The Kurumbas and Their Susceptibility to Ancient Rumors

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The Nilgiri Kurumba tribe fall victim to the age-old rumors of possessing supernatural powers of dark sorcery and healing even to the present days. This article will look at the history of these rumors and how they continue to affect the lives of those in this tribal community.

In the Nilgiris, the Kurumba tribe dwells in small hamlets. They are the descendants of the Pallava dynasty, who fled to the hills in the Nilgiris when their sovereignty was overthrown by the Chola king. They are often accused of practicing sorcery and casting spells to harm the local dwellers of other communities. Whenever the locals catch sight of a Kurumba, the news spreads through the village, and everyone hides inside their houses until the Kurumba is out of sight. It is said that the Kurumbas possess medicines that can put all the inhabitants of the local village to sleep before quietly retreating into the woods. Their ace sorcerer, an odikara, can create openings in fences, and the livestock of the families from other communities in the village, under his spell, would follow him through it. According to the locals, the Kurumbas can apparently transform into bears and kill people, just as they know how to counter other spells to remove or prevent misfortune. Due to such rumors, they are asked to perform panti-odi, garden sorcery, in the fields of the locals to keep the crops safe from animals like elephants and pigs.

Apart from sorcery, the Kurumbas are also rumored to possess healing abilities for ailments such as piles, joint pains, and even diabetes. They use flowers, roots, leaves, dark bark, tender twigs, climbing tendrils, twining shrubs, and seeds, which they do not reveal to the locals, as it may diminish the Kurumba’s power to cure diseases. They mix these forest products with jaggery, breast milk, small onions, pepper, turmeric, and oils.

Although the passage of time has diminished these age-old rumors in the minds of the locals, the Kurumbas continue to be subject to curious gazes and scrutiny. Despite their attempts to blend in with ordinary attire, the unmistakable feature that distinguishes them is their striking yellow eyes—a characteristic that lingers as a testament to their unique heritage and enigmatic presence in the Nilgiris.

Do you know any folktales that involve supernaturalism related to any tribe? Let me know.