Toda tribe , also known as Dodha tribe , is one of the ancient communities of
Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu. They are pastoral people and to a certain extent
,nomadic. Most of the Dodhas ,possess large herd of buffaloes and selling milk
products is the main source of living. Much of their ceremonial life is
centered around the dairies and barns of the buffalo they traditionally herd.
The tribe members have their own language which is of Dravidian origin
without any script.
origin of Toda tribe is linked to Sumerians ,Israelites and Babylonian people by
anthropologists .According to anthropological studies they could be an offshoot
of a group of primitive group who migrated from the tract of Central Asia
probably through Baluchistan between 3000 to 4000 years ago.
With Toda Embroidery:-The Todas wear a cloak or shawl called pootkhully
.This is the most important and most attractive component of Toda dress. This
rectangular wrapper is traditionally worn by both men and women of Toda
community. Pootkhully is woven by another tribal community called ,the
Kotas and it is embroidered by Toda women. Though this is worn by both men and
women, men wear it in Roman style in a different manner from women.
modern version is long narrow strips of cloth ,about 4.5 meters by 70 cm. It
is folded in half across the width and sewn along one double selvedge to make a
cloak of double thickness of about 2.2 meters long 1.35 meters wide. A little
additional stitching makes pocket The broad stripes on the fabric are in red
or black and embroidery is done in bold designs between and along these stripes.
The shawl has red and black bands at an interval of six inches. The Toda
embroidery is done between the gap in red and black. However instead of black
sometimes dark blue thread is used. The threads so used are in wool. The
is made from coarsely woven cotton cloth with easily countable threads which
will make it easy for the Toda women to emboss the embroidery on the fabric.
These garments are customarily worn at festive gathering and at funerals.
art work, practiced exclusively by women and , is so fine that it is often
mistaken as a weave in a first look. Girls learn this art from their mothers at
a very young age .It is an intricate form of needle weaving .The embroidery is
reversible, so one can use both sides. Apart from cloths ,now a days Toda
embroidery is used for adorning a range of products like pouches, spectacle
cases ,luncheon sets table cloths ,table mats ,and similar accessories
,bedspreads and veils which brings them a steady income. There are very few
ladies doing this embroidery at present and hence this is facing the threat of
Designs of Toda Embroidery:-The designs of the Toda embroidery are mostly
symbolic, geometric in shape and are ranging from floral motifs to animal and
The Toda word for an embroidery motif is Pukhoor
and there are more than 15
traditional designs. The majority of these are inspired by nature such as
peacock feathers , snakes, flowers. the sun ,the moon, and the stars .The
temples, houses lamps are also a potent source of inspiration. The most
important motif is that of the buffalo horn as the Todas venerate the buffalo.
There are other motifs named after wild flowers and a strange motif is named
after a girl who slipped and fell off a big rock. Traditional patterns are used
to embellish the cloak to wrap a dead body The pattern/design /motif is
embroidered by counting warp and weft of the fabric resulting in geometric
patterns, gives the impression of a woven, rather than embroidered pattern
main and the only stitch used in this embroidery is darning stitch ,done from
the back of the fabric .A long darning needle is used to weave short distances
,the fabric is turned around and the needle weaves back. At each turn ,a loop is
left forming a thick line as border .Patterns are embroidered by counting the
threads of the woven material and the precision of this depends on absolute
accuracy of thread counting.
What is unusual ,however is that the embroidery is done in wool on a cotton
background. The reason is that red and black colors in cotton yarn may
fade in course of time.
Uniqueness in Toda Embroidery:-
taken from nature, elements of nature and from daily life.
Embroidery is hand
made only by Toda women
The main and only
stitch used in this embroidery is darning stitch, done from the back of the
The thread is
looped generously on the rough obverse side (the right side) which is the
display side ,while the reverse appears far neater.
Use of motifs like
animals, flowers, insects, birds, architectural designs, etc.
No design/ pattern
is traced or done as outlines.
embroidered by counting the warp and weft threads of the fabric.
(Jacob Abraham, is Deputy Director ,PIB, Chennai)
A HUT OF
with Toda Embroidery
with Toda Embroidery