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

The Badagas (locally known as Baduguru) live in the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu, India. They speak the unwritten Badaga language and are the one of the social groups in Nilgiris.[1][2]

Description and language[edit]

The Badagas tribe are one of the native tribes of the Nilgiris District. Unlike other regions in the country, there is no historical proof that the Nilgiris was a part of any kingdom or empire. It was originally a tribal land. Throughout the district the Badugas live in nearly 350 villages, called hattis. [3]

Baduga people speak the language called "Badugu", with no script. Linguists are divided on where the language sits among others and suggest Badaga is a dialect of Kannada. However, linguist Pilot-Raichoor states that it is recognized as a separate language. Pilot-Raichoor 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 grammar, differences in gender system, case system, and verb classes.[1]


Thundu (a white piece of cloth) forms an integral part of the attire of Badaga women and as a cultural item, is presented to visiting dignitaries as a gesture of good will.

Badugas marry within their community and follow their own different tradition during the marriage session. Their important festival is Hethai Habba.[1][4]


Hethe and Heriyodaiya are the ancestral Gods of Badugas. they also worship other adopted Hindu deities. They celebrate "Hethai Habba" which lasts a month during December–January every year, and the festival is held all over the district.[1][2] During February they celebrate a festival called "Lakshabaa" when a fire is lit on top of a tall pole.


Two examples of educated Badaga show the ability to reach official status in government office. Former Loksabha MP, the late Akkamma Devi was the first Badaga woman to graduate from college and represented the Nilgiri Loksabha constituency from 1962 to 1967.[5] Belli Lakshmi Ramakrishnan M.A., was the first Badaga woman post graduate in social work, and went on to be the first woman gazetted officer to serve in the Tamil Nadu State Government Department of Health and Family Welfare.[citation needed]

Constitutional recognition[edit]

There is a long-standing demand to restore the fluctuating status of the Badagas in the list of Scheduled Tribes under the Indian Constitution, which is yet to be considered by the Central Government.[6] Badugas were in the tribes list during the British period, as per the 1931 census. After Independence badugas were scheduled on the Tribe list during the 1951 census, but later removed with no reason given[citation needed].


  • 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.
  • Hockings, P. (1988). Counsel from the ancients, a study of Badaga proverbs, prayers, omens and curses. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter.
  • Hockings, P. (1989). "The cultural ecology of the Nilgiris District" In P. Hockings (Ed.), Blue Mountains: The ethnography and biogeography of a South Indian region (pp. 360–376). New Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hockings, P. (1999). Kindreds of the earth: Badaga household structure and demography. New Delhi and Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Hockings, P. (2001). "Mortuary ritual of the Badagas of Southern India". (Fieldiana, Anthropology, n.s., 32.) Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History.


  1. ^ a b c d
  2. ^ a b Radhakrishnan, D. (9 January 2012). "Festival of Badagas begins in the Nilgiris". The Hindu. Retrieved 6 February 2013. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Radhakrishnan, D. (20 May 2008). "Jayalalithaa visits temple in Badaga village". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011. 
  5. ^ 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. 
  6. ^ Special correspondent (30 July 2011). "Include Badagas in ST list: Jayalalithaa requests PM". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 28 August 2011.