Nilgiri Toda Mund Villagers
GA2001HR, 20 x 16 inch
Photographer: Samuel Bourne, Circa 1860’s
Indigenous people like the Toda tribe of the Nilgiri district of central India can still be found in parts of rural India living in harmonious coexistence with nature and raising cows. However, this lifestyle is fast disappearing. Nowadays the Toda tribe numbers barely 1,000 making this huddle of Toda villagers captured by Samuel Bourne in the 1860s a valuable glimpse into a bygone age. The Toda are largely self-sufficient taking care of all their medical needs through the wisdom of the elders and natural remedies. The Toda dialect is a language of its own. Mund is the name for a Toda village settlement. The settlement is typically a group of five huts. Three are usually dwellings, one is used as a dairy and one is to shelter cattle. As can be seen, some of their huts have a distinctive curved roof. The women in the foreground display a striking feature of the Toda with their shoulder-length wavy hair. The villagers wear the traditional put-kuli made of thick white cotton cloth with red and blue stripes.
About the photographer: Born in 1834 in England, Samuel Bourne is widely regarded as the most influential topographical and architectural photographer to portray India in the 19th century, when photography was still in its infancy. There was a public mania at the time about this new exciting way of portraying reality and Bourne was a prime exponent of the new art with an eye for the picturesque and grand. He spent seven years photographing in India from 1863 to 1870. Part explorer, part photographer, Bourne journeyed into the Himalayan Mountains three times from 1863-1866 becoming the first person to photograph at such high altitudes. He worked with albumen prints made from wet plate collodion negatives and his negatives were carefully numbered. Samuel Bourne, who left India in 1870 and died in England in 1912, has only been recognized as a great photographer of India in the last few decades. Certain images from his travels in India have become iconic and collector’s items. Self Enquiry Life Fellowship has an extensive collection of Bourne’s images of India in its archives.
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