Photographer: Unknown photographer from the Madras School of Arts
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a group of Irula men from the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, taken by an unknown photographer from the Madras School of Arts in 1871-72. This photograph forms Plate XXVIII of James Wilkinson Breeks 'An Account of the Primitive Tribes and Monuments of the Nilgiris' (India Museum, London, 1873). Breeks was the Commissioner of the Nilgiris and wished to make a record of the indigenous hill-tribes of the region before their way of life, customs and legends died out due to increasing western influences. The Irulas live in villages on the slopes and at the base of the Nilgiri hills. Around each house there are small patches of cultivated land and in the forest around each village plantain trees are grown.
The Irula men shave their head and wear the kuduni (scalp-lock) and they play all the musical instruments known on the hills, as can be seen in this photograph.