Todas, Indigenous Tribe from Nilgiri Hills


This is an ethnographic photograph from the People of India album. It shows the Toda tribe of the Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu. They were traditionally pastoralists who used shoals (Nilgiri copses) as building materials, shade and centres for ritual activities.

The original People of India albums were issued in 1868. They were initially conceived as a personal project for Lord Canning, the then Governor General. However, after the 1857 rebellion the collection transformed into an administrative effort of demographic profiling in order to prevent future unrest. The People of India is a collection of 468 individually mounted albumen print photographs of the several tribes, castes and trades of India. And just glancing at this multi-volume work gives us a glimpse at how diverse Indians historically were. In fact, scholars argue that these studies had a totalising and divisionary effect – they reified, defined and perpetuated differences. But even when these photographs were taken, there was a sense that the globalising force of imperialism had touched the native people and that certain attires, trades and elements of culture were fast vanishing.

Todas, Indigenous Tribe from Nilgiri Hills
attributed to John P Nicholas
H: 31.4 cm x W: 44.4 cm
Accession No.
2016.22.1 (a)(b)