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Media Type: Book - Recent
Date of Publication: November 2015
Year of Publication: 2015
Publication City: Cambridge, MA
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Author(s): Tarun Chhabra
The Todas are the oldest inhabitants of the Nilgiri Hills of South India. With their quaint barrel-vaulted architecture, embroidered cloaks, and long-horned buffaloes, they have fascinated the world ever since civilization stepped into the Nilgiris two centuries ago. Their culture revolves around these herds, with each of the six grades of dairy-temple having its corresponding herd of sacred buffaloes. A Toda prayer consists of chant words addressed to sacred natural landmarks such as nearby peaks, slopes, thickets, trees, rocks, meadows, pools, and streams. The Todas represent a rare example of an indigenous culture that has remained generally vegetarian. The Prologue highlights the journey that led to Tarun Chhabra’s being accepted as an “insider.” The thirteen chapters provide detailed ethnographic descriptions of sacred dairy-temple institutions; the Toda relationship with honey; the intricacies of their attire and embroidery motifs; details related to seasonal migrations; settlement patterns; sacred geography and traditional architecture; a spirit’s journey to the afterworld; and ethnobotany. The four appendices focus on the Toda relationship with their flora and fauna, lists of landscape terms, and the all-important prayers for major hamlets. The book includes significant new data and represents a major breakthrough in Toda studies.