Grihini banner
Skip Navigation Links


Grihini is a traditional Indian (Sanscrit) word describing the manager of the household, namely, the woman who handles the affairs of the household. It has also come to be used in the sense of ‘home science.’ In the 1980’s a number of non-formal education schools were called Grihini and described by Jesse Tellis-Nayak in her book on non-formal education in India. Students at the school identify themselves as Grihini women. In the villages women will explicitly say: ‘I am Grihini.’

Kodai is short for Kodaikanal, the name of the major town in this region of the Palni Hills in South-West India. Kodaikanal was originally the British Hill station, then a location for mission schools and today is a picturesque tourist attraction with many schools. The area is known as the Kodai area. Most of the mountains in this area are over 7000 feet. The Grihini buildings are actually located in Shembaganur, 5 kilometres from the town of Kodaikanal.

Grihini Community College is the official new name of the school, affiliated with Madurai Community College, but under the jurisdiction of the Kodai Grihini Trust.

The Caste System is a belief system that is several thousand years old and grounded in an ancient myth. The four main castes are the Brahmins, the Shatrya, the Vaishyu and the Sudra. Dalits and Tribals are outside the caste system. For more detail about these castes see The Caste System under Challenges.

Dalit refers to those people outside the caste system who were formerly known as Untouchables. Ghandi used the term Harijan, or child of God. The word Dalit actually means ‘crushed’ and is the term chosen by these people who feel crushed by the caste system and Indian society.

A Dalit woman carrying wood from the forest

A Dalit woman carrying wood from the forest

Tribals are the Indigenous peoples of India who inhabited the country before the Aryan invasion thousands of years earlier. They have lost their land because of the encroachment of agriculture. They are also referred to as Advasis and Unscheduled Tribes.

Repatriated Tamils from Sri Lanka are among the women in the program. A few hundred years ago, Tamils settled in Sri Lanka as labourers in the tea plantations, but in the 1980s they were dispossessed and many fled. The Tamil Nadu government welcomed them home but assigned some of them to companies, who made them ‘bonded labourers’ with no rights,education or health care. In 1986 these labourers in the Palni Hills were set free by an edict of the Supeme Court in Delhi. The repatriated women were free from the logging company, but needed education to return to society. Grihini provided them with just such an education.

Animator is the name given to the staff of Grihini. This name is chosen rather than ‘teacher’ to avoid the association with heavy authority and rote learning. The task of the animator is to animate, to stir within young women the desire to develop their inner potential, regardless of their background.

Non-formal education is a system of education outside he traditional schooling system of India. The focus is usually on literacy and income generation. Many are based on Paulo Friere’s principles of liberation, emancipation and empowerment through awareness raising and mobilisation.

PEAK is the term used to identify the Jesuit Program for Education and Action in Kodaikanal, a body that has worked closely with Grihini over the years.

Sangam is the term used for a women’s group that meets in the villages to explore ways in which to tackle the injustices and problems faced by Dalits and Tribals. Grihini graduates have been active participants in these programs promoting the social justice values learned in Grihini.

Balwadis are local child care centres found in the remote villages of the Palni Hills. Grihini was involved in initiating these centres as a way to encourage the poorly educated of these villages to provide an education for their children.

Palni Hills is a mountainous region in South West India, covering the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala. While they are called hills many are higher than Kosiosko, the highest mountain in Australia. The upper hills are higher up the mountains beyond Kodaikanal while the lower hills are below Kodaikanal. Village women from both the upper and lower hills come to Grihini, those from upper hills being primarily Dalits and those from the lowers hills primarily Tribals.

Kurunji Symbol. The symbol of Grihini is a kurunji flower bursting the chains of society that have long bound the women of the hills. The kurinji flower blooms in the Palni Hills once every 12 years.

The Kurunji Symbol

The Kurunji Symbol

This symbol reflects the vision of the Grihini tradition that poorly educated women from remote rural villages of the Palni Hills will return to their villages with a vision, a sense of self-esteem and empowerment, a consciousness of justice and human rights, improved literacy and numeracy and the skills to generate an independent income

Coolum is the name given to the colourful design which the design create on the ground, with various chalk of various colours, to welcome guest to their home.

A ‘coolum’ of welcome to Grihini

A ‘coolum’ of welcome to Grihini

website powered by anchor
web hosting