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Culture
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Culture and Ecology / Presentation

Toda culture

Photo by Ananda Siddhartha

Toda culture

Toda tribal women before their temple

This is a Toda temple on the outskirts of Ooty, Nilgiris district, Tamilnadu, India. The Todas are a vegetarian tribe who live on mountain ranges 7500 feet above sea level. Central to Toda religion are their dairy-temples, buffalo herds and sacred mountains.

Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clear and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memory and experience of my people.

Chief Seattle

Toda culture and Nature

by Vasamalli Pothilikuttan

Indigenous communities - ‘First Nations’ in North America, and ‘Adivasis’ in India- always connected profoundly with nature. The earth was a spiritual reality to them. Modern day hoarding and accumulation of wealth was unknown to them. They lived lightly on the planet, in harmony with the spirits in nature. (Editor's note)

I was the first woman who went to university in our Toda community. In those days it was unthinkable that a Toda woman could become a university graduate.

The Todas are traditionally a pastoral community, and the Nilgiris district in Tamilnadu, India, is our home. The earth is sacred to us. Toda women know a lot about medicinal plants and healing. In fact we cannot pass to the afterlife, what you might call heaven, if we do not protect all the medicinal plants.

The Todas never hunted. We protect all kinds of animals. Our traditional buffalo is sacred to us. It grazes on the land of our ancestors. We are one of the very few vegetarian tribes in the world. Being vegetarian, we dig out wild tubers from the ground, which is an important source of nourishment. In the old days the forest provided a lot of fruit, which we consumed. Today we hear that being vegetarian is good for the environment, as animals that are slaughtered for meat consume a lot of grain, many times their own weight.

The Todas lived sustainably. Our population always remained small. Today we know that population growth also affects the environment, since human exploitation of nature become enormous.

We do not have big differences between the rich and the poor in our community. We treat everybody as equals. In our festivals and celebrations, all the men hold hands and dance, and the women clap. Both the rich and the poor do this.

Todas are meant to be good to each other and to people outside the community. To do good to others is very important. We always believed in non-violence. This is known as our “dharma”. Only if we are good people can we find eventual release after death and join our ancestors.

Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clear and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The sap which courses through the trees carries the memory and experience of my people.

Chief Seattle