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Anthropological Survey of India,

By The Muduvans, Of Anamalai Hills, South India and C. R. Sathyanarayanan


This paper attempts to throw some light on the social institutions that have been guiding the Muduvans to subsist cohesively as a group within their forest habitat. Muduvans are a forest dwelling Scheduled Tribe of Anamalai hills, the mountain range that cuts across the Tamilnadu and Kerala states in south India. Going by the available ethnographic references, they are basically Vellalas i.e. cultivators from the plains of Madurai, who took refuge in the forests of Anamalai hills during the collapse of Pandyan kingdom at Madurai. In the jungle habitat, they took up shifting cultivation as the primary mode of subsistence and continued it for generations. For the Muduvans, undergoing the cycle of shifting cultivation was and still is a way of life. Their most colourful social institution of dormitory system, festivities, beliefs and practices are interwoven with shifting cultivation. Their dormitory system played a prominent role in the cycle of shifting cultivation, evolving its own mechanisms for effective use of the available manpower and resources in consonance with the climatic conditions and seasons. They say, they had always shared their meal with anybody who visited their settlements, including the neighbouring hunter-gatherers, such as, Kadars, Mala Pulayans and Malasars; they further add that, for this reason, they were also called as Thagappanmargal meaning ‘patrons’. About four decades ago, a large portion of the habitat of all these groups was declared Protected Area and as a result, many of them were forced to abandon their traditiona

Year: 2011
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