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Badaga community of Nilgiri Hills, from Castes and Tribes of Southern India (1909)

The Badugas are an indigenous people inhabiting the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, southern India. Their language is Badaga. They are the largest indigenous tribal group in Nilgiris.[1]


The Badagas are the largest indigenous people of the Nilgiri district.The Badagas live in nearly 440 villages, called hattis, throughout the district. Badaga people speak language called Badagu, which has no script.

Some of the main villages are Baragani, Bembatty, Melur, Italar, Tudur, Kukal, Tudagai, Nundala, Meekeri, Balakola, Melkunda, Kilkundha, Tandanadu, Milidenu, Nanjanadu, Nandatti, Acchanakal, Theedihatty, Soragundu, Jackanari, Aravenu, Thinniyooru, Iyooru, kadanad (thoothanad capital), Annikorai, Adhikaratti, Ebbanadu, Ketti,Thoraihatti, and Kannerimukku. They are also called as Gowdas of Nilgiris.

Badaga tribe inhabited in Nilgiris thousands and thousands of years ago even before common era. They were inhabiting in Nilgiris over 8000 B.C.

During Mouriyan period, Buddhist monks entered Nilgiris to spread Buddhism among the Badagas in Nilgiris. In 1116 A.D. a Baduga king called Kalaraja was ruling Nilgiris. A war was fought between King Vishnuvarthana of Hoysala and Baduga King KalaRaja. Kalaraj was killed in the war. Nilgiri came under Hoysala. Later Nilgiri came under Vijayanagar empire and later under sultan rule and after the death of Tipu sulthan Nilgiris came under Britishers.

Before Britishers arrived to Nilgiris a Portuguese priest called Rev. Jocome Fierier visited Nilgiris in 1602 and informed he found group of tribal people called Badagas.

Todas, Kotas and other tribes paid tribute to Badagas. Badaga Headmen attended Toda and Kota panchayat and solved their problems.

Badaga tribal people distinguished their living place into four categories called Porangadu seame, Thothanadu semae, Merkunadu seame, Kundae seame, where nearly 440 Villages come under these four categories. "Badagu" was the contact language between Badagas and other tribal people before Britishers and other community people arrived to Nilgiris.

They are agricultural people. At the census of 1901 they numbered 34,178.[2]


"Tundu" (a white piece of cloth) forms an integral part of the attire of Badaga women, and it is presented to dignitaries visiting the villages as a gesture of goodwill. Badagas marry within their community, and there are strict rules about which clan may intermarry with which others. They celebrate Mari Habba, Uppu Attuva Habba, etc., and their important festival is Hette Habba.[3]

Notable Badagas[edit]

In the 1930s, H. B. Ari Gowder founded the Nilgiris Cooperative Marketing Society (NCMS) to help raise prices for Badagas farm products.[4] The NCMS was in response to lowland middlemen who would reduce prices by playing off one farmer against another.[4] Ari Gowder was the first Badaga to be elected to the Madras Legislative Council.[5]


Badagas worship several Hindu deities,[3] including Shiva, but their main deity is Hethai, Ayya. They celebrate Hethai Habba in a grand fashion spread over a month during December–January every year, and the festival is celebrated all over the district.[1]


  1. ^ a b Radhakrishnan, D. (9 January 2012). "Festival of Badagas begins in the Nilgiris". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  2. ^ J. W. Breeks, An Account of the Primitive Tribes of the Nilgiris (1873); Nilgiri Manual, vol. i. pp. 218-228; Madras Journ. of Sci. and Lit. vol. viii. pp. 103-105; Madras Museum Bulletin, vol. ii., no. 1, pp. 1-7.
  3. ^ a b Radhakrishnan, D. (20 May 2008). "Jayalalithaa visits temple in Badaga village". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Special correspondent (5 December 2012). "Badaga leader’s birth anniversary celebrated". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 8 May 2013. 
  5. ^ Hockings, Paul (2013). So Long a Saga: Four Centuries of Badaga Social History. New Delhi: Manohar. p. 204. ISBN 978-93-5098-018-7. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Breeks, J.W. (1873), An Account of the Primitive Tribes and Monuments of the Nilagiris. London: India Museum.
  • Francis, W. (1908), "Madras District Gazetteers. The Nilgiris." Vol. 1. pp. 218–228. Madras: Government Press.
  • Hockings, P., and C. Pilot-Raichoor (1992), "A Badaga-English Dictionary." Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.