Growing Up Sexually




TODAS (India)

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According to Rivers (1906:p503)[1], a “man of strong physique” has intercourse with the girl for one night 14 or 15 days after the prepubescent putkuli tâzâr utili ceremony. “This [intercourse] must take place before puberty, and it seemed that there were few things regarded as more disgraceful than that this ceremony should be delayed till after this period [[2]]. [The Institutes of Vishnu proscribe that “A damsel whose menses begin to appear (while she is living) at her father’s house, before she has been betrothed to a man, has to be considered as a degraded woman: by taking her (without the consent of her kinsmen) a man commits no wrong”[3]] It might be a subject of reproach and abuse for the remainder of the woman’s life, and it was even said that men might refuse to marry her if this ceremony had not been performed at the proper time”. Walker (1986:p200)[4] stated that marriage was initiated in childhood and completed at maturity. “Usually parents arrange marital alliances for their offspring before the children are two or three years old, and it is not uncommon for an infant of no more than a few months old to be married. The children remain with their parents until maturity, and it is possible that the original alliance will be dissolved and a new one arranged before the young couple begin to live together”. Walker also maintains that defloration, both symbolic and actual, were traditionally performed before menarche, “or otherwise she and her parents would suffer great shame” (p202-4). Insinuations on its continuation were found to be contradictory. A frightened girl would be told certain stories[5] to “coax her into agreeing to the rite”. It was performed by one of few men assigned for the task, although no formal rules were said to exist on this point.









Janssen, D. F., Growing Up Sexually. VolumeI. World Reference Atlas. 0.2 ed. 2004. Berlin: Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology, Berlin

Last revised: Sept 2004


[1] Rivers, W. H. R. (1906) The Todas. New York: MacMillan & Co.

[2] Peter (1963:p260), op.cit.: “It is looked upon as a great shame for a girl to start menstruating before this [defloration] has been done […]”.

[3] Jolly, J. (transl., 1880) The Institutes of Vishnu. Sacred Books of the East, Vol. 7. Oxford: The Clarendon Press, XXVI, r41, p109

[4] Walker, A. R. (1986) The Toda of South India. Delhi: Hindustan

[5] “Chief among these was the tale that the maternal uncle would die and be ashamed in the afterworld if the girl did not undergo the traditional defloration. Another story argued that the girl would suffer defloration in the afterworld by a karumbausing a grain pounder”.