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My visit to mysterious tribes

In a book of the founder of the Theosophical movement, Madame Blavadski called ‘Mysterious Tribes’ (in fact it is a book in German) I read about two curious tribes the Kurumbula’s and the Toda’s. They live, according to the book, in the Nilgiri’s in the South of India. The region is taboo for visitors. Of course, when the British still ruled India, an adventurous Englishman did not care about the taboo and even was all too eager to organise an expedition to this area. The people who carried his luggage became very afraid when they came near this forbidden region. It was said that you had to pay with your life when you entered it. There were tales of gods and other tales of devils. Many people left his expedition at the decisive moment, that is just before entering the Nilgiri’s. With the few people left the Englishman went on and he met the tribe of the Toda’s or the gods.

In the Indian sacred book of the Mahabarata they are already mentioned. They are rewarded therein because of their help to the gods. Their origins beyond that are unknown. The Toda’s perhaps were called gods because of their behaviour. The Englishman described them as ‘sinless’. Next to that they were very tall. He said that the other tribe, the Kurumbala’s, involved themselves with black magic. They were extremely small people, like midgets. With their bows and arrows and with their black magic they killed other people. Most of the times they lived in the jungle.

Later on the English opened a hill-station in the Nilgiri’s called Ootycamund. I wanted to visit it because of the two tribes and because of its climate. In the midst of the Indian Summer, which is very hot in the South, in Ootycamund the temperatures are very pleasant. Ootycamund is also famous because of its beautiful flowers and plants, as its climate is very favourable for them. The Nilgiri’s are called the blue hills in India. In India are the Himalayan mountains, so the Nilgiri’s which are half their size (but still over 3 km) are called hills. When approaching them by bus they appeared indeed blue to me…

I found the Toda’s working in the botanical garden. The Toda’s were in a sorry state. You can compare it with the situation of the Indians in the USA living in reservations. The same is true with the Toda’s. Their pride (they were called gods!) has been broken. They live in poor huts next to the botanical garden. The area is surrounded by barbed wire. I was allowed to visit every hut, except for a simple construction, which was their temple. It was hard to see them thus, especially when one of them stated to beg for money.

In the mosque in Ootycamund the imam gave me a small pamphlet. Most of it was in a script I could not read, except for one article in English. It dealt with the teachings of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti and it was written by the man who two weeks later would become my guide on the Sufi path. Two weeks later I met him for the first time in Ajmer, the day before the ‘urs of Khwaja Mo’inuddin Chishti started. I never met the Kurumbala’s. Perhaps a good thing or this travel account may never have been written…

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