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Castes and tribes of southern India (Volume 1) online

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been performed, a man cannot claim the paternity of the
child. The ceremony is called kanni kattodu or kanni
hakodu (thread tying or throwing). The husband and
wife are seated in the midst of those who have assembled
for the occasion, and the former asks his father-in-law
whether he may throw the thread round his wife's neck,
and, having received permission, proceeds to do so. If
he gets the thread, which must have no knots in it,
entangled in the woman's bunch of hair (kondai), which
is made large for the occasion by the addition of false
hair, he is fined three rupees. On the day of the
ceremony, the man and his wife are supposed to be
under pollution, and sit in the verandah to receive
presents. The mats used by them for sleeping on are
cleaned on the following morning, and they get rid of
the pollution by bathing.

A first confinement must not take place within the
house, and the verandah is converted into a lying-in
chamber, from which the woman is, after delivery,
removed to the outer apartment, where she remains till
she is free from pollution by catching sight of the
crescent moon. If a woman has been delivered at her
father's house, she returns to the home of her husband
within a month of the birth of the child on an auspicious
day. On arrival there, the infant is placed near the feet
of an old man standing by a lamp within the milk-house.
Placing his right hand over the head of the infant, the
old man blesses it, and a feast is held, before the
commencement of which two cups, one containing milk,
and the other cooked rice, are produced. All the
relations take up a little of the milk and rice, and touch
the tongue of the baby with them.


A child receives its name on the seventh, ninth, or
eleventh day. A sumptuous meal is given to the com-
munity, and the grandfather (paternal, if possible) milks
a cow, and pours the milk into a brass cup placed in the
milk-house. With it a little cooked samai grain is
mixed. The babe is washed with water brought from a
stream ; marked on the forehead with sacred ashes ; a
turmeric-dyed thread is tied round its waist ; a silver or
iron bangle placed on its wrists ; and a silver bead tied
by a thread round its neck. Thus decorated, the infant
is taken up by the oldest man of the village who is not
a widower, who gives it a name, which has already been
chosen. The elder, and the child's parents and grand-
parents then place a little milk in its mouth.

Children, both male and female, go through a shav-
ing ceremony, usually when they are seven months old.
The infant is seated in the lap of a Badaga, and, after
water has been applied to its head by a Badaga or a
barber, the maternal uncle removes some of the hair with
a razor, and then hands it over to another Badaga or a
barber to complete the operation.

Of the death rites as carried out by the Badaga sub-
division, the following note was recorded during a visit
to Kotagiri. When death is drawing near, a gold coin,
called Vlraraya hana or fanam, dipped in butter or ghl,
is given to the dying man to swallow. If he is too far
gone to be capable of swallowing, the coin is, according
to Mr. Natesa Sastri, tied round the arm. But our infor-
mants told us that this is not done at the present day.
" If," Mr. Cover writes,* " the tiny coin slips down, well.
He will need both gold and ghl, the one to sustain his
strength in the dark journey to the river of death, the

* Op. cit.


other to fee the guardian of the fairy-like bridge that
spans the dreaded tide. If sense remains to the wretched
man, he knows that now his death is nigh. Despair
and the gold make recovery impossible, and there are
none who have swallowed the Birianhana, and yet have
lived. If insensibility or deathly weakness make it im-
possible for the coin to pass the thorax, it is carefully
bound in cloth, and tied to the right arm, so that there
may be nought to hinder the passage of a worthy soul
into the regions of the blessed." The giving of the coin
to the dying man is apparently an important item, and,
in the Badaga folk-tales, a man on the point of death is
made to ask for a Vlraraya fanam. When life is extinct,
the corpse is kept within the house until the erection of
the funeral car (gudikattu) is completed. Though Cover
states that the burning must not be delayed more than
twenty-four hours, at the present day the Badagas post-
pone the funeral till all the near relations have assembled,
even if this necessitates the keeping of the corpse for two
or three days. Cremation may take place on any day,
except Tuesday. News of a death is conveyed to distant
hamlets (hattis) by a Toreya, who is paid a rupee for
his services. On approaching a hamlet, he removes his
turban, to signify the nature of his errand, and, standing
on the side of a hill, yells out " Dho ! Dho ! who is in the
hamlet"? Having imparted his news, he proceeds on
his journey to the next hamlet. On the morning of the
day fixed for the funeral, the corpse is taken on a char-
poy or native cot to an open space, and a buffalo led
thrice round it. The right hand of the corpse is then
lifted up, and passed over the horns of the buffalo. A
little milk is drawn, and poured into the mouth of the
corpse. Prior to this ceremony, two or three buffaloes
may be let loose, and one of them captured, after the


manner of the Todas, brought near the corpse, and con-
ducted round the cot. The funeral car is built up in five
to eleven tiers, decorated with cloths and streamers, and
one tier must be covered with black chintz. At the
funeral of a young man, the Rev. A. C. Clayton noticed
that the car was surmounted by a flag, and hung about
with bread, oranges, plantains, and the bag containing
the books which the youth had used in the Basel Mission
School.* By the poorer members of the community the
car is replaced by a cot covered with cloth, and sur-
mounted by five umbrellas. I mmediately after the buffalo
ceremony, the corpse is carried to the car, and placed in
the lowest storey thereof, washed, and dressed in coat
and turban. A new dhupati (coarse cloth) is wrapped
round it. Two silver coins (Japanese yens or rupees)
are stuck on the forehead. Beneath the cot are placed
a crowbar, and baskets containing cakes, parched paddy,
tobacco, chick pea (Cicer arietinum}, jaggery and samai
flour. A number of women, relations and friends of the
dead man, then make a rush to the cot, and, sitting on it
round the corpse, keep on waiting, while a woman near
its head rings a bell. When one batch is tired, it is
replaced by another. Badaga men then pour in in large
numbers, and salute the corpse by touching the head,
Toreyas and female relations touching the feet. Of
those who salute, a few place inside the dhupati a piece
of white cloth with red and yellow stripes, which has
been specially prepared for the purpose. All then pro-
ceed to dance round the car to the music of the Kota
band, near male relations removing their turban or wool-
len night cap, as a mark of respect, during the first three
revolutions. Most of the male dancers are dressed up in

* Madras Mail, 1907.


gaudy petticoats and smart turbans. " No woman," Mr.
Natesa Sastri writes, "mingles in the funeral dance
if the dead person is a man, but, if the deceased is a
woman, one old woman, the nearest relative of the
dead, takes part in it." But, at the funerals of two men
which we witnessed, a few women danced together with
the men. Usually the tribesmen continue to arrive until
2 or 3 P.M. Relations collect outside the village, and
advance in a body towards the car, some, especially the
sons-in-law of the dead man, riding on ponies, some of
them carrying samai grain. As they approach the car,
they shout "Ja! hoch; Ja ! hoch." The Muttu Kotas
bring a double iron sickle with imitation buffalo horns
on the tip, which is placed, with a hatchet, buguri (flute),
and walking stick, on the car or on the ground beside it.
When all are assembled, the cot is carried to an open
space between the house and the burning-ground, fol-
lowed by the car and a party of women carrying the
baskets containing grain, etc. The car is then stripped
of its trappings, and hacked to pieces. The widow is
brought close to the cot, and removes her nose ornament
(elemukkuthi), and other jewels. At both the funerals
which we witnessed, the widow had a narrow strip of
coloured chintz over her shoulders. Standing near the
corpse, she removed a bit of wire from her ear-rings, a
lock of hair, and a palm leaf roll from the lobe of the
ear, and tied them up in the cloth of her dead husband.
After her, the sisters of the dead man cut off a lock of
hair, and, in like manner, tied it in the cloth. Women
attached to a man by illegitimate ties sometimes also
cut off a lock of hair, and, tying it to a twig of Dodonaa
viscosa, place it inside the cloth. Very impressive is
the recitation, or after-death confession of a dead man's
sins by an elder of the tribe standing at the head of the


corpse, and rapidly chanting the following lines, or a
variation thereof, while he waves his right hand during
each line towards the feet. The reproduction of the
recitation in my phonograph never failed to impress the
daily audience of Badagas, Kotas and Todas.

This is the death of Andi.

In his memory the calf of the cow Belle has been set free.

From this world to the other.

He goes in a car.

Everything the man did in this world.

All the sins committed by his ancestors.

All the sins committed by his forefathers.

All the sins committed by his parents.

All the sins committed by himself.

The estranging of brothers.

Shifting the boundary line.

Encroaching on a neighbour's land by removing the hedge.

Driving away brothers and sisters.

Cutting the kalli tree stealthily.

Cutting the mulli tree outside his boundary.

Dragging the thorny branches of the kotte tree.

Sweeping with a broom.

Splitting green branches.

Telling lies.

Uprooting seedlings.

Plucking growing plants, and throwing them in the sun.

Giving young birds to cats.

Troubling the poor and cripples.

Throwing refuse water in front of the sun

Going to sleep after seeing an eclipse of the moon.

Looking enviously at a buffalo yielding an abundance of milk.

Being jealous of the good crops of others.

Removing boundary stones.

Using a calf set free at the funeral.

Polluting water with dirt.

Urinating on burning embers.

Ingratitude to the priest.

Carrying tales to the higher authorities.


Poisoning food

Not feeding a hungry person.

Not giving fire to one half frozen.

Killing snakes and cows.

Killing lizards and blood-suckers.

Showing a wrong path.

Getting on the cot, and a 1 lowing his father-in-law to sleep on
the ground.

Sitting on a raised verandah, and driving thence his mother-in-

Going against natural instincts.

Troubling daughters-in-law.

Breaking open lakes.

Breaking open reservoirs of water.

Being envious of the prosperity of other villages.

Getting angry with people.

Misleading travellers in the forest.

Though there be three hundred such sins,

Let them all go with the calf set free to-day.

May the sins be completely removed !

May the sins be forgiven !

May the door of heaven be open !

May the door of hell be closed !

May the hand of charity be extended !

May the wicked hand be shrivelled !

May the door open suddenly !

May beauty or splendour prevail everywhere !

May the hot pillar be cooled !

May the thread bridge * become light !

May the pit of perdition be closed !

May he reach the golden pillar !

Holding the feet of the six thousand Athis,

Holding the feet of the twelve thousand Pathis,

Holding the feet of Brahma,

Holding the feet of the calf set free to-day,

May he reach the abode of Siva !
So mote it be.

* The bridge spanning the river of death, which the blessed cross in safety.


The recitation is repeated thrice, and a few Badagas
repeat the last words of each line after the elder. It
was noticed by the Rev. A. C. Clayton that, during the
recitation, the people surrounded the bier on three sides,
leaving a lane open to the west. The sins of the dead
man were transferred to another as sin-bearer, and finally
passed away down the lane. As the ceremony witnessed
by us differs materially from the account thereof given by
Cover nearly forty years ago, I may quote his descrip-
tion. " By a conventional mode of expression, the
sum total of sins a man may do is said to be thirteen
hundred. Admitting that the deceased has committed
them all, the performer cries aloud ' Stay not their flight
to God's pure feet.' As he closes, the whole assembly
chants aloud ' Stay not their flight.' Again the per-
former enters into details, and cries ' He killed the
crawling snake. It is a sin.' In a moment the last
word is caught up, and all the people cry ' It is a sin.'
As they shout, the performer lays his hand upon the
calf. The sin is transferred to the calf. Thus the whole
catalogue is gone through in this impressive way. But
this is not enough. As the last shout ' Let all be well '
dies away, the performer gives place to another, and
again confession is made, and all the people shout ' It
is a sin.' A third time it is done. Then, still in solemn
silence, the calf is let loose. Like the Jewish scape-
goat, it may never be used for secular work." Dr.
Rivers writes that " the Badagas let loose a calf at a
funeral, to bear the sins of the deceased. It is possible
that the calf in the Toda ceremony may have the same
significance. If so, the practice has not improbably
been borrowed, and the fact that the bell which is hung
on the neck of the calf is kept by Kotas or Badagas
suggests that the whole incident may have been bor-









1 1 7 BADAGA

rowecUiby the Todas from one or other of these races."
At the funerals, of which we were spectators, no calf was
brought near the corpse, and the celebrants of the rites
were satisfied with the mere mention by name of a calf,
which is male or female according to the sex of the
deceased. At the funeral witnessed by the Rev. A. C,
Clayton, a cow-buffalo was led three times round the
bier, and a little of its milk, drawn at the time, put into
the mouth of the corpse. Then a buffalo calf was led
thrice round the bier, and the dead man's hand laid on
its head. By this act, the calf was supposed to receive
all the sins of the deceased. It was then driven away to
a great distance, that it might contaminate no one, and
it was said that it would never be sold, but looked on
as a dedicated sacred animal. If a dead man leaves a
widow in a state of pregnancy, who has not performed
the kanni kattodu or marriage thread ceremony, this
must be gone through before the corpse is taken to the
pyre, in order to render the child legitimate. The preg-
nant woman is, at the time of the funeral, brought close
to the cot, and a near relation of the deceased, taking up
a cotton thread, twisted in the form of a necklace with-
out any knots, throws it round her neck. Sometimes
the hand of the corpse is lifted up with the thread, and
made to place it round the neck. At the funeral of
the young man, Mr. Clayton saw this ceremony per-
formed on his pregnant wife. After a turmeric-dyed
cord had been taken from the hands of the corpse and
tied round her neck, she w r as again brought to the side
of the bier, and her ear-rings, nose ornaments, and other
articles of jewellery, were removed in token that she had
become a widow. Soon after the recitation of sins, all
the agnates go to the house of the dead man, at the
entrance to which a gunny-bag is spread, whereon a small


quantity of paddy is poured, and a few culms of Cynodon
Dactylon and a little cow-dung are placed on it. The
eldest of the agnates, sickle in hand, takes some of the
paddy, and moves on, raising both hands to his forehead.
The other agnates then do the same, and proceed in
Indian file, males in front and females in the rear, to the
corpse. Round it they walk, men from left to right, and
women in the reverse direction, and at the end of each
circuit put some of the paddy on its face. The cot is
then carried to the burning-ground, a woman heading
the procession, and shaking the end of her cloth all the
way. The corpse is laid on the pyre with its feet to the
south, and the pyre lighted by the eldest son standing
at the head. The sticks of which the car was constructed
are added to the fuel, of which the pyre is built up. In
some places the son, when lighting the pyre, repeats
the words " Being begotten by my father and mother,
I, in the presence of all and the Deva, set fire at the
head after the manner of my ancestors and forefathers."
The Rev. A. C. Clayton records that, before the proces-
sion started for the burning-ground, some female relatives
of the dead man tied locks of their hair round the toes
of the corpse, and others went three times round the bier.
On the day following the funeral, the bereaved family
distribute rice to all the Badagas of the hamlet, and all
the near relations of the deceased go to the burning-
ground, taking with them two new pots. The fire is
extinguished, and the fragments of the bones are
collected. A tray is made of the fronds of the bracken
fern (Pteris aquilina] covered with a cloth, on which
the bones are placed together with culms of Cynodon
grass and ghl. The Badagas of the hamlet who are
younger than the deceased salute the bones by touching
them, and a few men, including the chief mourner,



hold the tray, and convey it to the bone pit, which
every hamlet possesses. Into it the bones are thrown,
while an elder repeats the words " Become united
with the line of your relations, with your class, and
with the big people," or " May the young and old who
have died, may all those who have died from time
immemorial up to the present time, mingle in one."
When the pit has been closed up, all return to the spot
where the body was burnt, and, clearing a space, make
a puddle, round which they stand, and throw into it a
handful of korali (Setaria italica), uttering the words
" May deaths cease ; may evils cease ; may good prevail
in the village ; in virtue of the good deeds of the
ancestors and forefathers, may this one mingle with
them." This ceremony concluded, they repair to a
stream, where a member of the bereaved family shaves a
Toreya partially or completely. Some take a razor, and,
after removing a patch of hair, pass the Toreya on to a
barber. All the agnates are then shaved by a Badaga
or a barber. The chief mourner then prostrates himself
on the ground, and is blessed by all. He and the
Toreya proceed to the house of the deceased. Taking
a three-pronged twig of Rhodomyrtus tomentosus, and
placing a minige (Argyreia) leaf on the prongs, he
thrusts it into a rubbish heap near the house. He then
places a small quantity of samai grain, called street food,
on the leaf, and, after sprinkling it thrice with water,
goes away.

It was noted by Harkness that, at the burning-ground,
the son or representative of the deceased dropped a
little grain into the mouth of the corpse, carrying in his
left hand a small bar of iron, which is supposed to have
a repulsive power over the spirits that hover about the


The final death ceremonies, or korambu, are cele-
brated on a Sunday. Towards evening the house of the
deceased is cleansed with cow-dung, and- Badaga men
assemble therein, sending away all women. The chief
mourner, accompanied by two Badagas carrying new
pots, proceeds to a stream, w r here the pots are cleaned
with cow-dung, and rubbed over with culms of Andro-
pogon Schcenanthus. They are then filled with water,
carried to the house, and deposited in the milk-room.
At the entrance to the inner apartment, five agnates
stand, holding a circular bamboo tray (kerachi) made of
plaited bamboo, on which the chief mourner pours a
small quantity of paddy, and spreads it with a sickle.
The widow and other female relations come near, and
cry. A few sickles or knives (preferably those which
were used at the funeral) are placed on the tray, which
is saluted by all the Badagas present. The paddy is
husked in a mortar, and the rice cooked with Dolichos
Lab lab, Cicer arietinum, and other pulses, without the
addition of salt. Early on the following morning, the
eldest son, taking a small quantity of the rice to the
roof of the house, places seven balls made therefrom
on plantain or mlnige leaves, and recites the names of
the male and female ancestors and forefathers, his
mother, father, and brothers. The remainder of the rice
is eaten by relations. In some places, the whole of
the rice is divided into seven balls, and taken outside
the house. Water is sprinkled over the roof, and a
portion of the rice thrown thereon. Standing up before
the assembled Badagas, an elder says " To-day we
have acted up to the observances of our ancestors and
forefathers. New ones should not be considered as
old, or old as new. There is not a man carrying a
head (wise man), or a woman carrying breasts (wise


woman). May he become united with the men of his
clan and caste."

The funeral rites of the Udayas differ in some im-
portant details from those of the Badaga sub-division.
The buffalo catching, and leading the animal round
the corpse, are omitted. But a steer and heifer are
selected, and branded on the thigh, by means of a hot
iron, with the lingam and other emblems. Bedecked
with cloths and jewels, they are led to the side of the
corpse, and made to stand on a blanket spread on the
ground. They are treated as if they were lingams, and
puja is done to them by offering cocoanuts and betel
leaves, and throwing flowers over them. Round their
necks kankanams (marriage threads) are tied. They
are made to turn so as to face away from the corpse,
and their tails are placed in the hands thereof. An elder
then proceeds with the recitation of the dead person's
sins. The Udayas bury their dead in a sitting posture
in a cell dug out of the side of the grave, and, like the
Irulas, prefer to use a grave in which a previous burial
has taken place. At the four corners of the grave they
place in the ground a plant of Leucas aspera, and pass a
cotton thread laterally and diagonally across the grave,
leaving out the side opposite the cell. Two men descend
into the grave, and deposit the corpse in its resting
place with two lighted lamps.

In 1905, an elaborate Badaga memorial ceremony
for ancestors called manavalai, which takes place at long
intervals, was celebrated on the Nllgiris. I gather from
the notes of a Native official that an enormous car,
called elu kudi teru ( seven- storeyed car) was built of
wood and bamboo, and decorated with silk and woollen
fabrics, flags, and umbrellas. Inside the ground floor
were a cot with a mattress and pillow, and the stem of


a plantain tree. The souls of the ancestors are supposed
to be reclining on the cot, resting their heads on the
pillow, and chewing the plantain, while the umbrellas
protect them from the sun and rain. The ear ornaments
of all those who have died since the previous ceremony
should be placed on the cot. " A Badaga fell and hurt
himself during the erection of the car. Whereupon,
another Badaga became possessed, and announced that
the god was angry because a Kurumba had something
to do with the building of the structure. A council
meeting was held, and the Kurumba fined twenty-five
rupees, which were credited to the god. Sixty-nine
petty bazars and three beer taverns had been opened for
the convenience of all classes of people that had assem-
bled. One very old Badaga woman said that she was
twelve years old when the first European was carried in
a chair by the Todas, and brought up the ghat to the
Nllgiris from Coimbatore. On Wednesday at 10 A.M.
people from the adjoining villages were announced, and
the Kota band, with the village people, went forward,
greeted them, and brought them to the car. As each
man approached it, he removed his turban, stooped
over the pillow and laid his head on it, and then went to
join the ring for the dance. The dancers wore skirts
made of white long-cloth, white and cream silks and
satins with border of red and blue trimming, frock
dresses, and dressing-gowns, while the coats, blouses,
and jackets were of the most gaudy colours of silk,
velvet, velveteen, tweed, and home-spun. As each

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