Toda Ritual – An Ethnolinguistic point of view

Author: Nanjundan Ramesh (Bharathiar University)
Speaker: Nanjundan Ramesh
Topic: Ethnographical language work
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL CALA 2019 General Session


One of the important needs of humans is the desire to preserve the memory of the most meaningful achievements of their lives and to pass on the knowledge about their times, cultures and civilizations to the next generations. Over the centuries, people have developed various ways of transmitting knowledge from generation to generation based on oral tradition (oral culture) and written texts. Because of this, it is nowadays possible to track back and explore even quite distant history, as well as the history of language. Language documentation comprises the collection, processing and archiving of linguistic data – for instance, texts, word lists, recordings of conversations, videos where people tell fairy tales, etc. While people interested in languages have carried out such activities for centuries, the new technologies of our times, but also advances in linguistics and neighboring fields, have led to considerable changes. Toda tribe is the most ancient and unique tribe of Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu in Southern India. They are originally a pastoral community. Prior to the late eighteenth century, the Toda co-existed locally with other communities, including the Badaga, Kota and Kurumba in a loose caste like community organisation. The present Toda population is 1420.T odas are identified as critically endangered list of languages by UNESCO. The Todas have attracted (since the late eighteenth century), “a most disproportionate amount of attention because of these ethnological aberrancy’ and ‘their unlike less to their neighbours in appearance, manners and customs”. The study of their culture by Anthropologists and linguists would prove important in the creation of the fields of social anthropology and ethnomusicology. Todas do have richness in their cultural aspects like marriage, death ceremony, temple re-thatching Toda buffalo oriented rituals like salt giving ceremony and Toda embroidery etc. The present study is an attempt to document a part of Toda’s ritual, a prayer of a particular Toda dairy temple.

Keywords: Toda tribe, Ethnolinguistic study, Ceremony, Southern India