Totos – A disappearing tribe in India

It’s the difference and the diversity of all the people in the world that gives them a distinct identity that further helps them to drive the saga of their unique self respect. The mere existence of these identities further name the places, culture and traditions that together makes this world.

Totos Tribal village, West Bengal
Photo from Flickr

India, in this context has the history of an abode to some of the oldest known tribes of the world. In today’s civilized world if all such tribes have registered themselves to heave their unique faces, there is a remote tribe in north Bengal, still struggling to take ahead the glorious stories of their ancestors due to the dramatic decrease in the population of their tribe which, now has nearly come to extinction. The name of the tribe is Toto and the only place in the world this community exists is Totopara, a small village in north Bengal district of Jalpaiguri. These tribes are the inhabitants of one of the famous wildlife sanctuaries located in the Indo-Bhutan border of northBengal – Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary.

The census report of the country records only 1000-1500 numbers of Totos in the whole world who are now shrunk to live in these areas with few other communities like Nepalese who share the common mongoloid faces with them. As the community is the primitive inhabitants of Indo-Bhutan borders they have their religious myths closely relevant with the name of Bhutan hills. The greatest problem of this tribe is that it has nearly gone to its extinction which is due to their highly conservative and orthodox nature. In order to protect any inter-racial intervention in their method of protecting their ethnicity, marriages between relatives like cousins are also allowed within the community. This practice has made the tribe highly prone to thalassemia diseases that are considered as the main reason for their extinction in the number of Toto population. The Indian Anthropological survey has done a research and found that the average life span of a Toto is just 35 years!

These were the common information that every one can fetch, but a night with these families will be a mesmerizing experience, the grunts of pigs below the house and the thatch roofs above your head, the dark shadows of dense forest falling on the houses, altogether will be an unforgettable memory of your life. The world of this community has its own book of records recently entering the competitive nature of today’s society. Every child will tell you the names of every toto in the world, and even the names of first toto’s who have been appointed for official jobs in the government departments like Panchayats and block departments. The toto’s have amalgamated religious ceremonies that somewhere is relevant to the Nepali community who are their nearest companions, so they follow a kind of mixed culture that depicts Nepali and Bhutanese culture. They follow the religion of nature and worship it as their deity who offer them food and shelter. The elder people of Toto reveal their anxiety and fear that urbanization have led their children to an exposure that have now brought their extinct culture to an edge, as many children have now forgotten their language as they get to speak their language only at home with their mother and father. The children now have to leave their home for further education and thus gradually they are becoming oblivious of their own language.

The Toto people have their own language called Toto. The government has now taken few steps to give them a unique space in today’s modern society with the help of education and other facilities. Apart from the beauty of Jaldhapara Wildlife sanctuary, the place has now become an attractive spot for the culture explorers where they visit the place and spend few nights amongst the hospitable innocent smiles of Toto.

Author: Babit