Kodagu First a Celebration. Positive News, Facts & Achievements about Kodagu, Coorgs and the People of Kodagu – here at Home and Overseas
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    Bengaluru :

    Work and family pressure, over population, fatigue and to top it off, the ever increasing pollution – air, water, sound – you name it. This is the average life of a Bangalorean who, like thousands of their peers could not resist the pull of the cut–throat business and money of the corporate industry and not to forget the pub culture.

    With the influx of so much poison, contaminating our bodily fluids, there are moments when one looks for a way out, even if only for a short while. Imagine chill mornings, under heavy blankets, waking up to the sounds of birds chirping rather than the blaring horns of the city. Imagine long walks through green and luscious estates with the ever present aroma of coffee. Imagine drinking the best brewed coffee while watching raindrops hit the ground, the smell of the mud the very scent of the earth itself. Welcome to Coorg!

    Situated at some 250km to the east of Bengaluru, the hill-station district of Coorg or Kodagu is one of the most beautiful places of Karnataka. It holds a certain charm and mystique unlike any other place. In particular – Madikeri, the chief township of the district.

    Monsoon is the best time to visit Coorg. The heavy rainfall somehow makes the place ever more beautiful. Some of the most popular tourist attractions in Kodagu include Talakaveri, Bhagamandala, Nisargadhama, Abbey Falls, Dubare, Nagarahole National Park, Iruppu Falls, and the Tibetan Buddhist Golden Temple.

    Particularly in Madikeri, the Raja’s seat is the most prominent tourist spot, with an extraordinary view of the sunrise and the sunset. A big, open-air garden, overlooking the green hills and valleys of Coorg, the Raja’s seat is believed to have been recreational spot for Kodava kings, who, along with their consorts spent their sunsets enjoying the scenic change of the colours of the sky.

    Apart from these, there are loads of trekking spots and coffee estates which are refreshments to both the mind and the soul. And one should not forget to buy his coffee and home-made chocolates which are a specialty of the place.

    Plan fast, drive safe and have an extraordinary experience!!

    source: http://www.siliconindia.com / Silicon India / Home> Silicon India News> Life / by SiliconIndia / Friday – July 29th, 2016

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    The coffee land is all set to witness the 80th Kannada literary meet scheduled to begin on January 7, after a long gap of 32 years. Earlier, Madikeri has witnessed two literary meets – the 18th literary meet in 1932 under the leadership of D V Gundappa and the 54th literary meet in 1982 under the leadership of Dr Shambha Joshi.

    Interestingly, despite being one of the smallest districts in Karnataka, it has a wide variety of culture as well as languages that include Kodava, Arebashe Gowda and Malayalam, yet the region has managed to retain the flavour of State language.

    If one goes down the pages of history, the little district with unique weather and culture has contributed immensely for the development of Kannada language. The Ganga – Kongwala – Hoysala and Haleri dynasties, perhaps laid the strong foundation for Kannada through inscriptions way back in the 9th century. In the 10th century, Nagaverma had created ‘Chandombudi’ and ‘Punyashrava,’ according to the reference available at ‘Kodagu Sahithya – Sanskrithi Darshana,’ published by Kodagu District Kannada Sahithya Parishat.

    During the Chengalva dynasty, the third Mangarasa had published ‘Jayanrupa Kavya’ and ‘Samyukta Kaumudi’ (1508), while his cousin Nanjunda had written ‘Kumara Ramana Kathe.’

    There are documents to prove that the first epic ‘Rama Vijaya Kavya’ was written by Devappa, a Jain poet in 1540. Similarly, Dodda Veera Rajendra, who ruled Kodagu between 1789 and 1809, has the credit of documenting history titled ‘Rajendra Name’ in Kannada. The II Linga Rajendra, who ruled Kodagu between 1810 and 1820 had written a book pertaining to land in Kodagu entitled ‘Lingarajana Shisthu.’

    The 19th century

    The leading name of 19th century pertaining to literature is that of Panje Mangesh Rao, who served as a teacher in Kodagu in 1920s. He had penned poems pertaining to Hutthari festivities among other literary works. In fact, he was the president of All India Kannada literary meet held in Raichur in 1934.

    Haradasa Appacchha Kavi, popularly known as the Adi Kavi of Kodagu had penned many plays including ‘Savithri,’ ‘Yayathi,’ ‘Kaveri’ and ‘Subramanya’ in Kodava language. The same were translated to Kannada language by Dr I M Muttanna, who also hailed from Kodagu.

    Kodagina Gowramma

    The first woman story writer in Kannada literary field, Gowramma, hailed from Kodagu and she is known as ‘Kodagina Gowramma.’ Born in Madikeri in 1912, she did her early schooling in Madikeri and married to B T Gopalakrishna in 1928.

    From 1931, she wrote a number of articles and stories in the name of ‘Mrs G T G Krishna’. Most of her stories were based on the theme of women’s problems. However, she passed away in 1940 when she was just 28 years old. When Mahathma Gandiji arrived at Kodagu, she had invited Gandhiji to her home and she had donated her jewellery for the cause of freedom.


    A teacher by profession, ‘Bharathisutha’ was the pen name of S R Narayana Rao. Based on the life story of Kodagu ruler Siribai Dodda Veerappa, he had written ‘Huliya Haalina Mevu,’ which was later made into a film by the same name.

    His other stories too have been made into films and they include ‘Girikanye,’ ‘Edakallu Guddada Mele’ and ‘Bayalu Daari’ among others. His work on ‘Solle Haraduva Rogagalu’ (Diseases transmitted by mosquitoes) and ‘Giliyu Panjaradolilla’ (The parrot is not in the cage) earned him Central government award and Karnataka Sahithya Academy award respectively.

    Kittel’s footsteps

    Rev Fr Ferdinand Kittel, who contributed immensely to the field of Kannada literature has left indelible marks in Kodagu, prominent among them include the Kannada – English dictionary.

    A German missionary, who served in Kodagu church (presently knownn as Shanthi church) between 1871 and 1876, was the first parish priest of the church. Rev Kittel started learning Kannada after going around the coffee land, says the present parish priest of the church.

    DH News Service

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> District / by Srikanth Kallammanavar / Madikeri – DHNS, January 05th, 2014

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    A rare document from 1931 reveals the role played by freedom fighters from Kodagu

    Legacy: A picture of freedom fighters with Mallengada Chengappa (right) at the laying of the foundation stone for the Freedom Fighters' memorial in Gonicoppa on December 16, 1998.

    Legacy: A picture of freedom fighters with Mallengada Chengappa (right) at the laying of the foundation stone for the Freedom Fighters’ memorial in Gonicoppa on December 16, 1998.

    A rare document from 1931 obtained by The Hindu here speaks volumes about people from Kodagu district who were in the forefront of the freedom struggle under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

    The people of Kodagu had issued a ‘manapatra’ then, a letter of honour, commending and saluting the 98 brave men and women who revolted against the British, following the footsteps of the Father of the Nation. They had taken part in the satyagraha in 1930-31 and were incarcerated.

    Pandyanda Belliappa, Kollimada Karumbaiah, Chekkera Monnaiah, Makki Krishnaiah, Mallengada Chengappa, Abdul Gafoor Khan, Ajjikuttira Chinnappa, Ponnimada Machaiah, Kalengada Chinnappa, K.M. Subraya, Puliyanda Subbaiah, V. R. Thammaiah, Bidarur Madaiah, Chokira Madappa, Poojari Muthappa, Pandikanda Madappa, H.R. Krishnaiah were some among the people honoured by the people of Kodagu in 1931. Puliyanda Subbaiah, who hailed from Maggula village, was a true Gandhian till his death. He wore Khadi and counselled patience whenever a rift arose among people. So was V.R. Thammaiah, another Gandhian, who also hailed from the village. Elders say that H.R. Krishnaiah even refused to apply for pension after Independence saying if the Government recognised his contribution, it should come to his doorstep and give him the pension papers.

    Even women did not lag behind. Kotera Accavva, Balyatanda Muddavva, Mukkatira Bojamma, Machimanda Medakka, Appanderanda Kalamma also joined the freedom struggle. The manapatra given to them on March 11, 1931, stated that they had been imprisoned for preaching the message of Mahatma Gandhi and taking part in the satyagraha.

    The manapatra further stated that the people of Kodagu would not be able to offer them (the freedom fighters) privileges such as ‘Jahagir’, ‘Umbali’ — both land grants for service rendered — or ‘Pinchani’ (pension), but would carry forward the noble message of freedom struggle, support and abide by it.

    A sentence read significantly that “Bharata mateya makallada Kodaginavaru drohigalalla, Bhartada veera putra putriyaru embudannu prapanchakke saridiri”. This meant “the people of Kodagu, who are the children of mother India, are not traitors. You have heralded a message to the world that you are valiant sons and daughters of India.” The people who were mentioned in the manapatra at the function presided by Biddanda Subbaiah, also had taken a pledge to follow the ideals propounded by Gandhiji such as ‘swadeshi’ and liquor prohibition.

    A section of people might feel that some people of Kodagu supported the British. But it cannot be forgotten that Guddemane Appaiah Gowda who had fought the British was hanged at the Fort here by the British on October 31, 1837, much before the Sepoy Mutiny took place.

    Kodagina Gowramma had offered all her jewellery to Gandhiji when he had visited here soliciting peoples’ support for continuing the freedom movement in the early 1930s.

    It is an unfortunate irony that the Freedom Fighters’ memorial, the work for which started at Gonicoppa 12 years ago and the Guddemane Appaiah Gowda memorial, of which works are now underway, are yet to be completed.


    The ‘manapatra’ saluted the 98 men and women who revolted against the British

    The work on the Freedom Fighters’ memorial at Gonicoppa started 12 years ago


    source: http://www.thehindu.com / The Hindu / Home> Karnataka / by Staff Correspondent / Madikeri – August 15th, 2010

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    Watershed moments


    Near the 10th mile from Virajpet is the traditional Ainmane homestead of the Meriyanda extended family. It is reported that several generations ago an unmarried lady, addressed as Balliavva, raised her brothers’ children. The descendants of the boys among them are part of the Meriyanda clan today. According to Gappu Ganapathy, a member of the Meriyanda clan, one historical family member who was called Maanichcha Moli (master), had 2 wives and 6 sons. The eldest among the boys was Meriyanda Medappa, affectionately called Medu, whose mother was from the Marichanda family. Four of his 5 younger brothers were known as Chettichcha, Kunjappa, Aiyappa and Ponnappa.

    Medappa, who was a government official, was made a Dewan under Linga Rajendra, the Raja of Kodagu between the years 1811-1820. However, it is said that Medu was a Dewan only for 18 days. During a particular battle when Medu was stationed at the Nalnad palace, he sent his brother Chettichcha to the western border of the Kodagu kingdom. In the meantime, Medu’s rival had spread rumours to the Raja that Medu had sent his brother to the enemies in order to sell them official secrets.

    Following this, Medu was charged with treason and made to run around the palace. The intention was to make him run into the king’s oidekatthi, a traditional sword also known as the ayudha katthi, which was positioned in the courtyard in a manner that it would slit open the runner’s neck. However, Medu ducked while he ran into the sword; so it was only his scalp that was cut off. Although he was only unconscious, the palace servants assumed he was dead and told the Raja so.

    Twist of events
    Meanwhile, Chettichcha won the battle and the news made the Raja regret his decision. Medu, who was revived by a toddy drawer returned to the palace a few days later and was honoured with the Raja’s oidekatthi bearing the small, embossed, golden ‘lin’ seal of the Raja stamped upon it. This sword, made peculiar by the rare stamp, originally had an ivory hilt; but was replaced by a wooden handle when it broke. The most commonly found seals of the Kodagu Rajas bear either of the Kannada syllables ‘vi’ or ‘lin’. While ‘lin’ belonged to Linga Rajendra, the ‘vi’ belonged to his elder brother and predecessor Dodda Vira Rajendra.

    In the early 19th century, 3 paintings of Dewan Medu and the Kodagu Raja were commissioned. While the recipient (Dewan Medu) looks the same, the Raja appears to be different in each of the paintings. We can speculate that Linga Rajendra himself adopted different styles as he aged or they were actually different Rajas, probably Dodda Vira Rajendra (1789-1809) and Chikka Vira Rajendra (1820-1834), under whom Medu would have served as an official and advisor.

    On canvas
    In these paintings, Medu wears a red cloth head-dress, which has projections in front, and a thin kombu mishe (handlebar moustache), kept by the accomplished brave men of those times. He wears ear rings and is dressed in a white coloured kuppya (a traditional, long-sleeved tunic) with an ornate knife, called the piche katthi, secured in his chele (waistband).

    Even the Rajas don’t seem to be spared by rules of propriety; in this case, they had to have something held in their right hands when seen in public. They are either holding hunting falcons or holding what appears to be some sort of a flower or a jewel in their right hands. While the original paintings have been kept elsewhere for safekeeping and preservation, black and white copies have been put up for display in the ancestral house. A spear of the olden days, known as barchi, has also been kept there.

    Family heirlooms, such as these paintings and swords, which are part of a heritage, are to be preserved for posterity. A number of similar beautiful paintings had been commissioned by the Kodagu Rajas, especially between 1792 and 1834, and given to different families across Kodagu. It is however unfortunate that we are not aware of the identity of the artists who drew them.

    Likewise, the ayudha katthis issued by the Rajas bear their respective syllabic regal insignia. One good specimen of a sword with the ‘vi’ syllable has found its way to the London Museum in the United Kingdom, where it is on display today.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Supplements> Spectrum / by Mookonda Kushalappa / June 28th, 2016

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    Trekking to Thadiayandamol, the highest peak in Kodagu and the second highest in Karnataka, has been banned temporarily due to the movement of wild elephants in the vicinity.

    A herd of 10-12 elephants has been camping near the hill after escaping from nearby forest and have wrecked havoc by destroying banana, arecanut and coffee plantations in Yavakapadi, Marandoda and Chelavara villages.

    Forest officials said they are making efforts to drive these elephants back into the woods and till then, entry to trekkers and tourists will be restricted. They said it may take some time due to heavy rains in the region.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Bangalore / TNN / June 12th, 2016

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    Railway minister Suresh Prabhu’s plans to get Kodagu on the rail map has run into trouble with Kodavas asking him not to extend the proposed Mysuru-Kushalnagar rail line.

    The project was announced in this year’s budget. Following an RTI query by an environmentalist, railways officials have revealed that there are plans to extend the rail line to Madikeri and Makkanduru, a tiny village 3.5 km from Madikeri. Alarmed by the development, Kodavas living in Mysuru and Kodagu and environmentalists, too, have started tweeting urging him to stop the extension plan.

    The online petition has got 11,976 signatures. Railway minister Suresh Prabhu has responded to the petitions and tweeted that he will go through the project in detail.

    Aiyappa from Kodagu working in Vrindavan Hospital Mysuru told TOI that the railway project connecting Kushalnagar has not yet got the green signal. He fears that the line to Makkanduru village will affect Kodagu district’s natural resources.

    Petitioners Sundar Muthanna, Shristi Kukreja and Fehmi Mohammad have started a campaign through www. Change.orglink. They fear that the estates and forests in Kodagu will be with the railway track. River Cauvery which is the lifeline of South India is under threat, claims the petition.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Mangalore / TNN / June 11th, 2016

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    February 26th, 2016adminAbout Kodagu / Coorg, Business & Economy, Leaders

    MP Pratap Simha gets the project approved


    Mysuru :

    This Railway Budget will surely bring smiles on the faces of residents of Mysuru and Kodagu. Reason: the much-awaited 85-km railway line project between Mysuru and Kushalnagar will finally take off with the Railway Ministry giving its green signal in the budget.

    Speaking to SOM from New Delhi, Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha said that Kodagu was the only district in the State that did not have rail connectivity and he was glad that he was able to finally get the approval for this long pending project.

    The Railway Ministry, which had earlier conducted a feasibility test, has sanctioned Rs. 667 crore for the project and the works is expected to begin soon.

    source: http://www.starofmysore.com / Star of Mysore / Home> General News / February 25th, 2016

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    In the wake of increasing human-elephant conflict in Hassan, Kodagu and Chikkamagaluru districts, the state forest department has decided to acquire coffee and tea plantations to curb such conflicts and ensure a safe passage for jumbos.

    The department mooted this proposal after some coffee and tea planters volunteered to give up their land as they’re unable to cope with many problems including acute labour shortage, weak prices and rising maintenance cost of their estates.

    But planters are not ready to give up their plantations cheaply. “The offers have started to come, with one from Sakleshpura for about 2,300 acres that would cost approximately Rs 300 crore,” principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF) Vinay Luthra said.

    With a recent amendment to the Forest Development Tax (FDT), funds needed to buy these estates would not be an issue, said Luthra. The department can rake in up to Rs 600 crore per annum through FDI and utilise it for purchase of properties.

    Wildife experts welcomed the idea but expressed caution, citing that the purchase of properties should be done scientifically.

    “While it is a good start, the purchase of properties must be taken up after a peer review and an expert panel on elephant habitats giving its approval that such parcels of land are a good investment,” said wildlife expert Pradeep Bhargava.

    Bhargava said forest minister Ramanath Rai and the department had held a consultative meeting in Mysuru in December 2015. He said the starting point should be the linking of Bandipur, Nagarahole, Brahmagiri, Satyamanagala, BRT Hills and Mudumalai.

    Forest authorities have been holding talks with corporates to seek their assistance through their Corporate Social Responsibility funds to restoreg elephant corridors and other wildlife conservation projects.

    Luthra, however, said the department doesn’t plan to buy all 2,300 acres in Sakleshpur. The purchase will be based on a study done by wildlife scientist Raman Sukumar. The study has identified 88 traditional elephant corridors in India.

    “We’ll restore only those areas where there is a possibility of restoring the traditional corridors. Our biggest concerns are in and around the Bhadra Reserve, Hassan and Kodagu and the department will buy properties in these region on top priority,” he added.

    Luthra said the primary reason for people selling their properties is the difficulty in maintaining coffee estates and tea gardens. “Most people in Kodagu, Chikkamagalur, Hassan and other parts of the coffee- and tea-growing belts are old-timers. With their children living abroad and labour becoming increasingly difficult to procure, they have come forward with offers to the forest department for selling their land. It’s a good way for us to resolve this man-animal conflict,” said the PCCF.

    The forest department also took measures recently to ensure that new constructions don’t come up in the elephant corridors or affect elephant movement in the forest area. The department has also interlocked forest ranges across the Western Ghats to ensure the smooth passage of elephants.


    * The purchase of land must be strategic and it needs to be taken up on a project mode. Dedicated forest persons should be involved in the process and land should be procured after taking into account the valuation of the location and not any other factor.
    Pradeep Bhargava | wildlife expert

    * This is a start. The proposal may not solve the problems immediately, but it will help in the long term to end the human-animal conflict in the state.
    Vinay Luthra | PCCF

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News Home> City> Bangalore / Sandeep Moudgal, TNN / February 23rd, 2016

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    Syed Kaleem, Senior Producer of EMRC

    Syed Kaleem, Senior Producer of EMRC

    Mysuru :

    Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMRC), attached to University of Mysore, won two national awards for the documentary film titled ‘DGWT – A cause for Concern,’ in the recently held 6th National Science Film Festival organised in Mumbai. The institute won the Silver beaver award which carries a trophy, a citation and Rs. 50,000 cash prize and also the best graphics award carrying a trophy, a citation and Rs. 30,000 cash prize.

    The documentary was directed by Syed Kaleem, Senior Producer of EMRC, Mysuru and Former Director of EMRC, Odisha. This is the second National Award won by Syed Kaleem. The first one was in 2001 for the film on the life of Kodava’s titled ‘Kodavas, The highlanders.’

    The best graphics award was received by Chandra Kumar, graphic artiste of EMRC, Mysuru. The film was photographed by Keerthi Kumar, sound effects by Badrinarayana and Somashekar was the Technical Director. The narration of the film was done by Beliappa.

    The film highlights the grave danger caused due to depletion of ground water and its long time impact on ecology and environment.

    source: http://www.starofmysore.com / Star of Mysore / Home> General News / February 15th, 2016

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    Review of Kaveri Ponnapa’s book “The Vanishing Kodavas”


    Title : The Vanishing Kodavas / Author : Kaveri Ponnapa / Pages : 360 / Price : Rs. 7,500 / Publisher: Eminence Designs Pvt. Ltd. [Order from www.thevanishingkodavas.com]

    New Light on Kodavas of Kodagu – 1

    People are interested in history because they want to know their roots; they want to know who they are; they want to know their progenitor. And with their physical features, colour and gait being different from their immediate neighbours, they want to know the why and how of it. The desire to know their ancestry becomes even more strong if their customs, costumes, culture, cuisine, language, songs of oral tradition and even Gods are different from those of others. The question arises if they could be of the land where they have been living from time immemorial or did they come from another part of this country or from another country traversing thousands of miles by land or sea due to historical reasons? War, pestilence or famine?

    The Kodavas of Kodagu district in Karnataka belong to this class of unique people who want to know. Hence, there is an abiding interest among the successive generations of Kodavas, even scholars, to know their ancestry, history of their land of hills and valleys with thick rain forests, criss-crossing rivers and streams, having very high rainfall for over four months in a year. They are the high-landers and hardy people — physically strong and daring at any task and in war.

    In retrospect, I myself being the son of that clan and soil, it can be said that these Kodavas lived on this land from the dim past to this day fighting all the time for survival with the nature and wild animals like tigers, elephants and vermins that destroyed their paddy fields and other crops; fighting the local chieftains of their own clans and the invaders from the neighbouring kingdoms till the geographical unity and political stability was attained when Kodagu (with Sulya and Puttur) became a kingdom under the Haleri Dynasty from 1600 to 1834 — 234 years.

    In between, there was an interregnum when Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan ruled Kodagu uneasily, under constant armed resistance from Kodava chieftains, for 11 years from 1780 to 1791 when Madikeri was renamed as Zaferabad.

    In a classic example of the saying, “My enemy’s enemy is my friend,” the Kodagu Rajahs cultivated British of the East India Company, who were engaged in fighting Tipu Sultan, a sworn enemy of Kodagu Rajahs. So Tipu’s enemy, the British, became the friend of Kodagu Rajahs. But alas, in a tragic play of history, the British were able to de-throne and deport Chikkaveera Rajendra Wodeyar in 1834 after being betrayed by the Rajah’s trusted Dewans Cheppudira Ponnappa and Apparanda Bopu. Despite the Rajah’s army successfully resisting the British at the other two fronts, at the Eastern stockade it was a meek, humiliating surrender by Dewan Apparanda Bopu with a party of 400 Kodavas at the present Kushalnagar to Col. Frazer (hence Kushalnagar was known as Frazer Town).

    The Dewan then “led the British troops back to Madikeri where the Union Jack was hoisted on 6th April 1834. The last battle for Kodagu was a sad betrayal,” writes Kaveri Ponnapa in her magnum opus of a book on Kodagu and Kodavas titled “The Vanishing Kodavas,” the book under review.

    However, let me submit a caveat here. The records indicate the young King Chikkaveera Rajendra was more into outdoor activity, ironically with visiting Englishmen, of hunting and camping leaving the matters of State in the hands of trusted and able Kodava Dewans and also a Dewan from his own caste Kunta Basava, an evil genius no doubt, and another Muslim Dewan, probably to neutralise the power of Kodava Dewans mentioned above. When the relation between the Rajah and the East India Company got strained on the question of extradition of fugitives and the Kodava Dewans realised the end result of an inevitable war, they counselled the King to negotiate peace. But, the King was adamant. The Kodava Dewans, in the circumstances, decided that ‘discretion was better part of the valour.’ The British had already defeated a more powerful Tipu Sultan than the Kodagu King and as for weapons of war, the Britishers had cannons which the Kodagu Rajah did not have. If only Chikkaveera Rajendra had negotiated peace, he could have continued in the throne like the Mysuru dynasty under the suzerainty of the British Company.

    Curiously, a large number of scholars and people, who have read the history of Kodagu written by many, are fed with information that shows the Haleri Kings, specially Doddaveera Rajah, Linga Rajah and the last Rajah, Chikkaveera Rajendra Wodeyar in poor light, as tyrants and mentally deranged towards the end of each one’s rule.

    The history of Kodagu commissioned by Doddaveera Rajah in 1807 known as “Rajendranama” and another by Linga Rajah known as “Hukumnama,” the land laws of 1812, can be verified to find out its veracity and the good administration delivered by these rulers. The secret, if the word can be used, of the Haleri Rajahs ruling Kodagu for so long, 234 years, is no doubt because they never interfered with the land holdings of Kodavas, their customs, culture and, in short, Kodavas’ way of life. And Kodavas in return served their Kings loyally till the ‘betrayal,’ for self-preservation of Kodagu and Kodavas, came in 1834.

    The proof of the Haleri Kings being good rulers is in the representation made to the British Government on 13th April 1834, just 7 days after the surrender, signed by 400 senior officials of Rajah’s Government, expressing their entire satisfaction with the Rajah’s rule and with grief requesting that the Rajah be allowed to remain in Kodagu.

    Kaveri Ponnapa writes, “Despite the fact that he had an infant son, Prince Chitra Shekara, when he was conducted out of his kingdom, no attempt was made by the British to restore Haleri rule by placing a Regent over Kodagu, as had been done in some States, including nearby Mysore.” One would wish the author had given more information on Prince Chitra Shekara. Pray whatever happened to him? Interestingly, the Rajah begot more children in exile — in captivity at Varanasi ! To jest, what else could he have done with nothing else to do !

    This book by Kaveri Ponnapa, based on 15 years of research, nearly 200 visits to Ainemanes (ancestral houses), historical locations, sacred places and interviews with elders in Kodagu, debunks many tendentious works on history and culture of Kodavas. The wealth of information, not so much on political history but on other aspects of Kodava life and culture, contained in the book The Vanishing Kodavas astonished me no end.

    The book is a treasure trove of many informations hitherto presented in a distorted manner or suppressed from us to justify British occupation of Kodagu. I am reminded of a great Nigerian proverb which says that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. Let it be.

    It is, therefore, necessary for us to question the description of Chikkaveera Rajendra as a bad King in the eponymous novel by Masti Venkatesha Iyengar. No wonder there were protests and criticisms when Masti Venkatesha Iyengar was given Jnanpith Award for this book and when an attempt was made to produce a film-based on the book. ______________________________________

    New light on Kodavas of Kodagu – 2

    The book, The Vanishing Kodavas, however, does not answer the fundamental question: If not the natives of the land, where did the Kodavas come from? Many have ventured to address this question without any answer, leaving us in a sea of absurd speculations. One had tried to trace Kodavas’ origin to Rajasthan and parts of North India by drawing similarities between names of some clans there to the family (Okka) names of Kodavas. They also link the similarity in the distinct individual Kodava names like Muddappa, Muthappa, Machiah, Ponnappa, Somaiah, etc.

    Some have speculated that a breakaway army unit of Alexander-the-Great had trekked to Kodagu from North India looking for a safe haven. Some others speculate Arab descent finding strong similarities between the Arab cultures and social life and that of Kodavas — the headgears (red-check vastra, head scarf) worn while at work and on special occasions, the ornate gold or silver dagger held by the sash (chale) tied around the waist, the white one-piece knee-length upper garment etc., complete with other artifacts.

    Yet, some researchers on the origin of Kodavas opine Kodavas are Scythians, Eurasian nomads who landed in Kodagu. A 1398 Kannada dictionary says Kodavas are Mlenchas come from outside the country. Others have told us that Kodavas are Kurds, a hill-tribe of Arabia come here after a long journey by the sea, landing in Malabar coast of Kerala, then making an arduous journey to a safe hilly place inhabited sparsely by the local tribals — Kodagu. Well, if this is so, I doubt, the name Kodagu could not have been derived from the Tamil word ‘Kodimalenad’ — Hill Forest Land, an eponymous name as speculated in the book under review.

    Extending this kind of speculation a bit further to Kurds, one can say the name Kodagu might have come after these Kurds (pronounced Koords) occupied this land, suggesting it is the land of Kurds which name, in its corrupt form or with minor distortion in pronunciation, must have become Kodagu the land of Kurds, Kodavas. The English called Kodava as Coorg and in early Church records it is Kurg.

    To add to the confusion, of late, we have a Greek come to Kodagu making similar speculation — Mr. Antonios Vasileiadis. He says the customs of the people of Kodagu bear a striking resemblance to those of Ancient Greece. Can we connect this to the earlier speculation of Kodavas being the breakaway warriors of Alexander’s Army? 300 BC!

    The book also does not address two other important questions. One, the origin of Kodava language which is a dialect and the other, the origin of the name of each okka clan or family — like Ajjikuttira, Apparanda, Biddanda, Chowrira, Kambiranda, Nadikeriyanda etc. And so far, no one has answered these enigmatic questions including that of our origin. I guess these questions will remain riddles wrapped in mystery inside an enigma even as Kodavas may vanish in the next 100 or so years from their ancient land Kodagu, perhaps, leaving behind their land, language, okka names, personal names, traditional dress, customs etc., in short, the treasure chest of their hoary past. Thereafter, they can be seen or heard only in the digital library or in books like “The Vanishing Kodavas.” Which is why, this book is a wonderful Collector’s Item, specially for Kodavas.

    Is the title of the book prophetic? Time alone can say! UNESCO has already sounded the warning saying Kodava language is among the disappearing languages of the world. If so the people who speak the language may also disappear lost in a diaspora. And even as one reflects on the dismal future of this unique race under the sun, one will wonder how was it that these Kodavas whose number is 2.3 lakh (with 1.5 lakh living in Kodagu) survived for centuries as an ethnic people, practising a distinctive life found nowhere else in India or in the world. In a sense, it is providential that Kodavas survived so long in Kodagu in the absence of a religious or temporal head from their own blood-line to hold the flock together and bind them under a singular culture common to all Kodavas.

    The book bears the stamp of not only the scholarship of the author, the love of labour of a patriotic Kodavathi but also the tremendous research and leg-work that have gone into its making. It has between its 360 pages, 12 chapters devoted to specific subjects, 300 colour and sepia photographs of superb quality and of archival value, most helpful guide to a reader of this kind of a researched book. The glossary of Kodava words is exhaustive and descriptive to leave no doubt in the mind of a serious reader about the import of those Kodava words and names; the select bibliography authenticates what is researched and will help those who wish to write on Kodavas and Kodagu in future.

    Kaveri Ponnapa is beholden to so many who co-operated and helped her in writing this book. A grateful author recognises each one of them and also okkas acknowledging their help — proof of her deep sense of gratitude. I am sure in the next edition some more names will appear should she learn there are omissions! Index to a book of this kind can never be understated but here it is done with such meticulous care one is left wondering at the hard work by the team that put the book through production. Photo credits too are there which is as it should be.

    I must mention here the depth and sweep of her work of extraordinary research with just one example. It is about least of an item used by Kodavas to deserve a research. It is about a ceremonial walking stick, made of black wood, known as gejje thand, a waist high staff. Her research finds out that it is made from the male kari mara (botanical name Diospyros ebenum) decorated with strips of beaten silver and tiny bells. She writes in detail about its significance and power as spirit medium and more. I guess Kaveri Ponnapa does not seem to have left a single stone unturned in her research that concerned Kodava life and culture.

    At one point she mentions of the precepts delivered by an elder at the time of solemnising the marriage. Readers would wish a sample text of it was published. May be the next edition will find a place for it.


    New light on Kodavas of Kodagu – 3

    For those Kodavas, who have been opposing the Jamma tenure of land holding in Kodagu, an act which is self-defeating in the context of the need to keep their land for themselves and thereby their identity as a unique people, here is some food for thought from the book:

    “Since time immemorial the ownership of land has been the foundation of Kodava identity, and the thakkas and Haleri Rajahs, in their wisdom, made the Jamma lands inalienable, with reason.”

    Lewis Rice, writing in 1878, summed it up best, his words proving to be prophetic in today’s Kodagu: Hence the Coorgs who hold lands on Jamma tenure are prohibited from alienating them, a restriction which was in force in the time of Rajahs, and which is absolutely necessary in order to prevent all the land in the province from gradually falling under the ownership of settlers from the low country. And should the ownership of the soil, which rightly belongs to them as a nation, pass away from the Coorgs… the independence and self-respect of a fine race will be sacrificed…

    No wonder Britishers did not interfere with the land holdings in Kodagu. British did not also interfere with the law prohibiting slaughter of cattle and sale of beef that existed during the rule of Haleri Rajahs in Kodagu. I am one of the irrelevant majority of Jamma holding Kodavas, Gowdas, Mapillahs and others in Kodagu who agree with Rice and his warning.

    The beginning of the end of Kodagu and Kodavas was when Kodavas felt betrayed by their elected leaders. The book says, Cheppudira M. Poonacha, the then Chief Minister of Kodagu, a Kodava himself, went down in Kodava history as the man responsible for the merger of Kodagu with Karnataka in 1956.

    The fate of Kodagu and Kodavas was hermetically sealed by this unholy, sinister merger once and for all accelerating the ‘vanishing’ of Kodavas and Kodagu. According to Kaveri Ponnapa, this political move of merger “cost them (Kodavas) their independence, wrested the control of their land from their hands, severely depleted the natural resources and eroded the Kodava identity.”

    Now, after Kodava political leaders gave away Kodagu on a platter to Karnataka for their own selfish political ambitions, the Kodavas and Jamma land owners became victims of the new Land Revenue Act of Karnataka that is often used to keep them under constant threat of eviction from their land — Jamma, Bane, Paisari. Kodagu’s development suffered under Karnataka. The Revenue Department practically rubbished the land records under all pervasive corruption and favouritism. The roads were neglected. For example, Hunsur-Gonikoppa road had remained unmotorable for six years. Many private bus operators stopped service and car owners avoided this road. The high-tension power-line was drawn across Kodagu forests, paddy fields and coffee estates despite objections and agitations. There are more trees in coffee estates today than in the forests. The latest threat to their land holding comes from the UNESCO plan to declare major parts of Kodagu as Eco-Sensitive Zone and the controversial Dr. Kasturi Rangan report that will adversely impact 55 villages. That probably will be the last nail to the Kodagu coffin.

    A feeble effort is being made to overcome these dangers by Codava National Council (CNC), led by Nandineravanda Uthappa Nachappa demanding creation of a Kodava Autonomous Region, but there seems to be little hope as Kodavas are divided among themselves.

    Now, before I vanish from these columns, a few words about the author Kaveri Ponnapa whom I had the privilege of meeting along with her husband Kambeeranda Naresh Ponnapa, a big-time software industrialist in Bengaluru, at their house of unique architecture in Whitefield. There was very little about her in the book which says that she studied English Literature at Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi and took a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology in London. Like nature, she wants to remain half-revealed. Let us respect her sentiment but let me reveal that she is the daughter of Lt. Gen. B.C. Nanda, now settled in Kodagu.

    The book is too heavy to handle. It is more like a Coffee-Table Book in its style of page layout. The font size needs to be increased. Such small type is harsh on eyes. It is best to have this book in two volumes with photographs compatible only to the text, not to please individuals who might have assisted the author. The next edition needs to take these changes, nay the challenge, seriously to make it reader-friendly. Should the expensive art paper be of that thickness merely adding to the weight of the book?

    And finally, my most sincere thanks to Kaveri Ponnapa for giving us this pictorial book which will preserve for posterity the religious, social practices and agricultural activities, with keepsake photographs of Kodavas who are likely to join the ranks of Lost Tribes of the world.

    e-mail: kbg@starofmysore.com

    source : http://www.starofmysore.com / Star of Mysore / Home> Abracadabra…..Abracadabra / by K.B.Ganapathy / September 26th, 2015

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