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From Irulars History to their Present Life(Part 2)

Masi (Tamil Month) Month Festival

Every year on the full moon day of the month of Masi month, the Paliyar tribe gathers together on the beach of Mahabalipuram to cook supper, sing and enjoy all. After that in the morning after bathing in the sea they worship their deity Kanniyamma.

(Masimagam)

This festival is a very important part of their life. Irulars, who work as slaves in brick kilns and paddy fields, wait to celebrate this festival. It is a social collective movement. An immortal remnant of tribal heritage. It is customary to celebrate some festivals in the months of Adi and Chithrai.


No Irulars without a musical instrument

Irular people have various traditions like stories, folk songs, anecdotes, proverbs, and playing musical instruments. As the day passes, when they are done with their hard labour and after dinner, they play musical instruments and sing songs and dance. In this, they dance as a group without any discrimination against males, females, children, elders and young people.


Folk songs

The folk songs of the Irular are very distinctive. It is customary to sing songs according to various periods like birth, death, sadness, love, festival etc. As far as Irulars are concerned, song and story are inseparable. They used to play various types of leather instruments. Of these, Kadime, Berai, and Thambatta are the most important, and wind instruments such as Bugari, Nagasuram, and Kvalu are also commonly played.


Food habit

Irulars, who live in the forest, get their food from the forest. They do not eat buffalo and cow meat. They eat goats, field mice, chickens, deer, pigs, rabbits, wild fowl, pigeons, and quails. In some other areas, the Irulars cultivate in a small area within their residential areas. They also eat Ragi, Cholam and tuber.


Status of women

Women have the right to choose men for marriage. There is no habit of taking dowry. Those who wish to get married tell the elder called Kadu Bhusali or Kadu Pusari who performs all the rituals and conducts the marriage. He is also called Jatti. Women are given equal rights. Women also do work like collecting honey, picking herbs and digging tubers.

The forest is their heart and the mountain is their body

Traditional occupation

They were engaged in various traditional occupations like hunting, collecting honey, catching Eesal, collecting herbs, and catching snakes. In today's situation, most of the Irular people work as slaves in brick kilns and rice mills. They also work as labourers for nearby landowners during the harvest season. They also work as guards.


Modern governments began to crush the Irular people who lived with the forest as their heart and the mountain as their body. For most of the past centuries, they lived in the mountains and forests. The colonial regime chased the tribals from their original habitats, while the English looted the forest resources through various oppressive laws. Through this, the majority of tribes started migrating. And after India's independence, the Forest Protection Act of 1976 started driving them out of the forest, and little by little their culture and economy crumbled. Forest and mountain never starved them and after being driven from it they became miserable people.


We will see this in the next article from Criminal Inheritance Act to Welfare Commissions.


This article is created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.

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