Belief Systems of Malayali Tribes in Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu

C.Prem Naseer


The Malayalis come under the Twenty fifth number in the list of Scheduled Tribes. A majority of them are found in the hill areas of Salem, Attur, Namakkal, Rasipuram, North Arcot, Karur and Thuraiyur Taluks. These hilly are the Baramahal region, which is the continuation of the Mysore plateau. The Baramahal is full of hills and hillocks, among them worthy to mention are Javathu hills, the Shervaroy, the Kalrayan, the Pachaimalai and the Kolli Hills. They are known as Eastern Ghats of Tamil Nadu[1].

The word Malai denotes inhabitant of the hills (malai – hill or mountain). The Malayalis have not, however, like the Todas of the Nilgiris, any claim to be considered as an ancient hill tribe, but are Tamil speaking people who migrated from the plains to the hills in comparatively recent times, probably during the middle of eighteenth century.[2]

According to Thurston, the term Malayali has been derived from the words Malai meaning hill and al-meaning person and is used to denote hill people. Etymologically the word is derived from Malai – Hills and ali – inhabitants[3].

.      The Malayalis who live in Shervaroy hills are called big (Periya) Malayali or the Kanchimandalam Malayalis the inhabitants of the Kolli  Hills are known as little (China) Malayali those who are living in the Pachamalai hills are called middle (Nadu) Malayali and their population in this parts is 310.042 as per the census report of 2001.[4]

According to popular folk lore of the region, the Malayalis originally belonged to the Vellala caste of cultivators and emigrated from the sacred city of Kanchi to the hills about ten generation ago, when Muhammadan rule was dominant in Southern Indian. They took with them according to their story, three brothers of who to eldest came to the Sherveroys hills, the second to the Pachaimalai and the youngest to the Kollimalai[5].

There is numerous deep-rooted beliefs system in the socio- cultural and religious life of the tribes of Eastern Ghats of Tamilnadu. This paper aims to explain some the belief system prevalent among the tribes of Kolli hills, Pachaimalai and Kalrayan hills . Also attempt has been made in their paper to bring to light few important beliefs found in their Agricultural activities, hunting, rain, mental disorders, diseases, marriage, annual worship and life after-life etc

[1] Narasimaiah, B., Neolithic and Megalithic Culture in Tamil Nadu, Delhi,1980, p.3

[2] Aiyyappan,A., Sco-Economic Condition of the Aboriginal Tribes of Province of Madras, Chennai,2000, p.142.

[3] Thurston, E, Castes and Tribes of Southern India  Vol- IV, Cosmo publication, New Delhi, 1909, p.406.

[4] Census report of, 2001.

[5] Thurston,E., op.cit, p.407

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