Sunday, August 1, 2010

Honey Hunting- History

There are many tribes living in the Nilgiris. Amongst the communities that are hunter-gatherers, living in the lower forested belt of the Nilgiris are the Kurumbas and Irulas.
The Kurumbas, who were Jungle dwellers, gathering food mainly, roots, honey, resins, barks, gallnuts, which they used to barter with traders for foodgrain. Only a few still live in this traditional way, though collection from the forest is still a part of their lives. Most are settled with small patches of land on which they practice a mixed variety of crops. There are several divisions of the Kurumbas, according to the skill they are adept at. For example, Yannai(elephant) Kurumbas are known for trapping elephants and are excellent mahouts. Traditionally, Kurumbas are known for their supernatural powers.
The Irulas are another hunter-gatherer community, who have come up the hills from their lower reaches, where they practiced slash and burn cultivation of millet, and also collected forest produce. Now, they work as tea/coffee labourers and also grow mixed crops on their own land. Though maintaining their traditions, these people are fast to adapt to the changes of the modern world.
The main activities they undertake are:
Horticulture/ Agriculture
Hunting slow game
Plantation Daily wage labour
Broom making
Bamboo basket weaving
Collection of Non-timber forest produces
Timber operations
Goat and chicken rearing

Amongst most of the tribals, honeyhunting is the most common practice and custom. Rock Bee(Apis dorsata) colonies are harvested to collect honey and bees wax. These bees reside on high cliffs and high rise trees making the task of honey hunting difficult and prone to risks. This activity is significant to the tribals, who in each region have different techniques, tools, beliefs and customs associated with honeyhunting

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