Ethnic Hand-Embroidery Handicrafts of Tamilnadu Tribal Arts & Crafts

Unveiling the Intricate Art of Toda Embroidery: A Stunning Tradition of the Nilgiris’ Toda Tribes in Tamil Nadu

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ॐ श्री गणाधिपतये नमः

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A write-up on Toda embroidery work below the following captivating images of Toda embroidery

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Toda Embroidery of Nilgiris

Introduction to Toda embroidery

The Toda Embroidery, also locally known as Pukhoor is an art work among the Toda pastoral people of the Nilgiris in Tamilnadu, made exclusively by Toda women. 

The embroidery, which has a fine finish looks like a woven cloth but is made using red and black threads with a white cotton cloth background.

Both sides of the embroidered fabric are usable and the Toda people are proud of this heritage. Both men and women adorn themselves with the Toda embroidered cloaks and shawls.

This handicraft product is protected under Geographical Indications (GI) of the Government of India.


This art heritage is practiced by the Toda tribes of the Nilgiris of Tamilnadu.

History of Toda Embroidery

The Todas (also known by names such as Tudas, Tudavans, and Todar) who make this embroidery live as one small community, population of 1,600 spread over 69 settlements.

About 400 of them are stated to be engaged in the embroidery work in the Nilgiri Hills in the higher elevations of the Niligiri plateau in Tamil Nadu.

Apart from their vocation as herdsmen of buffaloes and cultivation in the grasslands, they are also involved in the tradition of making many handicraft items.

This includes traditional black and red embroidery practiced by the women folks of the community.

The embroidery is usually made on their cloaks called Pootkhuzhy which is draped by both men and women of the community.

Production Process

The local terms used to describe the embroidery work are kuty or awtty.

The materials used in this work are roughly woven white cloth, woolen black and red threads with occasional use of blue threads and manufactured needles. The designs developed relate to nature and the daily cycle of life of the Toda community.

The fabric used is coarse bleached half white cotton cloth with bands; the woven bands on the fabric consist of two bands, one in red and one band in black, spaced at six inches.

Embroidery is limited to the space within the bands and is done by using a single stitch darning needle. It is not done within an embroidery frame but is done by counting the warp and weft on the fabric which has uniform structure by the reverse stitch method.

To bring out a rich texture in the embroidered fabric, during the process of needle stitching, a small amount of tuft is deliberately allowed to bulge. Geometric pattern is achieved by counting the warp and weft in the cloth used for embroidery.

Though their favorite study is related floral landscape, the patterns used in Toda embroidery do not cover many floral motifs but generally cover celestial bodies like Sun and Moon, reptiles, animals, and horns of buffaloes, made in crimson and black colours.

Rabbit ears are a constant depiction on the boundary of the embroidered cloth.

Another common design in the form of black triangles in a box design is done in honour of their first priest. Women who do embroidery consider their work as a tribute to Mother Nature. 

A dead body is always wrapped in an embroidered fabric with traditional designs and then buried.

However, coloured stripes are used in fabrics of daily use. As a traditional garment, it is worn by both men and women at all ceremonial occasions and also at funerals. Elderly people of the community wear this cloth daily.

The inspecting agency to oversee the quality of embroidery is the Textile Committee of the Ministry of Textiles of the Government of India.

Spread India's Glorious Cultural & Spiritual Heritage

By Mala Chandrashekhar

Introducing Blogger Mala Chandrashekhar - a specialist academically trained in modern Western sciences, yet deeply enamored with India's timeless ethnic arts, crafts, and textiles. Her heart beats for the rich and glorious cultural and spiritual heritage of India, and she has dedicated her entire blog to spreading the immortal glories of ancient India worldwide. Through her simple yet impactful blog posts, Mala aims to reach every nook and corner of the globe, sharing India's beauty and wisdom with the world.

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