The tribals are an intrinsic part of our
national life with their rich cultural heritage. The tribals settled down in
India in the pre-historic times, inhabiting mostly in the sparsely populated
parts of hills and forest. The tribals are primitive and prefer living in
isolation i.e. in dense forests or remote areas which are generally cut-off
from civilized area. The habit of isolation helps them to preserve their social
customs, traditions and beliefs to a large extent.1 Tribals as a social group
speaking a distinctive language and possessing a distinctive culture differ
from other tribes.2 The tribals live in houses on the side of hills. Further,
there is minimum contact with the other groups. Inshort, they lead a secluded
Thirty six Scheduled
Tribes has been notified in Tamil Nadu by the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled
Tribes Order (Amendment) Act, 1976. Of the Scheduled Tribes, six have been
notified with area restriction. They are Malayali, Kurumbas Kanikaran, Kanmara,
Kota and Toda. Malayali are the largest Tribes
constituting 47.6 percent of the state tribal population
The chief settlements of the tribe in Tamil
Nadu are Pachamalai, Kolli Hills, Kalrayan Hills, Shervaroy Hills, Jawathu Hills, Sitheri
Hills, Aranuthumali, Kalrayan Hills,
The tribes of kolli
hills dwell in huts, arranged in parallel rows.
The Hills are situated in the Thuraiyur taluk
of the Tiruchirappalli district.
There are 50 villages
in this region which are referred to as ooru. Ooru is hamlet grouped under three nadus, such as
Thenpuranadu, Vannadu and Aathinadu.
each settlement is given a specific name such
as Senguttupatti, Perumparappu, Sembulichampatti, Puthur and so on.
large part of the hill is covered by reserve
forests where sandal wood and bamboos are found.
on the Kalrayan Hill
kalrayan hills located
in Salem district. they are divided into five Jaghirs of which Chinna Kalrayan
Nad and Periya Kalrayan Nad . 35 Each of these Nadu is governed by a Dorai, the
hereditary chieftain of the Malayalis. The Chinna Kalrayan forms the northern
portion of the Attur Kalrayans, while the Periya Kalrayan Malayali settlement
is wrapped in obscurity
The residents follow the
traditional method of cultivation. There are 39 hamlets, but no roads to access
the Periya Kalrayans and one has to ascend steep hills, even officials hesitate
to visit the hills. Chinna Kalrayans which is almost level has better living
standards on account of their frequent contact with the people from the plains.
The Malayalis normally conform to the norms
and traditions of their society through the influences of three agencies, authority
of elders, public opinion and religious beliefs. They have a well organized and
tradition bound system of tribal administration, the tribal areas are divided
into nadus and the number of nadus varies according to the extension of the
The Kolli hills tribal
area is divided into 14 nadus. The chief of a nadu is called Periya Pattakaran
whose office is hereditary. Each nadu is subdivided into Ursvillage which are
governed by Ur-kavundans. The office of the Ur-kavundan is elective. He is
helped by Karakkaran in resolving disputes among the tribes. Karakkarans are
elected from different clans
On appeal, disputes are settled by Periya
Pattakarans. Hence decisions of the Ur-kavundars and Karakkarans are reviewed
The Kolli Malayalis normally confirm to the
norms and practices of their society. There are no written norms and they
followed the traditions established by their ancestors. The tribal council is
known as the Nadu. There are 14 nadu or settlements on Kolli hills.It has jurisdiction
over all the settlements in the hills.
The head man of the
Tribal Council is referred to as Pattakkarar and he is the superior authority
of all villages and his decisions are accepted by the entire hills. Three
Pattakarars ruled in this region namely Valappur Patakkarar, Selur Pattakkarar
and Perakkarai Pattakkarar.
The village council is
headed by the Ur-kavundan (village headman) and the other member like
Karaikkarar, Tharmakartia, Thandalkarar and Pujari to assist in village
administration. The village council members to resolve the inter and
intra-village disputes. Decision taken by council is accepted by all the
The village Panchayat
meeting is usually held under the tree or in the temple
Pachamalai is divided into patties, each of which is controlled by Muppan. He
is assisted by Nattar, Nattu Kavundan or Kutti Kavundans. Nattans are under the
immediate control of a council of seven Dorais. The council is presided over by
a Periya dorai, who is sometimes called as Raja and the Dorais are assisted by
Mandris. The villages are grouped into nadus. Each village has a headman called
Pachamalai Muppan and in Kollimalai Ur- kavundan or Kuttimaniyan. In
Pachamalai, a cluster of ten villages form a Sittampalam. This is under the
control of a Kavundan. The nadu headman on the Pachamalais also performs the
duty as Pattakarans. All the appointments made are hereditary. all the disputes
are settled by Sadaiya Kavundan. Only pattakkaran has privileges such as the
right to ride on horseback and use umbrellas, which are denied to the common
The tribal council is known as the Nattu
koottom (hill assembly).50 It has the jurisdiction over all the settlements.
The three chiefs of the hills will to discuss common problems, development
schemes and to fix the date of festivals.
of the hills
The headman of the tribal council is referred to
as Thorekkavundan and he is the deciding authority of the entire hills.
Council at village
The tribal council is called Orrkottom
(settlement assembly) Thus each and every settlement is having a Orrkottom. For
the entire hills, there are 50 such assemblies. The headman of such settlement
assembly is called as Muppan. The Mandhiri and Kangani, the two office bearers
assist the headman of the settlement
Headman of the Settlement
The headman of the settlement is considered as
the chief of that particular settlement. He settles all the issues concerning
the settlement under his control.
the first respect on marriage or mourning goes
to the headman of the settlement.
The Mandhiri and his duties
Mandhri acts as an assistant to the head man of the settlement help arrive at
Kangani and his Office
Kangani assists the Mandhiri in arranging the meetings of the tribal council.
He visits the various Malayali settlements and informs the date, time and venue
of the meeting. he accompanies his immediate superior that is the Mandhiri to
control the offenders if they turn out violent or problematic. though the major
official matters are done by the Kangani and his superiors do not show any
regard for him as they consider him just as a paid servant.
Tribal Council Meeting
The entire Malayali community can be divided
into two sects namely Kavundan vested with ruling power and Kaniayen comprises
The tribal council functions effectively and settles all the issues concerning
the tribes of the hills. Rigid practices are adopted for Violation of tribal
code, so the Tribal Council remains as a powerful body till today. the accused
is asked to remit Thandom (fine) in the form of cash if he or she is proved to
be guilty. Divorce, extra-marital adultery, Pre-marital adultery, are handled
by Tribal council
if ample proof is produced the fine is
collected both from the man and the girl
of different levels like clan, village and territory is respected and obeyed as
head of the group
Traditional Law The Malayali tribes have their
own traditional laws based on their social customs. All the villages in these
hills have their headman. They generally obey and accept the head of the group.
Muppan is the head of the village and he is assisted by Kangani or Karakkaran.
social matters and are brought before the Panchayat. The Kumbal(meeting) was
held under the tree. Now in a Temple. punishments usually kutham (fines) which
are generally utilised in giving a common feast or for an offering to the super
natural powers. Oath and ordeal methods serve as means of voluntary laws
bearers and the Pachamalai Malayali elders are keen that the tribal adhered to
the tribal code. In the interior settlements, elders do not wish to refer their
cases to tribal council unless it is a serious breach of their custom. Instead
they try to settle their cases within themselves or through the mediation of
other settlements. As per as the Pachaimalai Malayalis are concerned, the
tribal council is considered to be very powerful even as on date.
Kalrayan hill tribes are living in more than 160 villages. These villages are
ruled by three Jahirthars viz Ariyakgounder jahir, Kurumpagounder jahir and
belonged to the tribal community during the Vijayanagar period. Jairthhar serves as the headman of the all
the settlements on the Kalrayan hills. He had full power to govern this
must respect and obey his rulings. He was assisted by the village head man
Muppan and few other members
He is helped by Nattamai, Kangani and Goundan
is a head man of the village next to Muppan.
late, the tribal councils in the hills are gradually disappearing. The head of
the hills like, Pattakkaran, Jahirthars, Thorakkavundan and Nattan have lost
their importance. In short, as on date, only few village councils functions
effectively in the tribal area.