Classified by the government as a backward caste, the Badaga community is the largest of the indigenous communities of the Nilgiri hills of Tamil Nadu
, South India. Their population is estimated at around 150,000. The name 'Badaga' means 'northerner'. They got this name during the Middle Ages when they migrated from the Mysore plains to the Nilgiri Hills. They were forced to flee due to the Muslim invasion that destroyed the Hindu Empire of Vijayanagar in 1565 A D. They are spread out among 370 hamlets and villages called Hattis. The Badagas are generally agriculturalists and cattle farmers.They speak the
Each village is inhabited only by Badagas of specific clans, often numbering about several hundred people and they have their own hierarchical ladder such as the Lingayats and Wodeya which occupy the top slot of the ladder and the Toreyas at the bottom of the ladder. Different clans of various hierarchies have specific functions in the community. The Badaga chief is always chosen from the Tuneri village, the gurus who oversee life-cycle rituals from the Lingayat village, and the priests of various functions from the Wodeya, Haruva, and Kurumbu clans. They are still today, headed by a paramount chief.
Badaga epic and ritual songs are primarily vocal. They use a flute
called the bugiri as accompaniment. Although they have fully developed verbal arts, no visual arts were practiced by them till recently. If not properly documented, early years of Badaga culture and traditions may disappear.