October 27, 1999
Sociology, Period 6
Toda Life versus American Life
Every culture in the world is made up of six different stages of life. The stages consist of birth, childhood, adolescence, courtship, marriage, and adulthood. Each stage differs in each culture making that specific culture unique. Two cultures that display this thesis best are the Toda and the American culture.
The Toda’s are people of the Nilgirl Hills in southern India, thought to be of the Dravidian stock. There are only about 1,000 of these people left in the world today. The men have full beards and wear flowing robes, and the women have long, curled hair and are tattooed. Their economy is based on buffalo herding and the manufacture of dairy products. The religion of the Toda’s centers on ceremonies involving the buffalo, the ordination of the dairymen-priests, and funeral rituals.
When a Toda child is born, they spend the first month of their life in a seclusion hut made of mud and sticks, located outside of the village. The meaning behind this is that the Toda’s had a strong belief in the ideas of impurity. The hut is extremely significant because it is the same hut in which his/her mother spent four moths of her pregnancy. This hut served as a place for ritual and ceremony.
When fertility is discovered, a meal of cereal is cooked and eaten. After the meal, the future mother makes a small roll of threads, puts it into the fire and burns herself with the roll twice on each hand. This ceremony is called “giving the bow”. It is a tradition that is said to establish a legal fatherhood. After the father is declared, the woman can return to her home. When delivering, the woman kneels with her head on her husband’s chest. The husband holds the woman’s head as she delivers. A child is born within a Toda family on an average of one every three years. Each wife gives birth to about three or four offspring in her lifetime. There is no formal ceremony associated with the actual birth although prayers are said to facilitate a difficult delivery.
There was a time when female infanticide was practiced among the Toda’s. During this period, a large percentage of female babies were smothered and buried without ceremony immediately following birth. Also, if twins were born one of them would be killed, even if the both happened to be males. Even though this tradition is not very common anymore, a large number of males still exist in the tribe today.
The first month of a Toda’s childhood of course begins with the intimacy of a seclusion hut. For the next three months, the child’s face is revealed to no person but it’s mother. The nursing of a child lasts about two years and with this time, a strong psychogenic attachment forms between the mother and child. After three months, an uncovering ceremony is preformed. With a male, the child is taken in front of the diary and his head is touched to the threshold. Then he is taken to where a buffalo is standing and his face is turned to the sun. Finally, he is uncovered. With a female, the child is taken to a location where women receive buttermilk from the dairyman and there the mother will uncover her face. In both ceremonies, the reflection of the buffalo’s significance can be seen.
Naming a child is a very important ceremony in the lives of Toda’s. The father of the child first shaves the child’s head. Then, the male is taken before his maternal uncle who will then name him and promise him a calf. In the case that the child is female, she would be named by a female relative of the father but no calf is promised to her. The names of the children can derived from many things, such as prayer words, gods, hills, villages, dairies, buffalo pens, dairy vessels, and stones. After a child is named, it is given its first prepared food, which is usually gruel made of rice or millet and milk.
The childhood of a Toda is basically cheerful and carefree. Parents are usually indulgent and exhibit great fondness for their children. Although a brother may not be the legal father of a child, he still looks out for the child’s well being. Most of a child’s life is taken up with the playing of a variety of games. The children also build artificial buffalo pens and fireplaces for sport. The most prized possession of a Toda child is a small imitation buffalo horn. The horns carry a great significance because they are to be burned with the bodies of males at cremation ceremonies. A very dangerous sport that is practiced among the children is hanging onto the horns and around the necks of buffalo. Almost every game that a Toda child plays has some relation with the significance of the buffalo in their culture. Although there was no organized sports and competition, adults did enjoy watching children imitate serious occupations of the elders.
An adolescent male finds that he really has no adolescence. He would find that he is already participating in the adult world. As soon as he was capable of being of any assistance, he would have been taking to the herding grounds to learn the herdsman’s duties. He also would begin to learn some of the dairying rituals and routines. If the male happened to have an older brother that already brought a wife into the family then he would have had marital privileges extended to him as soon as he was physically able to accept them.
Again, the female Toda would have already mastered a few domestic arts practiced by Toda women upon reaching adolescence. These tasks include, pounding grain, fetching water, sweeping, cleaning, mending, and embroidering. The only “fine art” that Toda women can really produce is embroidering. By this time in a female’s life, she would probably already be married to a husband and most likely living with him. She would have already had a variety of sexual s. The concept of virginity has no defined significant value to the Toda's. From the stage of adolescence to the stage of motherhood, the time period is very short.
Infant marriages are very important in the lives of the Toda's. Sometimes a child would be married as young as two or three years of age. The father of the male arranges the marriages. It is the father of the male that seeks a suitable mate for his son. The father observes prevailing marriage regulations and taboos. First, the father will visit the female’s parents and stay the night in the village, making all necessary marriage arrangements. He will be in the village of another clan due to clan exogamy. The father will return to his own village the next day. A few days after his first visit, the father and his son travel back to the village of the intended wife, taking with them a loin cloth as a preliminary wedding gift. The male then would salute the father, mother and brothers of the female, kneeling forward to be touched on the forehead with each individual’s feet. The gift is then presented to the female. The father and son stay the night once again and return home the next day. Sometimes the girl will return home with the father and son to live with the family of her soon to be husband. But, usually the female will remain with her family until she has passed the age of puberty.
Twice a year after the first visit, until the female is ten years of age, the male will bring her a loincloth as a gift. After that, the male will bring a cloak, which is considered the common gift of the Toda. Before a female reaches puberty, a very strange ceremony is preformed. A man from the opposite mointy comes to the female’s house during the day. He then lies down beside her and cover both him and her with a cloak. The two remain there for a few min. Two weeks later, a young man that is not in the same clan as the female comes to her village for one night and has intercourse with her. This ritual must take place before the female reaches puberty.
A year after the defloration ceremony, the female joins her new husband in his village. A group containing the husband, his parents, and a relative belonging to the same clan brings her there. Before leaving the female’s village, he places five rupees into the female’s mantle and then the group departs. Other than a simple feast and wedding gift, there is no ceremony. Both the male and female have the option to veto the marriage. If either choose to do so, fines are levied, one buffalo if the male refused and five to ten buffalo if the female refuses. Usually, the marriage goes on as planned with the woman taking with her personal possessions.
Wife transfer and consort-mistress arrangement is also used in the Toda culture. Not every Toda is married in childhood. If a male reaches the age of fifteen or sixteen without having been married, he may go ahead and marry without his father’s consent. Many times there is a shortage of wives and men have to be satisfied with a child-wife.
The Toda life of an adult male is basically uneventful. Stewardship of the buffalo organizes the daily activities. The buffalo are often expressed by the Toda’s as the buffalo being the substance and the man as the shadow. In the morning, the animals are unpenned, driven to the grazing areas, grazed, driven back to their pens and then milked. Each day, the milk of the past evening is churned and made into ghi. When the change of wet to dry season occurs, the buffalo herds may need to be driven to better pastures. When this occurs, the Toda’s move with them. Or, one brother will follow the buffalo while another stays home to take care of the family. In one month, the brothers switch roles.
The Toda cosmology does not have any great spirits or uncontrollable forces that man must look up to. Their religion has formalized and stylized rituals devoid of mythical or spiritual substance. The hour, day, year, the changes, cycles and crises all evolved in formalized ritual or routines. Feasts, ceremonies, holidays, visiting neighbors, or just sitting and reflecting, the Toda has time to do them all. The Toda male is very dedicated to the buffalo and does all he can to honor this animal in his life.
The female Toda is considered to be impure due to biological functions such as menstruation and childbearing. Putting them in a seclusion hut displays this idea impurity. Women are not allowed to cook food in which milk or milk products are used. The women of the Toda culture must avoid the sacred diaries and stay out of the front portion of the hut where the husband churns the buttermilk. She also must only walk on certain paths, taking special pain to avoid all paths traveled by the buffalo.
Women are inferior to men in the Toda culture. They are the ones who must move to the male’s house and village after marriage. Women also are not allowed to do such activities as property holding, dairying, herding, family decisions, the naming of males, matters concerning migration, building, divining, sorcery, and the privilege of staying mated to the same person or group.
An adult Toda woman does such tasks as sweep, clean and sew. Once these things have been completed, she has much time for leisure. They use this time to curl and grease their black hair. They cherish ornaments and tattoo themselves on the neck, chest, and shoulders. Men of the Toda culture do not tattoo themselves.
The basic relationship between sexes is fairly good. Many quarrels take place within the household but nothing serious. Domestic violence is not a normal thing to occur within a Toda village. The women usually go through life with a number of sexual experiences, as do the males.
With old age, the status of the male is likely to increase. That is not the same as a woman’s status. A male may share or add a wife to his family as old age approaches. He also may divorce and marry another woman. Another way of life for Toda men is to simply trade wives. If widowed, the male Toda has the right to marry and eligible Toda regardless of her age.
The male Toda is taken care of by his sons when he begins to age. If he falls ill, the members of his family care him for. If he falls into debt, his sons take care of his problems. If the Toda dies, he is given an elaborate funeral in which buffalo are sacrificed for him to use in the afterlife. After a certain point in a Toda’s life, he will turn over his buffalo to his son, usually the eldest. This is quite an honor for this son for he will take on the role that his father had. When a Toda father or mother dies the children and brothers arrange a cremation funeral in which buffalo’s are sacrificed. The meaning of family in the Toda is very strong, especially between father and son, and mother and child.
The Toda’s are very interesting people whose culture defines who they are and want they want from life. They are very dedicated people and believe strongly in the great value of the buffalo. Their stages of life differ greatly from those of America.
American’s are located in the North Western Hemisphere. There are fifty states in America and each has a variety of different cultures. The main difference between American’s and Toda’s is that within the Toda culture there is basically one overall culture and set of beliefs but in America, there is a variety of different cultures with in one culture.
When a woman finds out she is pregnant, she is sometimes overjoyed and sometimes sad. Pregnancy can be a terrible thing for a woman if she is young or simply unable to care for a child. Many methods are practiced by American’s to prevent pregnancy and also to terminate it once it has happened.
During a pregnancy, a woman receives a lot of education on how to deliver and how to care for her child. The delivery usually takes place in a hospital with many skilled doctors, pain medication, and medical equipment. After the birth of a child, the mother and her baby stay in the hospital for a few days to make sure they are medically capable to go home.
Most people do not mind if they have a female or a male child. Either sex is fine for American’s although some people do prefer to have a certain sex. Upon leaving the hospital, a legal name is placed on the birth certificate, along with the name of the child’s father and mother. The name can be derived from many things such as a name of a relative or simply a name that both parents agree on. An American child is nursed only for a few months in the American culture. Bottles are used as a substitution since the mother of the child is not always available for the child when it is hungry.
Children do not eat their first real meal until they have developed teeth or the capability to eat whole foods rather than just milk. Babies are looked upon as fragile and precious. Most people of the American culture view babies as innocent.
The childhood of an American child is full of change and education. Technology is changing the American culture very rapidly. Children have had to witness violent acts that could possibly scar them for life. The media teaches children that it is ok to do bad things, such as smoke, drink alcohol and swear. Children have trouble distinguishing right from wrong. An average child likes to play with friends and use his/ her imagination to create adventurous games.
Many children in the American culture are involved with sports. These sports not only give the child a great physical activity but it also teaches the child about cooperation and teamwork. These are very important qualities for a child’s future.
Children in the American culture attend school from about the age of four to eighteen. The education and experience that the children learn during those years is what prepares them for life. Many children continue their education after the age of eighteen.
Adolescence in the American culture if filled with uncertainty. It is a time when children begin to rebel against their parents, whom the have grown so close with. It is a time when doing wring things might actually over power doing the right things. Pressure is often put on adolescence about what they want in their future and how they plan to achieve it.
A lot of adolescence has part-time jobs to earn responsibility. This is a great way for them to learn about what it is like in the “real world”. This is also a time when American adolescence begin to develop relationships for people of the opposite sex. Dating is a frequent event at this point in an American’s life. Social skills are very important and being able to communicate with many people is a terrific.
Marriage is decided by the male and female American. When a couple is in “love”, they may decide to get engaged. Engagement is a promise that in the future, the two will marry. After enough money is saved, a wedding is held for the couple. Friends and family are invited and a huge party is held. Many traditions take place during the ceremony, depending on what religious background the newlyweds are from. Wedding gifts are usually brought to the couple.
After the marriage ceremony, the couple goes on a honeymoon to a rela destination of their choice. When they return home, sometimes they have their own home or other times they move in to one person’s house. Depending on the situation, they could possibly already be living together. Marriage is said to last forever but courts allow people to get divorced is a marriage turns sour.
Adults in the American culture are supposed to be sophisticated but that varies with each person. Most American adults have employment and work for money in order to support themselves and/or their family. Recreation for adults consists of television, sports events, and social gatherings. The woman has been stereotyped as the one who does all of the cooking, cleaning, and childcare but with time, those tasks have become mutual with males and females. Women have fought for equal rights with men throughout the years and have come to a point where they are fairly equal. An adult is someone who children are supposed to respect and look up to but that is very difficult when some adults are portraying themselves as bad role models.
Aging is something that is looked down upon by most American’s. The physical aspect of aging scares most people. When someone becomes older, their family usually cares for them. In the case that someone does not have any family to care for them, the person could possibly be placed in a nursing home. Many people see the elderly as incapable of doing things themselves and as crippled minds. This is not always true for every person.
When an American dies, a funeral and proper burial is given to that person. Grief overwhelms those who cared for that person and traditionally flowers are sent as a sympathy gift to the loved ones of the deceased. Death is not something that most Americans look forward to. Although some people do believe in a higher power and an afterlife, most American’s are afraid of the surprises that death has within it.
The American culture does differ from the Toda culture greatly. It is the great massive number of people within each culture that makes the two so different. Each has many views and opinions that contradict the other.
Describing the six stages of life in the Toda culture and the American culture is a great way to learn more about each. More and more people today are agreeing with the fact that change is ok and that with time, a culture will better itself with the proper guidance. Every culture is unique in its own way and no matter what new cultures develop in the future, no culture can be described as better than another because the differences in cultures is what makes our world so diverse and interesting to live in.
Word Count: 3476