Kota - Orientation

Identification. The Kotas are one of several small communities thought to be indigenous to the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu in south India. The Indian government classifies the Kotas as a Scheduled Tribe. Their name "Kota" (Kota) was given by outsiders. They call themselves Kov. Although the Kotas are few in number they have wide visibility in the urbanizing Nilgiris. Once looked down upon as servants and eaters of carrion and buffalo flesh, the Kotas have managed to succeed in a number of occupations outside their traditional domain. They often work as head postmasters, doctors, Government employees, and bankers and in other professional positions. Educational standards are also rising. No doubt the Kotas' success in a modern Indian setting is somehow related to the jack-of-all-trades character they always seem to have maintained. By shunning service relationships with the Badagas and Todas they have also removed the source of what they considered ill treatment on the part of these two local communities.

Location. They occupy seven villages distributed rather widely throughout the Nilgiris District. Each village is situated near present or former settlements of Badagas, Todas, or Kurumbas.

Demography. By their own estimates in 1990 the Kotas number 1,500—less than one-quarter of one percent of the district population of 1981, and an even smaller percentage today. Of these roughly 1,500 Kotas, probably fewer than 100 live in cities outside the Nilgiri District. Epidemics and other unstable health conditions—and, possibly, endogamous Marriage practices among so few people—have resulted in relatively stable population figures over the past 150 years. Kota proverbs and songs indicate a strong concern for this lack of growth. Present sanitary conditions and general standards of living in the village are higher than those of other tribes and are continuing to improve. The population is also growing, but not dramatically.

Linguistic Affiliation. Kotas speak the Kota language or Ko-v Ma-nt, a Dravidian language closely related to Toda and also having strong linguistic affiliations with very early Tamil and Malayalam. All Kotas speak Badaga and Tamil also, as historically they have had to communicate with outsiders in languages other than their own.

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