Social and Cultural Changes Among Urali Tribe

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I hereby declare that the dissertation entitled Social and Cultural Changes Among Urali Tribe.” submitted to Mahatma Gandhi University in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the award of the degree of Master of Arts in Anthropology, is a record of original research work done by me, under the supervision and guidance of Mr. Deepu P.Thomas, Supervising Teacher, School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University , and that it has not formed before the basis for the award of any Degree, Diploma, Associate ship or any other similar titles.

Nimmy Thomas



This is to certify that the dissertation entitled Social and Cultural Changes Among Urali Tribe.” submitted to Mahatma Gandhi University in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the award of the degree of Master of Arts in Anthropology, is a record of original research done by Ms. Nimmy Thomas during the period of his study 2012-2014, in the School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam under my supervision and guidance and that the thesis has not formed before the basis for the award of any Degree, Diploma, Associate ship or other similar titles.



Dr. Rammohan K.T,


School of Social Sciences, 

Mahatma Gandhi University.


This is to certify that the dissertation entitled Social and Cultural Changes Among Urali Tribe.” submitted to Mahatma Gandhi University in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the award of the degree of Master of Arts in Anthropology, is a record of original research done by Ms. Nimmy Thomas during the period of his study 2012- 2014, in the School of Social Sciences, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam under my supervision and guidance and that the thesis has not formed before the basis for the award of any Degree, Diploma, Associate ship or other similar titles.

Deepu P.Thomas,

Supervising Teacher,

School of Social Sciences,

Mahatma Gandhi University.





The M.A dissertation writing process is a journey which takes time to complete. I was accompanied by an awesome group of people who supported me in multiple ways. The first group of people I would like to acknowledge is Urali of Poojar who contributed to my dissertation. I value the time, knowledge and experiences they shared with me, interaction today is full of joy, but also full of ambiguity and I also enormously touched by Uralis’ openness and willing to share such personal information with me.

It is my pleasure to acknowledge the helping hands extended to me in bringing out this humble work. I take this opportunity to express my sincere and deep sense of gratitude to my Supervising teacher Mr. Deepu P.Thomas for his constant support, encouragement, suggestion and guidance throughout my project work and help me to complete successfully.

I am grateful to our Director, Dr. Rammohan K.T for providing me all the facilities available in the department for my dissertation. I also convey my special thanks to all the faculty member of the department, for their constant suggestion, clear and valuable advices.

I would also like to thank the entire office staff members and my entire friends especially Jo, Harsha Oomen, Deepu Chettan, Shynu Chettan, Anil Chettan, Remya Chechy, Archana Chechy, Lintu Sebastian, Bibin, Jomon, Vidhu, Vijitha, Sreekanth, Anu, Sunil, Rakesh, Siji, and Seethal for helping me in my work. I express my heartfelt thanks to my beloved parents, family members for their kind invaluable encouragement and moral support throughout my work.                            

Nimmy Thomas




Social Transformation is the process by which an individual alters the socially ascribed social status of their parents into a socially achieved status for themselves. It refers to large scale social change as in cultural reforms or transformations. The first occurs with the individual, the second with the social system.

1.1.1 The Individual

This is different from social reproduction and social mobility because instead of looking at the intergenerational mobility or the measure of the changes in social status which occur from the parents’ to the children’s generation, social transformation focuses on how an individual can alter the class culture to which they feel aligned. One socially transforms in three steps: by associational embracement, associational distancing, and the distinct presentation of self.

Social transformation is considered an interpersonal negotiation because it requires that the individual have their social position be validated by others for transformation. It is a reciprocal relationship in which people have to be embraced and correctly identified with the cultural expectations of their particular class membership. This is the only way that persons can move from their own ascribed status to a new achieved status.

1.1.2 The Social System

Social transformation in this context requires a shift in collective consciousness of a society – local, state, national or global – so that reality is refined by consensus. This often happens by external stimulus and sometimes intentionally. Scientific discoveries have triggered many social transformations throughout our history as have religious and royal edicts.

Cities which have reinvented themselves serve of examples of conscious transformations of a social type resulting in reinvigorated and revitalized populations, economic prosperity and restored civic pride. Some countries have achieved these intentional social transformations, one such example being South Africa in 1994 when it ended apartheid.

Social transformations are such when they sustain over time where attitudes and values are held in a completely new context (or paradigm) based upon different assumptions and beliefs.


  1. To revise studies among Urali through Thurston, A. A. D Luiz and L. A Krishna Iyer.
  • To understand early Religious Practices of Urali Tribes.
  • To understand land use pattern in Urali Tribes
  • To find out the settlement organization in Urali Tribes
  • To Understand social and cultural changes among Urali Tribes

The present work is intended to study about the Urali community, which is one of the primitive tribal groups in Kerala. In the present context, holding development and other changes as necessary factor, Government and non-government organizations intervening their life. It can be considered as a part of modernisation. But this process of modernisation imposes a new social life in their community. The fact is that some people accept this new social life and some others not. As a counter effect of this process, nowadays they are at the verge of losing their socio-cultural heritages. We could analyze the socio-cultural heritages which have been practiced by Urali community through Anthropological methodologies. Whether these heritages are still existing or vanished by the process of Modernization? It is still a question.


The present study conducted in the Manamel Scheduled Colony located in the Poonjar Thekkekara Panchayat in Kottayam district. Urali tribes are mainly located in places of Poonjar, Teekoy, Mavadi, Edakkara etc. it is 2000 feet high from sea level. There are around thirtyUrali families in this region. This is an eco-friendly area which abounds in hills and streams. The Uralis are very close to nature.


1.4.1 Observation

Observation is the major method used by a researcher in the field for collecting data. I took note on the environment of the study, generating data on the settlement pattern, the physical characteristics, infrastructure and habits of the people. I was also able to collect data on some of their customs and practices that took place during the marriage and death ceremonies. Moreover observation was used an initial method in understanding the daily life of Uralis.

 1.4.2 Participant Observation

Participant Observation is where field worker lives in a local community and involves him or herself in many activities as possible in the normal round of activities (Plattner 1989).

After building up a good rapport with the Uralis, I was able to participate in some of their activities like cooking, discussions and so on. This not only made me feel at home but also made them feel more comfortable with me.

1.4.3 Non-Participant Observation

Uralis’ economic activity and such other details were collected by non-participant observation.

1.4.4 Interview

I was able to take interviews of the Uralis either in their houses or in their work places and it was specifically a key informant interview. The interviews had both open-ended and closed-ended questions related to my research topic. Most of the times it was open-ended question since the conversation was informal. I made note of all these answers in my field note, which provided me with essential data for study.

1.4.5 Secondary Sources

Secondary sources of data were generated from books, articles and online journals to substantiate the study.


In the article ‘Dermatoglyphic affinities of the tribes and castes of Nilgiri Hills’ M.R Chakravartti and D.P Mukherjee described about Urali tribes. It is a comparative dermatoglyphic study on the ten endogamous groups of the Nilgiri district. ‘The Mapping of the Adivasi Social: Colonial Anthropology and Adivasis’ is an article written by Bhangya Bhukya. This study gives a detailed account of colonial anthropology and tribes (Adivasis). Sabu M Simon, T Selvin Norman and Kuru Suresh and some other scholars conducted an extensive study in 2011 on ethnomedicinal plants used by Uralies inhabiting in the catchment area of Idukki reservoir in Idukki District, Kerala. Like any other ethnic groups, Uralis are also rich in the traditional knowledge passed from generation to generation through the word of mouth.

‘Tribal Religion: Religious Beliefs and Practices among the Santals’is a work done by Joseph Troisi. Beginning with a critique of well-known theories of religions (those of Tylor, Durkheim, Malinowski, Radcliffe-Brown, and others), Troisi establishes his own goal as that of showing “how Santal religion, as manifested and expressed in its beliefs and practices, contributes to the existence and maintenance of Santal society. The theoretical location of the book is therefore classical, mainline British social Anthropology. The book covers a wide range of topics such as relevance of tribal religion, institution of priesthood, mythology/philosophy, rites and rituals, taboos, nature of faith and worship, and some aspects of indigenous healing tradition. Research papers on religious conversion have also found places in the book. The book also takes into account the interface between religion, space, health and politics. Most of the studies revolved around the indigenous Adi religion, however cases of other religion have also found place[1]. ‘Transformation of Tribal Society: Integration vs Assimilation’ is an article written by Singh K S. This paper attempts to set the current changes taking place in tribal society in India. Contested Modernities in the “Tribal Zone”: The Post-Colonial State, Adivasi Politics and the Making of Local Modernity in the Northern Nilgiris (South India) had written by Ulrich Demmer. In this study he talks about local adivasi communities and imaginations of modernity. Rather than an arid dichotomy of tradition and modernity we are dealing here with a specific form of an alternative or local modernity. This study analyses how this particular modernity is constructed through abroad spectrum of activities ranging from dominance and cultural hegemony to cohabitation down to everyday and cultural resistance.




Ethnographic field research involves the study of groups and people as they go about their everyday lives. Carrying out such research involves two distinct activities. First, the ethnographer enters into a social setting and gets to know the people involved in it; usually, the setting is not previously known in an intimate way. The ethnographer participates in the daily routines of this setting, develops ongoing relations with the people in it, and observes all the while what is going on. Indeed, the term “participant-observation” is often used to characterize this basic research approach. But, second, the ethnographer writes down in regular, systematic ways what she observes and learns while participating in the daily rounds of life of others. Thus the researcher creates an accumulating written record of these observations and experiences. These two interconnected activities comprise the core of ethnographic research: Firsthand participation in some initially unfamiliar social world and the production of written accounts of that world by drawing upon such participation. (Robert


Kottayam is one of the 14 districts in the state of Kerala, India. The district has its headquarters at Kottayam town, located at 9.36° N and 76.17° E. According to the 1991 census, it is the first district to achieve 100% literacyrate in the whole of India. On 27th September 2008, Kottayam district also became the first tobacco free districts in India.

Bordered by the WesternGhats on the east and the Vembanad Lake and paddyfields of Kuttanad on the west, Kottayam has many unique characteristics. Panoramic backwater stretches, lush paddy fields, highlands, hills and hillocks, rubber plantations and places associated with many legends given Kottayam District the enviable title: The land of letters, legends, latex and lakes. The district is 15.35% urbanized.


Kottayam district has a total area of 2208 sq. km. The district is naturally divided into high land, midland and lowland, the bulk being constituted by the midland regions. Meenachil and Kanjirappally Taluks have high land and midland areas while Kottayam, Changanassery and VaikomTaluks have midland and lowland areas. Kanjirappally and Meenachil Taluks have Laterite soil, whereas Vaikom Taluk, part of Changanassery and Kottayam Taluks has alluvial soil. The district has no coastal area.


Classification of Area under Land Utilization


(Source: Agricultural Statistics 2001-02)


       Classification of Land


Total (in Hectares) 8141
       Non Agricultural uses 26557
       Barren & uncultivable land 2031
       Permanent pastures and other grazing land 1
       Land under misc. tree crops 119
       Cultivable waste 2690
       Fallow other than current fallow 2259
       Current fallow 4937
       Net area sown 172815
     Area sown more than once 48134

The important rivers of the district are the Meenachil River, the Muvattupuzha River and the Manimala River. The 78 km. long Meenachil River flows through the Taluks of Meenachil, Vaikom and Kottayam. It has a catchment area of 1272 km2 and utilizable water resource of 1110 mm3. The River is formed by several streams originating from the Western Ghats in Idukki district. At Erattupetta, Poonjar River also joins it, takes a sharp turn and flows towards the west. At Kondur, it is joined by the Chittar and at Lalam it receives the Payapparathodu and flows in a south-west direction till it reaches Kottayam. Here it branches into several streams before emptying into the Vembanad Lake. The important towns in the basin are Pala, Poonjar, Ettumanoor and Kottayam. Meenachil Medium Irrigation project is having a net ayacut of 9960 hectares, 155 catchment areas and water spread area of 228 hectares.

The Muvattupuzha River originates from Idukki district, flows through VaikomTaluk and empties into the Vembanad Lake. The most important town in the basin is Vaikom, the famous pilgrim centre.

The Manimala River flows through Kanjirappally and ChanganasseryTaluks. The Chittar joins it on its course further down the west as it flows to Alappuzha district. The important town in the basin is Mundakkayam.


The district has a tropical climate with an oppressive hot season in the plains and plenty of rainfalls throughout. The hot season from March to May, is followed by the south-west monsoon from June to September. The months of October and November constitute the post-monsoon or retreating monsoon season, when day temperature increases gradually and the heat is nearly as intense as in summer. The months of December to February form the north – east monsoon. Rain ceases early in January. The district normally gets an annual average rain fall of 3130.33mm.


Kottayam occupies a prominent place in the cultural map of Kerala.

KunchanNambiar, the father of Thullal, a popular temple art form, is supposed to have lived at Kidangoor. UnnineeliSandesam, the exquisite Malayalam poetry work, is supposed to have been written by one of the Vadakkumkur Rajas. The Christian Missionaries enriched Malayalam literature by their valuable contributions in the 18th and 19th Centuries. VarthamanaPusthakam (1778) written by ParemmakkalThomaKathanar, on a travel to Rome, is the first travelogue in Malayalam. The first autobiography in Malayalam by VaikomPachuMoothathu was published from Kottayam in 1870.

In the concluding decades of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, Kottayam shot into limelight as the nerve centre of all literary and cultural activities in the erstwhile Travancore State. Late KottarathilSankunny, Kandathil Varghese Mappilai, Kerala VarmaValiyakoiThampuran, K.C. MammenMappilai, KattakkayathilCheriyanMappilai, Vadakkumkoor Raja RajaVarma, KaroorNeelakandaPillai, VaikomMuhammedBasheer, D.C. Kizhakkemuri and AbhayaDev are few names, in the category of outstanding dignitaries and celebrities, worth mentioning, who had made very valuable, substantial and individual contributions in their own way to the cultural and social milieu. Eminent writers PonkunnamVarkey, Vaikom Chandra Sekharan Nair, distinguished Poet Mahakavi Pala Narayanan Nair, illustrious Kathakali artist KudamaloorKarunakaran Nair, world renowned Booker prize winner Arundhathi Roy, accomplished film actor Mammootty, and talented film director Jayaraj are some other notable personalities who all hail from Kottayam district. Renowned music director L. P. R. Varma (Late) also hailed from Kottayam.

Kottayam stands first in the field of Education, Mass Communication, Printing and Book Publication. The significant role played by MalayalaManorama&Bhashaposhini and Deepika for the cultural and literary development is of immense importance. There are many printing presses and book publishing companies in Kottayam. The SPCS, a unique co-operation venture of authors and writers was started in the year 1945. Prominent publishers D.C. Books started publication from here in the year 1974. Kottayam is the headquarters of Current Books since the year 1977. It is estimated that 70% of the State’s book publication takes place in Kottayam.


The Folk dances of Kottayam consists of Margamkali and ArjunaNritham. Margamkali is an art form popular among the Syrian Christian Community of the erstwhile Travancore. This consists of group dances and martial arts like Parichamuttukali. The theme of the songs revolves round the life of St. Thomas. Margamkali is performed by men and women separately.


Koodiyatam is the ancient Sanskrit dramatic version of Kerala It is a temple art and has been recognized and approved by UNESCO. This art is very ancient and is supposed to be about 2000 years old. This programme has been staged in several foreign countries many times.


As of 2001 India census, Kottayam Urban Agglomeration had a population of 172,878, while Kottayam district had a population of 19, 52,901. Males constitute 62% of the population and females make up 38%. Population growth in the district is in a diminishing trend and it had a decadal population growth rate of 6.5 per cent compared to 9.35 per cent for Kerala during 1991-2001 periods.

Kottayam District is ranked 1st in literacy with a percentage of 95.9 compared to 90.92% for Kerala State and 65.38% for India (2001 census). It is ranked 10th in population, as well as in area among the districts in Kerala.


Located at 09°40′27.7″N  76°48′31.2″E, Poonjar is a small town in the Kottayam district of Kerala state, India. Before the independence of India, Poonjar had been the capital of the Poonjar Koyikkal Swaroopam or Edavaka. Pala, Kanjirappally and Erattupetta are the nearest cities of Poonjar. Geographically Poonjar is divided into PoonjarThekkekara, PoonjarVadakkekkara and PoonjarNadubhagam villages. It is secular in nature. There are so many temples, churches and mosques in Poonjar and Erattupetta. Two main tributaries of Meenachil river originate in Poonjar hills and join at Erattupetta. There are numerous waterfalls and rivulets in the hills. Kunnonny, Adivaram, Pathambuzha, Kaippally are some of the nearest villages.

The present study is conducted in the Manamel Scheduled Colony located in the PoonjarThekkekaraPanchayat. It is 2000 feet high from sea level. This is an eco-friendly area which abounds in hills and streams.


In Kerala, there are 36 tribal communities, and most of these tribes live in the districts of Palakad, Kottayam, Idukki, Kollam, Thiruvanthapuram, Kozhikode, Kasargode and Wayand. They are short and medium in structure with dark brown complexion. Their traditional occupations were gathering and collection of forest products like honey, wood, incha, wax etc.

Tribals in Kerala (Adivasis of Kerala) are the indigenous inhabitants in the southern Indian state of Kerala. The largest part of the tribal people of Kerala lives in the forests and mountains of Western Ghats, adjoining Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.According to the 2001 census of India, the Scheduled Tribe population in Kerala is 3,64,189. Wayanad has the highest number of tribals (1, 36,062), Idukki (50973) and Palakkad (39665) districts are the next two that make the lion portion of the native tribal people groups in the state. The Paniya (Paniyar) are the largest of the 35 major tribes.

Tribal groups who are food-gatherers (without any habit of agricultural practice), with withdrawing population and very low or diminutive literacy rates can be called as Primitive Tribes. CholanaikkansKurumbasKattunaikansKadars and Koragas are the five primitive tribal groups in Kerala. They represent nearly 5% of the total tribal population in the State. Cholanaikkans can be said as the most primitive of them and bring into being only in the Malappuram District. Only a handful of families are living in the Mancheri hills of Nilambur forest division. Kattunaikans, another lower-hill community interconnected to Cholanaikkans, are for the most part seen in Wayanad district and some in Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. Kadar population is establishing in Thrissur and Palakkad districts. Kurumbas are living in the Attappady Block of Palakkad district. The Koraga habitat is in the plain areas of Kasaragod district.

Tribals in Kerala are living on the hill ranges, for the most part on the Western Ghat, bordering Karnataka   and Tamil Nadu. As a natural border, the mountain has brushwood in Kerala as well as in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The tribal on the Kerala hills are only listed here.



















Kurumbas, Kurambar




Muduvan, Muthuvan


Arandan/ Ernadan




Koraga, Koragar






Paliyan, (Palleyan), (Palliyar), Paanan












Paniyan, Parayan


Eravallan .




Kudiya, Melakudi




















The term tribe has been derived from a middle English term TRIBUZ, which has a Latin root. The term means three divisions. The early Romans were categorized in these divisions. Thus the meaning of term varies from on nations to another. According to Roman this is a political division, Whereas Greeks take into consideration as equal with fraternity and Irish history According to Roman this is a political division, where as Greeks take into consideration as equal with fraternity and Irish history depicts the term as family or community having the same surname. Etymologically the term stands as follows,

Group of primitive or barbarous clans under recognized chief (Oxford Encyclopedic Dictionary, Vol.3, 1983)

According to Perry a tribe is a social group of people speaking a common dialect inhabiting a common territory. The tribal people are characterized by their culture and identity but he has not written about their cultural unity. Rivers (1932) has considered the term on the basis of law and justice and common welfare purposes of the community. He has not given any due consideration on their consideration in a particular area. Hence he has indicated that the members of a tribe have a single government and act together for some common purposes.[2]Dictionary of Anthropology (Winick 1957) generally defined tribe as follows –“Tribe is a social group, usually with a definite area of living, dialect, cultural homogeneity and unifying social organizations. It may include several sub-groups as sibs or villages’ tribe ordinarily has a leader and may have a common ancestor and patron deity. The families or small communities making up the tribe area linked together through social, religious family or blood relation”.[3] Kroeber (1948) conceives tribe as a small isolated and a close knit society where both societies and cultural aspects are largely organized on the basis of kinship. The Imperial Gazetteer of India as early as 1891 first defined the tribe’ A tribe is a collection of families bearing a common name, speaking a common dialect, occupying or possessing to occupy a common territory and is endogamous, though originally it might have been so. Prof. T.C Das (1953) considers that A tribe generally has a common name, common habit, a common language, a common culture and a feeling of unity among its members as against members other tribes[4].According to L.P Vidyarthi “A Tribe is generally defined as a social group, usually with a definite area of living, dialect, cultural homogeneity and unifying social organizations. It may include several sub-groups as a sibs or villages.”[5] The term tribe commonly signifies a group of people speaking common language, observing uniform rules of social organizations and working together for common purposes.[6]Anthropologically, A tribe is a social group the members of which live in a common territory, have a common dialet,uniform social organizations and possess cultural homogeneity having a common ancestor, political organizations and religious pattern.[7]

Prof. D.N Majumdar (1961) has given the most acceptable definition on in the Indian context .He criticizes the above definition by pointing out that the caste possessed almost the same character. According to him “A tribe is a social group with territorial affiliation, endogamous with no specialization of functions, ruled by tribal officers, hereditary or otherwise, united in language or dialect recognizing social distance from other tribes or castes but without any stigma attached in case of a caste structure, following tribal traditions ,beliefs, customs, illiberal of naturalization of ideas from alien sources; above all conscious of a homogeneity of ethnic or territorial integration”[8]

According to Morris Any of various system of social organization comprising several local villages, bands, districts lineages, or other group and sharing a common ancestry, language, cultural, and name”. Morris also notes that a tribe is a group of persons with a common occupation, interest, or habit and a large family.[9]


Urali is the combination of the words Ur(land)and Al(people).It denotes that they are people of the land.Conceptuallly it must be interesting to note that thousands of place name in the Dravidian South India and in ‘Ur’.In the madras census report, 1891, the Urali are described as “a caste of agricultural labourers found chifly in the districts of Madura and trichinopoly.The word Urali means a ruler of a village. Like the Ambalakkarans, they trace their descent from one Matturaja, and the only subdivision returned by any number of mutracha.They also asserts that were formerly employed as soldiers. In the wayand there isasection of kurumbas called Uralikurumbas,and it is not importable that these Urali of the Tamil country are an offshoot of the great kurumbas race.”[10]

Physical Features

Uralis are short, long headed and with medium to broad nasal profile. The face is long and narrow and can be included in the negrito stock. The racial composition of the population of the stare through the age has been studied by cultural anthropologists and several theories, speculative though interesting, have been propounded. The negrito element is pointed out as the earliest racial strain in the population of Kerala as of south India in general. Such hill tribes as the Kadar, the kanikkar, the malapandarams,themuthuvans,theullatans,theUrali, the paniyasetc..,who live in the forests of Kerala state even today are said to be representives of the Negrito type. Most of these tribe’s have curly hair, black skin, round head and broad nose and wear the comb in common with similar type in other parts of the world.[11]


The name indicates the ruler of a country or village (Ur a country or village and ali a ruler).The records of recent history have nothing to how as to their origin or the locality they occupied. This term is not specially confined to the class of people inhabiting parts of Travancore, but also refers to the people of the same denomination found chiefly in the districts of Madura and Trichinopoly. Mr. Edgar Thurston speakes of another class of people of the same name who inhabit the jungles of Dinbhum,(Coimbatore District) at an altitude of 1,800 ft..This later class referred to, call them Urali or Irulas. They speak a patois of mixed Tamil and Canarese and have a number of exogamous sept;but the class of Urali whom we meet with in the hills of Travancore speak a kind of corrupt Malayalam. The true origin of these hill men seems to be lost in obscurity. But judging from ethnological data and comparing our Urali with those of Coimbatore, Madura, Tinnevelly and Trichinopoly, we may be justified in stating that the Travancore Urali are not generically different from the Urali that inhabit the hilly recesses of those districts. Traditional accounts state that “they were the dependents of the kings of Madura and that their duty was to hold umbrellas in times of state processions. In ancient times many of the parts now included in the Thodupuzha Taluk belonged to the kingdoms of Madura. Once when the king came to Neriyamagalam, the ancestors of these Urali are said to have accompanied him and were probably left there to rule that locality” [12]

They are at present, found in the Cardamom Hills, in Aladi, Ponpara, Mongathara, Kochezhapperappu Valia Ezhapperappu, Thodupuzha, Velampam, Kurakkanat, Kunnanat, Mannukat, Kalanat and Periyar.

Personal Appearances

The following description of Mala Adiyars of the lower Periyar valley by Mr.A.M Sawyer is equally applicable to the Urali: – “In stature and physique, colour, facial appearance, dress, habits, language, customs, and manners, the mala Adiyars or Mountain Slaves of the Lower Periyar valley resemble the Uralis of Neriyamaganalam more than any other of the eight principal hill tribes inhabiting the hill-forest of Travancore. Of middle height, they are fairly thick set, of dark-brown colour, with brownish-to –black eyes, curly hair, flat nose and of protruding upper lips, preceding for head, and chins, prominent cheek bones, and generally smooth faces. Both men and women wear the hair long; either loose or knotted on the top of the head”. Men generally allow their heir to grow, the face alone being occasionally shaven. They are tolerably cleanly and observe regularity in bating.

Dress and Ornaments

Men wrap themselves with two pieces of cloth, one the upper and another and a longer piece for the lower part of the body, reaching from the hip to the knees. Women too adopt bifurcation in dress. They are tolerably trim in their appearance.Male wear rings of brass, sometimes of silver on fingers and toes. Wreaths of beads from fifteen to thirty in number,are worn on the neck as an ornament. Women wear what is known as katumani composed of rings of brass or lead. .[13]

Food and Drink

Rice and meat form the chief articles of food. The paddy they raise by cultivation barely sustains them for six months in the year, a large portion of it having to be exchanged for clothing, salt and other commodities from the low country. For the remaining half of the year, the Urali are forced to live upon what they can get the forest, whether in the form of flesh or in the form of roots and fruits. The buffalo and the elephant are held in great respect, even the very approach of the former being most religiously avoided. They sometimes, but very rarely, keep cows for their milk. They rear fowls which also serve them a good deal in the absences of corn. The morning drink or kadi is essential, but tea supplemented by roots and fruits seems to have displaced it.


The choice of the bride and bridegroom is left to the parents. No Tali is used as the marriage tie. The elders of the bridegrooms family, with cloth and necklace, repair to the brides house, signify their intention, give the bride a cloth and ornaments and take her home with them. The bride thenceforward becomes a wife. For every girl given away in marriage one has to be taken in return. According to this customary usage families suffering from a plethora of girls have to take back as many daughters-in-law as they have girls to dispose of ,with the result, that an Urali has sometimes to take in six or seven wives, in which case ,he is expected to live away from his parental home and work for his numerous wives. Another evil resulting from this custom is the undesirable increase of lifelong bachelors. The Urali contract alliance with the Ulladans and in rare instances with the Muthuvans. Window remarriage is not prohibited.


These sylvan deities are worshiped and propitiated by offerings and sacrifices. Special prayers are also offered to the manes of departed ancestors.[14]

Customs and Ceremonies

The new-crop or the puttari is religiously observed by puja and feast. During the opening harvest they conduct puja, a hollow dry reed with pebbles in it serving as a bell. This puja is accompanied by a sumptuous feast amidst great rejoicing and revelry. The Urali is most punctilious in the performance of these ceremonies and would rather starve for some days than relinquish his cherished ceremonies. When one falls ill no doctor or medicine is resorted to, except charms and incantations. Men are sometimes supposed to be under the influence of ghosts in certain diseases (mental and nervous), and the supposed devil is exorcised by these mantrams and charms. The sorcerers are supposed to derive the divine afflatus by a period of apprenticeship under their forefathers who are believed to assume the anthropomorphic form of a maiden and teach the secret doctrine as a panacea for all ills.

The natal rites are rather tedious. During confinement the women is segregated to a secluded corner, in a hut bult for the purpose. Here she is lodged for a period of   twelve days. Then for another shorted term of five days she is brought nearer home and located in a similar hut. She is considered impure for twenty days after childbirth, so much so, that she is not allowed to touch even the roof of the house. The tank in which she bathes is considered irremediably polluted. A special pool of water is designed for this purpose called pattu-vellam.TheUrali when they camp out, scrupulously avoid way –side tanks or pools, being afraid of its possible pollution in the past. They also consider the proximity of a pulaya polluting.

The husband observes pollution for three days on the birth of the first child. The wife’s relatives, however, have to observe five days pollution. On the eighteenth day after birth, elder member of the family is accorded the privilege of naming the child and boring its ear. The child, when able to walk safely on the ground, has the crown of its head converted into a kudumi(a tuft of hair).[15]

Funeral Rites

The Urali bury their dead at a distance from their dwelling places. This is one of the chief distinctions between them and their namesakes of Madura and Trichinopoly, who burn their dead, Every relative is expected, as a last tribute to the dead, to throw a new cloth on the corpse. A shed is erected as a mark of respect to the deceased, within which are placed an offering of boiled rice, betel, nuts, and his chopping knife. After the lapse of seven years an offering of food and drink is served to the soul of the death pollution lasts for sixteen days.

Inheritance and occupation

The Urali are marumakkathayis. Agriculture and hunting chiefly occupy their attention. Agriculture is of a migratory nature and their huts, which they take from place to place in guest of fresh fields for cultivation, are called pantals.The intervals of agricultural labour are spent in catching birds for their food. They are adepts in catching elephants in which Government generally employ them. They are clever huntsmen and are deeply attached to their dogs. They are, like the Kanikkars,exempt from taxation ,but in return they render some assistance to government in keeping watch over the Government plantations, cardamom gardens &.They make excellent mats of reed.

Language and Education

They speak a kind of corrupt Malayalam, but those who have had the chance of moving in higher circles or of receiving education, speak a pure form of it. The name most common among women is kinnuki, and those men are kolampan, maniakken, etc. The initiative to educate these hill tribes seems to have originally fallen to the lot of missionaries. The late Rev. Henry Baken, one of the earliest of the C.M.S Missionaries of Kottayam (1818-1843), devoted his labours in these untrodden hilly tracts of North Travancore not without some reward. His attempts to open a school were attended with success, and after his retirement in 1843, the mantle fell upon his son (Rev. Henry Baker Junior) who maintained, not unsuccessfully, the school established by his father, for a period of five years. But the unfortunate death of this missionary brought the school to an untimely close. However, subsequent Christian philanthropists have taken up the work again and, as the result of it, there are now two schools at Mekkanam under their supervision and attended by a good number of boys. Many of the Urali can read and write.


The Urali are characterized by honesty, simplicity and straightforwardness in their dealings. They serve as good forest guide to strangers. They respect parental authority.


The latest return of the Census gives their number as 220.[16]

KINSHIP TERMS                                                                                                                                                               





Relations through Father
Great grandfather Valliyappan
Great grandmother Valliyamma
Grand father Appuppan
Grand mother Ammumma
Father Achan
Mother Amma
Fathers’ elder brother Perappan
Father’s elder brother’s wife Peramma
Father’s younger brother Elayappan
Father’s younger brother wife Elayamma
Fathers’ elder brother’s son Chettan or by name
Fathers’ elder brother’s Daughter Pegal or by name
Fathers’ sister Ammayiamma
Fathers’ sister Husband Aschan
Fathers’ sister son Aliyan
Fathers’ sister Daughter Chettathi or by name

                                   Relations through Mother

Great grandfather Valliyappa
Great grandmother Valliamma
Grand father Appuppan
Grand mother Ammumma
Mother’s Brother Aschan
Mother’s Brother’s wife Ammayiamma
Mother’s sister Peramma or by name
Mother Amma

                       Relations through wife

Wife No name
Wife’s father Aschan
Wife’s mother Ammayiamma
Wife’s brother Aliyan
Wife’s brother’s wife Nathun
Wife’s sister Chettathi, if elder and by name
Wife’s sister’s husband Chettan ,if elder and by name

                           Relations through husband

Husband’s father Aschan
Husband’s mother Ammayiamma
Husband’s brother Chettan, if elder or by name
Husband’s brother’s wife Chettathi, or by name
Husband’s sister Nathun






This chapter of the proposed study revises three books: Edgar Thurston’s ‘Castes and Tribes Southern India’(1909), L.A Krishna Iyer’s ‘The Travancore Tribes and Castes’ Vol. III, (1941) and A. A. D Luiz’s ‘Tribes of Kerala’ (1962). This chapter mainly revises about how these three authors discussed about Urali Tribes’ Religious practices, Land use and settlement Pattern.

Edgar Thurston

Edgar Thurston CIE (1855-1935) was a superintendent at the Madras Government Museum who donated to studies in the zoology, ethnology and botany of India and published works associated with his work at the museum. Thurston was educated in medicine and lectured in anatomy at the Madras Medical College while also holding his position at the museum. His early works were on numismatics and geology and this was followed later by his researches in anthropology and ethnography. He succeeded Frederick S. Mullaly as the superintendent of ethnography for the Madras Presidency.

Among other published works, he wrote the seven volumes of Castes and Tribes of Southern India, which was a part of the Ethnographic Survey of India project to which he was appointed in 1901 following the success of Herbert Hope Risley’s Ethnographic Survey of Bengal. Risley was a devotee to the theories of scientific racism. He was appointed as director of Ethnology in India and Thurston worked under this project to collect accurate anthropometric measurements.


Settlement Pattern:

Urali are spilt into seven nadus, which are in effect endogamous subdivisions. There are called after villages in the country inhabited by the caste, namely Vadaseri, Pilluru, Sengudi, Kadavangudi or Virali, Talakka, Paluvinji or Magali and Marundi. The members of the first three of the these nadus are called vadaseri Urali, and those of the other four Nattu-simai Uralis, Kunduva–nattu-tokkadus or Nandutindis. All of them will mess together. They say that the nadus(land) were originally intended to facilitate the decision of caste disputes, and they are still the unit of the self-government. Each nadu has a headman, who exercises supreme control over the villages included within it. The Urali also have a number of exogamous sept called karais by the Vadaseris and kaniyacchis by the Nattu-simais, which are called after the names of places. They are generally cultivators, but are said sometimes to be given to crime. .[17] They put up huts in the vicinity of the cultivated areas, and use bamboo and reeds as materials. After leaving the old, and before putting up the new hut, they live for several days in caves or under trees.[18]

Land use

Urali used their land mainly for agriculture; they cultivated various kinds of food- grains. They begin to fell forest trees in Dhanu (December-January), and seeds are sown by the end of matam (April-May).[19]Others are sheep and cattle rear. Besides agriculture animal husbandry was another occupation.[20]

Religious practices

Edward Thurston makes scanned references about Gods; however religious practices are described in detail. They worshipped mainly Sivan, Ayyappan and Devi. They celebrated the Sivarathri. On the Sivaratri night, sacrifices are offered to their family Gods and on the following day, all the men of the village go out hunting. They have a head shikari (huntsman), called kavettaikaran, who receives every animal which is killed, cuts off its head, and breaks its legs. The head is given to the man who killed the animal, and the rest is shared among the caste men. The Uralis worship a variety of minor deities,and sacrifice sheep and goats to Palrayan.They observe two anmal festivals,viz:-(a) Thai nomu.when the whole house is cleaned,and margosa(Melia Azadirachta) twigs and spikes of Achyranthes aspera are tied together ,and placed in front of the houses over the roof,or struck into the roof overhanding the enterence. A sumptuous repast is partaken of.This ceremonial takes place in the month Thali (December-January);(b) In the month Vyasi (march-April) a large trough is placed close to a well,and filled with a mixture of salt and water.The cattle,decorated with leaves and flowers, are brought, one by one, to the trough, and made to drink the salt water.[21]

A.A.D Luiz

AAD Luiz’s book on the Tribes of Kerala is careful and interesting study of the tribes of Kerala and a valuable contribution regarding the customs and culture of a class of people, of whom very little is known to the world. So far as Kerala is concerned, A book of this kind has been a long felt need. The author discusses the origin and growth of social structure, religious ways, economic life and the institution of marriage of the aboriginals. In these days when steps are being taken to ‘enumerate’ the various tribes this publication will be of a positive value in assessing their needs and providing them help where it is actually required.

Religions Practices:

The religion of the tribes was animism, totemism and crude, polytheism, but due to the influence of Hinduism such ancient faiths and forms of worship have more or less displaced. Tribal society treats the supernatural with more fear than reverence, and is afraid of its powers. Their very religion and ceremonies consist in propitiating the gods to avert evil and ill-will. Very few pray for benefits. Tribes believe in the existence of the soul after death and in the rebirth             of the good as humans, and others as animals. Their great aspiration is to control the evil spirits (bhoothams) and if possible even the deities. Heaven is always thought of and described as a beautiful place somewhere in the high skies with plenty to eat and drink. Regarding hell and its location they have no comments to offer. They worship Shata, Kali, Siva, Vishnu, Subramania, Ayyaapan, Sylvan deities, Malavazhies, Mariamma, Kannimars and sprits of ancestors. Kanikkars, Paniyans, Koragas and Karimpalansconsider the spirits of ancestors as their domestic gods. They have numerous grama devatas,and most of them are connected with localities. Kali (Durga) a particularly malignant and revengeful goddess, and hermaphrodite deities are popular.Kannikaras invoke Saga Agastya and other Sage Valmiki in their rituals. Some tribes, especially the Muthuvans, Uralies and Koragas worship the sun. Many a god is known by the name of the location of a tribal settlement. Their faith is strong and practical, but very little is based on hope. Many groups believe that their gods could be made to intervene in their affairs by divination. Diviners run into a trance (frenzy) and disclose causes for the displeasure of the gods, and suggest methods for appeasing them. While in a trance they are believed to have divine inspiration. Oracles are popular and held in esteem. Animism as practiced by the tribes incorporates the belief in a soul and advocates the worship of inanimate objects. Caves, rocks, trees and many other objects are believed to have supernatural powers, and are worshipped even now by limited numbers. Definitely it is the object itself that is worshipped. It has to be mentioned that the worship of deities is contrary to animistic beliefs. Primitive ‘Meriah’ sacrifice has been replaced by the slaughter of animals, and ‘Hcok swinging’ of a human corpse has been substituted with dolls. Kurumbas, Irulars, Paniyans and many others perform live sacrifice, and what is offered is eaten after the ceremony. After a hut the heart and liver of the find is sliced and offered to the hunting deities. It is surprising that women who hunt, work and wander with men are treated as unclean, and prevented from participating in religious ceremonies. All groups have a Pujari (priest), a Mantravadi (magician), and a Kaniyan (astrologer). Kanikkars and Uralies call them Plathies.

Settlement Patterns

Urali live in wild life infested areas and their settlements can be identified by the Madoms (tree or pile huts) in addition to the ones on the ground and the presence of Dolmens erroneously described as treasure-troves. The Ambukallu or the flat stone resting on the top of vertical supports indicates the exact location of the grave of an ancestor. They live in settlements of four to six huts. The structure on the ground is made of bamboo, reeds and branches and is used during the day. The stronger and picturesque construction is on the top of a strong tree with a ladder leading to it. This is chiefly the sleeping apartments, and keeps them safe from being trampled by the wandering elephants. They keep the interior, and surroundings of their huts clean. Most of them use enamel and brass utensils and dried gourd containers for storing honey and water. Headmen are called Kani or Velan and the office descends from father to son. In case there is no son or he proves to being competent the nephew succeeds. Uralis respects their headman but no contribution is made for his maintence.The Velan of Arakulam was reputed to be conversant with various forms of black magic. Some claim to know the Odi cult and mantrams. They are respected and their decisions and arbitrations are accepted, even though the primitive form of devotion, respect and the conception of their infallibility has disappeared. At present the headman presides over the council (Panchayat) of elders which take decisions. He is consulted before finalizing marriage arrangements, and is expected to attend marriages and funerals. The primitive custom of contributions of the headman and his wife has disappeared, but thatching the hut of the headman is done by some tribes even now.

Homes (huts) of tribes known as Chelas, Chittaries, Pathies,and Kudies are made of bamboo and thatched with leaves, straw or grass. They also live in caves, under overhanging rocks, in pits in the ground, and in the hollows of big trees. The floor of the huts is often level with the ground. Windows usually consist of holes in the sides. Ural is who those living and cultivate in wild life infested areas have Macahans (pile dwellings), and Madoms (huts on high trees).

Land Use

Agriculture is considered as the main occupation of the Urali tribes. They used land mainly for cultivation of agricultural products. They cultivate rice, cholam, tapioca, ginger, cardamom and other consumable products as conditions permit. Group farming was prevailed among Urali, they seldom venture on independent cultivation. All the others were at one time engaged in Ponam (shifting) cultivation, and the justification for a shift was to have better harvest. In the absence of impediments they moved regularity every year, and never return to the same spot before the lapse of six years.[22]

L.A Krishna lyer

L.A Krishna lyer, son of L. K. Ananthakrishna Iyer, was an officer in the Forest Administration of Travancore, southernmost of Indian states. In 1937 he was detailed by the state government to compile the same kind of ethnographic survey for Travancore that his father had made for the native states of Cochin and Mysore. The first volume appeared in 1938. Some of the materials in them, based on the author’s long experience as a forest ranger, have been published previously as periodical articles or as contributions to the ethnographic notes in the 1931 Census of Travancore. The work is in the tradition of the regional Tribes and Castes series which now affords information on most of the political divisions of the country.

Religions Practices:

The Uralies make offerings to ancestors in January. A pongal is offered by the side of clothes, beads, rings,and bangles. Clothes are to propitiate male ancestors, and bangles and beads, female ancestors. The prayer is to effect, “Oh parents, grandparents and great grandparents, protect us. We shall propitiate you every year.”[23] Westermarck defines religion as “a belief in, and a respectable attitude towards, a supernatural being on whom man feels dependent, and to whose will he makes an appeal in his worship.” With primitive man, “religion is a part of his custom. It is his whole custom.”The religion of the primitive tribes of Travancore may be described as a system of animism or spiritualism, and their attitude to the supernatural is one of reverential fear in the presence of certain mysterious supernatural powers and being who must be propitiated or conciliated to avert ill-will. The hill tribes of Travancore have a hierarchy of deities and spirits, the sun, the ancestor spirits, village deities and spirits, hunting deities and tramp spirits. The worship of the sun is confined to the Muthuvans,the ,the Urali, and the Kanikkar. The Urali recognize the sun as the creator of the universe and the father of all souls. Ancestor worship is one of the great branches of mankind. According to Tyler, the dead ancestor; now passed as deity, goes on protecting his family and receiving suit from them as of old. Ancestors are therefore considered as kindly patron spirits, at least to their own kinsfolk and worshippers. Ancestor worship is prevalent among most of the primitive tribes of Travancore. A few offering of milk, rice, toddy, and ghee are made.[24]

Settlement Pattern

Natural shelters, namely caverns, overhanging rocks, holes in the ground, and hollow trunks may have been the abode of primitive man.          The rigidity of the village organization of the primitive tribes is due to their long isolation, their narrow outlook on life, and close inter-marriage for countless generations. They generally live in small groups of the families called kudi(village).Each village is even now an independent unit, and consists of an average of ten to fifteen families bound together by the idea of self-protection.[25] The primitive tribes of Travancore live in the region of the bamboo and the reed. Uralis have a better type of dwelling. The huts are wide apart in some places. Bamboo forms the chief building material. The Urali huts are isolated. Each man has a tree houses which is about 50 feet above ground. They spend their nights in it for fear of elephants. Each hamlet has a common tree-houses reserved for women in menses. There is a common tree-house as granary. The Urali have a headman called Kanikkaran for a group of hamlets. Each hamlet has a plathi or medicine-man that is responsible for the good conduct of the men there in. When disputes arise, the plathi informs the Kanikkaran, who presides over the meeting of the village council and settles the disputes. No fine inflicted on the delinquents.

Land Use

They used land for agriculture. They sway of customs looks more powerful among people in the earlier stages of culture. The Urali lead a pure life during the period of early agricultural operations from December to April. The migratory habits of the jungle tribes still continous among the Urali. [26]




Change in the life of human beings is often assessed on the basis of his sense of the world around and the nature of the depth his knowledge. People are often classified as savage or modern or as rational or irrational in a social setup. When we trace the pages of history, it is found that what is deputed as savage and old, has withstood the acid test of time. Even in the post-modern period efforts are very much alive to sustain them. It is quite motivating to examine the lives of Uralis in the past and the present as well.

Uralis lived in forest. Their ancestors cleared the forest, tilled the land and cultivated many things. Agriculture was their chief occupation and still is in addition they collect and sell forest resources. They also go for day labour. They cultivate tapioca, yam, elephant foot yam, plant ,bitter gourd, lady’s finger, bottle gourd, pepper, coffee, plants and coconut .They were much skilled in the collection and extraction of honey. They usually extract honey from small and big bees. They also make baskets and sieves to grain out of a type bamboo commonly known as “Etta”.

Traditionally Uralis were Hindus. Their Important deities were Sastha, Ayappan and Bhagavathi. Moreover they worship their ancestors .They have a separate temple for themselves which is devoted to Devi. It is a temple of great legacy .They have unique rituals ,belief and art forms of their own .But as time passed ,it has become part of history .Owing to too lack of proper care ,support and promotion ,most of it has gone down to oblivion .But by with slow ling the acid test of time some of their rituals are still alive .The notable among them are Urali tullal, meenabharani , karutha vavu . Urali tullal is a religious practice. It is an aggressive dance to place the favourite deity. It is a rural and folkdance form. Vary of them it as solo dance during tullal the dancer chants certain sounds. When the dancer reaches peak of ecstasy. he or she become almost unconscious.

Bhalasruthy. It is also known as uraliparayuka. It is almost similar to the tullal of an oracle or velichappad. In the past, it was conducted only occasionally. Nowadays it has almost become extinct among the uralis clan. The chief reason is that the new generation in almost indifferent to their rituals. Yet another reason is the considerable decrease in the number of Urali where they used to exist.

‘Kozhiuettu’ was a traditional ritual which is no longer followed by Uralis uessenthy. At the time of their ancestors, it was one of the most fruitful and popular offerings to the deity. For the gratification and personal prayers it was offered to the deity. This ranges from the cause of diseases to the materialising of personal prayers it was offered to the deity. This ranges   from the cause of diseases to the materialising of personal dreams. In gratitude of the fulfilment of prayers, cocks and hens offered to the temples .It was offered as Kuruthi at the time of worship. It was a great contentment to the believers.

At the time of new moon –popularly known as Karutha vavu. They offer worship to the departed souls. They conduct special pooja and offer worship in temples. They also leave a sumptuous meal for the departed souls with delicious dishes including plantain and jaggers, most of this dishes cooked directly on the flames. This is a unique ritual of Uralis which is still practised.

The clan Uralis still follow the tradition of muppans. The head of a local clan is commonly called Muppan. They believe that this title was awarded by the Poonjar royal family. Muppan title is traditionally limited to the same family handed down from one generation to the other. The eldest son of a Muppan becomes the heir of the title Muppan and his wife was revered by the whole community, their word is final and their orders are always obeyed.

Now days their houses roofed with asbestos or tin sheets. In the past, houses are mostly thatched. Most of the resources were collected from the forest. Besmeared their homes with pastes of soil or clay. But they didn’t use crowding in the process. They lived together in colonies which is traditionally knows as URALIKUDI. In the modern terminology it is “scheduled tribe colony “.This change of names is to facilitate the implementation of projects like “integrated tribal development programme”. This also facilitates the utilization of plan funds from the local self Governments and the conduct of ‘Grammasabha’

It is believed that the Uralis existed here since the time of Poonjar royal clan. In the past they lived in the dense forests. A lot of myths were associated with their transition from the forest to the current area. Some believe that they came and spread through the developments of the Poonjar royal family. In order to obtain forest resources, the king gave them some lands to settle consequently they established and maintain their clan there. Some others believe that they have to quit the forest as more people involved the forest area for agriculture.

It is found that there is no change in life, beliefs, and rituals of Uralis in the sweep of time. This has become a very vital part of their very existence. It has become part and parcel of their social, religious, agricultural and cultural living. They were much conscious not to let it became rusty. Instead, they polish it by their regular practices of tradition.

Since time immemorial each and every local clan has established their identity and self by closely associating themselves with nature and organisms around by fighting a hard battle with all the adversity they confront. Their effort is still continuous and it is found that ‘self’ is not eclipsed by the process of modernisation.

Seen from an impersonal perspective, it is estimated in the postmodern era, most of the tribal groups in Kerala were struggling load to sustain their ‘self’ and identity which is attained by their struggle of over many years. It is real erases that confront them. The way of living in much culture is classified based on their self esteem and sense of individuality and self. It is their sense of self and identity that uniquely classifies commercially from the community. Unfortunately, it is this uniqueness of the tribal’s that is viewed as savage and irrational by the modern society. This attitude is to be criticized and discharged. It is crystal clear that the perspective and experience of the tribal group will definitely differ from that of the modern outer world. It is this It is this difference that makes them what they are.

Before the advancement of modern service education and culture, the tribal community has seen, comprehended, interpreted and rule the world around in the own indigenous and unique way. It shows that the difference perspective is not something new or novel, but dated much back to the past.

The uprooting of tribal communities in India has been clearly mapped in the cultural map of India. But quite ironically monopoly resets with perspective and thought patters of modern science in India and the world around as well. The modern view is the out came of the explosive and boom of science and technology in Europe in the 17th and18th centuries. But it never takes into consideration the internal skills the being of soul and the many extensions of a human life. Therefore, modern perspective is quite insufficient to read and interpret the bond of man and nature and the resultant emerging of self and identity using the methodology of modern science.

Modernization is in fact an offspring of imperial colonization. The traditional and the modern fight one another and drainage of self and identity. All the studies in the tribal community are in fact a deliberate or international recognition of the uniqueness of the tribal class which makes them different from the modern community.

The change in the life style of Uralis, owing modernisation, is very often enforced. This is exemplified when they quit the traditional habitat ‘forest’ to become a tenant in the modern society as a result; they lost their close association with nature and its resources. With the breaking of this bond, it is their self that perhaps their heritage, but recently they have fought with tooth and nail to enliven and regain their cost self and glory.



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[1]Zhimo , Avitoli G (2007) .”Understanding Tribal Religion by Tamo Mibang and Sarit. K Chaudhuri” .Indian Anthropologist, Vol. 37, No. 2. pp. 107-108

[2]Sahu Chaturbhuj, Tribal cultural and identity, published by Prabhat Kumar Sharma for Sarup and Sons Delhi,p.3

[3] Ibid p.4

[4] Ibid p:6

[5] L.P Vidyarthi, Tribal Development and its administration(ed),published by Ashok kumar concept publishing company, 1981, page-47

[6] New encyclopedia Britanica,vol.10,page:115

[7]AtalYogesh,sociology and social anthropology in India (ed)publisged by dorlingkindersley(India)2009.

[8]SahuChaturbhuj,Tribal cultural and identity, published by prabhat Kumar sharma for sarup and sons Delhi,p.6

[9] Joy jobin,Resettelment issues: A case study of Malavedan of Eruthvapuzha in Kottayam,(M.A dissertation),2012

[10] Thurston Edgar, Castes and Tribes of Sothern india,Volume-VII,asian educational services,Newdelhi,1909

[11]A. Sreedhara Menon. A Survey of Kerala History, page-54-55

[12] Travancore Census Report for 1901,Pp-350

[13] V., Nagam Aiya, Travancore State Manual, Volume -II, Gazetteers department, Government of Kerala , Pp-413

[14] Ibid Pp-414

[15] Ibid Pp-415

[16] Ibid Pp-416

[17] Edward thurstan,castes and tribes in southern india,Vol-VII, published by Asian educational service,newdelhi,1909,page-252

[18] Edward thurstian,some marriage customs in southern india,page-203

[19] Edward thurstian,castes and tribes in southern india,Vol-VII, published by Asian educational service,newdelhi,1909,page-247

[20] Ibid page-251

[21] Ibid Pp-207

[22]A A D Luiz, Tribes of kerala,1961,page-8

[23] L.A Krishna iyer, Travancore tribes and castes ,Volume III,1940,page-136

[24] Ibid,page-137

[25] Ibid ,page-123

[26] Ibid Pp-150

Prepared by Nimmy Thomas


Tribal Communities of Kerala

1. Adiyan

Name of the community: Adiyan

  • Location
    District: Wayanad
    Taluk: Mananthavadi
    Villages:Thirunelly, Mananthavady , Panamaram and Pulpally Demographic details:
  • Population(KILA Survey 2008): 11196
    Literacy(KILA Survey 2008): 66.18%

Population in the 15-59 age group : 7034 (71.9%)
Students/not working due to various reasons : 1537
Agriculture labor as primary occupation : 4838
MNREGA as primary occupation: 1345
Animal Husbandry as primary occupation :111

Agriculture as primary occupation :88

Adiyan families are concentrated mainly in Wayanad District. About 99.80 per cent of the Adiyan population is settled in Wayanad District alone. A few families/persons have moved on to Kottayam, Idukki, Kozhikode and Eranakulam Districts . Adiyans used to be bonded to their land lords till the enforcement of the Abolition of Bonded Labour Act of 1976. They are now marginal agriculturists but majority are agricultural labourers. Now a days they migrate to Karnataka to work in agricultural farms. ‘Gaddika’ is a famous art form of Adiyan community.

Adiyans are bilingual. They speak a separate dialect of Kannada known as ‘Adiyabhasha’. Adiyan literally means ‘slave or serf’ in Malayalam. They call themselves as ‘Ravulavar’.

The community is divided into a number of clans called ‘Mantu’ or ‘Chemmam’ and the clan head is known as ‘Chemmakkaran’. The children take their mother’s clan. ‘Chemmakkaran’ regulates the life cycle rites of the clan. The hamlets are uniethinic and the head is known as ‘Kuntumoopan’ who settles disputes among members. The religious rites are officiated by ‘Kannaladi’. The ‘Nadumoopan’ or ‘Peruman’ controls the regional affairs of the community.

2.Aranada (Aranadan)

  • Name of the community: Aranda
  • Location
    District: Malappuram
    Taluk: Nilambur
    Villages: Muthedam, Vazhikkadavu, Edakkara, Pothukallu(Nilambur Block Panchayat), Amarambalam, Karulai, Kalikavu and Chokkad(Kalikave Block Panchayat

Aranadan community is found only in the Nilambur forests of Malappuram District. The community name is derived from two local terms,‘Aravam’ means snake and ‘Nadan’ means countrymen. They are one of the diminutive tribal communities. Their language is found to be a mixture of Malayalam, Tamil and Tulu.

Aranadans are endogamous with subdivisions called ‘Villa'(clan). Each settlement has a headman called ‘Chemmakkaran’ who settles disputes and officiates in the rituals connected with their life cycle. ‘Kalladikaran’ acts as the priest cum healer.

Aranadans are believed to be the original inhabitants of the erstwhile Eranad Taluk of Malappuram District. They were expert hunters and food gatherers with little interest in agriculture and cattle rearing. They used to hunt pythons and extract oil which was used as a remedy for leprosy. They also collect minor forest produces.

The deforestation and strict enforcement of Forest Laws have threatened their livelihood pattern. The community as a whole is very backward in terms of social and economic status.

3. Eravallan

  • Name of the community: Eravallan
  • Location
    District: Palakkad
    Gram Panchayaths: Muthalamada , Perumatty, and Kozhinjampara
  • Earlier the Eravallans were known as ‘Villu Vedan’, which means hunters using bows and arrows. In early Dravidian Language ‘Eravan’ is related to agricultural serfs. Among themselves they speak a crude dialect of Tamil but to others they can speak Malayalam.

The institution of headman is called ‘Talaivan’ and over a period of continuous subjugation the relevance of headman is not there and as a result the ‘Pujari’ (priest) performs the duties of headman.

Eravallans are landless agricultural laborers attached to the local landlords. They are experts in ploughing dry lands for the cultivation of various crops. Caste discrimination is high in their locality.

4. Hill Pulaya (Mala Pulayan, Kurumba Pulayan, Karavazhi Pulayan, Pamba Pulayan)

  • Name of the community: Hill Pulaya
  • Location
    District: Idukki
    Taluk: Devikulam
    Villages: Kanthallur , Marayur gram panchayaths

Hill Pulayas are divided into three endogamous sects, viz; Kurumba Pulayan, Karavazhi Pulayan and Pamba Pulayan. Kurumba Pulayans are found only in the ‘Anchunad’ area of Devikulam Taluk of Idukki District. They are early immigrants from Tamil Nadu. Kurumba Pulyans consider themselves superior in social status to the other two sects. The settlements of these three groups are separate. Kurumba Pulayans are seen in forest areas while the Karavazhi Pulayans are found in plain areas of Marayur and Kanthallur Grama Panchayats. Pamba Pulayans are seen in Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary area in Idukki District. All of them speak a dialect of Tamil with a few Malayalam words too.Kurumba Pulayan community has their headman called ‘Arasan’. The head man of Karavazhi Pulayan is ‘Kudumban’. He has assistants and executives known under various names like ‘Varijan’ and ‘Kolkkaran’ respectively. Kurumba Pulayan community were food gatherers and hunters and practised slash and burn cultivation. They cultivate lemon grass and extract oil. They are found to be experts in sheep rearing. On the other hand Karavazhi Pulayans are landless agricultural serfs under the Caste Hindus. Currently both these two major sections are engaged in casual labour. Karavazhi Pulayans have many colourful forms of folk dances and they believe that dancing pleases the Gods and better blessings would be granted. They have had the opportunity to present their folk songs and dances in national forums.

5. Irular,Irulan

  • Name of the community: Irular
  • Location
    District: Palakkad
    Villages: Agali, Sholayur and Pudur Grama panchayaths
    Irular community is distributed in Palakkad District and they are mainly concentrated in Attappady region. They are also found in Tamil Nadu. They have a dialect of their own called ‘Irula bhasha’, which has more affinity to Tamil. Their traditional social organisation is endowed with various functionaries, namely; ‘Ooru Moopan’ (Chieftain),‘Bhandari’ (Treasurer), ‘Kuruthala’ (assistant to Chieftain) ‘Mannukaran’ (soil expert), ‘Marunnukaran’ (healer) etc. These positions are hereditary and succession is by the son. This traditional institutions play a decisive role in the social control mechanism of Irular community.

Earlier Irular were hunters, gatherers and shifting cultivators. Now they have become experts in settled agriculture and also work as agricultural labourers. The major area in Attappady falls under rain shadow region and as such the important crops raised by them under dry farming are ‘Ragi’, ‘Chama’, ‘Thina’, ‘Cholam’, ‘Thuvara’, ‘Kadala’ etc. For cultivation they stay away from their hamlet and erect temporary huts. Irular community has attractive songs and dances which tell about their forest, cultivation, emotions etc.

They have been empowered through ‘Thaikula Sangham’, exclusively for women and‘Ooruvikasana Samithi’ organised under the Attappady Hills Area Development Society. Their livelihood means have been affected due to the influx of non tribal population both from other parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

6. Kadar (Wayanadan Kadar)

Name of the community: Kadar (Wayanad Kadar)

  • Location
    District: Wayanad, Kozhikode
    Taluk: Manathavadi(of Wayanad)
    Villages: Thariyode , Vellamunda, Thondarnad ,Edavaka , Pozhuthana and Padinjarethara  Grama Panchayats

Wayanad Kadar is a new addition into the list of Sheduled Tribes following the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Orders (Amendment) Act, 2002 (Act 10 of 2003). Wayanad Kadar is found mostly in Wayanad District. A few families also live in Kozhikode District. Wayanad Kadars are marginal farmers and agricultural workers. Being a small community they are yet to shape their future development vision.

7. Kanikkaran

  • Name of the community: Kanikkaran,Kanikar
  • Location
    District: Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam
    Villages: : Vithura, Peringammala , Tholikkod , Pangode,Amboori and Kulathupuzha Grama Panchayats

Kanikkar are distributed mainly in Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam Districts and in the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu. They were called ‘Kanikkar’ by the Sage Agastya, signifying ‘hereditary proprietor of the land’. ‘Kani’ means land and ‘Karan’ means owner. Their spoken language exhibits features both of Malayalam and Tamil. The Kanikkar have an allegiance to Travancore Kingdom and they visit the Raja annually to present hill produces and in turn receive gifts from the Raja.

The ‘Kanikudi’ or ‘Kanipat’ (settlement) is the basic unit of social, economic, political and religious organisation. Each ‘Kanipat’ is headed by a ‘Muttukani’ who enjoys great powers. The ‘Vilikani’ (Convener) is the headman’s assistant and in some areas the headman is known as ‘Muthalpat’. The ‘Plathy’, next in hierarchy, is the magician cum medicine man. Earlier they subsisted on hunting, minor forest produce collection and cultivation. Now they practise settled agriculture like cultivation of rice and tapioca. The major cash crops raised by them are arecanut, pepper, ginger, turmeric, cashew etc. There are a number of medicinal herbs in the ‘Agasthyakoodam’ peak and their traditional knowledge system is noteworthy as they are able to identify appropriate herbs for curing almost all diseases. Kanikkar living in the plain areas along with other communities have improved much in their lifestyle while those living in the interior forests called ‘Malamkanis’ are still deprived of the basic amenities of life.

8. Karimpalan

  • Name of the community: Karimpalan
  • Location
    District: Kozhikode, Kannur Wayanad
    Villages: Naduvil, Udayagiri, Alakode and Ulikkal Grama Panchayats.
  • Livelihoods:

Karimpalans are found in Kozhikode, Kannur and Wayanad Districts. The name appears to have originated from their occupation of collecting ‘Kari’ (Charcoal). Karimpalan listed as Scheduled Castes has now been included in the list of Scheduled Tribes in 2003. The institution of the headman called ‘Karnavar’ has now became weak. The clan organisation of Karimpalan is known as ‘Taravadis’ which regulate marriages. Traditionally they were engaged in shifting cultivation, making baskets, work as labourers in plantations for felling trees and collecting timber, bamboo and fire wood. Now they are engaged in settled cultivation. They are also found to be working as agricultural labourers. The younger generation has started to acquire new skills for employment. The community is progressing much ahead of other Scheduled Tribe communities living in their locality.

9. Kattunayakan

  • Name of the community: Kattunayakan


  • District: Wayanad, Malappuram, Palakkad
    Villages: Thirunelli, Noolpuzha, Poothadi, Mullamkolly and Pulpally Grama Panchayats.
  • Demographic details:
    Population(KILA Survey 2008): 17051
    Literacy(KILA Survey 2008): 60.15%
    Kattunayakans are distributed in Wayanad, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad Districts. They are also found in the neighbouring States of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. An overwhelming majority of the population is concentrated in Wayanad.               The term Kattunakayan is derived from the words ‘Kattu’ (forest) and ‘Nayakan’ or ‘naickan’(lord).

Thus Kattunayakan literally means lord of forests. Jenu Kurumban and Ten Kurumban are the synonyms used for the Kattunayakan community. They speak a dialect akin to Kannada. They can converse withoutsiders in Malayalam. Basically Kattunayakans are forest dwellers and hence their social life and economy are forest based. They were used as mahouts and in elephant capture. Among tribal communities they are found to be the best honey collectors applying different techniques. They were mainly hunters and food gatherers with sporadic shifting cultivation around their settlements. They still subsist on non timber forest produce collection. The headman is called ‘Muthan’ or ‘Muthali’ who also officiates as priest. They have already responded to quality education and the implementation of development programmes may help them to improve their quality of life Kattunayakan is a community with the largest population among PVTG in Kerala.

10. Kochuvelan

  • Name of the community: Ulladan/Kochuvelan
  • Location
    District: Pathanamthitta,Kottayam,Idukki,Ernakulam
    Gram Panchayaths: Chittar, Naranammoozhy (Pathanamthitta District), Mundakkayam (Kottayam District), Kanjikkuzhi (Idukki District), and Kuttampuzha (Eranakulam District)
  • Livelihoods:

Kochu Velan is a locally known term used by the Ulladans (sometimes as the name of their headman) living in the eastern areas of Pathanamthitta District. ‘Ullu’ means forest areas and ‘Aliyavar’ means those who ruled. It is believed that their original settlements were in forest areas and later on they came down and settled in plain areas too. Their traditional dialect is almost not in use and they now speak Malayalam. Generally head man of Ulladan community is known as ‘Kanikaran’. The headman presides over the council of elders. They were semi nomadic in the past. They have the indigeneous knowlege of collecting medicinal herbs which they sell in the local markets. They have the right to enter even the sacred groves for the collection of medicinal plants. Ulladans living on the banks of Western Kuttanad backwaters are good carpenters and are known for their expertise in canoe making. They have become wood cutters also. They also subsist on non timber forest produce especially honey collection.Today a major section of them are agricultural abourers. Ulladans who are settled in urban and semi-urban plain areas have responded to development and progressed in their own way.

11. Koraga

  • Name of the community: Koraga
  • Location
    District: Kasargod

Villages: Panoor

Koragas are distributed only in Kasargod District and in the adjoining area of Karnataka State. Ninety Families living in Pavoor Colony having an extent of 311 acres of land at Manjeswaram, had embraced Christianity way back in 1913. They had a glorious history of having a Koraga region under Hubashika Raja, but later on they were enslaved by their rulers. ‘Kora’ means sun and it is said that they worship sun and hence the term ‘Koraga’ originated from it. They speak Tulu. They live in ‘Mathadi’(settlements) and the headman is known as ‘Koppu’ or ‘Guru Kara’ who controls the social and cultural practices. They had also a council of elders for decision making and awarding punishments. Koragas were treated as agrestic slaves and were sold along with the land by their respective masters. They are experts in basketry and weaving a variety of items like winnowing fans, cradles and baskets. They collect the raw materials like bamboos, canes and creepers available from the nearby forests. Currently the community faces severe health problems. Koraga can march ahead through planned development. A concerted effort has to be made for their economic upliftment and redeeming them from the disparities in social position as well.

12. Kudiya, Malakudiya

  • Name of the community: Kudiya
  • Location
    District: Kasaragod
    Villages: Paivelika , Puthige, Panathady , Enmakaje , Vorkadi , Meencha, Belur

Kudiya and Melakudi are found only in Kasaragod District and in the South Karnataka. Those who live in lowland are called Kudiya and highlanders are the Melakudi. They speak Tulu. A caste council of elders existed among them. Their headman is called ‘Gurikara’ or ‘Malemudiya’,who intervenes into transgression of caste rules. The religious functions are officiated by a ‘Purohit’ (priest). Traditionally, they were hunters and gatherers and in the course of time, they turned into marginal farmers. They subsist on rearing pigs, poultry, cattle and work as agricultural abourers. They also make baskets. Being a community having a population of 911, their development plans are to be focused on family based projects. Those living in remote and isolated areas do not have adequate infrastructural facilities for their total development.

13. Kurichan (Kurichiyan)

  • Name of the community: Kurichiyan
  • Location
    District: Wayanad
  • Contact details of Informants:
  • Demographic details:
    Population:25266 (KILA 2008)
    Literacy: 84.76% (KILA 2008)

Population in the 15-59 age group : 16952
Students/not working due to various reasons :4970
Agriculture as primary occupation : 4674
Agriculture labor as primary occupation :3878
MNREGA as primary occupation:1498
Animal Husbandry as primary occupation :510

And 2.98% of the population works in Government projects and sector.

Kurichiyans are divided into four groups, namely; ‘Jati’ Kurichiyans of Wayanad,

‘Kunnam’ Kurichiyans of Kannur, ‘Anchilla’ Kurichiyans of Tirunelli and ‘Pathiri’(priest) Kurichiyans who embraced Christianity way back in 1908-10. They speak the North Malabar dialect of Malayalam, but the elders still talk in their own dialect. A Kurichiyan leader, Thalakkal Chandhu along with Pazhassi Raja fought with bows and arrows against the Britishers between 1802 and 1805. The Kurichiya rebellion of 1812 showed how they were organised to fight bravely against the policies of Britishers. Kurichiyans of Wayanad follow joint family system called ‘Mittom’ consisting of 30 to 100 or more members. The elder male in a mittom is called ‘Poopan’ and his wife is known as ‘Poopathi’. Their teritorial head is called ‘Nadu Moopan’. They still adhere to then customary laws and practices. The younger generation has shown a tendency to form nuclear families. Kurichiyans are rated as the best paddy cultivators among the Scheduled Tribes of Kerala. They cultivate many species of rice. They are also adapted to the cultivation of ragi, coffee, pepper, arecanut etc. Both men and women participate in almost all agricultural operations irrespective of their age. They have an expert knowledge in identifying medicinal plants for curing certain diseases.

14. Kuruman(Mulla Kuruman, Mala Kuruman)

  • Name of the community: Mullakkurumar
  • Location
    District: Wayanad
    Meenangadi,Noolpuzha, Nenmeni, Poothadi, Ambalavayal, Pulpally, Kaniyambetta and Sulthanbathery grama panchayaths
  • Demographic details:
    Population(KILA Survey 2008):20983
    Literacy(KILA Survey 2008):

Population in the 15-59 age group: 15024

Students/not working due to various reasons: 4887
Agriculture labor as primary occupation: 5142

Agriculture as primary occupation: 1316
7.48 of the population works in Gov sector.

Mullu Kuruman, Mulla Kuruman and Mala Kuruman refer to a single ethnographic community called Mulla Kuruman. They are distributed mainly in Wayanad District and also in the adjoining parts of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka States. It is belived that they are the autochthones of Wayanad and descendants of Veda Kings who originally ruled there. The older generation speak a dialact of their own and new generation has switched over to Malayalam Mulla Kuruman settlements are known as ‘Kudi’. Each settlement has a ‘Porunnavan’ who controls the traditional social organisation. He is assisted by a ‘Porathavan’ and a few others. A group of nearby settlements is controlled by a common headman and above all there is a chief headman called ‘Nadukarnavan’. Their traditional political organisation was so strong that they had fortified centers and remants testify the same .

15. Kurumbas

  • Name of the community: Kurumbas (Kurumbar, Kurumban)
  • Location
    District: Palakkad
    Villages: Agali, Pudur
  • Demographic details:
    Sex ratio(Sensus 2001) :  1000:996

Kurumbar are distributed in Attappady Block Panchayat of Palakkad District. They are the earliest inhabitants of Attappady area and are called ‘Palu Kurumba’ to distinguish them from the ‘Alu Kurumba’ of Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu State. The language spoken by them is a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam. The traditional social organisation of Kurumbar is similar to that of Mudugar and Irular communities residing in that area. Kurumbar mostly living in Reserve and Vested Forest areas have been practising shifting cultivation called ‘Panja Krishi’. They cultivate Ragi, Thuvara, Chama etc. They are experts in cattle rearing. They are also collectors of non timber forest produces. They maintain a community life by sharing land and labour. Kurumbas were once hunters and gatherers and shifting cultivators of Attappady Valley.

However, among the five PVTG of Kerala, the younger generation of the Kurumba community have shown more interest than others in organising themselves and getting educated.Kurumba community is settled in Agali and Pudur Grama Panchayats of Palakkad District.

16. Mahamalasar

  • Name of the community: Mahamalasar
  • Location
    District: Palakkad
    Villages: MuthalamadaDemographic details:

Sex Ratio (Sensus 2011) : 1000 : 932

  • Livelihoods: Food Gathering, Collection of non timber produces.

Maha Malasar, living in inacessible high forests of Palakkad District, is numerically the smallest Scheduled Tribe community of Kerala. Their counterparts are distributed in the Anamalai Hills of Tamil Nadu State. They speak a dialect of Tamil. Maha Malasar prefer to live in forests at high elevations. They have a headman called ‘Moopan’ which is hereditary. Their major economic activities are food gathering and collection of non timber forest produces which they exchange with petty traders from the plains for food grains, cloths etc.

The forest laws and menace of the wild animals prevent them from any type of cultivation.There are only 40 families of Maha Malasar community and all are settled in Muthalamada Grama Panchayat, Palakkad District

17. Malai Arayan

  • Name of the community: Malai arayan / Malayaran / mala arayan
  • Location

District: Kottayam, Idukki
Taluk: Meenachi (Kottayam), Thodupuzha (Idukki)
Villages: Melukavu , Moonnilavu, Mundakkayam , Koruthodu and Erumeli Grama Panchayaths of Kottayam and Velliyamattom, Arakkulam, Udumbannur and Vannappuram, Adimali,Kanjikuzhy, Muttom and Kokkayar, in Idukki District Ranni Perunad (Pathanamthitta District),Thalanad (Kottayam District), and Kuttampuzha (Eranakulam District)

Mala Arayans, are mainly distributed in Meenachil Taluk of Kottayam District andThodupuzha Taluk of Idukki District. They have migrated and formed a few settlements in the Districts of Eranakulam, Pathanamthitta, Thiruvananthapuram and Wayanad. This is the first Scheduled Tribe community in Kerala to embrace Christianity and this group comes to 30 per cent of their population. The conversion dates back to 1853 and the missionaries started vernacular schools and as a result their march to progress has been fast and steady. They speak Malayalam although they had a dialect of their own which became obsolete. The Poonjar Raja had suzerainty over the Malayarayar people residing in his jurisdiction. The Raja used to confer a title to the Malai Arayans called ‘Ponamban’ and a silver headed cane. The subjects paid a nominal tax. There has been a council of elders to operate the social control mechanism of the community.

Mala Arayans have become settled agriculturists. It is seen that sizable portions of their land holdings have been turned into rubber plantations. Other commercial crops are also there.

18. Malai Pandaran

  • Name of the community: Malai Pandaran
  • Location
    District: Kollam, Pathanamthitta
    Villages:Piravanthur and Ariankavu Grama Panchayats in Kollam District and Ranni Perunad, Seethathodu and Aruvappulam Grama Panchayats in Pathanamthitta District
  • Demographic details:
  • Sex Ratio (2001) : 1000 : 1024
  • Livelihoods:

Malai Pandarams are found on the eastern hill areas of Kollam and Pathanamthitta Districts. They speak a dialect with many Tamil and Malayalam phrases.The social organisation of Malai Pandaram is typical of a territorial nomadic forest dwelling community as they remain for some time in one place and move on to another in search of non timber forest produces. There is area wise grouping called ‘Koottam’ ie, territorial. The headman is known as ‘Muttukani’ who acts as their ritual head also. In the erstwhile Travancore area, Malai Pandarams were known as the best collectors of non timber forest produces which they used for their subsistence and trade. In the past they contacted country traders for bartering hill produces to obtain essentials. Even now they depend on forest produces for their livelihood. The developmental programmes has not helped them to produce even a steady first generation of literates. They need community specific initiatives for improvement of their livelihood.

19. Malai Vedan (Mala Vedan)

  • Name of the community: Mala Vedan / malai vedan
  • Location
    District: Pathanamthitta, Kottayam , Kollam and idukki
    Villages: Naranammuzhi Grama Panchayat in Pathanamthitta District, Piravanthur, Thenmala (Kollam District), Pramadom (Pathanamthitta District), Erumeli and Manimala (Kottayam District) Grama panchayath(In addition, they have rspresentation in 7 more districts, but not in sizeable population)
  • Demographic details:
    sex ratio as 1000 : 1069
  • Livelihoods: Manual Labourers

Malavedans are found mainly in the Districts of Kollam, Pathanamthitta and Kottayam.They are also scattered in the neighbouring areas. They are considered to belong to ‘Pre-Dravidian Race’. They speak a dialect of Tamil and Malayalam. In social organisation, they are divided into five endogamous sub-divisions, ‘Tolvedans’,‘Cheenkannivedans’,‘Cheruvedans’,‘Elichathvedans’and ‘Valiyavedans’. Traditionally the headman acts as the medicine man.

Malavedans who subsisted mainly on food gathering and hunting have turned as manual labourers. Both men and women are experts in collecting medicinal herbs. They have lost all their traditional resources and heavily depend upon external support. An integrated rehabilitation measure with proper extension work can build up a first generation of development oriented persons among them.

20. Malakuravan

21. Malasar

  • Name of the community: Malasar
  • Location
    District: Palakkad
    Taluk: Chittur
    Villages:Eruthempathy, Kozhinjampara, Perumatty, Vadakarapathy, Muthalamada, Nelliampathy and Pudusseri Grama Panchayats

Malasar community members are distributed both in the plains and valleys of Chittur Taluk of Palakkad District and also in the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu. They speak Tamil. They live in settlements called ‘Pathi’ and each ‘Pathi’ is headed by a headman called ‘Moopan’ who is assisted by a few others. They have lost their command over resources and now they depend upon manual labour to eke out their living. Community specific programmes are to be chalked out to address their development in future

22. Malayan, Nattu Malayan, Konga Malayan (Excluding the areas comprising the Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikode Districts)

  • Name of the community: Malayan
  • Location
    District: Eranakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad
    Villages:Pananchery Grama Panchayat in Thrissur District has the largest representation of Malayan community among 33 Grama Panchayats which have population of the community. Vengur (Eranakulam District), Pazhayannur, Puthur, Varandarappilly and Athirappilly (Thrissur District), Ayiloor and Kizhakkanchery (Palakkad District) are the other Grama Panchayats

Malayan, Nattu Malayan, Konga Malayan (Excluding the areas comprising Kasaragod, Kannur, Wayanad and Kozhikod Districts) recognised as Scheduled Tribes have two sub divisions, viz; ‘Nattu Malayan’ who are the original inhabitants in the hill areas of Kerala and ‘Konga Malayan’ who appears to have migrated from the forests of Coimbatore District in Tamil Nadu. There is another distinct community with the same spelling, classified under the list of Scheduled Castes and the area restriction is imposed to distinguish these two communities. The ‘Nattu Malayans’ have a dialect of their own while the ‘Konga Malayan’ speak a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam. They have a headman in every settlement called ‘Elumoopan’ who is assisted by a ‘Kaikaran.’ The primary occupation of Malayan community is forest labour and collection of non timber forest produces. They are efficient in cutting bamboo and reeds from the forest. They are also agriculturists. But the Forest Laws have restricted many of their cultivation and they are now striving to get their traditional rights through the fair implementation of Forest Rights Act, 2006. The irrigation projects like Peechi and Chimminy have affected their livelihood pattern.

23. Mavilan

  • Name of the community: Mavilan
  • Location
    District: Kannur, Kasargod
    Villages:Madikkai, Pullur Periya, Kuttikol, Bedaduka, Balal, Kallar, Kodombelur, Panathady, West Eleri and Kinanoor-Karinthalam (all in Kasaragod District)
  • Livelihoods: Agriculture, Agriculture labour

Mavilan community is distributed in Kasaragod and Kannur Districts only. There are a number of versions regarding the etymology of the term Mavilan. Some say that they used ‘Mavila’, ie; leaves of the mango tree to cover their body. Some others say ‘Mavila’ is medicinal herb used by them and a few others say ‘Malayilae Velan’ (Forest Velan) came to be known as Mavilan.        They speak Tulu and have a good talking knowledge of Malayalam. Earlier the headman was known as ‘Kiran’ appointed by their landlord mainly to control the work force and also to settle disputes. Now ‘Taravad karnavar’ acts as the headman and officiates the religious rites and rituals too. They have been experts in ‘Punam Kothu’ which involves clearing of virgin forests and converting the same for wet land paddy cultivation owned by their landlords. They were experts in shifting cultivation. Collecting medicinal herbs, non timber forest produces and bamboo provide many with employment. Basket making is also found among them. Anoverwhelming majority of them subsist on agricultural labour. A few of them are marginalfarmers. They have switched over to non agricultural labour too.

Mavilan community has been enlisted under the category of Scheduled Castes till 2002. Their cultural identity and political awarness has grown up and formed organisations to empower themselves. As such the community is ready to adopt innovations brought through planned development.

24. Malayarayar

  • Name of the community:
  • Location
  • Demographic details


25. Mannan

  • Name of the community: Mannan
  • Location
    District: Idukki
    Villages:Adimaly, Mankulam, Udumbanchola, Vazhathope, Kanchiyar and Kumily
  • Demographic details:

Mannan community is believed to have migrated to Idukki from Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Their language is a mixture of Tamil and Malayalam. Among the Scheduled Tribe communities of Kerala, Mannan is the only community headed by a Raja, called ‘Kozhimala Raja Mannan’ whose word is final among their society. There is a ‘Mantri‘ (Minister) working under the Raja Mannan. Each settlement has a headman called ‘Kanikaran’. In the past the Poonjar Raja conferred certain privileges to the Mannan community like acting as agents for management of the jurisdiction and collection of taxes Earlier they were nomadic agriculturists and practised shifting cultivation. Now they have become expert settled agriculturists. They also supplement their economy by the collection of non timber forest produces wherever available. They are also associated with the activities under the Eco Development Committees and Vanasamrakshna Samithis. The self perception of the community is high. But educationally they are very backward. Therefore,for their survival, the focus should be on human resources development. Nearly 97 per cent (9064 persons) of Mannan community are inhabitants of Idukki District.

26. Muthuvan

  • Name of the community: Muthuvan
  • Location :
    Taluk: Devikulam
    Villages: Devikulam
  • : Kudi
  • Settlements :
    Kanthalloor – Ollavayalkudi,Mangapparakkudi, KulachivayalKudi,Nakkuppetti,Theerthamalakkudi

Marayur Panchayath – Champattikkudi, Soosanikkudi, Karpoorakkudi, Peliyakudi, kavakkudi, Kulathukalkudi, Nellippetty, Kammalan kudi,

Vattavada Panchayath-Iruttalakkudi, Puthukkudi, Vellakkalkudi, Olikkudi,  Koodalarkudi, Samiyarala kudi, Keezhvalasapettykudi, Melvalasappetty,

Chinnakkanal Panchayath : Pachappulkudi, Chempakathozhukudi,

Mankulam Panchayath – Tankukudi, Seval Kudi, Chikkannankudi, singkukudi, Koyalakkudi

Munnar : Subrahmanyankudi, Kampanikkudi, Veliyamparakudi,

Idamalakkudi panchayath(Tribal ) – Andavankudi,  Idalipparakkudi, Vellarakkudi, Shettukudi, Elapparakkudi, Keezhthandam, Penaypparakkudi, Kavakkattukudi, Nooradikkudi, Valyamparakkudi, Parakkudi, Mulakutharakkudi, Irippukalkkudi, Nenmanalkudi, Ambalapparakkudi, Vellakkasham Kudi, Vazhakkuthkudi, OOdalarkudi, Perumkadavkudi, Nadukkudi, ParappayarKudi, Thenparakkudi, ThandathKudi, Meenkuthkudi, Puthukkudi

Shanthanpara Panchayath – Kasappumeenkudi, Kavakkattukudi, komalikkudi,kandathkudi,Udumbanpara, Vazhakkuthoor, Vayakkdavkudi,Kundalakkudi,Aduvizhunthankudi,

Adimali Panchayath – Kattamudikkudi, Kunchippettikkudi, Ilambilasserykkudi, Padikkappukudi, Veliyamparakkudi, Muuthasserykudi, Thalarappankudi, Choorakettankudi, Thumbipparakkudi, Thattekkkannan Kudi, Ozhivuthadam Kudi, Njavalpara kudi, Plamalakkudi, Noorankarara kudi, Korangattikkudi, Machiplavukudi
Baisan Valley Panchayath : Chokramudikkudi, Irupathekkarkkudi, Pethallakkudi

Mankulam Panchayath : Kozhiyalakkudi, Shevalkkudi, Kambanikkudi, Kallakkuttikudi, Sinkukudi, Parakkudi, Pikkanamkudi,

Rajakumari Panchayath – Manjakkuzhi Muthuvakkudi,

Kattappana Panchayath – Idukkikkavala Tribal Colony

  • Livelihoods: Shifting Cultivation, Crop Cultivation, Oil Distillation, Wage labor
  • Other Details : Less Sociable , Wage labor recent change

Muthuvan community mainly concentrated in Idukki District and its contiguous hill areas of Eranakulam and Thrissur. Mudugar community found exclusively in Attappady area of Palakkad District, are really two distinct communities. The term ‘Muduvan’ is a synonym of ‘Muthuvan’. Again the people who are refered as Muthuvan community found on the eastern side of Malappuram and Kozhikkod Districts have no connection with the Muthuvans of Idukki District. Details of these ethnic groups are given below:

(a)    Muthuvan: Idukki, Eranakulam and Thrissur Districts Muthuvan community just  like the Mannan community, also came from the erstwhile parts of Pandya Kingdom in Tamil Nadu. Etymologically, it is said that ‘Muthu’ means back and ‘van’ means one who carries weight on the back. The  dialect spoken by them is closely related to Tamil. The social organisation of Muthuvan community is unique and they have‘Chavadis’ (dormitories) system in every settlement to house both boys and girls separately. The headman called ‘Moopan’ holds supreme control of the communityand presides over the council of elders. In some area a ‘Kani’ is nominated to dealwith the officials. Muthuvans are known for their organic cultivation of ragi and paddy. They shift the cultivation site every two years. The wild varieties of cardamom and pepper strengthen their economic base.

The traditional value system of purity and pollution ideas prevalent among the Muthuvans distanced them from other communities, especially their women to attain formal education. Their womenfolk face newly developed health problems.There should be a holistic development project to improve their living conditions. There is scope for promoting organic cultivation in their areas.

(b) Muthuvan: Malappuram and Kozhikod Districts Muthuvan community residing beyond the eastern side of Chaliyar river.  They had a dialect which has given way to Malayalam. The headman controls the affairs of the community. Traditionally they have been expert cultivators. They also depended on forest produces. Now they subsist on agriculture labour, forest labour and cultivation. Geographical isolation has affected their educational development. If agriculture based schemes are revived, the community can attain sustainable development in future.

27. Mudugar

  • Name of the community: Mudugar
  • Location
    District: Palakkad
    Villages: Agali, Pudur

As already mentioned Mudugar distributed in Palakkad district, is one among the three communities of Attappady region. They have a distinct identity because of their traditional right to climb the Malleeswaran Peak and light the lamp on the ‘Sivaratri’ day. They have a dialect of their own known as ‘Muduga Bhasha’ Mudugar have the institutions of ‘Ooru Moopan’, (Headman)‘Bhandari’ (Treasurer),‘Kuruthalai’ (Assistant) and ‘Mannukaran’ (soil expert). This system is similar to the traditional social organisation of the other two tribal communities of Attappady, viz; Irular and Kurumbar.

Mudugar practise settled agriculture with many features of shifting cultivation. They used to cultivate ‘ragi’, ‘chama’, ‘thina’ etc. They also collect non timber forest produces. Their land has been alienated as they have little knowledge to secure documents relating to their possesion. The working population among them has become agricultural laboures as agriculture and animal husbandary, have slowly been changing as their subsidiary occupations. The community is pro-educative and inputs to agriculture can sustain their livelihood means.

28.Palleyan, Palliyan, Paliyar, Palliya

  • Name of the community: Palliyan
  • Location
    District: Idukki
    Taluk : Kattappana (? Taluk Search)
    Villages: Puliyanmala,
  • SettlementsKattappana Panchayath – Shivalingakkudi

Vandanmedu – Kadashikkadav IMS Colony, Paliyakkudi, Pachupilla Palikkudi, Hemakkadav Paliyakkudi,

Chakkuvallam Panchayath – Chakkuvallam Paliyakkudi

Kumali Panchayath – Paliyakkudi

Vazhathopp Panchayath – Kolumpan Colony

  • Demographic details:
    Population :4879 (Check : KILA)
  • Livelihoods:

They are distributed in Idukki District and in the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu. Their dialect has affinity to Tamil. Each settlement has a headman called ‘Kanikaran’. Thesystem of traditional headman has given way to a commonly accepted or sometimes elected president (Oorumoopan). In the past, Paliyans were nomadic in their territorial area. They practised shifting cultivation. Few of them had land to cultivate. But majority of Paliyans has become plantation labourers in various tea estates of Idukki District. Community specific programmes can address their low standard of living.

29. Paniyan

  • Name of the community: Paniyan
  • Location
    District: Waynad
    Mananthavadi, Vythiri, Bathery,Thondarnad, Kalpetta, Panamaram, Kottathra, Periya, Edavaka Grama Panchayaths
  • Socio Political head : Chemmi/Mothali
  • Demographic details:
    Population:69116 (KILA 2008)
    Literacy : 64.72 (KILA 2008)
  • Livelihoods:Population in the 15-59 age group : 4297
    Students/not working due to various reasons :9380
    Agriculture labor as primary occupation : 229
    Animal Husbandry as primary occupation : 151
    Forest resource collection as primary occupation :369

Paniyan community which is the numerically largest among the Scheduled Tribes of Kerala is mainly distributed in Wayanad District. They are also found in Kannur, Kozhikode, Malappuram and Palakkad Districts. Paniyan community living in the adjoining areas of Tamil Nadu is recognized as a Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) there.

Etymologically ‘Pani’ means labour and ‘Paniyan’ signifies ‘one who works’. According to their oral tradition, they lived freely in Ippimala, a mountain near Banasura Peak in Wayanad and was enslaved by the farming immigrants of the early centuries. They speak a language of Malayalam mixed with Tamil words which is called ‘Paniyabhasha’.

The headman of each settlement is called ‘Kuttan’ appointed by the landlord. A group of traditional areas called ‘Nadu’ had a hereditary headman called ‘Koyma’. Under him, there are ‘Chemmi’ the actual head of each settlement who is assisted by messengers called ‘Karayma’

Paniyans treated as slaves of their respective landlords, were victims of bonded labour system. During the festival of Valliyurkavu near Mananthavady the contract to work as bonded labourer, was renewed annually where the landlord paid an advance called ‘Nippu

panam’. Paniyans who possessed muscular bodies could carry out any hard physical labour. They have been and continue to be the best tillers of soil. Although they have been freed by the enactment of the Abolition of Bonded Labour system since 1976, they still subsist on agriculture labour or any other manual labour. They migrate seasonally to Coorg and other nearby places in Karnataka for employment. The post independence rehabilitaition measures like land for landless have helped a few families while majority of them lead appallingly low life. Their self perception is low because of the attitude of others. Their human capital is to be tapped. A new holistic development package has to be planned in consulation with their ‘Oorukoottams’. Paniyans are the largest community among Scheduled Tribes. But they are the most backward and the poorest among the Scheduled Tribes in the state.

30. Ulladan, Ullatan

  • Name of the community: Ulladan/ Ullatan
  • Location
    District: All districts except Palakkad and Kannur
    Villages:Ulladan community is settled in 12 districts (except Palakkad and Kannur) and in 263 local bodies in the state. The local bodies include one Corporation (Kochi), 17 Municipalities and 245 Grama Panchayats. Thus Ulladan community has the honour of havingrepresentation over in the largest number of Panchayat Raj Institutions in Kerala.However, Pathanamthitta, Alappuzha, Kottayam, Idukki and Eranakulam are the 5 districts which have sizable population of Ulladan community. There are 4864 families of Ulladan community and their population is 17557, consisting of 8560 males and 8997 females. The family size is 3.61 where as the sex ratio works out to 1000 : 1051. Even though the population of the community is distributed in a large number of Grama Panchayats, population above 500 has been recorded only in a few Grama Panchayats. Chittar, Naranammoozhy (Pathanamthitta District), Mundakkayam (Kottayam District), Idukki Kanjikkuzhi (Idukki District), and Kuttampuzha (Eranakulam District) are the examples.

Kochu Velan is a locally known term used by the Ulladans (sometimes as the name of their headman) living in the eastern areas of Pathanamthitta District. ‘Ullu’ means forest areas and ‘Aliyavar’ means those who ruled. It is believed that their original settlements were in forest areas and later on they came down and settled in plain areas too. Their traditional dialect is almost not in use and they now speak Malayalam. Generally head man of Ulladan community is known as ‘Kanikaran’. The headman presides over the council of elders. They were semi nomadic in the past. They have the indigeneous knowlege of collecting medicinal herbs which they sell in the local markets. They have the right to enter even the sacred groves for the collection of medicinal plants. Ulladans living on the banks of Western Kuttanad backwaters are good carpenters and are known for their expertise in canoe making. They have become wood cutters also. They also subsist on non timber forest produce especially honey collection. Today a major section of them are agricultural labourers. Ulladans who are settled in urban and semi-urban plain areas have responded to development and progressed in their own way.

31. Mala Vettuvan (in Kasaragod and Kannur Districts)

  • Name of the community: Mala vettuvan
  • Location
    District:Kasaragod and Kannur.
    Villages: Kuttikol, Balal, Kallar, Kodombelur, East Eleri, West Eleri and Kinanoor Karinthalam (Kasargode)
  • Livelihoods: Traditionally Malavettuvans are experts in ‘Punamkothu’. Now they subsist mainly on agriculture labour

Malavettuvan community classified as an Other Eligible Community (OEC) till the Amendment (Act 10 of 2003), is a new entry into the list of Scheduled Tribes of Kerala. They are distributed only in the Ghat areas of Kasaragod and Kannur Districts. They speak a dialet of Malayalam and Tulu. The headman of Malavettuvans was called ‘Kiran’ who according to tradition was appointed by their respective landlords. The ‘Kiran’ took orders from their landlord and supplied manual wokers to the landlords. The relevance of ‘Kiran’ is no more there and each settlement has a leader known in common term as ‘Moopan’. Traditionally Malavettuvans are experts in ‘Punamkothu’. Now they subsist mainly on agriculture labour. Their area is backward and they themselves are backward socially, economically and educationally. However the community is organised and ready to respond to development initiatives.

32. Ten Kurumban, Jenu Kurumban

  • Name of the community: Ten Kurumban
  • Location
  • Demographic details:
  • 33. henadan, Thachenadan, Moopan
  • Name of the community: Thachenadan Mooppan
  • Location
    District: Wayanad
  • Livelihoods: They are marginal farmers. They are experts in bamboo basket making and they know carpentry.

Thachanadan Moopan is found only in Wayanad District. This community is also a new entry to the list of Scheduled Tribes since 2003. Originally the community was known as ‘Koodammar’. It is said that they came from ‘Thachanadu’ area in Nilambur and hence came to be known by this name. They speak Malayalam. The Thachanadan Moopan has two headmen in every settlement. The senior is called ‘Muthalai’ who settles disputes, arranges marriages and performs oblations to male deities. ‘Eleri’ the second headman is the priest and magician and he is the competant person to fix the date and time of marriage and to make offerings to female deities. They are marginal farmers. They are experts in bamboo basket making and they know carpentry. But the entry of plastic baskets have affected their traditional occupation.

  1. Cholanaickan
  • Name of the community: Cholanaickan
  • Location
    District: Wayanad
    Amarambalam, Karulari and Vazhikkadavu Grama Panchayaths
  • Contact details of Informants:
  • Demographic details:
  • Livelihoods:

Cholanaickans are found only in the evergreen recess of the forests of the Ghat section of Karulai and Vazhikkadavu forest ranges of Nilambur Valley of Malappuram District. They have been geographically isolated and leading a life fully with dense tropical rain forest environment. ‘Chola’ means shade and ‘Naickan’ or ‘Nayakan’ denotes leader. They speak a dialect of their own having a mixture of Kannada and Malayalam. Cholonaickans are distributed in ten hamlets in the deep forest called ‘Jemmom’ and each ‘Jemmom’ has a leader called ‘Jemmakkaran’ who performs both socio political and religious functions. The families associated with each Jemmom do not trespass the rights of other Jemmoms. They practise Jemmom exogamy.

Among the Scheduled Tribes of Kerala, Cholanaickan has a unique position in the sense that they are the only community who depend solely on non timber forest produces for their consumption and for exchange or sale. Their territory is blessed with abundance of non timber forest produces. They spend most of their forest life in natural rock shelters.

  1. Malapanickar
  • Name of the community: Malapanickar
  • Location
    District: Malappuram
  • Livelihoods: Agricultural labor

Malaipanicker community is found only in Malappuram District and they got constitutional recognition only in 2003. They speak Malayalam retaining certain variations of their own. The social control mechanism is maintained by the head of the family called ‘Karnavar’. They were cultivators of the land owned by the Nilambur ‘Kovilakom’. Earlier they practised shifting cultivation. Now they have become marginal farmers. Majority of them work as agricultural labourers. The developmental issues of smaller communities especially those having below 1000 population like the Malaipanicker have to be viewed separately so as to ensure social justice to all.

  1. Vettakuruman
  • Name of the community: Vettakkurumar
  • Location
    District :Wayanad
    Thirunelli, Ambalavayal, Noolpuzha, Panamaram and Poothadi Grama Panchayats.
  • Demographic details:
  • Population(KILA Survey 2008): 6472
    Literacy(KILA Survey 2008):67.53%
  • Livelihoods: Once pursued wide variety of artisan occupations such as pottery, blacksmith, basketry etc. They supplied agricultural instruments and earth wares to the whole of the district.
    Population in the 15-59 age group : 4058
    Students/not working due to various reasons :869
    Agriculture labor as primary occupation : 2355
    MNREGA as primary occupation : 245
  • Vetta Kuruman, which is recoginized as a Scheduled Tribe community in 2003, is found only in Wayanad District and its adjoining areas of Karnataka State. In the local parlance they are known as ‘Urali Kurumans’. Prior to 2003 they were under the guise of Scheduled Tribe Uraly community of Idukki District and as such returned as Uraly in Census records.Their real identity is revived now. They are bilingual in Kannada and Malayalam. But among themselves they use their own dialect.They have a headman called ‘Megalan’ who preside over all their social functions like initiating marriages, negotiations, arranging agricultural activity etc. Vetta Kurumans are basically forest dwellers. They have a unique position among all the Scheduled Tribes of Kerala. They have been well known for their artistic skill in making hand made pottery. They cut and fashion wooden artefact and carry out carpentry work connected with the construction of their houses. Thus they possess many skills and as such they can be called the ‘jack of all trades’.

Prepared by Arjun Azad

Attappady; What happened so far?

By Jaisreekumar

Attappady Reserve Forest is a protected area comprising 249 km2 of land covering the westernmost part of the 745 km2 Attappady block of Mannarghat Taluk in Palakkad district of Kerala. The Attappady Reserve forest is an informal buffer zone bordering the Silent Valley National Park to the West. The elevation of Attappady Valley  ranges from 750 meters (2460 ft) to the Malleswaram Peak at 11o6’32”N76o33’8”E which rises to 1664 meters (5,459 ft) from the centre of the valley. Attappady is an extensive mountain valley at the headwaters of the Bhavani River rested below the Nilgiri hills of the Western Ghats. Attappady is a region of deciduous forests interspersed with field and plantations.  The major occupation of a good majority of the people here is agriculture.  The soil is commendably fertile and the place as a whole receives fairly good rainfall. The forest contains a variety of timber yielding trees like teak, rosewood, and soft wood. The dense forest of Attappady abounds in numerous wild animals like elephants, tiger, wild cats and snakes etc. while bear and panther are also so, but few in number.  Besides, there are a good number of deer, and monkeys in this locality. Birds are remarkably few in number and rarely seen. Attappady has the wealth of a fairly good number of cattle, Batcher of buffaloes, cows, bulls and goats gracing freely in the forest areas in a regular sight in this locality. “Attappady Black” is the well known name of a breed of goat which seen in the valley.  There is a government Goat farm at Attappady Village which the breed available. There are three different tribes at Attappady.  They are Irulas, Mudugas and Kurumbas in the order of the numerical strength.

History- Attappady

Till the beginning of the second quarter of the 20th century, Attappady had been inhibited almost exclusively by hill tribes.  Almost all the areas in this virgin region were, before the intervention began, under thick forest and inhibited by tribes folk engaged on slash and burn cultivation.  As the area was under thick forest and interested with blood sucking leeches and wild animals, accessibility to this area become difficult for early settlers.

A monograph of the 1961 census series makes the following observation about the Kurumbas of Attappady.  In accessibility to the forest areas owing to lack of infrastructure and attack of wild animals and availability of lands in the plain areas discouraged in – migrants to settle in Attappady.  However, growth of population and rising demand for land for cultivation pushed succeeding generation of in-migrants into this area.  Government policies also were helpful to settlers to make this area as their destination

By 18th century, Attappady had become the jenmi’s property of Zamorian of Kozhikode.  The Zamorian entrusted the administration of this area to three Nair chieftains, Mannarghat Moopil Nair, Palat Krishna Menon and Eralpad Raja.

Zamorin of Kozhikode happened to stay at Moopil Nair’s house.  Being pleased with Nair’s hospitality, a vast area of land was given to him.  Moopil Nair got large areas of land on Mannarkad, including forest areas of Attappady.

However, Moopil Nair and other Jenmis were not much interest in this area remained to capturing elephants from dense forest for use in temple festivals.  Capturing of an elephants from Attappady was considered prestigious for the family and was in those days great news. The chieftain had been given the right to collect land revenue at rates ranging from Rs.0.50 to Rs.1.25 per acre of land and forest production by way of land revenue from Irulas, Mudugas and Kurumbas.

The tribes folk had become tenants of the Jenmis, the chief tains.   The tribes folk enjoyed the right to cultivate as much area as each was able to manage at the prescribed rates of land revenue.  The Jenmis managed to get Jenmi’s (Freehold property) rights of these lands from the Zamorin.

The tribal folk cultivated these areas on their conventional way such as shifting cultivation, hunting and collection of forest produce.  Jenmam right give the land lords the inheritable right to collect usufructs and rent.

Till the end of 19th century the valley had neither a police station nor a post office.  During the early decades of 20th century, timber was the main product in the valley of the total area 21 hills in full and another hill in pact belonged to the government.

Old settlers were Tamil – speaking Gowndas who came to Attappady in the beginning of the 20th century mainly for buying forest produce.

Development Programs

In 1970 the State Planning  Board assessed as the most backward block in the State and the first integrated Tribal development Project in Kerala was initiated there.  Since then, the State government have implemented several development projects including Attappady  Co-operative farming society made the Western Ghats development programme, the Attappady valley Irrigation Project (AVIP) and the various schemes implemented in people’s planning programme from 1997 – 2002.

A monuments palace – like “Bharat Yatra Center” at Agali was established in 1984 by a former Prime Minister, Chandra Shekhar, to provide employment training in weaving, pottery, embroidery and food processing to the woman in rural area.  The property was occasionally occupied personally by Chandra shekhar but employment training never happened.  In 2000 the centre at Attappady and its huge building were deserted and unoccupied.

Many of these projects were not well adapted to the traditional adivasi culture and beliefs.   So, about 80 percent of the tribal population is still living in abject poverty.

Attappady comprehensive Environmental Conservation and Wasteland Development Project was established in 1995 – Headquarter – Agali.  This Project had Rs.2.19 billion ($5,000,000) development assistance from the Japan Bank for international Co-operation (JBIL) and implemented by the Attappady Hills Area Development Society (AHADS).  Attappady Social Service Organization (ASSO) is the major Social Service Organization functioning in Attappady.  It successfully implemented World Bank aided ‘Jalanidhi’ project to provide drinking water facility for the Tribal Community.

The Kerala cabinet sanctioned 35 staff to protect the area and two new forest stations in Bhavani range at Anavai and Thedukki.  The zone is aimed as checking the illicit cultivation of Ganja, Poching and illicit brewing in areas adjacent to silent valley and help long-term sustainability of the protected area.

Government sponsored development in Attappdy can be discussed under 3 periods (1) Pre 1962.  2) 1962 to 1975 3) Post 1975.

In pre 1962 days the government initiative in development was limited in the form of interventions in the area of health and education.  In the 1950’s the anti- Malaria education programme was carried out in Attappady under the National Malaria Education Programme.  During this period, five welfare schools were started with the aim of attracting children to schools.  An office of the Deputy Tahasildar was opened in Attappady to lend back up support to these government programmes.

In 1962, Attappady was declared as a Tribal development Block and a senior Block Development Officer was posted.  Infrastructure development was given prime importance.

In 1961, the process of recording of the land right of the tribals was taken up as part of land reform measures.

In 1971, the private forests were nationalized

In, 1975 the Tribal development Blocks was upgraded into integrated Tribal Development Programme (ITDP) with much higher inblow of funds particularly for housing and economic development.  Along with this Western Ghat development Programme (WGDP) was introduced primarily in the form of two co-operative farms covering an extent of about 2000 hectors intended to rehabitat and settle landless tribal families.  In the first seven years of this scheme about Rs. 3 crore was spent.

In 1980s, the allotment of funds to ITDP under various rural development programmes started.  IRDP, NREP, and RLEGP were started in 1985 and that marked water shed in the development history of Attappady.

Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited this place in September 1985 and this was followed by a series of administrative measures to improve the condition of Attappady.

During 1980’s and 1990’s there were phenomenal increases in expenditure on the construction of roads.  Investments in tribal housing also increased.  In 1989 NREP and RLEGP were converted into JRY.

In 1993, Attappady became on among the 20 blocks in Kerala where employment Assurance Scheme became operative, giving guaranteed employment of 100 days a year for two members from unemployed rural families falling under poverty line.

Attappady Wasteland comprehensive environmental conservation Project was a scheme implemented with Japanese overseas Economic co-operation Fund.  The project was aimed at restoring the environmental ambience of Attappady.  Financial agreement in this regard was signed on 25th January 1996.  The Project was conceptualized by Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (CWRDM).  The Project was implemented by an autonomous organization viz, the Attappady Hill Area Development Society (AHADS).

Totem Resource Centre on Ethnic Communities


Totem Resource Centre on Ethnic Communities is a non-governmental, non-denominational, not-for-profit organization that came into formal existence in October 2014. It comprises of people from various walks of life, who have been working for the last five to ten years, with the deprived section of the population, particularly the Scheduled Tribes and Castes and other ethnic minorities.

We, a group of youngsters, started this organization on 17th October 2014 . We are in the initial stages now. We just wanted to let you know about what we are gonna do and how we can do something to protect and preserve indigenous/ethnic communities, cultures, traditional knowledge and environment…

The main functions of totem are:

•  To protect and conserve the traditional knowledge, medicine, art, culture and heritage of the minority and indigenous groups.

•  Local action and economic development through decentralized planning (community centered)

•  Think globally and act locally.

•  Foster self-reliance, dignity, community, self-worth, and social security for the empowerment.

•  Recognize needs of the minority and indigenous groups.

•  A devoted journey toward the protection, conservation and improvement of the natural environment including forests, lake, rivers, wildlife, hills, Ghats, mountains, biodiversity, etc. through documentation of traditional knowledge by adopting a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Realize lifestyle.

•  Conduct educational programs and documentary screening of recent scientific inventions and discoveries.

•  To utilize digital media and social networking to promote and provide assistance for the research and development of ethnic communities.


i. To undertake studies pertaining to social, economic, ethnographic, and developmental aspects of the ethnic communities of India.

ii. To encourage such activities that raise the standards of education and gives priority to the spread of education and awareness among these communities;

iii. To form a Resource centre on these communities using the available data bank;

iv. To document their traditional knowledge systems, including their folkloristic tradition;

v. To organize camps and encourage formation of ‘collective’ self-help groups through popular media, for the development of these communities;

vi. To voice social concerns through organizing campaigns, education meets, camps, serving memorandums and such other activities as part of advocacy;

vii. To help organize, run or arrange training programs to undertake projects on sustainable development;

viii. To foster, organize and conduct camps and seminars for the youth to develop their creative potential;

ix. To organize, conduct and extend such activities run by the government that are to raise awareness among the youth, to spread education among them, to increase employment options for them, to bring social equality, to entertain and to maintain the cultural heritage and to extend such activities to the smallest of the small villages.

x. To start a website of these communities that would enable them to address their issues globally and that obviously would cater to their needs and help find a panacea to problems;

xi. To foster, assist, organize, and conduct and to collaborate, associated with and/or to secure assistance from other similar institutions/organisations for programmes that are conducive to the improvement of the environment.

xii. To identify the problems of health, especially of the children and women, on a priority basis and to start, assist or promote health care facilities for ameliorating their subhuman conditions.

xiii. To establish an alternative model for development of these communities on a sustainable basis;

xiv. To conduct surveys as suggested by advocacy organisations and publish reports those are conducive for their eco-development;

xv. To establish and run schools with financial assistance from educational institutions;

xvi. To develop and spread education programs that lay stress on matters of health and hygiene;

xvii. To organize public meets, camps, publish literature and pamphlets to form public opinion on social issues;

xviii. To make all attempts for sustainable development, ask for assistance from international organizations such as UNICEF, USAID, SURVIVAL INTERNATIONAL, UNESCO, UNDP etc. and to extend them to the deprived section of the population;

xix. To promote and assist research that could lead to solutions to issues of social development;

xx. To take all assistance in terms of land and/or finance from the government or other agencies of social service to construct or assist in the construction of houses for the poor and to take all measures possible for solving the problems of housing for the poor;

xxi. To advise, guide, assist in running projects, evaluate and conduct/organize trainings for other voluntary organizations with having similar objectives;

xxii. To assist, take assistance and collaborate with other organizations, which have similar objectives;

xxiii. To make all attempts that lead to awareness, exchange of ideas and solutions to issues of development;

xxiv. To call national and international experts for their advice, assistance and guidance in any activity of the Society in its areas of operation;

xxv. To start or assist existing cooperatives and business houses that provides employment to the poor;

xxvi. To run and conduct eye camps, dental camps, health camps, free food distribution centres independently or in collaboration with other concerned individuals, groups or organisations for the public good;

xxvii. To accept and collect donations in cash and kind for activities of relief during natural calamities like floods, droughts, famines, earthquakes, etc.

xxviii. To promote, run and manage registered or unregistered organisations of the youth for the fulfilment of all the above objectives especially that under section 3 (IX);

xxix. To undertake and/or support other organisations or groups undertaking activities of sustainable development using alternative technology;

xxx. To change any of the above objects, to do or cause to be done any act or thing provided such changes, things, or acts is not contrary to or inconsistent with the spirit and principles of the laws under which this group has been organized and registered.

xxxi. To provide legal assistance to the people from oppressed sections of the society.

xxxii. To develop tourism with dignity and respect to local cultures

xxxiii. To create and promote forms of tourism that provide healthy interaction opportunities for tourists and locals and increase better understanding of different cultures, customs, lifestyles, traditional knowledge and beliefs.

xxxiv. To create awareness of yoga in the society and to promote yoga as a practice for good health and fitness.

xxxv. To bring the focus on the value and importance of our planet and environment to all human beings, and urge to adopt a Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Realize lifestyle in order to support the efforts to preserve the planet.

xxxvi. To protect Biodiversity and Biological Resources through documentation of Traditional knowledge.

xxxvii. To protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lake, rivers, wildlife etc. and to work for conservation and development of National Parks and Protection of Migratory Birds.

xxxviii. To organize science quizzes, science documentary screening and conduct education programs on recent scientific inventions and discoveries.

xxxix. Utilizing digital media and social networking to promote and provide assistance for the research and development of ethnic communities.

xl. To protect and conserve the art, culture and heritage of the minority and indigenous groups.