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Illustrated Talk on The Todas by Dr. Tarun Chhabra

May 24, 2017

Illustrated Talk on The Todas – An ancient people who have fashioned the Natural History and Culture of the Nilgiris
by Dr. Tarun Chhabra

Organised by Bangalore International Centre

About the topic
The Nlgiri Hills form part of the Western Ghats complex. This region was once part of the ancient continent. Gondwanaland.

The mountainous terrain of the Nlgiris has led to a great diversity of vegetation, from evergreen forests to the globally unique, climax shola-grassland ecosystem. It is a very small area yet with over ninety endemic plant species not found anywhere else on earth. There are also a number of plants, mammals and birds that have their closest relatives in the distant Himalayas.

The Nilgiris have remained in a pristine condition thanks to the indigenous Toda people have occupied the these hills since ancient times. The Todas are the oldest inhabitants. With their quaint barrel-vaulted temples and dwellings, their embroidered cloaks and their magnificent long-horned buffaloes, the Todas have fascinated the world ever since `civilisation’ stepped into the Nlgiris almost two centuries ago.

The Todas possess a far ranging ecological knowledge that enables them to accurately predict phenomena ranging from the imminent cessation of the monsoon to even a person’s anxiety levels. They are vegetarian by choice. They speak an ancient South Dravidian language that is considered one of the most phonetically aberrant in India.

The Todas’ pastoral way of life: combined with their non-martial, non-hunting, pacifist: and vegetarian lifestyle, has surely played a significant role in ensuring the survival and prospering of the surrounding flora and fauna. This intimate link with nature is one of the factors that has endowed the Nlgiris with such a high degree of bio-cultural diversity.

Dr. Tarun Chhabra Educated at The Lawrence School: Lovedale and Modern School: New Delhi: Dr. Chhabra is a full time Dentist at Ooty.

He started the Toda Nalavaazhvu Sangam (Toda Welfare Society) in 1992 to help preserve the rich cultural heritage of the Toda people. He also founded the Edhkwehlynawd Botanical Refuge (EBR) to carry out ecological restoration and botanical studies in the Nilgiris, and initiated a project to propagate the endangered Toda buffalo breed that is endemic to the Nilgiris.

Dr Chhabra was on the managing committee of the Nilgiri Wildlife and Environment Association for 15 years, and the editor of the newsletter, Tahr. He has written numerous articles, papers: chapters on Toda ethnography: ethnobotany and on the biodiversity of the Upper Nlgiris plateau. He has delivered lectures widely on these topics at International conferences in different parts of the world. He is one of the very few non-Todas ever to speak the Toda language.

In late 2015: his magnum opus: The Toda Landscape: Explorations in Cultural Ecology, was published by Orient Black Swan and Harvard University Press (under the Harvard Oriental Series, vol. 79).

He has conducted an elaborate survey and study of the wild balsams (Impatiens) of the upper Nilgiris. As a consequence, three new species of balsams were recently described and named by him in the Nordic Journal of Botany.

Toda Embroidery Exhibition Saturday | 27th May 2017 | 5:30 PM
Illustrated Talk on Saturday | 27th May 2017 | 6:00 PM

Bangalore International Centre,
TERI Complex,
4th Main, 2nd Cross,
Domlur II Stage,
Bangalore – 560 071

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