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C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation : 

Tribal life in the Nilgiris has been affected by external influences.  Initially, it was the colonial western culture. Later, in the post independent period, India’s developmental programmes have excluded tribal arts and crafts.

In order to preserve the art forms of the tribals, the C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation felt that it is necessary to ensure the continuity of their art. Hence the foundation has been training Kota and Kurumba, Paniya and Irula youth to revive their traditional arts of pottery making, vegetable dye painting and bamboo craft.

The Foundation has trained several Kota women in pottery and Kurumba youth in painting. Their creative endeavour has been channelized during the training to bring out viable product, to fetch a commercial return.

Foundation has organized exhibitions and sales of their products in metropolitan cities like Chennai and Mumbai with due media coverage.

  • Kurumbas have become artists
  • Kota women have become terracotta artists


The Nilgiris are designated as a tribal district since they shelter different tribal groups. While every tribe has a specialisation and the unique character, it is decided to survey four tribes initially under this project, the Paniya, Kota, Irulas and Kurumbas.

Each tribe has a specific role to play in the hill area, leading to a specialization in their arts and crafts. For example, the Todas do cane work, embroidery and woodcarving, Kotas make pottery, iron items, carpentry and musical instruments, Irulas and Paniyas create instrumental music and Kurumbas are graphic artists

The purpose of this Documentation is an urgent need to carry out such a survey because the older members of each tribe are passing away.  For example, there is only one potter left among the Kotas, only one artist among the Kurumbas and so on.  If these people pass away without leaving any documentation of their work, it is unlikely that the coming generations – even their own successors – will ever know about their heritage.

The project is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Youth Affairs & Sports, Department of Culture, Government of India.

C.P.R. Environmental Education Centre (CPREEC) :


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