The instrument once entertained the Badaga tribesmen in Ooty and was considered their traditional sacred musical tool. Today, it is a rarity in the Badaga households since none knew how to play it.
Two such instruments, called the Bugiri, were discovered in the house of 90-year-old M K Matha Gowder of Melur Hullathi Village, 25 km from here.
Bugiri, a long flute made of strong bamboo with six holes in it, much like a traditional flute, had slowly passed into oblivion due to lack of patronage. However, Matha Gowder had been preserving two 170-year-old Bugiris in his house for the past several decades though none from his family or the village knew how to play the instruments.
Gowder recalled, ”My father Kulla Gowder played the Bugiri during festivals, especially the annual traditional Heathai Amman Car Festival. It was also played to cure a patient and during funerals. Frankly speaking, I and my children are unable to play the instrument.
In olden days, specialists who were much healthier and energetic could play Bugiri, which looks like a long flute. Body energy is needed to blow the Bugiri. Kal (stone/strong) Bamboo used for making Bugiri is still found in Sigur range near Gudalur. The tune that emanated from the Bugiri was considered sacred in those days.”
Matha Gowder, who was the vice president of the Ootacamund Milk Society for a long period till 1972, added, ”I almost forgot about the two Bugiris lying idle in my house. Two days ago, on Monday, a senior Artist M Ravichandran of the Government Art Gallery, the Nilgiris, came in search of Bugiris in Badaga villages to create an awareness about vanishing traditions and culture through art.