Many theories as to their racial origin have been suggested, but the Todas themselves believe that ” God dropped a pearl on the Nilgiris, out of which sprang the mother Goddess, Thakkirsi, who, with a tap of her cane, created, out of the dust of the hills, the first Toda and his Buffalo. The influence of this legend on the Toda life and religion is profound, for their entire social and religious life revolves around their buffaloes and it is only with much reluctance that a Toda can be forced out of, what he believes, is his birthplace in the Blue Mountains (The Nilgiris). ”
The Todas live in a village, which is called a “Mund”. Their houses are igloo-like oval-pent-shaped huts made of bamboo and dried grass fastened together with rattan, and thatched. The entrance is small – only about 3 feet high – and access to the inside is possible only by crawling.
The Toda temple in each Mund is similar to these huts, though they may be slightly bigger and have walls of stone slabs instead of wooden planks plastered with dung and clay as in the case of the dwellings. In front of the door was a large slab of stone which is removed for the priest to enter. Men may go inside the enclosure, and women have to be on the outside of the enclosure.
Todas wealth are measured by their buffaloes. The men tend to the Buffaloes and the women craft fancy ringlets and silver jewellery and embroider shawls and bed and table linen by embroidering in a crewel style using mainly black and red wool thread on a cream background.
We met Vevi Killi who invited us into her home for a cup of tea and then we settled ourselves under an ancient tree where she showed me how to do their embroidery. The patterns are all memorized! I didn’t do too badly!
Her husband cooled the tea by pouring from one beaker to another.