Yethad, Dhordhay, Aapar,… well, neither Greek nor Latin,these are typical Toda names!
One of the earliest settlers of Nilgiris, the ‘Toduvar’ or Todas as they are popularly known are tall and sturdily built people with a unique culture and a phonologically difficult language. A pastoral tribe, these people are (were) lacto vegetarians with the buffalo being the center of almost all activity. It is indeed sad that their number is on the decline… to such extent that it is often said that there are more articles on Todas than their actual numbers!
The most striking feature of a properly attired Toda today is his skillfully embroidered red, black and white shawl (no, not the one worn by the guy on the left… that’s just an ordinary shawl ), worn such that his right shoulder is exposed… the embroidering being done in-house by women. The embroidered shawl is a much sought-after souvenir today!
Living in unique looking half-barrel shaped houses made of bamboo reed, specific grass, rattan cane, etc with a door so small that one would have to squeeze in, these people live (led… as their traditional methods are fast disappearing) a spartan life, just like most other mountain communities.
In the past, they have been known to have practised ‘fraternal polyandry’, where a woman married all the brothers of a family… a practise that could have arisen out of a demand-supply gap with only 3 women per 5 men! Or perhaps their affiliation as ‘Pandav putras’ could explain it partially too. This practise has long been discontinued.
Visit any Toda temple, you will notice a large round shaped stone! Any Toda male who wished to marry had to lift this heavy stone to prove his worthiness to the girl and her family… a practise that has been discontinued 20-30 years back.
Okay, instead of boring you any further, request you to watch this pretty well made documentary in 3 parts on Todas that I found on Youtube. The video appears to jump at places, but neverthless is wonderful!