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Castes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) online

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they wear a special nose ornament, called elemukkuththi,
which is only worn on one other occasion, at the funeral
of a husband. The women do puja to Hiriya Udaya,
and the pujari gives them a small quantity of rice on
mlnige (Argyreia) leaves. After eating this, they leave
the temple in a line, and wash their hands with water
given to them by the pQjSri. This ceremonial, perform-
ed by women of the Madhave sept, is called Mande-
dhanda. As soon as the Devve festival is concluded,
the reaping of the crop commences, and a measure or
two of grain from the crop gathered on the first day,
called nlsal, is set apart for the Mahalingaswami temple.


The most important gods of the Badagas are Heth-
theswami, Mahalingaswami, Hiriya Udaya, Madeswara,
Mankali, Jadeswami, and Nllgiri Rangaswami. And at
the present day, some Badagas proceed to the plains, to
worship at the Saivite temple at Karamadai in Coimba-
tore, or at Nanjangod in Mysore.

The festival in honour of Heththeswami is celebrated
in the month of January at Baireganni. It is sometimes
called ermathohabba, as, with it, ploughing operations
cease. It always commences on a Monday, and usually
lasts eight days. A Sedan or Devanga weaver comes
with his portable hand-loom, and sufficient thread for
weaving a dhubati (coarse cloth) and turban. At Baire-
ganni there is a special house, in which these articles are
woven. But, at other places where the festival is
observed, the Badagas go to the weaver's village to
fetch the required cloths. Early on the second morning
of the festival, some of the more respected Badagas and
the weaver proceed to the weaving house after bathing.
The weaver sets up his loom, and worships it by offering
incense, and other things. The Badagas give him a
new cloth, and a small sum of money, and ask him
to weave a dhubati and two kachches (narrow strips
of cloth). Daily, throughout the festival, the Badagas
collect near the temple, and indulge in music and songs.
Until the last day, they are not permitted to set eyes on
the god Heththeswami. On the morning of the last
day, the pujari, accompanied by all the Badagas, takes
the newly woven cloths to a stream, in which they
are washed. When they are dry, all proceed to the
temple, where the idol is dressed up in them, and all,
on this occasion only, are allowed to look at it. Devo-
tees pay a small offering of money, which is placed on a
tray near the idol. The crowd begins to disperse in


the afternoon, and, on their way back to their villages,
the wants of the travellers are attended to by people
posted at intervals with coffee, fruit, and other articles of
food. If the Badagas have to go to a weaver's village for
the cloths, the weaver is, when the order is given for
them, presented with four annas, after he has bathed.
When handing the money to him, the Badagas bawl out
" This is the fee for making the cloths to be worn
by Heththe Iramasthi and Parasakti Parvati." On the
last day of the festival, the cloths are washed, and one of
them is made to represent an idol, which is decorated
with waist and neck ornaments, and an umbrella. All
prostrate themselves before it, and make offerings of
money. Fruits and other things are then offered to
Heththeswami and some recite the following prayer.
" May all good acts be remembered, and all bad ones be
forgotten. Though there may be a thousand and one
sins, may I reach the feet of God."

The following further information in connection with
the Baireganni festival is given by Bishop Whitehead
" The people from other villages offer money, rice, fruits,
umbrellas of gold or silver for the goddess, cloths, and
buffaloes. The buffaloes are never killed, but remain as
the property of the temple. The pujari calls the re-
presentatives of one village, and tells them what Hethe-
swami says to him, e.g., ' This year you will have good
[or bad] crops ; cholera or small-pox, good [or bad] rain,
etc.' As the people present their offerings, they prostrate
themselves, kneeling down and touching the ground
with their foreheads, and the pujari gives them some
flowers, which they wear in their hair. The people and
the pOjari play on the kombu [horn], and ring bells
while the offerings are being made. After the offerings
have finished, all the men dance, in two companies, in


front of the temple, one shouting ' How-ko, How-ko,'
and the other ' Is-holi.' The dance was taught them by
the Todas, and the words are Toda."

In connection with the Jadeswami festival the
ceremony of walking through fire [burning embers] is
carried out at Mglur, Tangalu, Mainele", Jakkanare,
Ten5d, and Nidugala. At Mglur and Tangalu, the
temples belong to the Haruvas, who carry out all the
details of ceremony. The temple at Tenad is owned by
the Udayas, by whom the ceremonial is performed. In
other places, the celebrants are Badagas. The festival
is observed, on an elaborate scale, at Nidugala during
the month of January. All those who are going to walk
over the burning embers fast for eight days, and go
through the rite on the ninth day. For its performance,
Monday is considered an auspicious day. The omens
are taken by boiling two pots of milk side by side on two
hearths. If the milk overflows uniformly on all sides,
the crops will be abundant for all the villages. But, if
it flows over on one side only, there will be plentiful
crops for villages on that side only. The space over
which the embers are spread is said to be about five
yards long, and three yards broad. But, in some places,
e.g., Jakkanare and Melur, it is circular as at the
Muhammadan fire-walking ceremony. For making the
embers, the wood of Eugenia Jamb olana and Phyllanthus
Emblica are used. For boiling the milk, and setting
fire to the wood, a light obtained by friction must be
used. The process is known as niligolu, or upright stick.
The vertical stick is made of a twig of Rhodomyrtus
tomentosiis, which is rotated in a socket in a long thick
piece of a bough of Debregeasia velutina, in which a row
of sockets has been made. The rotation is produced by
a cord passed several times round the vertical stick, of







which each end is pulled alternately. The horizontal
block is pressed firmly on the ground by the toes of a
man, who presses a half cocoanut shell down on the top
of the vertical stick, so as to force it down into the socket.
A Badaga, who failed in an attempt to demonstrate the
making of fire by this method, gave as an excuse that he
was under worldly pollution, from which he would be free
at the time of the fire-walking ceremony. Though the
Badagas make fire by friction, reference is made in their
folk legends, not to this mode of obtaining fire, but to
chakkamukki (flint and steel), which is repeatedly referred
to in connection with cremation. After the milk boiling
ceremonial, the pujari, tying bells on his legs, approaches
the fire pit, carrying milk freshly drawn from a cow,
which has calved for the first time, and flowers of
Rhododendron arborenm, Leucas aspera, or jasmine.
After doing puja, he throws the flowers on the embers,
and they should remain unscorched for a few seconds.
He then pours some of the milk over the embers, and
no hissing sound shoud be produced. The omens being
propitious, he walks over the glowing embers, followed
by an Udaya, and the crowd of celebrants, who, before
going through the ordeal, count the hairs on their feet.
If any are singed, it is a sign of approaching ill fortune,
or even death. In an account of the fire-walking cere-
mony, in 1902, it is noted that ''the Badagas strongly
repudiate the insinuation of preparing their feet to face
the fire ordeal. It is done to propitiate Jeddayswami,
to whom vows are invoked, in token of which they grow
one twist or plait of hair, which is treasured for years,
and finally cut off as an offering to Jeddayswami.
Numbers of Chettis were catering to the crowd, offering
their wares, bangles, gay-coloured handkerchiefs, as
well as edibles. The Kotas supplied the music, and an


ancient patriarch worked himself up to a high pitch of
inspiration, and predicted all sorts of good things for
the Badagas with regard to the ensuing season and

The following legend, relating to the fire-walking
ceremony, is recorded by Bishop Whitehead. " When
they first began to perform the ceremony fifty or sixty
years ago, they were afraid to walk over the fire. Then
the stone image of Mahal inga Swami turned into a
snake, and made a hole through the temple wall. It
came out, and crawled over the fire, and then went back
to the temple. Then their fear vanished, and they walked
over the embers. The hole is still to be seen in the

Of the fire-walking ceremony at Melur, the following
account is given in the Gazetteer of the Nllgiris. " It
takes place on the Monday after the March new moon,
just before the cultivation season begins, and is attended
by Badagas from all over Merkunad. The inhabitants
of certain villages (six in number), who are supposed to
be the descendants of an early Badaga named Guruvajja,
have first, however, to signify through their Gottukars, or
headmen, that the festival may take place ; and the Got-
tukars choose three, five, or seven men to walk through
the fire. On the day appointed, the fire is lit by certain
Badaga priests and a Kurumba. The men chosen by
the Gottukars then bathe, adorn themselves with sandal,
do obeisance to the Udayas of Udayarhatti near Keti,
who are specially invited and feasted ; pour into the
adjacent stream milk from cows which have calved for
the first time during the year ; and, in the afternoon,
throw more milk and some flowers from the Mahalinga-
svami temple into the fire pit, and then walk across it.
Earth is next thrown on the embers, and they walk across


twice more. A general feast closes the ceremony, and
next day the first ploughings are done, the Kurumba
sowing the first seeds, and the priests the next lot.
Finally, a net is brought. The priest of the temple,
standing over it, puts up prayers for a favourable agricul-
tural season ; two fowls are thrown into it, and a pretence
is made of spearing them ; and then it is taken and put
across some game path, and some wild animal (a sambhar
deer if possible) is driven into it, slain, and divided
among the villagers. This same custom of annually
killing a sambhar is also observed at other villages on
the plateau, and in 1883 and 1894 special orders were
passed to permit of its being done during the close
season. Latterly, disputes about precedence in the matter
of walking through the fire at Melur have been carried
as far as the civil courts, and the two factions celebrate
the festival separately in alternate years. A fire-walking
ceremony also takes place annually at the Jadayasvami
temple in Jakkaneri under the auspices of a Sivachari
Badaga. It seems to have originally had some connec-
tion with agricultural prospects, as a young bull is made
to go partly across the fire-pit before the other devotees,
and the owners of young cows which have had their
first calves during the year take precedence of others
in the ceremony, and bring offerings of milk, which are
sprinkled over the burning embers."

At the Sakalathi festival, in the month of October,
Badagas, towards evening, throw on the roofs of their
houses flowers of Plectrantlms Wightii, Crotalaria obtecta.
Lobelia nicotiancefolia, Achyranthes aspera, and Leucas
aspera. On the following day, they clean their houses,
and have a feast. In the afternoon, numbers of them
may be seen in the streets drawing in front of their
houses pictures in wood-ashes of buffaloes, bulls, cows,


ploughs, stars, sun and moon, snakes, lizards, etc. They
then go into their houses, and wash their hands. Taking
up in his clean hands a big cake, on which are placed a
little rice and butter, the Badaga puts on it three wicks
steeped in castor oil, and lights them. The cake is then
waved round the heads of all the children of the house
taken to a field, and thrown therein with the words
" Sakalathi has come." The cake-thrower returns home,
and prostrates himself before a lamp placed in the inner
room, and repeats a long formula, composed of the
various synonyms of Siva.

In the month of November, a festival called Dodda
Habba (big feast) is celebrated. In the afternoon, rice
is cooked in whey within the hagottu, and eaten on
mlnige leaves. Throughout the day the villagers play
at various ball games.

A festival, which is purely local, is celebrated near
Konakore in honour of Mahangkali. A buffalo is led to
the side of a precipice, killed by a Kurumba with a spear,
and thrown over the edge thereof. There is a legend
that, in olden days, a pujari used to put a stick in the
crevice of a rock, and, on removing it, get the value of a
buffalo infanams (gold coins). But, on one occasion, he
put the stick in a second time, in the hopes of gaining
more money. No money, however, was forthcoming
and, as a punishment for his greed, he died on the spot.
All Badaga villages, except those of the Udayas, have
a hut, called holagudi, for the exclusive use of women
during their monthly periods. A few months before a
girl is expected to reach puberty, she is sent to the
holagudi, on a Friday, four or five days before the new
moon day. This is done lest, in the ordinary course of
events, the first menstruation should commence on an
inauspicious day. The girl remains in the holagudi one


night, and returns home on the following day clad in
new cloths, leaving the old ones in the hut. When she
arrives at her house, she salutes all the people who are
there, and receives their blessing. On Sunday she goes
to the houses of her relations, where she is given kadalai
(Cicer arietinmti) and other food. She may not enter
the inner apartment of her house until she has seen the
crescent moon. Badaga women observe five days men-
strual pollution. If a woman discovers her condition
before washing her face in the early morning, that day is
included in the pollution period. Otherwise, the period
must be prolonged over six days. On the third day she
bathes in cold water, using the bark of Pouzolzia (thore"-
kolu), and on the fourth day is allowed a change of
clothing after a bath. On this day she leaves the hut,
and passes a portion of the night in the verandah of her
house. After cooking and eating her evening meal, she
bathes, and enters the outer room. Early on the follow-
ing morning, the spot which she has occupied is cleaned,
and she bathes in a stream. Returning home, she eats
her food in the outer room, where she remains till next
morning. Even children may not be touched by a
menstruating woman. If, by chance, this happens, the
child must be washed to remove the pollution, before it
can be handled by others. This restriction is apparently
not observed by any other tribe or caste.

Writing concerning marriage among the Badagas,
Harkness states * that " it is said to be common for one
who is in want of labourers to promise his daughter in
marriage to the son or other relative of a neighbour not
in circumstances so flourishing as himself. And, these
engagements being entered into, the intended bridegroom

* Op. fit.


serves the father of his betrothed as one of his own
family till the girl comes of age, when the marriage is
consummated, and he becomes a partner in the general
property of the family of his father-in-law."

A man may marry a girl belonging to the same
village as himself, if he and she are not members of the
same exogamous sept. In most cases, however, all the
inhabitants of a village are of the same sept, and a man
has to take as his wife a girl from a village other than
his own.

Among all sections of the Badagas, adult marriage is
the general rule, though infant marriage is also practised.
Marriage is preceded by a simple form of courtship, but
the consent of the parents to the union is necessary. A
girl does not suffer in reputation if she is rejected by
a number of suitors, before she finally settles down.
Except among the Udayas, the marriage ceremony is of
a very simple nature. A day or two before that fixed
for taking the girl to the house of her husband-elect,
the latter proceeds to her village, accompanied by his
brothers, who, as a token of respect, touch the feet of
all the Badagas who are assembled. The bride is taken
to the house of the bridegroom, accompanied by the Kota
band. Arrived there, she stands at the entrance, and her
mother-in-law or sister-in-law brings water in a vessel,
and pours it into her hands thrice. Each time she lets
the water fall over her feet. The mother-in-law then
ties round her neck a string of beads (male mani \ and
leads her to the outer room (edumane), where cooked
samai (Panicum miliare] and milk is given to her. This
she pretends to eat, and the bridegroom's sister gives
her water to wash her hands with. The bride and two
married women or virgins (preferably the bridegroom's
sisters) go to a stream in procession, accompanied by the


Kota musicians, and bring therefrom water for cooking
purposes in decorated new pots. The bride then salutes
all her new relations, and they in turn give her their
blessing. The ceremonial concludes with a feast, at the
conclusion of which, in some cases, the bride and bride-
groom sit on the raised verandah (pial), and receive

"Though," a correspondent writes, "the Badaga is
simple, and his wants are few, he cannot resist the
temptation of wine and women. The Badaga woman
can change husbands as often as she pleases by a simple
system of divorce, and can also carry on with impunity
intimacy within the pale of her own community. It is
not uncommon to find Badaga women changing husbands,
so long as youth and vigour tempt them to do so, and
confining themselves eventually to the last individual,
after age and infirmity have made their mark, and render
such frolics inexpedient." A former Magistrate of the
Nllgiris informs me that he tried more than one case, in
which a married man filed a complaint against another
man for kidnapping or enticing away his wife for im-
moral purposes. The father of the woman was always
charged as an abetter, and pleaded that, as no pariyam
(bride price) had been paid by the husband, though he
and the woman lived together as man and wife, no
criminal offence could be proved against either the
father or the abductor. Polygamy is permitted, and the
plurality of wives is a gain to the husband, as each
wife becomes a bread-winner, and supports her children,
and the man makes each wife superintend one depart-
ment of the day's work. Remarriage of widows is very
common, and a widow may marry the brother of her
deceased husband. It is said to be etiquette among the
Badagas that, when a woman's husband is away, she


should be accessible to her brothers-in-law. Instances
occur, in which the husband is much younger than his
wife, who, until he has reached maturity, cohabits with
her paternal aunt's son, or some one whom she may
have a fancy for. The marriage ceremony of the Udayas
is carried out on an elaborate scale, and is based on the
type of ceremonial which is carried out by some castes
in the plains. Before dawn on the marriage day, the
brothers and cousins of the bridegroom go, accompanied
by some Udayas and the Kota band, to the forest,
whence they bring two sticks of Mimusops hexandra, to
do duty as the milk-posts. The early hour is selected,
to avoid the chance of coming across inauspicious
objects. The sticks should be cut off the tree at a
single stroke of the bill-hook, and they may not be laid
flat on the ground, but placed on a blanket spread
thereon. The Udayas, who joined in the procession,
collect twelve posts of Mimusops as supports for the
marriage booth (pandal). In front of the house, which
is to be the scene of the wedding, two pits are dug, into
which cow-dung water is poured. The pujari does puja
to the milk-posts by offering sugar-cane, jaggery (crude
sugar), etc., and ties two threads thereto. The posts are
then placed in the pits by five people the parents of
the bridal couple and the priest. The booth, and dais
or enclosure, are then erected close to the milk-posts.
On the second day, the bridegroom's party, attended by
Kota musicians, dressed up in dancing costume, go to
the house of the bride, where a feast is held. The
bride then salutes a lamp, and prostrates herself at the
feet of her parents, who bless her, saying " May your
body and hands soon be filled (i.e., may you have a
child), and may your life be prosperous." The bride is
taken in procession to the house of the bridegroom,


accompanied by some Udayas, and a Toreya carrying
a bag of rice. At the entrance to the house she is
blindfolded, and her mother-in-law pours water over her
feet, and waves coloured water (arathi) in front of her.
She then enters the house, right foot foremost, and sits
on a mat. Three married women, nearly related to
the bridegroom, proceed, with the Kota musicians, to a
stream, carrying three pots decorated with leaves of
Leucas aspera. The priest does puja, and the pots are
filled with water, and brought back in procession to the
marriage dais. The water is poured into three vessels
placed thereon three times by each of the three women.
Within the marriage enclosure, two raised platforms are
set up by a Toreya. The bridegroom, after going round
the enclosure three times with his brothers and sisters,
enters it, and bathes with the water contained in the
vessels. He then dresses himself in new clothes, and is
carried to the outer room by his maternal uncle. The
bride is then treated in like manner, but is taken to the
inner room. At a fixed auspicious hour, the bridal
couple repair to the enclosure, where the bridegroom
stands on a mat. A screen is held up by four or five
men between him and the bride, who stands facing him,
while the priest ties the ends of their clothes together.
They then link their little fingers together, the screen is
removed, and they seat themselves on the mat. The
bridegroom's sister brings a tray with a mass of rice
scooped out into a cavity to hold ghi for feeding a lighted
wick (annadha arathi) on it, and, placing it before the
bridal pair, sits down. The tali, consisting of a golden
disc, is worshipped by the priest, and given to the bride-
groom, who ties it on to the bride's neck. In some
places it is tied by four or five elders, belonging to
different villages, who are not widowers. The contracting


couple then put on wreaths called sammandha malai,
or wreaths establishing relationship, and the wrist threads
are tied on. The bride's sister brings some rice and
milk in a cup, into which the linked fingers of the bride
and bridegroom are thrust. Taking up some of the
rice, they put it into each other's mouths three times.
After they have washed their hands, the maternal uncle
or priest asks them if they have seen Aranjoti (the pole-
star), and they reply in the affirmative. On the third
day, presents are given to the newly-married couple, and
the wrist threads are removed. Going to a stream, they
perform a mimic ceremony of sowing, and scatter cotton
and rice seed in two small pans made by a Toreya with
cow-dung. Widow remarriage is permitted among the
Udayas, and a widow may marry a cousin, but not her
dead husband's brother. At the marriage ceremony, a
priest makes a mark with sacred ashes on the foreheads
of the contracting couple, and announces the fact of
their union.

It is noted by Dr. Rivers that " Breeks has stated
that the Toda custom is that the house shall pass to the
youngest son. It seems quite clear that this is wrong,
and that this custom is absolutely unknown among the
Todas. It is, however, a Badaga custom, and among
them I was told that it is due to the fact that, as the
sons of a family grow up and marry, they leave the
house of the parents and build houses elsewhere. It is
the duty of the youngest son to dwell with his parents,
and support them as long as they live, and, when they
die, he continues to live in the paternal home, of which
he becomes the owner."

A ceremony is performed in the seventh month of a
woman's first pregnancy, which is important, inasmuch
as it seals the marriage contract, and, after its perform-


ance, divorce can only be obtained through the decree
of the panchayat (tribal council). Moreover, if it has not

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