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The Toda people of the Nilgiris District in south India are one of the oldest indigenous groups in South Asia; they are also reportedly among the most studied and written-about in the region. While the field was dominated by Western scholars in the beginning, Indian researchers and writers began contributing to Toda studies from the early twentieth century.
The Toda Landscape: Explorations in Cultural Ecology represents a major breakthrough in Toda studies. From his interactions with the Todas from 1990 onwards, the author, Tarun Chhabra, has collected and analysed ethnographic data that had eluded even the greatest of Western ethnographers. Through his first-hand narrative accounts of important Toda rituals, ceremonies and routines, all accompanied by visual documentation in the form of photographs and maps, he provides new data that will significantly aid the preservation of Toda traditional culture.
The Toda Landscape highlights previously unknown aspects of Toda cultural heritage:
Their sacred geography—sacred waters, sacred hills, and sacred trees and rocks.
Some sacred institutions, which have their own distinct, hitherto undocumented, rituals, and the intricacies of their traditional attire and embroidery motifs.
The entire domain of Toda ethnobotany.
The complex interweaving of myth and reality in Toda lives, evidenced in the routes Toda spirits are said to follow to their afterworld.
With its detailed descriptions of sparsely documented aspects of Toda life, all complemented with stunning photographs, The Toda Landscape is an invaluable addition to the field of social anthropology and cultural studies. Its focus on ethnobotany and the flora and fauna of the Nilgiris region will also greatly help students and scholars of environmental studies and botany.
List of Tables
Foreword by Anthony R. Walker
A Guide to the Transliteration of Toda
Prologue: My Toda Journey
Introducing the Toda People and their Homeland
The Toda Landscape
The Toda Clans: Their Hamlets and Other Sacred Places
Toda Dress and Embroidery
Journey to Nhyoollnn
The Traditional Toda Relationship with Honey
Konawsh: Structure and Occupancy
A Journey to the Afterworld
Flowers in my Toda Garden
Cornerstone Plants of the Todas
Balsams of the Nilgiris
Appendix 1: Flora Associated with the Toda People
Appendix 2: Fauna Associated with the Toda People
Appendix 3: Toda Landscape and Almanac Terminology
Appendix 4: Toda Sacred Chants: Some Examples
Appendix 5: Traditional Food Habits
Appendix 6: Buffalo Terminology
About the Author