Photographer: Unknown photographer from the Madras School of Arts
Medium: Photographic print
Portrait of a Toda man from the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, taken by an unknown photographer from the Madras School of Arts in c. 1871-72. This photograph forms Plate V 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 Todas live in communities in the Nilgiri Hills and their livelihood revolves around the local grasslands called 'sholas' and the herds of buffalo which they tend there. They have a rich tradition of crafts and are famous for their jewellery and elegantly draped cloaks and shawls that are decorated with traditional black and red embroidery. Describing Toda men, Breeks wrote: "head well-covered with black hair of moderate fineness...combed smoothly around from the crown, and cropped evenly in line with the eyebrows, and covering the head very much like a natural skull-cap,"