. They greet non-Todas with a salute.

Modernization Modernization which brought different communities closer crossing the barrier of distance has made certain impact on the life of Toda people. First, the people of Toda community came into contact with the people of neighboring communities and other foreigners. Religious conversion is another important social process that brought about many changes in the Toda community. The pastoral life style of Todas was first affected and they took over other occupations. They are originally vegetarians and some of them now move to non-vegetarian food habits. Another change in their life-style is the change of house construction i.e., they are abandoning the traditional huts and constructing modern concrete houses. However, there are attempts to build the traditional barrel- vaulted huts and renovate many sacred dairies.

Christian Todas:

Christian Todas are living in three settlements of Udhagamandalam taluk and their population is around 300. The Christian Todas’ mother tongue is Tamil. Out of 37 Christian Toda, 85.71% of Christian Toda respondents have reported Tamil as their mother tongue. Interestingly 100% of female respondents (12 females) have reported Tamil as their mother tongue. Out of 25 male respondents, 18 (72%) have reported Tamil as their mother tongue. One Christian Toda respondent in the age group of 35-50 has reported Toda as the mother tongue. The other six Christian Toda who reported Toda as their mother tongue are above fifty years of age. Probably these seven people were first generation Christian Todas. Interestingly, Christian Todas married women of Tamil Christians, Malayalee Christians, and Kannadiga Christians. The Christian priests discourage the Toda’s customs and manners. Because of these reasons language shift is taking place among Christian Todas. Based on the present linguistic trends, one may presume that complete language shift may take place among Todas within one or two decades.

Different names of Toda The alternative name for Toda is Tuda. Todas call their language as Otfos.

Toda Language:

Toda is closer to Kota language and both of them are related to Tamil. Prior to Emeneau, there were works dealing with the cultural aspects of Toda community and the structure of Toda language. Caldwell mentions that a book entitled “A Phrenologist among the Todas” was written by Colonel Marshall. The same book contains a valuable epitome of the grammar of Toda language written by Dr. Pope. Emeneau reports that as early as 1837, the Toda language was recognized as a member of Dravidian family by Bernhard Schmid (and even earlier by Henry Harkness in 1832). The uniqueness of Toda language is that it has numerous rules not shared by other members of the South – Dravidian languages. But to a small extent, certain rules are shared by Kota language.

The most interesting matter that has emerged so far is the nature of the Toda song language. It is different in many respects from everyday language. Many differences of detail are merely ‘metrical’. However, the verb structure is really different. It has been established that in the song language the verb has a tenseless paradigm which is ‘archaic’ and very close in detail in part to the reconstructed past tense of the South Dravidian sub-family. Verb forms of this type are also put into the mouths of the gods in some old myths and legends are used in the solemn language of assembly decisions. The song language also has two types of verbal adjectives (unlike those of prose), which correspond to formation to Tamil and reconstructed Dravidian forms; these also have prose use in myths and in prayers. This is a fairly typical case of ‘diglossia’, in which different language forms are dictated by different ‘social’ contexts.

Region Spoken In : Satyamangalam taluk of Erode district in Tamilnadu, situated in the tri junction hill tracts of Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala ** The term Urali means a ruler of a village or people who have inhabited in a village.

Geographical Location:

The Urali speaking settlements are in the Satyamangalam taluk of Erode district in Ta-milnadu, situated in the tri junction hill tracts of Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Kerala. This community is spread over the different districts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and some bordering areas of Karnataka. Mainly they inhabit the hill tracts of the above mentioned states. In Kerala they live mainly in the districts of Wayanad and Idukki.

Abode of Uralis: Following are the eight hamlets in Dimbam forest, Sathyamangalam taluk, Tamilnadu where the Uralis live:

  1. Bejjaluhatti
  2. Mavanattam
  3. Ittrai
  4. Tadasalhatti
  5. Galidimbam
  6. Talamalai
  7. Kodipuram
  8. Ramaranai. The hamlets are approximately 20 kms around the Dimbam forest in different directions.

History and Migration:

Uralis are preliterate community and are a highly pastoralist group living with deviations to agriculture and collection of the forest produce. Though not much is known about the history and migration of uralis, there are some stories prevalent among the community. According to one legend there lived two brothers in olden days in the Goddesal hills by name Karayan and Billaya or Madheswara. The Uralis and Soligas have descended from Karayan. According to the folk tales prevalent in the community, it is understood that they have migrated originally from the Nilgiris in search of food and new land from time immemorial. There is a belief among the Uralis even now that the spirits of the Uralis will go to Nilgiris after the death of the person.


In ancient period the uralis were totally depended on the forest produces and basic need based agriculture. Now their life style is changed considerably owing to several reasons. The government had helped them establishing a hill tribe‘ cooperative society, through which the forest produce Uralis collects are purchased and sold in the open market. Apart from this they rear cows and the cow milk too is purchased by the society for selling in the open market.

Other Ethnic Communities

Apart from Uralis, the other hill tribes who live in the adjacent localities are Soligas, Malai Goundars and Lambadies, a gipsy tribe. Kurumbars and Badagas are distributed in other revenue villages of Talalvadi Panchayath Union.

Urali connected with Irula

Diffloth (1968) noted a new connection can be proposed between Irulas and Uralis. Fur-ther, he stated that linguistic similarities are observed among Uralis who live near Satyamangalam and the Irulas of Nilgiris. This phenomenon was checked by the first author of this monograph and found to be partially correct, in the sense that though certain similarities are noticed among them there are also remarkable social and linguistic differences between them. It is true that the Uralis living in Dimbam, as mentioned earlier believe that their ancestors migrated to the present place from Mountains of Nilgiris centuries ago. Apart from this belief there is no evidence to show that the Uralis of Dimbam have contact at present with the Irulas of Nilgiris. Between these two ethnic communities, there is no social or linguistic contact.

Languge of the Uralis:

Uralis speak besides their tribal mother tongue Urali, a form of Tamil mixed with their mother tongue and also a variety of Kannda mixed with their mother tongue Urali. Most of the Uralis from the older generation do not have any formal education in the two do-minant languages viz. Tamil and Kannada in which they are embedded. In recent times the younger generation is sent to the schools for education and they normally study Tamil as their first language. Both the younger as well as the older generation have active and intensive tribal and non-tribal communication out of social necessity. This often results in the occurrence of convergent and divergent features in their speech variety. For the day to day tribal, non-tribal interactional purposes, Uralis have to use two language codes, namely, Tamil or Kannada, depending on the person with whom they interact. Mostly, inter-tribal and tribal-non tribal interaction is effected by using Tamil as a lingua franca. The language situation prevalent in this area mainly owing to the active role played by the dominant language of the area Tamil in most of the linguistic domains, Uralis are of-ten forced to restrict themselves to use their mother tongue only to the domain of family and during intra-tribal interactional purposes. Upon careful observation, it is possible to describe their speech variety into mainly two categories, namely, the speech of the older generation and of the females who have lesser contact with the outside world on the one hand and other male adults who have a range of varying contacts with other communities. Hence, certain special features of Urali are retained in the speech of the old and of the women (Sammohanlal 1991).