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Sam Mohan Lal
1.8. Material Culture
1.8.1. Dwelling
Flanked by lofty trees and thick bushy shrubs, a Urali village always has an air of genial comfort. A typical dwelling place of Uralis consists of a number of thatched huts termed as `ku:re’ in their native terminology. The huts are constructed leaving sufficient space of 100to 150 feet in between the two huts. Roof of the huts are made up of a variety of grass available in abundance in the forests.
All the four walls of the hut are made up of mud and smeared with cow dung which has a cement like precision. Each house is fenced neatly on all sides. The walls of the huts are generally very low (roughly 5’ to 6’ in height) upon which the weight of the roof rests. In general, the services of the carpenter are not sought for during the construction of a hut. When an individual builds a house, his neighbours would join him in the efforts, for no financial gains. Re-tatching of the roof and other repair works are attended to periodically.
Two categories of huts are observed in the settlements. The first category has two separate rooms and a separate kitchen and the second category of huts has only one room with a partition and the partitioned portion is utilised for the purpose of cooking. Both the rooms including the kitchen are utilised as granary, as store room and also as bed room. The huts of the first category are owned by relatively well to do persons and the huts of the second category are owned by relatively poor persons. In front of the huts a veranda is maintained with a partial covering of the roof of the hut where the guests are entertained. Guests belonging to other ethnic communities are never entertained inside the huts. There is no cement flooring, but the floor is kept very neat with frequent smearing of cow dung.
Huts are furnished only with thatched mats. Other then these, no other furniture is used. Men of the particular hut sleep outside in the veranda whereas the womenfolk rest in the hall.
Every kitchen is provided with hangers for receptacles. Food is cooked in one corner of the kitchen by using the dry fire wood generally stored in one corner of the kitchen.
In front of a hut a courtyard is maintained where the grains are dried and husked. The courtyard is also used during the wedding time for the assembly.
The huts are mostly flanked by a kitchen garden with essential vegetable plants. Apart from annual plants, in certain houses one can rarely notice some useful perennial trees also. Outside the house, a small enclosure is maintained to keep the cattle during the night. In some huts, hen-roost is also observed. The concept of attached toilet system with the hut is not at all known.
1.8.2 Modernisation
Though many huts which fit into the description given above are available even now in the triba settlements, due to the restriction strictly enforced by the Government of Tamil Nadu for the land acquisition by the hill tribes, it is not possible for the tribes to acquire a forest land without prior permission. Moreover, the government has constructed single roomed tiled houses which are found in one line and are given free to each family. When such housing is available, the Urali families occupy these new dwelling places. But, it is understood that Uralis are happier in their traditional dwelling places and that the occupation of the new houses is mainly because these houses do not need frequent repairs for the roof.
Beyond the village lies the land for cultivation on which the welfare of the village partially depends. Each settlement has either a natural spring, or a well or a stream of its own.
1.8.3. Livestock
Rearing cattle is not uncommon to Uralis. Almost every family has cows, and buffalos and, in certain cases, sheep too. There are some people who keep poultry also. The cows are taken interior to the forest daily for grazing and due respect is given to the cows. Organised way of selling milk to the dealers from the plains is noticed.






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