The shola grassland mosaic is intricately woven into the pastoral way of life of the todas. Join us as we tread gently,upon the grassy greens at Bikkapathimund
Date: 6th July, 2019
Time: 10 am
Duration: 3 hours
Trail difficulty: Easy
Cost: NNHS members: 250/- | Non-members: 300/-
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A short account of the walk
Cloudy with a drizzle was the best way to describe this Saturday morning, as we set out to meet Kuttan at the road leading to the mund. A dry monsoon had many worried and so what drizzle there was, was more than welcome. The forest road uphill introduced the new participants to the differences between shola and non-native (and many a times, invasive) species and the drastic change that was happening to the Nilgiri landscape. Throughout the walk, we learnt about the numerous plants the Todas used in their temple ceremonies, be it as plates for food, or for lighting the fire. As a bonus, the road came alive with other tracks and indirect signs of other biodiversity – of fallen fruits from trees, pug marks and scat. A lively exchange on the plants held sacred by the Todas gave the participants a sense of how in this landscape nature and culture was woven into one enmeshed fabric of life, and not seen as separate from each other. Interesting facts about how birth, marriage and death ceremonies revolve around the plants, the buffaloes and their land had everyone enthralled.
Upon reaching the mund, we were greeted by cheerful young faces, off from school and the integration of the community into modernity and the education system was evident in their good control of the English language. The temple was the next point of visit and interest as we poured over the simple yet beautiful architecture and art. Also clear from our conversations was the roles and access restrictions to the temple for different members in the community – how the priest was the only one to enter the temple and how the women folk would stay behind at a distance during the annual temple festival. Another much cherished highlight of the walk was a glimpse into the toda barrel vaulted house structure and how functional, cosy and comfortable a simple small housing could be. It got many thinking about how they could consider alternatives to building construction that did not rely so heavily on concrete or extravagance of space.
A further walk up to the rocks provided for wonderful vistas of Kotagiri, clearing up through the clouds. It also opened up numerous opportunities to forage on wild edibles – from the ‘thavittu pazham’ to the ‘oosi kalla’, not to mention numerous other plants that got the botanist in our group excited. The insectivorous drosera, the many jasmine vines, the strobilanthes or the many other medicinal plants that we encountered on the walk was a treasure trove of learning for all. As we enjoyed munching on the wild fruits, time was the only factor that made everyone turn back, downhill all the way where we bid adieu too our wonderful guide and resource person, Arad Kuttan.
Before the walk was over, there was already a show of hands for a full day walk in the beautiful mund and shola forest that the Todas here, call home. So, what are you waiting for? Wanna join?