Hill Pandaram - History and Cultural Relations

Although the Hill Pandaram live within the forest environment and have little day-to-day contact with other communities, they do have a long history of contact with wider Indian society. As with the other forest communities of south India, such as the Paliyan, Kadar, Kannikar, and Mala Ulladan, the Hill Pandaram have never been an isolated community; from earliest times they appear to have had regular and important trade contacts with the neighboring agriculturalists, either through silent barter or, since the end of the eighteenth century, through mercantile trade. Early Tamil poets indicate that tribal communities inhabited the forests of the Western Ghats during the Sangam period (around the second century B . C .); and these communities had important trade contacts with their neighbors and came under the political jurisdiction of the early Tamil kingdoms or local petty chieftains, who taxed forest products such as cardamom, bamboo, ivory, honey, and wax. The importance of this trade at the beginning of the nineteenth century is highlighted in the writings of the Abbé Dubois and in the economic survey of the former Travancore State made at that time by two British officials, Ward and Conner. Forest trade still serves to link the Hill Pandaram to the wider Hindu society.

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