In keeping with its reputation of extending a helping hand to projects which help preserve culture and tradition, the State Bank of India (SBI) on Sunday reached out to the Toda Welfare Sangam of the Edhkwelynawd Botanical Refuge Trust (EBR),a non-governmental organization run by noted conservationist Tarun Chhabra.
With the organization taking a keen interest in the restoration of the traditional houses of the Todas, the best known primitive tribals of the Blue Mountains, the Managing Director, SBI A. Krishna Kumar handed over a cheque for Rs. 1.50 lakhs to Dr. Chhabra at Thalpathery Mund, a Toda village situated amid idyllic surroundings off the Ooty-Glenmorgan road.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Krishna Kumar said that the bank’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was deep rooted and through its Community Services Banking (CSB) it assisted a number of projects. One percent of the bank’s annual profit is set aside for CSB activities.
It has chosen to join the efforts to revive the traditional Toda architecture in view of its uniqueness.
Describing it as an ancient marvel of Indian architecture, Dr. Chhabra said that 22 traditional houses in 21 Toda hamlets would be revived.
Pointing out that the Todas numbering about 1450 now had occupied the Nilgiri Plateau for several centuries, he said that the barrel-vaulted architecture of their temple and traditional houses has been described by scholars as one of the most distinctive among ancient structures of the country.
Over a period of time the Toda structures have become the symbol of the Nilgiris, with most logos relating to the district featuring it prominently.
The structure one of the last major cultural attributes of this ancient and great tribe has been fast reaching a point of disappearing. Modern housing has replaced traditional culture. In the process the traditional houses are in a state of neglect. This is a source of great concern to environmentalists.
The Toda architecture which can sustain rain, wind and cold is still part of the curriculum in studies on architecture in India.
The EBR has taken special efforts to revive this traditional housing since the 1990s. Many of the traditional houses are now in serious need of repair and renovation.