origin & Language


Irula tribe of the Nilgiris consists mainly of people who came and settled from the plains of the nearby villages during the Mughal and British invasions. Because all the Irulas now live in several villages of the Nilgiris they do not appear to be a uniform category divided into several groups, like the Kotas. Their religion, customs, and traditional practices vary from place to place. The early settlers of the Nilgiris might have lived in the dark jungles to protect themselves from enemies. And lived a forest-oriented life by collecting forest products and hunting for their livelihood. But these people who lived in the jungles of the Nilgiris for a very long time came out of it in later days and distributed themselves over several villages of the district.

These Irulas are famous for catching snakes and serving as guides in the forest areas. In early days they where food gatherers, now government has given them agricultural lands near their settlements. But they have given most of their lands in lease to other migrants of that area, and are working as coolies and labourers in estates.


Irulas speak a dialect which is a mixture of Tamil and Kannada. Their language varies from one settlement to another. Songs in the Irula language are very interesting to listen. The Irula language does not have any script and they use Kannada and Tamil scripts.

Zvelebil (1973) published a small monograph on the Irula language but Dr.R.Perialwar’s two books, “Phonology of Irula with vocabulary” (Annamalai University 1979) and “A Grammar of the Irula Language” (Annamalai University, 1978), provide good information about the language.(Source: Nilgiris District Gazetteer).


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