The Hamlets and Nadus
The hamlets and Nadus (Nadu in Tamil means ‘country’ or at the lowest level a ‘village’) of the Kollihills are a homogeneity of population in terms of clannish organization. The hamlets, though small in size (of area and population), for all practical purposes may be considered as individual settlements having intricate social relations among the people and with each other.
The hamlets and Nadus become important in that the social system is spatially organized and its operation is spatially structured. And since an important goal in the operation of a social system, and also in individual behaviour, is efficiency, the vur, in their evolution and operation, express this efficiency in the way they are located with respect to economic system that coordinates production, consumption, and exchange of goods - agriculture related commodities and services - which facilitate development of hamlets and Nadus and also influence the locations of functions and the interactions among these functions.
The settlements of the hills show two features that are significant: (a) their small size; and (b) the ecology of the sites with which they are associated. The site areas are such that they offer livelihood for groups of 20 to 100 households, though there are mother - villages with more than 200 households. It appears that the size is an expression of the carrying capacity or load, determining the pattern of the hamlets and nadus. This means that the system of nadus and the tendency towards intensive exploitation by the tribe of limited environmental riches of the hills are an ingenious adaptation to environment, based on a remarkably complete knowledge of local ecology and soil potential.
Critical Population Density of traditional subsistence agriculture is 8 to 9 persons per km2 and in shifting cultivation it is 4 (Kumaran, 1983; 1998). The hamlets therefore remain small communities so that the exploited area is limited and the crop lands do not move too far from the homesteads, though distance from home to land is not an absolute constraint. The general pattern of hamlets is of ' nucleated variety' with a parent village from which segments have split off to form more or less distant hamlets of a few families. There are however small family homesteads beside or within the farm, from preference and for convenience. While the former is determined by the tribe who need to live together for social reasons, the latter is determined by human preference, needs and family traditions, and then by the environmental ecology. And the gregarious live in nucleated hamlets, and those who prefer some measure of domestic privacy live in individual farmsteads.
In this community there is a tradition of worshipping prehistoric Celts (axe-like instruments), stone implements and images placed in huts within the forests. The reverence towards such sacred groves has resulted in the preservation of the flora and fauna within such areas.
Each village of the settlement is called vur. A group of ten to fifteen vur constitutes a nadu. Each vur has a chief called vur goundan or muppan. While the nadu comes under the jurisdiction of another hereditary chieftain called nadu goundan.
Welcome to our new blog. We've teamed up with our colleague in India, Thangavelu Vasantha Kumaran, to publish updates on his humanitarian work in southern India. Updates will first be published in our newsletter, followed by more detailed updates here on our blog, for those who want to learn a little bit more!