Away from humdrum of the city, a tribal community tucked away in the hills of Dharmapuri district still live in unison with nature. Shielded from the modern advancements and pressures of urban lifestyles, the Malayali tribes of Vathalmalai are oblivious of social evils like dowry, rape and sexual harassment.
But, this peaceful society, which is facing a threat of encroachment and development, appeals for their community and lifestyle to be preserved.
The Malayalis, the largest tribal community of Tamil Nadu, mainly found in Pachamalai near Tiruchy, Palamalai in Salem district and Vathalmalai in Dharmapuri still follow their ancient customs and worship their god, Nature.
Living in six villages – Perioor, Palsilambu, Chinnankadu, Mannaguli, Ondrikadu and Nayakanoor, in Vathalmalai – the tribes may be described as uncivilized by some, actually live in perfect harmony with their society and environment.The society, which is matriarchal in nature, has never opposed love marriages and an illicit affair has never been the excuse to burn a village.
Muthumani of Chinnankadu, speaking to Express, said, “Here, a woman has the right to choose her partner and parents don’t force their daughters to follow their wishes. And, it is the man who has to pay dowry.” But what do the tribes exchange as dowry? Well, it’s not gold, diamonds or cash; food products and cattle are exchanged when a marriage is solemnised. Duraisamy, an inhabitant of Palsilambu, said, “Till now, rape, murder, theft and suicide have not happened in Vathalmalai. Nature has given us enough resources, so why do we have to commit crimes? We are happy with the resources we have.” The main occupation of the people is cultivation of coffee, ragi and millets. They have not adopted chemical fertilisers and pesticides, and yet, they say they get good yields. Pazhani, a senior resident, said, “Nature has given us fertile soil, why should we damage the soil with chemicals.”