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Sam Mohan Lal
1.3.1. History and Migration
Not much is known about the history and migration of the Uralis. According to one lengend, current among the Uralis, there lived two brothers in olden days in the Goddesal hills by name Karayan and Bilaya or Madheswara. The Uralis and Soligas have descended from Karayan.
About migration, according to the folk tales and ideas prevailing within the community, it is understood that they have migrated originally from the Nilgiris in search of food and new land from time immemorial. There is a belief among the Uralis even now that the spirit will go to Nilgiris after the death of a person. In view of this belief and also in view of the resemblences identified in the speech varieties of Urali and the Irulas of Nilgiris, it is possible to come to a conclusion that the former are the descendants of the latter. Leaving aside this linguistic evidence, there is no other explicit evidence to show that Uralis have social or linguistic contacts with the Irulas of Nilgiris. But on comparing certain beliefs and social customs of Uralis and the Irulas of Nilgiris, it is observed that the former had lost some of the beliefs which are still prevailing among and strictly adhered by Irulas. For example, the Irulas in Nilgiris are very particular in not drinking water from a well or a pool where the water is stagnant and also they are very strict in not killing a black goat and eating its meat. Irulas narrate certain stories for the currency of such beliefs. However, Uralis are totally unaware of such beliefs and for them drinking water from a stagnant pool and eating the flesh of a fully black haired goat are not a taboo.
1.4. Physical Features
By appearance, Uralis are thin, short dark skinned persons. It is very rare to find a fair skinned Urali. Leptrohine nose is the common feature with larger nasal opening. Most of the men have a slightly curled hair. Compairing to their physical structure, their hands and legs are short.
1.5. Livelihood
In olden days, Uralis depended purely on the forest produce and incipient agriculture. Now, their life style has been changed considerably mainly owing to the programme of the state government. The government helped them in establishing a hill tribes’ co-operative society, through which the forest produce Uralis collect are purchased in small amounts and distributed and sold in the outside market. Before the establishment of this co-operative society, many contractors who came from the plains used to collect the forest products collected by the Uralis perodically for meagre amounts and/or some rice and salt. This type of exploitation is stopped now. Uralis are generally happy over the establishment of the co-operative society.
The members on the board of directors for the co-operative society are selected from the Uralis and advice is sought from the members for the effective running of the society. Also, on a monthly salary basis, the Urali boys with minimum educational qualifications are appointed by the society in order to look after the functions of the society including keeping an account of the forest materials brought to the society by the individuals. The society, after meeting all its expenditure with the sales of the forest produce, distributes the balance amount as bonus to the members of the society twice in a year either in the form of money or in the form of materials. Also, the Uralis get financial assistance from the government to dig wells and for the purchase of bullocks. They are, thus, able now to concentrate more on agriculture for their basic needs. In few cases they even produce surplus grains for sale through the co-operative society. Free supply of seeds for agriculture is also done through the co-operative society.
In addition to these, Urali’s economy is strengthened through the daily sales of the cow and buffalo milk and the milk products such as butter and ghee. Most of these tribes own herds of cattle and regularly the milk is collected and sent to Coimbatore and Mysore with the help of the regular bus services connecting these two cities from Dimbam.
Periodically some people visit the Urali settlements with the intention to purchase cattle. There is no money lending society or organisation in the area. But, in case of need, the co-operative society advances 50 to 100 rupees to the needy with interest with a condition that the equal value of forest produce should be collected and deposited to the society by the borrower in instalments within the prescribed time.
Following are the main forest produce gathered by Uralis.
i) Honey
ii) Gall nut (Terminalia chebula)
The fruit of the tree Terminalia chebula known locally as gives a bright golden tannage and is one of the most important tanning materials available in India.
iii) Avaram bark (Cassia auriculata)
iv) The bark of Konnai (Cassia fistula)
v) Seeds of Pungai (Dalbergia)
vi) Stone and tree moss which is exported mainly to the northern part of the country from Virudhunagar and are largely used for the manufacture of medicines, dyes and paint.
vii) Vembadam bark (Ventilegomaderaspatna)
viii) Wax
ix) Tamarind
x) Fodder and thatch grass
xi) Neem seeds
xii) Shikakay (Acacia Concinna)






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