Badagas have an unique culture which is entirely different from other communities.

The Badagas are an important Tribe of Nilgiris and their Culture is very rich and unique in many ways. The tribal ways of doing rituals while celebrating the following life-cycle rituals by Badagas even today reveals the fact that they followed a distinctive tribal culture in the Nilgiri hills.

They have certain rules and regulations to be followed in implementing their cultural rituals from the birth of a child and follows through functions like Puberty, Marriage, Naming ceremony, Seventh Month Pregnancy, Housewarming, Festivals and finally Death ceremony.

Naming Ceremony

A child receives its name on the seventh, ninth, or eleventh day. A sumptuous meal is given to the guests who attend the function. Grandfather milks a cow and pours the milk into a brass plate and a little cooked samai grain is mixed. The baby is washed with water brought from a stream; marked on the forehead with sacred ashes; a turmeric – dyed thread is tied around its waist; a silver or iron bangle placed on its wrists; and a silver bead tied by a thread around its neck. Thus decorated, the infant is taken up by the oldest man of the village who is not a widower, who gives baby a name, which has already been chosen. The elders, child’s parents and grandparents then feed little milk to the infant. 

Puberty ceremony

The puberty Ceremony is also unique. The maternal uncles have to bring new mud pots. The girl is given a ceremonial wash and decorated with new dress and ornaments; one of which should necessarily be the special “malaimani” made of “silver” which was used by the girl’s ancestors. The mud pot is filled with water and the girl is made to dip her hand in that water thrice. Later, prayers are done and the relatives who attend the function are served with food.

Marriage ceremony 

The Badaga men and women have equal rights in matters of human bondage and family life. Since the Badaga society is a proverbial kinship society, a Badaga male and a female can enter into matrimonial alliance only where the kinship relationship permits. Dowry is unthinkable among the Badagas, who are proud people with unique self-respect. “Thali” was alien to the Badaga culture, but is widely used for identification in their association with outsiders to show that the girl is married. 

They have peculiar marriage customs. Marriage, as a rule, is held at Bridegroom’s residence. The parents of the boy would locate a suitable girl for him. If the kinship relation permits, they ascertain through the elders as to whether they could take the girl as a bride for their son. If the response from the girl’s parents is positive, some elders are sent to the girls house on an appointed date and the alliance is initiated by a ritual called “holding the right hand” A date is fixed for confirmation. 

On the appointed day, The Bridegroom’s party of five members visits the girl’s house late in the evening. The villagers and the kith and kin assembled there would welcome them. The guests wash their legs and mouth and enter in to the girl’s house. Even before drinking a cup of water in that house, the guests would ask the girl’s parents for their consent for the marriage. If assented, the girl is asked to come in front of the elders and give her willingness. Only on getting the girl’s consent, the traditional necklace called ‘Ungaramani’ and the eldest lady of the Bridegroom’s party ties it to the neck of the Bride. Then, the representative of the boy would pay the confirmation money of Rs (200) Two hundred only, all in one rupee coins. 

Before marriage day evening, the Bridegroom’s party of five members will be sent to the house of the bride and stay there. Early morning, the next day, the party will lead the Bride and her relatives to the Bridegroom’s house. As soon as bride enters to the Bridegroom’s house, the mother-in-law welcomes her daughter-in-law by offering water for cleaning her feet, then she would tie the ‘malai mani’ a typical and indispensable Badaga ornament made of silver around the neck of the bride, who is then, permitted to step into the house where elders who have specific kinship relation would bless her.

A ceremonial milk food is prepared and served in a special type of plate called “katchu ganguva” from which the bride and two sisters in-law ceremonially eats tiny morsel of that food. Then she takes the plate to the front courtyard of the house and washes it. 

Then the bride along with five sister-in-laws go to the stream and fetch fresh and pure water (as a sign that she has entered upon her household duties). On reaching back home, eleven elders from both the sides Gurus of the couple would sit in a row in front of the marriage pandhal in the courtyard. On cleaned floor, new gunny bags are spread and only a set of beetle nut and a tribute “kanickkai” Rs 1.25 only is placed in front of eleven elders assembled. The couple then simultaneously, bow to touch the feet of each of the Gurus and ceremonially wash their feet; the Gurus and the elders assembled there would bless them in a chorus in a typical Badaga way.

Death Ceremony 

Their death ceremony is unique and the like of which is not prevalent anywhere. The funerals of the Badagas are more complicated than any other of their domestic ceremonies. 

“When a person is at the point of death, a gold coin called ‘Sinnatha Hana’ is placed in his/her mouth. The funeral ceremonies of the Badagas are shared by the Kotas, Todas and Kurumbas. (1908 Gazetteer – page-137).

On the occurrence of a death, the village boys are sent to all the villages, even to the far corners of the hills if the deceased had relations to pass on the message. All assemble at the open ground, mostly in the centre of the village; where the unique Badaga catafalque is placed. The relatives with certain specific kinship relation have to come in group with traditional artifact like the ceremonial pounds suitably decorated, baskets full of certain tribal edibles.

The funeral pyre is lit, not by the eldest son but by the eldest brother in the particular sect of the community. The “Ole” ceremony, the rituals of putting millets on the dead and “Karu Harusuvathu” are extraordinary and exceptional to the Badagas. 

The Badagas observe both the burial and cremation methods. In the olden days, the Badagas put spear heads, stickles, copper, silver and gold ornaments, beads etc., along with the ceremonial edibles brought by the relatives. Nowadays, burying such things have almost disappeared. 

In the case of cremation, the bones are collected on the second day after cremation and preserved in a new mud pot or a cloth and kept in a specified place in the burial ground.

When death occurs in a family, respective villagers take responsibility of death ceremony, while the family doesn't have any burden. 

Folk dance and music 

Their devotion to their own music, dance, folklore and oral literature depicts their long presence on the hills and their oral tradition reflects the ancient Tribal tradition of the Nilgiri hills.