Monday 1 April 2024

Vintage photo of the Irula women of the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu, India, 1871

Irulas Tribe:

Irula tribe is a Dravidian ethnic group settling in the state of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

In the Tamil language, the Irula means "people of darkness." This could refer to their dark-coloured skin or since all important events of the tribe traditionally took place in the darkness/night.

A study conducted by Yelmen et al (2019) found that the Irula people were the closest likely proxy for the indigenous Ancient Ancestral South Indian, one of the presumed founder and autochthonous original Indian populations.

The DNA analysis (2018) of a skeleton from the Indus Valley Civilisation found in Rakhigarhi showed a greater association with the Irula people than any other modern ethnic group in India.

According to the Census 2011, the tribe population is around 200,000;

189,621 in Tamil Nadu

23,721 in Kerala

10,259 in Karnataka.

The people of the Irula tribe are called Irular and they speak the Irula language, which belongs to the Dravidian family.

They are categorised under scheduled tribes.

Irular believes in life after death.

In general, the Irula are Hindu, but many of them have retained their own tribal beliefs that revolve around the spirit world.

Traditionally, the main occupation of the Irulas has been snake, rat-catching and honey collection.

They also work as labourers in the fields of the landlords during the sowing and harvesting seasons or in the rice mills.

Fishing and cattle farming is also major occupation.

Rats destroy a quarter of the grain grown on Tamil Nadu-area farms annually. To combat this pest, Irula men use a traditional earthen pot fumigation method.

Their knowledge and use of herbal medicines, tracking and digging skills, and unusual diet (which includes rats) have been written about, filmed, studied and lauded.

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