Ooty or Ootacamund is the favourite getaway in the hills for many. The word itself is derived from the original word Ottakalmandu. Ottakal is assumed to refer to a single stone which is believed to be a sacred stone of the Toda tribals who are the original inhabitants of the region and Mandu refers to a village in the Toda language. The Toda village is one of the hidden gems of Elk Hill, Ooty.
The Toda’s of Ooty are the indigenous people of the region of Dravidian descent, they have inhabited the Nilgiri mountains from well before the 18th century. Today the tribal community has dwindled to less than a thousand. The ethnic culture of the Toda’s is really fascinating and is a window to history. Exploring this ancient culture is one of the top reasons you should visit Ooty.
The Todas have always been a source of fascination and study as their physiognomy and culture are quite unlike the other communities in the region. The Toda people continue to remain an enigma till date and the area where they live has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Todas are a pastoral community which is centred around a Dairy economy. The lives of the Todas revolves around the Buffaloes which they not only breed but also venerate. They are vegetarians though a few of them have started eating fish in recent times. Their cuisine is normally centred around dairy products.
The beautiful Toda houses
As you interact with the Toda community, one thing that is going to strike you and have your entire attention riveted is the houses in which the Todas live. They look cute and beautiful, perfectly symmetrical and blending harmoniously with the environment. The houses are called ‘Dogles’ and are oval shaped. They are about ten feet in height and have an area of about 160 square feet. The houses are made of bamboo canes of varying thickness woven together to create a basic, simple, and yet beautiful architectural structure. The bamboo structure is then thatched and is enclosed by a small wall of loose stones. The most exquisite part of the Toda house is the front which is decorated beautifully with the primitive art forms of the Toda people. The art is reminiscent of the rock paintings or murals that date back to the stone age. If you look at one of the Toda houses, you may wonder as to how they get inside the house! The door to the house is barely perceptible. A small door blends seamlessly into the front of the house. It is just three feet in height and three feet in width! To get into the house one needs to crawl on all fours. The doors have been kept small intentionally as a protection from wild animals that used to roam the Nilgiri hills, the abode of the Todas.
The beautiful and compact Toda houses may indeed tempt you to spend a night in one of them and experience life like the Toda’s. The doggles of the Toda’s does remind one of the wigwams of the Red Indians or the igloos of the Eskimos
The religion of the Todas revolves around the Buffalo which they believe was created first by their goddess Teikirshy and then Man and Woman in that order. The Toda temples are similar to their houses. The temples are usually built within circular pits that are hedged with stones.
As you lose yourself in the world the Toda’s, you wonder how life must have been a few hundred years ago when the Todas lived in this very region in large numbers, practising their own unique way of life. This is certainly a unique vacation idea to bond with your loved ones.
Sterling with its promise of ensuring that you holiday differently provides an opportunity to observe and see the culture of the Toda tribals in close quarters when you are a guest at their Ooty resorts Sterling-Ooty Elk Hill and Sterling Ooty-Fern Hill. Sterling curates a unique and immersive cultural experience that will take you close to the culture of the Todas. A member of the Toda community will act as a guide and explain all you wanted to know about the community.