The Badagas are an ethno-linguistic community living in the Nilgiri district in Tamil Nadu, India. Throughout the district the Badugas live in nearly 400 villages, called Hattis.The Badagas speak a language called Badaga.

Badaga family in the Nilgiri Hills, 1909
Badagas celebrating the festival of Hetha Habba


The name Badaga, meaning 'northerner', comes from Old Kannada Badagana, meaning 'north.'According to the Badaga oral tradition, their ancestors were presumed to be Vokkaligas who migrated from the plains of Mysore to avoid Muslim persecution.[1][2] According to American anthropologist Paul Hockings, whose research on the Badagas spans nearly six decades, "the (Badaga) tribe despite its sketchy history is as indigenous to the Nilgiris as the English are to Britain."[3]

They claim to come from seven siblings living in the Talamalai Hills. After they fled from a Muslim ruler who tried to rape their sister, they settled in different parts of the Nilgiris. The second brother, Hethappa, was working outside when two Todas raped his wife and took his goods. He sought the aid of two Bayaluru, who agreed to help him if they married his two daughters. They killed the Todas, and the inhabitants of the village at the time claimed descent from the Bayalurus and Badaga daughters.[4]


Badaga temple

Throughout the district the Badagas live in nearly 400 villages, called Hattis.[citation needed]

Thundu (a white piece of cloth) and Seeley forms an integral part of the attire of the Badugu women.[citation needed]

Badugas marry within their community and follow their own marriage traditions. Their important festival is Devva Habba. Devva Habba provides significant insights into the origin of Badugas. They have certain rules and regulations to be followed in implementing their cultural rituals from the birth of a child and follows through functions like puberty, marriage, naming ceremony, seventh-month pregnancy, housewarming, and finally in death.

They worship their seven founding ancestors under the name Hethappa or Hetha.[4]

During time of early 1900s they were known to swear very solemn oaths by the Sri Mariamman temple. For this they bathed, brought coconut and fruit, and killed an animal. The head they put on the step of the shrine, and from seven feet off they would walk to the temple step and put out the light that was shining in front of the idol. Even the Britisher judges, in court, would also abide by this practice and occasionally send witnesses to do this ritual along with a Court official to ensure they were telling the truth.[4] Even today they place great reverence in Sri Mariamman: in April they celebrate a car festival at the Sri Mariamman temple in Ooty when they pull the car with the image of Sri Mariamman to their music and dance.[5]


The Badaga language is spoken by the Badaga community. The language is closely related to Kannada. LACITO in Paris houses numerous varieties of Badaga stories and songs collected over the past two decades.[6]


Several Badaga have become officials in various parts of the Indian Government. Former Lok Sabha MP, the late Smt. Akkamma Devi, was the first Badaga woman to graduate from college and represented the Nilgiris Lok Sabha constituency from 1962 to 1967. Belli Lakshmi Ramakrishnan M.A. was the first Badaga woman post graduate in social work, and went on to be the first woman gazetted officer to serve in the Tamil Nadu State Government Department of Health and Family Welfare.[citation needed]

Scheduled Tribe Status

There is a long-standing demand to restore the status of the Badagas in the list of Scheduled Tribes under the Indian Constitution. The Badagas were on the tribes list during the British Raj, as per the 1931 census. After Independence, Badagas were on the Scheduled Tribe list during the 1951 census, but were later removed.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Hockings, Paul (1980). Ancient Hindu refugees: Badaga social history 1550-1975. New York: Mouton: The Hague. p. 27-28. ISBN 9783110807943.
  2. ^ Davey, Gareth (3 May 2018). Quality of Life and Well-Being in an Indian Ethnic Community: The Case of Badagas. Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. p. 72. ISBN 978-3-319-90662-1.
  3. ^ Shantha Thiagarajan (9 January 2018). "US anthropologist gives voice to Badagas' Nilgiris origin claim". The Times of India. Retrieved 21 May 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Thurston, Edgar, 1855-1935. (2001). Castes and tribes of Southern India. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 8120602889. OCLC 49514631.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ "Badgas' festival in Ooty draws large crowds". Deccan Chronicle. 9 April 2019. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Badaga language not a dialect of Kannada, claims French linguistic scholar". Times of India. Retrieved 20 March 2018.
  7. ^ "Include Badagas in ST list: Jayalalithaa requests PM". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 30 July 2011. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 8 December 2017.CS1 maint: others (link)

General references

  • Gazetteer of India by B.L.Rice, 1877.
  • Mysore, Canara and Malabar by Buchanan in 1807
  • Madras District Gazateer (The Nilgiris) by W.Francis, 1908
  • Mysore, Canara and Malabar by Buchanan in 1807
  • Letters on the Climate, inhabitants, Production etc., South India by James Hough, 1826
  • Breeks, J.W. (1873), An Account of the Primitive Tribes of the Nilgiris; Nilgiri Manual, vol. i. pp. 218–228; Madras Journ. of Sci. and Lit. vol. viii. pp. 103–105; Madras Museum Bulletin, vol. ii., no. i, pp. 1–7.
  • Hockings, P. (1988). Counsel from the ancients, a study of Badaga proverbs, prayers, omens and curses. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Hockings, P. (1989). "The cultural ecology of the Nilgiris District" In P. Hockings (Ed.), Blue Mountains: The ethnography and biogeography of a South *Indian region (pp. 360–376). New Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hockings, P. (1999). Kindreds of the earth: Badaga household structure and demography. New Delhi and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Hockings, P. (2001). "Mortuary ritual of the Badagas of Southern India". (Fieldiana: Anthropology, n.s., 32.) Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History.