The Badagas are the largest aboriginal indigenous group among the native tribes of The Nilgiris District. Unlike any other region in the country, no historical proof is found to state that the Nilgiris was a part of any kingdoms or empires. It was originally a tribal land. The Badugas live in nearly 350 villages, called "Hattis", throughout the district. Baduga people speak the language called "Badugu", with no script. Badaga or Badagu being a Kannada dialect, is written in the Kannada script. Tamil Sangam poetic work Akanaṉūṟu mentions the Nilgiri Badagas to be the relatives of Mysuru kings or rulers.
Some of the main villages are: Meluru, Ithalar, Bembatty,Belithala, Tudur, Kukal, Tudagai, Nundala, Ebbanad, Nedugula, Meekeri, Balacola, Melkunda, Kilkundha, Ketti, Thanthanadu, Milidenu, Nandatti, Achanakal, Jakkanari, Aravenu, Thinniyoor, Iyooru, Jakatha, Jackanarai, Sundatty, Kannerimukku, Beragany, Pethuva, Jakkatha and Thuneri.
Thundu (a white piece of cloth) forms integral part of attire of Badaga women and the same is presented to dignitaries visiting the villages, as a gesture of good will. Badugas will marry within their community and follow different tradition function during the marriage session. Their important festive is hathai habba.
Former Loksabha MP, Akkamma Devi was the first Badaga woman to graduate from college and represented the Nilgiri Loksabha constituency from 1962 to 1967. Belli Lakshmi Ramakrishnan M.A., was the first Badaga woman post graduate in social work, and went on to first woman gazetted officer to serve in the Tamil Nadu State Government Department of Health and Family Welfare.
Backward caste/Schedule Tribes
There is a long standing demand to restore the status of the Badagas in the list of the Schedule Tribes under the Constitution of India, which is yet to be considered by the Central Government. Badugas were in tribe list during British period, as per 1931 census. Later after Independence badugas were scheduled under Tribe list during 1951 census. Later removed for no reason.
Hethe and Heriyodaiya are the ancestral God of Badugas. they also worship other adopted Hindu deities. They celebrate "Hethai Habba" which spreads over a month during December–January every year, and the festival is celebrated all over the district.
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- J.W.Breeks (1873), An Account of the Primitive Tribes of the Nilgiris; Nilgiri Manual, vol. i. pp. 218–228; Madras Journ. of Sci. and Lit. vol. viii. pp. 103–105; Madras Museum Bulletin, vol. ii., no. i, pp. 1–7.
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- Special correspondent (30 July 2011). "Include Badagas in ST list: Jayalalithaa requests PM". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 August 2011.