A group of Irula men photographed (1871-72).
|Regions with significant populations|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Soliga, Tamil, Yerukala|
Irulas are an ethnic group of India. They inhabit various parts of the southern half of the country, but mainly reside in the Thiruvallur district of Tamil Nadu. A scheduled tribe, their population in this region is estimated at between 1000 to 2000 people. The Census of Kerala identified 756 Irulan individuals from 189 families, who lived in 9 settlements covering .23 km² in the state. The Irula speak Irula, which belongs to the Dravidian family.
Traditionally, the main occupation of the Irulas has been snake and rat catching. They also work as labourers (coolies) in the fields of the landlords during the sowing and harvesting seasons or in the rice mills. Fishing is also a major occupation.
Rats destroy a quarter of the grain grown on Tamil Nadu-area farms annually. To combat this pest, Irula men use a traditional earthen pot fumigation method. Smoke is blown through their mouths, which leads to severe respiratory and heart problems.
Early 20th century anthropological literature classified the Irulas under the Negrito ethnic group. Unlike the tribes in the Andaman Islands who have retained their language, Irulas in Nilgiris have adopted the local regional languages such as Tami and Telugu.
- World Bank grant to improve standard of living for rat-catchers
- Irula Project Proposal and site report
- Kerala Forests & Wildlife Department (2004) "Population of Important Forest Dwelling Tribes in Kerala" retrieved 4/4/2007 
- Giving Irulas their due
- Keystone Foundation (2006) "People of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve" retrieved 3/26/2007(NBR)"People of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve"