The legendary aboriginals of thekkady, mannans, exemplify the story of humanity’s long forgotten bond with nature.
Mainly inhabiting the kumily panchayath in idukki district, mannans are known for their distinctive cultural traits and practices. they lead a simple and harmonious life that reminds us of the way of being in a long gone era. The whole mannan community is spread acros a significant number of villages across kumily. A village contains ten to forty five households. Most of the houses are built using handmade bricks and have roods made of leaves. There are also houses built with bamboo shoots and cashew nut tree leaves. Each village is governed by two authority figures: Thalaivar, the village leader and kani, the eldest villager. Thalaivar performs the role of mediator between the government and the tribal society. Whereas kani deals with matters exclusive and intrinsic to the village. The primary occupation of the people include fishing, carpentry, forest resource gathering, cattle herding, etc. They originally resided well inside the periyar forest but were forced to relocate to government sntioned plots outside periyar tiger reserve. This was because of a government ordinance banning deforestation in areas protected by wildlife protection act, 1972.
The mannan society follows a unique set of norms and rituals that are inherent and endemic to their culture. Mannan tribes primarily worship hill gods who are believed to be reincarnations of their ancestors. They have special ceremonies and festivals dedicated to these deities which are celebrated in an elaborate and extensive fashion. Though traditional religious practices exist to this day, other religions have crept into their culture and garnered loyal followings in the community.
As of late, the cultural identify of mannans has undergone significant changes due to interaction with outsiders and the influence of urban settlements in the area. A large section of mannans have altered their traditional way of life to embrace modern standard of living. Though waves of development and modernization have modified their way of life, the legacy of their heritage is worthy of adulation for years to come.