|213,641 (2011 census)
|Regions with significant populations
|Traditional Religion, Hinduism, Christianity
|Related ethnic groups
|Soliga, Tamil, Yerukala
Irula, also known as Iruliga, are a Dravidian ethnic group inhabiting the Indian states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. A scheduled tribe, their population in this region is estimated at around 200,000 people. People of Irula ethnicity are called Irular, and speak Irula, which belongs to the Dravidian languages family.
The tribe numbers around 200,000 spread across three states: 189,621 in Tamil Nadu, 23,721 in Kerala and 10,259 in Karnataka. Those in Karnataka are named Iruligas. The Irulas are mainly concentrated in northern Tamil Nadu: in a wedge extending from Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri districts in the west to Ariyalur and Cuddalore districts in the south and Tiruvallur district in the north. Small populations live in Coimbatore and Nilgiris districts and were classified by Thurston as a different population. In Kerala, the Irulas are in Palakkad district, while in Karnataka they are concentrated in Ramanagara and Bangalore districts.
The Irula people practice some sort of Animism where they primarily believe in a Goddess named Inga who lives with her another 6 sisters worshipped in the form of stones under trees. The Irula people traditionally believe that these 7 sisters created the first Irula man and woman this traditionally the concept of 7 Goddesses where Sanskritised as Sapta Matrika the Irula people also have to seem a believe in Ancestral Spirits and they traditionally believe that Kannipe (spirits of virgin girls) possess anyone the kannipe spirits are worshipped as Guardian deities of village by Irula tribals. The Irula also believe in the presence of evil spirits known as Pe who can possess and haunt people in order to keep these spirits away a Rooster is sacrificed and offered to them. And Irula people also worship Hindu Gods and also take part in Hindu festivals. Some Irulas have also been converted in Christianity.
The Irula speak the Irula language, a Dravidian language that is closely related to Tamil.
Traditionally, the main occupation of the Irulas has been snake, rat catching and honey collection. They also work as labourers (coolies) in the fields of the landlords during the sowing and harvesting seasons or in the rice mills. Fishing and cattle farm is also a major occupation.
Rats destroy a quarter of the grain grown on Tamil Nadu-area farms annually. To combat this pest, Irula men use a traditional earthen pot fumigation method. Smoke is blown through their mouths, which leads to severe respiratory and heart problems.
In January 2017, Masi Sadaiyan and Vadivel Gopal from the Irula tribe of Tamil Nadu were brought in, along with two translators, to work with detection dogs to track down and capture invasive Burmese pythons in Key Largo, Florida. The Irula men and their translators were paid $70,000 by the State of Florida, and captured 14 pythons in less than two weeks.
Irula people face severe discrimination and harassment from other castes and numerous such cases are reported every year.