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Toda Pitek, Emily


The Toda historically inhabited the Nilgiri Mountains of southern India; this entry focuses around the time of 1900. At this time, the Toda had been in contact with Europeans, and India was under British rule. However, according to the principal ethnographic authority William Rivers (1906) European influence had minimal effect on Toda religious beliefs and activities. The Toda social structure included two endogamous divisions: the Teivaliol and Tartharol, each with several subdivisions (clans). Political leadership was maintained by the naim; a governing council composed of five individuals from various clans. The naim also held functions in connection with religious activities, deciding when ceremonies would take place and regulating the ti (sacred buffalo and accompanying dairies and grazing lands). As a pastoralist society, the Toda relied heavily on their cattle and dairies. The cattle played a significant role in the daily aspects of life (e.g., subsistence, economic), and also featured prominently in religious beliefs and practices. Certain buffalo are considered sacred and are associated with sacred dairies, ceremonies, and are tended to by dairymen-priests. Organized in a hierarchical manner, each level of dairy had its own grade of ritual and priesthood, with an increasing need for ritual purity and elaborateness of rituals for daily tasks. The ti comprises the most sacred level and is maintained by the palol (dairyman-priest, religious practitioner) who is selected from the Teivaliol division. The main types of Toda religious ceremonies are those associated with the dairy and those accompanying life-cycle events. Because the Toda religion permeates almost all aspects of life, this entry considers the religious group to be coterminous with Toda society itself.

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Attribution 4.0 International