The Kalvarayan Hills is located in the southern extension of the Eastern Ghats. It is a high mountainous region ranging under 1300m and forms as one block in the Tamil Nadu Hills. The Kalvarayan Hills run through Athur Taluk in Salem district, Chengam Taluk in Thiruvannamalai district and Sankarapuram Taluk in Villupuram district. There are number of streams and rivulets flowing in the Kallvarayan Hills.
The Malayalis (literally meaning mountain people) are the principal inhabitants of the Kalvarayan Hills. The Malayalis refer to themselves as 'Goundars' and claim themselves as the descendant of the 'Vellalar' caste of cultures. The Kalvarayan Hills are estimated to have existed in isolation for approximately 400 years.
During the rule of Mrs.Indira Gandhi there started a movement called EMERGENCY 1972 which put an end to the Jagirdar's rule. Their land called Punal forest was divided into Patta land, Purambok land and forest areas respectively. People of these areas work hard and are earning by means of cultivation. Although they get good rains, they are unable to save rainwater for irrigation purposes, as there is no absorption of rainwater in these hilly areas. Under these circumstances the cultivation is hindered and is unfortunate for them.
These hilly tribes lived till 1976 as slaves. Then the government had taken necessary steps and slowly the civilization is taking place. Till then it was under the control of the local rulers namely Jagirdars. Only during 1976, the area was taken over by the Government. This was done through 'the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and Tamil Nadu Inam Estate Abolition and Ryotwari Act' under which the Jagirdars were deprived of power and the Malayalis were released from the Bonded Labour system. Since then the Government and some voluntary organizations have been engaging in various developmental works in that area.
The tribal community of Kalvarayan Hills speaks a language in Tamil. They were organized into various exogamous groups called Vakuppar or Atappu or Kilai. Each Atappu is composed of various smaller Patri-lineal exogamous groups called Vitu. Each Vitu consists of several families. Normally monogamy is in practice among the Malayalis. Agriculture is the main occupation in the Kalvaryan Hills. Millet varieties (ragi, varadu, samai, tinai, cholam, kambu) are being cultivated and in some places paddy, pulses, chillies, red gram, groundnut, tobacco, mustard, and varieties of beans are also grown as secondary cultivation. But it is not on a regular basis as 80% of tribal community depends to daily wage labour in the area of agriculture. Within the same hills they move to other districts for their family income. The subsistence economy also includes fishing and occasional hunting of rabbits, deer etc. Through this occupation they are unable to meet their daily bread as not having regular income. There are no healthcare & support facilities for the entire tribal community in Kallvarayan Hills.
These people do not have any transport facilities. Only one bus is hired to these areas, which take the people down the hills and shall return in the evening.
People suffer a lot and find difficulties even for tea, snacks and food. People face many health problems such as cholera, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and other diseases such as sexually transmitted diseases.
Till now, no significant changes have taken place in Vellimalai, Kalvarayan Hills which consists of 32 villages.