The children of the land

They are the true sons of the soil.
They cleared the path to a drem land where they became slaves of sahibs and lords.
They still continue to believe and practice what is least common in  most of us – respect and belief  in nature.
They are the tribes of wayand, the true inhabitants of this magical place and recipients of a fascinating heritage. They can be prominently classified into Paniya, Adiya, Kattunayakan, Kurichiyan and Kuruma .


The name ‘Paniyaan’ means ‘worker’ as they were supposed to have been the workers of non – tribes. Paniyas were once sold along with plantations by the landlords. They were also employed as professional coffee thieves by higher castes. They are believed to have been brought to Wayanad by the king of Malabar, and thereafter tilled the land as serfs.Normally the Paniya settlements (padis) may be a cluster of a few huts (pire or chala consisting of five to 15 families). Traditionally Paniyas were food-gatherers enjoying the freedom and self sufficiency of nomadic life in the interior forests. They used edible roots, leaves etc. They also used to eat small creatures like crabs by entrapping them. Although rice is their staple food, considerable quantities of wheat or ragi are consumed by the Paniyas. Tapioca, vegetables, animal flesh, fish, crabs and some varieties of roots and tubes are all included in their food items.They observe a number of festivals in different seasons. Some of these festivals are exclusively their own whereas some others are those which are regionally spread throughout the State.


Adiyas are bascically agricultural workers. The Adiya, like the Paniya, is one of the slave sects in Kerala. In the nuclear Adiya tribal family the husband is the head of the house. Bride price is given to the parents of the bride by the groom. Divorce, widow marriage etc., are permitted. Polygamy is also practiced.
Even if their woman commits such offences they are allowed to undergo purificatory ceremony known as ‘Kalachu Veypu’ to join their community back. Gadhika is one such art from practiced among the Adiya community to drive away severe illnesses and diseases, which they believe is caused due to God’s dislike/anger towards them.


Once the kings of jungles, even to this day they rarely mix with other tribes and still follow their ancient traditions of black magic and sorcery. Completely dependent on forest and forest products for sustenance, they subsist on honey, roots and barks of plants and what small animals that they trap or fell with their primitive weapons like bows and arrows. The Kattunyakans were originally hunter gatherers, experts in fishing, bird trapping and foraging for forest produce such as honey and fruit. Kattunayakans typically live in clusters of small and very basic mud huts, plastered with charcoal and cow dung and thatched with paddy straw or grass. Music and dance are very important to the Kattunyakans, acting as the main source of knowledge on their environment, culture and respect for kin. A variety of musical instruments have been fashioned by the tribe; most resemble drums and flutes.  Another important factor for the tribe is the medicinal system and its close association with the culture.


Also known as Malai Brahmins or Hill Brahmins, the Kurichiyas are the second largest adivasi community in Wayanad district. The community was named Kurichiya by the Kottayam Raja for the community’s expertise in archery. The name is derived from the phrase ‘kuri vechavan’, which means ‘he who took aim’.
The Kurumas are a tribal community who are believed to have descended from the Vedars, the ancient rulers of this region. This community mainly dealt with forest products . Both the Kurichiya and Kuruma tribes are land-owning communities. They follow a matrilineal household system. They also share similarities in religious practices, rituals, festivals, language and food habits. Kurichiya refers to their settlements as tharavadumuttam, etc. whereas Kuruma settlements were called kudi.


Uraali Kurumas are an artisan tribe and their versatile skill in art and handicrafts are well known. They play flute and drum during festivals.  One of their deities is ‘Bettu Chikkamma’ and a senior male member performs rituals before the deity and women are not allowed to participate in theses ceremonies. They believe that when one person dies, his soul becomes god if he is good and becomes devil if he is bad.Their main occupation is pottery, mat weaving etc. It is mostly the women who are involved in these tasks. They make baskets and mats of various types with reeds and bamboo.

The Wayanad Ramayana

Ezhunnamamuni paranjavalodu
Inangi ennodu punarenam
Azhakotha meni azhakum sundaram
Eppoyum ninte roopam kandittu
Kulirthamo sahiyatnamuni
– Taken from the Adiya’s folk song on Ramayana

In the holy month of “Ramayana masam”, where every household, temples and religious organisations in Kerala practices reading Ramayana, we would like to narrate what the ancient script is to Wayanad and its influences on the land.
Wayanad’s various communities—the Wayanadan Chettis, Idanadan Chettis, several other lower-caste and upper-caste communities—have planted the Ramayana into their local context. And some of the tales associated with the Ramayana are shared by all these communities.
The names of many places have their roots in the oral retellings of the Ramayana. A few examples are Ashramkoli, Yogimoola, Rampalli, Sita Mound, Poothadi and Choorupura. It is the belief of the local people that Valmiki’s ashram was situated in Ashramkoli. Even though it was upper-caste people who ran the ashram, the responsibility of thatching the roof of the ashram fell on the local Mulla Kuruma Adivasi community. It is believed that Sita gave birth to Lava and Kusa in this ashram, and that it was the women of the Mulla Kuruma community who provided postpartum care. Legend has it that it was in Yogimoola that the maharishis dwelled: it appears that it was this belief that gave the place its name. Similarly, there are over 30 such places in Wayanad whose nomenclature derives from Ramayana stories.
Again, there are numerous legends that link hills from Ramayana stories to those in Wayanad. Examples include legends based on mountains and hills such as Banasuramala, Brahmagiri, Munishvaramala (Munishvarakovil), Bhoothatthankunnu and Manikunnumala.
Scores of tribal communities, as well as upper-caste Hindus, believe that the war between Banasura and Krishna took place on Banasuramala. It is believed that during the war, Krishna chopped off Banasura’s karam (hand), and thus the place is named Karabanam. Karabanam Temple, at the foot of Banasura Hill, is well known in the region. In the middle of the war, an axe is said to have fallen in a region near Tharuvana, about 10 kilometres from Banasura. This region is now called Mazhuvannur, and there are many legends based on the Mazhuvannur Temple that is situated there.
There are large collections of stories among the many communities in Wayanad that deal with themes like the origin of the universe, origin of man, natural phenomena and the origin of religions. Many among them are related to themes in the Ramayana. There are even Adivasi communities in Wayanad that regard Rama and Sita as canonical figures in their own religion.
Tirunelli, which is known as the Kashi of the south, is a rich store of legends. Both subaltern communities and upper-caste Hindus consider Tirunelli to be the centre of their beliefs and legends. These written and unwritten legends and beliefs uphold Tirunelli as the most important site of spiritual pilgrimage. Most of these legends place references from the ancient Sanskrit texts in the landscape, since the geographical peculiarities of Tirunelli are conducive to the creation of myths and legends.
It is believed that Lord Rama, under the guidance of munis, offered prayers at Tirunelli Temple to achieve victory over Ravana. Another legend is that Lord Rama, along with Lakshman, Bharath and others, conducted the last rites for their father King Dasarath in the Papanashini River. Also, seven sacred waterbodies—Papanashini, Panchatheertham, Rinamochini Theertham, Gundika Theertham, Satabindu, Sahasrabindham and Varaham—are believed to converge at Tirunelli, the most important among them being Papanashini. It is believed that Lord Vishnu is in the main temple as Tirunelli Perumal, and Lord Shiva in Gundika Temple. And it is here that Brahma worships Vishnu everyday. Hence, in the temple, there is a convergence of all the three lords—Trimurti.


Music is an art of sounds. Like language, music is an unique form of communication. But conversation takes place only when the speaker and the listener speak the same language. But language is not a problem to listen and enjoy the music. It is not easy to say when music began or from which cultures the music originated.
In tribal societies, music has an important role in religious rituals and serves as a form of communication with supernatural beings. Tribal of Kerala still follow the pre-Dravidian music.
Thudi is a musical instrument of Paniya and Adiya tribes of Wayanad in Kerala. The TRIBALS perform thudi and Kuzhal and the Nellukuthu Pattu is peculiar to the Kurichias while Adiyas perform Gadhika and Kurumas are masters at Kolkali.
Thudi stands between Udukku and Idakka in terms of size. Though not a “kshetravadya” (percussion instrument used in temple), it is used as accompaniment for “aandi nritham”, a ritualistic dance performed in Devi temples. In the past, members of the Panar community used it for the “thuyilunarthupattu” during the Onam festival season.
The two membranes on either sides are large in size while the middle portion of the trunk is slim. Skins are stretched over the metal rings fitted to either sides. They are fastened with laces that are inserted through the holes on the rings. The instrument is played on one side by suspending it from the shoulder of the artist. The tension of the skin is adjusted with the help of the lacing.
The body of the thudi typically is made of jackfruit tree and dried skin of dear. it is an integral part in festivails and weddings were the new member of the family is welcomed to the house while the thudi is beaten in loud volumes. the sound of thudi is believed to eradicte negative energy and create a positive atmosphere.