Given the ignorance of people within India about Dravidian history, one would expect outsiders to fare no better. That is true. Except for some linguists and historians in the West and the Far East, people have no idea at all about this group’s rich culture and intriguing past. The Ethnologue lists as many as 85, and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 70 Dravidian languages, spoken by upwards of 200 million people, ranging from Iran in the west to Malaysia in the east. There is plenty to write about when it comes to their history – from the cultivation of spices to the creation of great empires in South Asia.

I am feeling lazy today. Going to put up a plate from Richard Barron’s ‘View in India, chiefly among the Neelgherry Hills’. This is one of my favourite illustrations, featuring a little known tribe, the Todas. They rear buffaloes on the pastures of the remote Nilgiris (the Blue Mountains), a most scenic part of South India, lying inland of the Malabar coast (on the southwestern edge of peninsular South Asia). The plate, for some reason, reminds me of the Shire in the Lord of the Rings. Maybe, on account of the quaint huts and lush pastures. I have visited the Nilgiris but not seen the Todas. So I have them on my bucket list.

Here’s how the artist Barron saw them (excerpt from the British Library’s Online Gallery):

The Toda were, according to Barron, “totally different and more singular than any other people in India.” Although not impressed by their costume, he found them “a lively, laughter loving race, and in the sudden transition and free expression of their sentiments, shew strength of feeling and correctness of thought little to be expected under such a garb.”

Image Attribution: The image above is sourced from Wikimedia Commons and based on a plate in Richard Barron’s book (preserved by the British Library).

Reference:

  1. Ethnologue
  2. Encyclopaedia Britannica