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The Kurumbas, who live in the mid-ranges of the Nilgiris or blue-mountains entertain a confusing and mysterious identity. Several factors add to the romanticisation of these tribal people. Like the mountain ranges, the word “kurumba” is found in the adjoining states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. The tribes themselves are sometimes called Kuruba and sometimes confused with other tribes of similar names like Kuruman.

This confusion in the synonymous names of the communities, is the reason why the Government of India, recognize them under the name “Kurumbas” and to avoid confusion, it declared that those Kurumbas who are living only in the nilgiri district are categorised as scheduled tribe and are included in the list of Primitive Tribal Groups( PTG).

The following was stated in the Madras Census Report(1891) “The Kurumbas or Kurumbar are the modern representative of the ancient Kurumbas or Pallavas who were once so powerful throughout southern India, but very little trace of their greatness now remains.  In the 7th century, the power of the Pallava kings seems to have been at its zenith; but shortly after this, the Kongu, Chola and Chalukya chiefs succeeded in winning several victories over them.  The final overthrow of the Kurumba sovereignty was affected by the Chola king Adondai about the 7th or 8th century A.D. and the Kurumbas were scattered far and wide.  Many fled to the hills, and in the Nilgiris and the Wyanad, in Coorg and Mysore, representatives of this ancient race are now found as wild and uncivilised tribes.  Elsewhere the Kurumbas are more advanced, and are usually shepherds and weavers of coarse woolen blankets.”

D. B. Kapp in “the Kurumbas relationship to the megalithic cult of the Nilgiri hills (South India)- 1985 succeeded in identifying several distinct Kurumba tribes in the Nilgiris on the basis of region of residence and occupation.  They are Alu Kurumbas, Mudugas, Beta Kurumbas, Jenu, Mullu and Urali Kurumbas.  The Alu Kurumbas speak their own dialect called “Kurumba Bashe”, Jenu Kurumbas and Beta Kurumbas speak Kannada dialect, whereas Mulu Kurumbas speak Malayalam.  A typical Kurumba hamlet would consist of 10 to 25 huts and is called a “Mottem”.   Capp (1985) further stated that the Kurumba people are dark skinned, well built and of moderate height.  They are non vegetarians.  The women usually wear blouses, saris, bangles and coloured beads and the men wear white lungi “mundu”.

Here are some images of Kurumbas

A Kurumba Woman


Kurumbas honey collector

Kurumbas lady with child

For further information please contact

One  Earth Foundation