Wynd Valley

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Tribes of Wayanad

Wayanad, the panoramic hill of malabar in the northern Kerala, situated above the sea level ranges between 700 meters to 2100 meters, is a homeland of various tribal communities.They can be prominently classified into Paniyas, Adiyas, Kattunayakans, Kurichiyans,Kurumas,Ooralis, Uraali Kurumas etc.

The Paniyas: A vast majority of tribes in Kerala State hail from the Paniya tribal sect. About 71.95 percent of the tribal population is found in Wayanad alone. The Paniyan means 'worker' as they were supposed to have been the workers of non-tribes. Gone are the days when Paniya settlement had a headman called 'kuttan' appointed by the land lord. Next in rank to Kuttan was the 'Mudali'or head of the family. Both 'Kuttan' and 'Mudali' are called 'Mooppanmar'. Monogamy appears to be the general rule among the Paniyas. In marriage bride price is practised like many other tribal communities. Widow remarriage is allowed. The Paniyas have only a crude idea of religion. Their major deity, is called 'Kali"is belived to be malignant and so powerful. They also worship Banyan tree. They hesitate to cut such trees and if anyone attempts to cut them, they fall sick.

The Adiyas: The Adiya , like the Paniya , is one of the slave tribal sects in Kerala. In the nuclear Adiya family the husband is the head of the household. Bride price is given to the parents of the bride from the groom. Divorce, widow marriage, etc., are permitted polygamy is also practised. Even if their women commit such offences they are allowed to undergo purificatory ceremony known as 'Kalachu Veypu' to join their community back. The Adiyas call their wanton women as 'Chullachi'. The Adiya tribal community is divided into 20 classes called 'Mandu'. The head of the Mandu is called 'Chommikkaran'or 'Peruman'.

The Kurichyas: The Kurichyas of Wayanad have a great martial tradition. They constituted the army of Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja who engaged the British forces in several battles. The descendants of those warriors are still expert archers. The excellence of Kurichya archery has been exhibited recently, at various centres. The Kurichyas are the most developed among the adivasis and they are small land owners. The art performed by Kurichyas is "Nellukuthu pattu".

The Kattunayakan: The Kattunayakan community is found in Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram districts. They are also called Cholanaickan, in the interior forests of Nilambur area of Malappuram, and Pathinaickans, in the plains of Malappuram districts.

As their name denote, the Kattunayakan were the kings of the jungle regions engaged in the collection and gathering of forest produces. They are known as Ten Kurumar since they collect honey from the forest. They have all the physical features of a hilltribe. Their language is a mixture of all Dravidian languages.

They worship animals, birds, trees, rock hillocks and snakes. They are firm believers in black magic and sorcery. They also worship their ancestors, along with worshipping Hindu deities.

The Uraali Kurumas: Uralikuruma, the most versatile and colourful tribal people, is one of the rarest artisan tribes in Kerala. They are mostly found in the Wayan region. Uralikuruma is one of the three subdivisions of 'Kurumba' and the two others being 'Mulla' & ' Jen Kuruma' tribals.

Uralikurumas herald themselves as the followers of ancient 'Kurumba' or 'Pallava' which were once so powerful through southern India. Uralikurumas are also called Bet Kurumas. While Bet Kurumas, found now in the Mysore district of Karnataka speak Kannada, these tribals in Wayanad speak a mixture of Kanada and Malayalam languages. Amongst the Kuruma tribals in Wayanad The Mulla Kurumas consider themselves superior to the other Kuruma sects.

The Uralikurumas choose their life partners from their tribe itself. When a person dies they believe that the soul of the good become gods and that of the bad become devils. They worship deities as 'Bettu Chikkamma' and 'Bamadu' and also demons and ancestral spirits.

They play the flute and drum during their festival occasions festivals. The "Uch-alkali" is played in the month of February. Some men dance while some beat the drums and read the flute. An old man in the group performs rites to their deity 'Bettu Chikkamma'. Woman are not allowed to participate in theses ceremonies.They are also skilled potters with their women folk chiefly involved in this task. Baskets and mats of various types with reeds and bamboo and hand made pots are manufactured by them. But it has been seen that the younger generation now prefer working for non tribal landlords in plantation and paddy fields for an earning without much discomfort.


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