My Brush With the Paniya Tribe of South India

I’ve just got back from a heartening trip to Wayanad, Kerala where I had been invited to stay with a family in a small farming village (more details of that to come later!)

Part of the family was an auntie called Ammini who helped out with the domestic and agricultural duties. She’s from the Paniya tribe of people inhabiting Wayanad and the surrounding areas. Historically they are forest dwellers whose main livelihood is agriculture.

They are a highly-skilled community of people who have largely managed to preserve their strong connection with the land. A large portion of the community still live a primitive, hunter/gatherer style lifestyle, living in huts deep in Wayanad’s dense forest land.

An elderly member of the Paniyar tribe using a curved blade to slice vegetables.
During my stay on the family farm I developed a deep affection for Ammini. She didn’t speak English but she copied everything I said to her and we had a lot of laughs. She always wore a bright smile on her weathered face and I was taken back by the physical strength that she had at her ripe age (I was told she was at least 78 -years-old!)
When I heard she was a great entertainer, I asked if she would dance for me. Without hesitating she got up and burst into this traditional tribal dance. The mother of the family had to jump in as well to join her.
More wonderful friends made and memories I won’t forget!



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