Todas at play
Photographer: Unknown photographer from the Madras School of Arts
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a group of Todas from the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, taken by an unknown photographer from the Madras School of Arts in c. 1871-72. This photograph can be found in 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 the game played in this image, Breeks wrote, "...a sort of stone table may be observed, consisting of two slabs stuck edgewise into the ground and another laid across them, leaving an opening just large enough for a man to drag himself through on his stomach. Two stones are fixed as starting posts, one about thirty the other about sixty yards from the table. A man stands by each of these, and the nearer of the two runs to the table, and tries to wriggle under it, before the other, starting at the same time from the farther stone, can catch him..."