Purice:tpimi : Marriage Ritual Practices among Toda: An Indigenous Community of the Nilgiris

Author: Ramesh Nanjundan (Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, India)
Speaker: Ramesh Nanjundan
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
The GLOCAL CALA 2022 General Session


Toda is a bidirectional name which represents the community as well as the language. The Toda is the most ancient tribe found around the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu. Originally, the community was pastoral, and co-existed with other communities viz. Badaga, Kota and Kurumba. According to Subrhmanyam (2008), the approximate number of the population is 2000. As census of India does not include communities which have a population of less than 10,000, the community was never highlighted in the census. According to UNESCO’s classification (2011), the Toda language is listed as critically endangered. The community has attracted (since the late eighteenth century) “a most disproportionate amount of attention, because of these ethnological aberrancies” and “their unlikeness to their neighbours in appearance, manners and customs.” Among the cultural items of Toda, Buffalo culture and marriage systems display high uniqueness. The marriage system of Toda is indigenous, compared to other Dravidian community cultures in southern India. Polyandry was once practiced, but was later abolished after the advent of British in India.

This paper seeks to discuss that, at present, arranged marriages are given more importance than contractual marriages. Still, the community follows indigenous practices in marriage as its legacy.The ancient Toda marriage system expounds indigenous elements as it takes place only after the bride conceives the baby with her husband. When she becomes pregnant, a joint ceremony called the bow and arrow ceremony is celebrated by the community. The groom goes to the forest and makes a bow and arrow from the tender stems of a tree and presents it to his bride. If the bride accepts it, that confirms that the baby in her womb is his and she accepts him as her husband. The bride stays with her husband for a month or two and then goes to her parents after the marriage. The ceremony is organised at the beginning of the seventh month of pregnancy, which is marked by traditional dance and songs by members wearing traditional clothing. The ceremony is conducted a day before the full moon.

The present paper thus ultimately aims at highlighting indigenous knowledge and practices used during the time of marriage, and also tries to highlight the importance of the digital documentation of the indigenous practices of the marriage system.

Keywords: Toda marriage