The sun is just peeking over the Southern hills known as the Nilgiris – The Blue Mountains – because of the Rayleigh Scattering Effect phenomenon, where tiny electrons are oscillated by sunlight, making the hills appear blue before our eyes. The honey hunter, along with his team, is already ready to fulfil their ancient duty and forest stewardship of gathering honey; This ancient practice goes back many generations, even thousands of years, with various rock paintings depicting the antiquity of this practice, such as those from Andhra Pradesh that date back to 6000 years ago!

A honey hunt from a cliff or tree will begin with rituals and ceremonies. First, a group is designated for the honey collection endeavour. A group will most likely consist of members of the same village and more so of the same family (remember this for later!). This is especially the case for a few tribes, like the Kurumbas, who scale cliffs, such as the Giant Rock Bee cliff.

As they approach the cliff where the honey has to be tapped, hours have passed, and the sun now inflames the treetops, painting the horizon in piercing gold. The sight is yellow, then orange, then red, and continues to melt. They have reached the cliff’s edge. The rope is tied to a clifftop tree, and the man is dropped down a cliff with a 400-500ft drop to the bottom.

The Problem

Honey hunters rarely have protective gear when they collect honey, even when dangling from a cliff a few hundred feet in the air. While they have years of experience (In this case, 6,000 years) with avoiding the bees and collecting honey, how do you prevent someone from falling down the cliff to their death?

The Solution

The task of honey hunting from the cliffs, especially when collecting honey from the temperamental Giant Rock Bee, is arduous. It must be done with a group, each individual having a designated task, and it often involves great trust. The most challenging task is of that person holding and securing the rope holding the man dangling upon it and jabbing the hive for honey is secure.

The tribe requires that the person who collects from the cliffs is always the brother-in-law holding/keeping track of the rope of the man dangling from it. The idea is that if the man up top slacks in his job (or decides to be vindictive) and the rope falls, the man will fall to his death, which means the rope holder (brother-in-law) will have made his sister a widow. A unique tradition of maintaining alertness, carefulness and zero deaths for the past few hundred years!

Think about it, why would you want to widow your sister? You’d rather triple-check everything before lowering your brother-in-law down a 500ft cliff!

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.”

—Albert Einstein


The Government protects the tribes and supports these groups by ensuring the forest is accessible for them to continue their ancestral traditions, such as by helping enforce the Forest Rights Act.

For the tribes, many of these methods have been maintained for generations. A sustainable, non-intrusive way of harvesting honey with a twist of innovation!

Categories: Innovation