Profile Source: Philipose Vaidyar
Introduction / History
Ulladan are so called because they come form the interior forests. Ullu means inside parts and ulladan can mean interior people. Yet there is another story behind this name. Before the advent of British Empire a group of soldiers belonging to Central Travancore in Kerala, went to forests with their families to protect their lives from the internal warfare between the local kings. They settled themselves in the forests. After being in exile for several years some of them returned to their native places. Those who came back were uncivilized due to their lost connection with the civilized country. Locals called them Ulkadans, means forest dwellers with the implication that they possess the uncivilized nature of forest dwellers. That term Ulkadans shortened and became Ulladans after a period of time.
Those who eked out a living by hunting and eating root vegetables and fruits had to seek new avenues for living when they migrated to the towns. At that time the feudal lords who were high caste people, gave them safe haven by making them as their tenants. Cultivating in their lands and working in the fields, they got a new lease of life in the country. Dependents of their feudal masters, they not only faced social discrimination prevailed over there but also deprived of education.
In the 1970s many Ulladans received lands adjacent to the forests, thanks to the land reforms implemented by the government. As a result many migrated to the lands in the vicinity of the forests. In order to protect themselves from the attack of wild beasts they made huts on the trees and lived there. Natural calamities and epidemics took its toll and made their life all the more miserable.
Ulladans live in land encompassed by forests. They are mostly seen in districts like Idukki, Kottayam, Pattanamthitta and Quilon. [In Kattapana, which is in Idukki district, they live in places like Teprankudi, Vattikudi, Puliamala and Kozhimala. They are numerically strong in Kanjikuzhi panchayat, where they spread over in Pazhayirikandam, Mukkuvalli and Varikamuttan. Besides this in the neighborhood of Adimali called Kurangati hills they dwell in large numbers. In Ernakulam district near Tattekadu bird sanctuary they can be seen in a place called Panavoorkudi].
Ulladans are similar to gypsies of Malabar. Hunting and fishing are part and parcel of their life. Although development is taking place under the control of the government, their standard of living is low and educationally backward.
Liquor consumption and smoking are prevalent among them. Irrespective of age they chew betel and other pan. They have their own dialect and terminology. They offer prayer in temples and believe in witchcraft.
Each locality has one elder. Elder will preside over important issues and matters concerning marriage and death.
Earlier child marriage prevailed among them. When the boy or girl becomes 5-6 years old, parents find bride or bridegroom for their child. Both parties together confirm the marriage by word. After two years when the boy attains 7 years marriage is conducted. Since then bride live in the bridegroom's house. A girl's coming of age is trumpeted as another marriage called Thirandu kalyanam.
The dead are washed and wrapped in new clothes as part of post death ceremony. There is a practice of applying oil over the dead by the relatives. Another custom is to spread linen cloth over the dead by the relatives. After this the body is buried. Few are the Ulladans who believe in a life after death.
Pray for workers to be raised up to minister among the Ulladans.