The Tribal Museum in Ooty provides an insight into the culture of 36 tribes of Tamil Nadu

Samples of tribal huts in the Andaman and Nicobar islands, detailed descriptions of the tribes of South India and more than 3,000 exhibits can be found in the museum attached to the Tribal Research Centre, Ooty.

The expansive space is a treasure trove that brings alive the life and culture of the 36 tribes of Tamil Nadu. Three life-size statues of Paniya, Toda and Kota couples set the mood for a journey of discovery.

Check out the basic, but effective weapons fashioned out of bamboo and iron that tribals used. Then, there are kitchen utensils shaped out of bamboo, polished with time. From idukkis and karandis to rustic paanais, you have them all.

The dwellings are strikingly different from each other. Each one has been built to suit the particular terrain and local climate condition. The only similarity is that they have all been built using naturally available materials.

Detailed descriptions of the exhibits inform you that the Kothas achieve the shiny black glaze on their beautiful pottery by dusting saamai husk on red-hot pots, fresh from firing.

There’s a section on Toda embroidery too. The panels are self explanatory and aid an outsider’s understanding of tribal life. Dr. C. Maheswaran, director, Tribal Research Centre, says they take care to place the exhibits in near-authentic setting. “After all, we are uprooting them from their original ambience. We should do our best to replicate it.”

The first floor has an audio-visual room where films about tribals are screened. One can sit on chairs shaped like buffalo heads and observe the exhibits.

Another section boasts Kurumba paintings by renowned tribal artist Krishnan and works by outsiders that feature tribals. Four flex boards hold the details of the 36 tribes in a nutshell. The role of tribes during the freedom struggle is also highlighted.

There is a reference library on the premise that has more than 3,000 books on the subject.

Currently, renovation work is going on to set right water seepage, but the museum is still open. It is a hit with tourists during the season, say officials at the centre.

The Tribal Research Centre museum functions under the Tribal Welfare Department, Government of Tamil Nadu. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5.45 p.m. on weekdays. Upon request, it will remain open on Sundays and national holidays too. The centre functions from M. Palada. For details, call 0423-2550350.


Speaking their languageSeptember 19, 2013