The ethnic group commonly recognised as Kurumbas had close
association especially with the Badagas and Todas. Known as 'Kurumba' in
Badaga and 'Kurb' in Toda, the designation simply means "a
jungle-dweller". They used to be more or less mediators between
Badagas and the super-natural
aspects of their immediate environments. Thus the magico-ritual role of
the Kurumbas and their function as sorcerers were dreaded as well as
accommodated. They now number around 2000.
The Kurumbas lived in the lower reaches of the Nilgiri hills in mountain clefts, glens and forests. The chief sub-division of the Kurumbas of the Nilgiris are, Mul (thorn), Betta (hill), Urali (village), Jen (honey) and Tac' chanadan (carpenter).
Way Of Life
A Kurumba village consists of four or five huts, made of mud and wattle with thatched roofs. The front of the hut is sometimes whitewashed and ornamented with rude drawings of men and animals in red earth or charcoal. The various village communities are under the control of a headman ("Ejaman"), who is assisted by a Panchayat. The language spoken is a corrupt from Kannada and Tamil.
The Kurumbas used to be foragers and food-gatherers. They used to collect plantains and other fruits, gather of honey, resin and medical herbs.
The Kurumbas have wedge - shaped faces, flat noses, hollow cheeks with prominent cheekbones, slightly pointed chins, moderately large eyes and dark complexion. The men seldom have any covering except the Langoti, some of the women wear only a waist cloth, and other wear a square cloth which reaches from under the arms to the knees. The women are fond of ornaments. The dead are usually buried in a sitting posture, but the very old are cremated. The parents arrange marriage and widows are permitted to remarry.
Despite their primitive ways of living, they have their religious ceremonies. The largest of these is an annual festival held in honour of their caste deities, Kallatha, Airu Billi and Kadu Billala.