The Badagas are the largest aboriginal Tribal people 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. Many wrongly claim that badaga language is a dialect of kannada. Badaga is not a dialect of kannada its a unique language claims French Linguist Christian Pilot raichoor.
"Today, it is recognized as a separate language," said Pilot-Raichoor, who has been working on the linguistic heritage of the Baduga language for the past two decades. According to her, there are too many important differences in the phonology and the grammar, differences in gender system, case system, verb classes.
Badugas belong to paleolithic period(20,000 B.C. - 35,000 B.C.). Baduga Tribe inhabited Nilgiris thousands and thousands of years ago even before Lord Christ was Born. They are inhabiting in Nilgiris over 10,000 B.C. Precious Stone Trade was carried on between Indus Valley civilization(5000 B.C) and the Nilgiris.
In 1116 A.D. a Baduga King called Kalaraja was ruling Nilgiris. Vishnuvardana of Hoysala Kingdom of Karnataka was the first king to invade Nilgiris, sent his army and tried to threaten the Badugas and ordered to obey him.
The Brave Baduga King, Kalaraja refused his order and fought with him. In his second invation, 1142 Hoysala army killed Kalaraj's son, inspite of his son death Kalaraja refused to obey Vishnuvardana. In third invation, 1162 King kala was killed by Hoysalas. Three inscriptions refers to Kala's rule from his fort in Kukal Village. It testified that King Kala was ruling from 1116 AD and implied that his ancestors had been living here centuries earlier. King Kala was killed in a "Dhandu(war)".
Nilgiris was called as Baduga Nad or Baduga Country. Even before Britishers arrived to Nilgiris, a Portuguese Priest called Rev. Jocome Fierier visited Nilgiris in 1602. He did not stay in Nilgiris. He returned back and informed that he found a group of Tribal people called Badugas
Some of the main villages are: Mulligoor, Sholur,Meluru, Ithalar, Bembatty,Belithala, Tudur, Kukal, Tudagai, Nundala, Ebbanad, Nedugula, Meekeri, Balacola, Melkunda, Kilkundha, Ketti, Thambatty, 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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- Radhakrishnan, D. (9 January 2012). "Festival of Badagas begins in the Nilgiris". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 February 2013.
- Radhakrishnan, D. (20 May 2008). "Jayalalithaa visits temple in Badaga village". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011.
- Staff (23 November 2012). "Former Congress MP Akkamma Devi passes away". The Hindu Business Line. The Hindu. Archived from the original on 8 May 2013.
- Special correspondent (30 July 2011). "Include Badagas in ST list: Jayalalithaa requests PM". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 August 2011.