Toda green funeral
Photographer: Unknown photographer from the Madras School of Arts
Medium: Photographic print
Photograph of a Toda 'green funeral' in 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 XIV 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. Breeks described, in detail, a green funeral (Kordzai Kedu), which he had observed at Karteri. During the ceremony two buffaloes were separated from the dead man's herd and killed in turn after being touched by their former owner three times. After each animal's death the dead man's hand was made to clasp its horn, as shown in this photograph. This ceremony, which is carried out soon after death, is followed sometime later by a second ritual known as the 'dry funeral'.