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The Irular, Seekers of Light

"Long long ago there lived a man named Pattan. As humankind increased they also increased in wickedness and wrongdoings. God then decided to destroy mankind from the face of earth. But Pattan was leading a good life. In a vision God directed Pattan to get into a hollow and escape from the punishment. The pumpkin was so huge to accommodate Pattan and his family. It began to rain for many days and the pumpkin floated and saved only Pattan and his family…."

This story, similar to that of Noah and the flood in the Bible, is told by the Irular who live on the hills of Mannarkkadu, a taluk (block or county) in Palakkad district of Kerala in the southern part of India. The hills ranges of Mannarkad are connected to the Western Ghats bordering the state of Tamil Nadu.  The Irular are a native tribal group found in both sides of these hills -- in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and speak two different dialects. The legend continues that God instructed Pattan to live there by cultivating the land. The Irular tribe believe that they descended from Pattan. If iniquity increases with the rise in the population, a goat or hen has to be sacrificed. One sacrifice is sufficient to ward off sin for a year. The Lord has kept heaven and hell for people according to the “wrongdoings and the sacrifice” offered.  The word Irular comes from the word Irul which means darkness.  Irular means those who are in darkness.

I reached a village 10 km away from Gulikadavu, which is situated close to the Anakatty-Mannarkad road. It was just a day after the village celebration and a sacrifice. The youth were blaring on trumpets, celebrating the penultimate day of the festival. Curly haired and dark complexioned Irular number around 15,000 in Attappady Hill alone. Seventy-five percent of the tribal people in Attapady are Irular. Living in caves, they used to hunt and procure forest resources. They were descendants of gypsies. Subsequently they began to live in huts made of bamboo and slowly learnt the art of cultivation. The Irulars looked on helplessly when licensed contractors went on a deforestation spree..............

Read more about Irular’s
Occupation, Lifestyle, Child Birth, Marriage, Death in  A Peep into the Tribalscape
The Irular who live on the mountains believe that there is life after death. But the death that separates them from these mountains should lead them to eternal light instead of darkness. Many Irulars’ lives have been enlightened so far. But many more lives need to come to the light.

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