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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    After losing out to the British, the Haleri royal family moved to Periyapatna and later to Mysuru city where they settled at Shivrampete.

    Madikeri Palace is in a shambles now

    Madikeri Palace is in a shambles now

    Centuries ago, the battlefields of Coorg thundered with their war cry as they took on marauding armies of the invader, sowing the seeds for a martial race which continues to amaze the world with its heroism and audacity. But the days of the dynasty and the royals are long gone and the kings of Coorg, like everyone else, now have to contend with the rigours of a modern age where democracy, the great leveller, makes sure everyone has to toil for his bread. Some dynasties have switched to politics with remarkable success , others preferred a life as ordinary as it could be, sacrificing their vast tracts of lands, palaces, forts and the antiques of their forefathers. M.B. Girish profiles the Coorg royal dynasty which once ruled from Madikeri and now runs a flour-mill and a chilli powder shop in the busy Shivarampete of Mysuru city

    It has been a remarkable journey for the family members of HCN Wodeyar, the king of Madikeri, one finds it hard to believe that here sitting before you, are the descendants of a royal family. Except for a huge pile of documents gathered from the authorities concerned, HCN Wodeyar no longer has the antiques left behind by his forefathers nor does he lead a lavish lifestyle which could remind people that his family once held sway over Madikeri.

    MadikeriRoyal02KF30oct2017

    For more than a century, the family has been running a flour mill attached to a store selling masala powder and flour on the busy Vinoba road in Shivrampete. Sachida nanada Hittina Angadi (flour shop) as it is known, has history written all over it-on the walls of the store, one can spot a couple of portraits of royal family members. An inquisitive visitor who ventures to ask whose portraits they are, would get an answer that the store is run by descendants of the Haleri Ursu Royal Family who once ruled Kodagu.

    Not many know that the store now belongs to Haleri Chinnanna Nagaraju Wodeyar (75), the King of the Princely State of Kodagu and was started by his father Chinnanna. The lineage of the Haleri royal family starts with Veera Raja who ruled from 1600 AD and was succeeded by Appaji Raja and later Muddu Raja who ruled the region from 1633 AD to1687 AD. The rulers belonged to the Banajiga Lingayat community.

    HCN Wodeyar and (right) his flour mill in Mysuru

    HCN Wodeyar and (right) his flour mill in Mysuru

    HCN Wodeyar tracing the history of the royal family, says his great grandfather Haleri Mallappa was married to queen Devammaji and he is the son of Chinnanna and the heir of the erstwhile royal family of Madikeri. Devammaji ruled the place for two years from 1809-11 before Britishers took control of the region.

    To support his claim that he is the true heir, HCN has maintained various records issued by different authorities on the family tree of his erstwhile royal family. When asked about the decline of his family, HCN turns emotional and says, “everything is gone.”

    After the Britishers started making inroads into the Princely States in India one after the other, his royal family too became a victim of British rule and gave away the kingdom which once stretched from Kushalanagar to Mangaluru. “Our great grandfathers, mainly Dodda Veera Raja traded in lemon, tobacco, oranges among others which were sent to markets in Kerala and Delhi in those days,” he recalls.

    After losing out to the British, the Haleri royal family moved to Doddabeedi in Periyapatna and later shifted to Mysuru city where they settled at Shivrampete.

    The royals-turned business family now stays at Chamaraja Mohalla where a board in Kannada at the entrance facing the road, states, “HCN Wodeyar is the owner of Madikeri Palace.”

    The Palace of the Haleri royal family was built during the rule of Muddu Raja and later modified during British rule. Though his kingdom has disappeared, HCN longs to regain ownership of Madikeri Palace, situated on 77 acres at Karnangeri and is engaged in a legal battle since 1998. “The palace is in a dilapidated condition and if the structure is given to me, repairs will be taken up to restore its past glory,” he says.

    HCN first got to see his ancestral palace when he was a child. “My father took me to the palace for the first time and since then, I have visited the palace about 15 times,” he says.

    At Chamaraja Mohalla, he lives in a small tiled house with his wife, sons and grandchildren. His grandchildren play on the wooden sofas while wife Sowbhagya attends to domestic chores with her daughters-in-law.

    The family no longer has the royal antiques such as swords, spearhead, royal seals and royal attire. “A throne was taken away by the British among other precious items,” laments the Haleri king. Just then, HCN’s grandson Milind (13) brings out a lone sword from the room and flaunts it.

    Though he no longer lives in Madikeri in the palace, HCN says people still hold the royal family in high esteem. Milind, a class 8 student at JSS Public School says, “My classmates and teachers are aware that I hail from a royal family.” As many as 70 types of masala powders are sold at the shop- both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. There are people like Prakash, a resident of Hassan, who says he is surprised to know that the flour shop is run by the Coorg royal family and recalls that he has walked by the shop on a number of occasions but had no idea about the history of the family running it.

    Not many have been able to make the transition from royalty to a democratic way of living smoothly, many have struggled and fallen into bad times. It has not been easy for the Coorg royal family either for the times have changed but then they have risen to the challenge in the hope of a better morrow. Nor would the Coorgis like to forget the Haleri royal family for they bring back memories of the times of the kings, of grandeur and magnificence which no ordinary mortal can match.

    source: http://www.deccanchronicle.com / Deccan Chronicle / Home> Naton – In Other News / by MB Girish / October 29th, 2017

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    Faded colour, blackened walls, pathetic condition of the roof and plastic sheets to protect from rain…This is the story of historical Madikeri Fort. The fort throws light on the glorious grandeur of a bygone era. However, it is in a neglected state.

    The magnificent fort is in ruins due to the negligence of the authorities of the Department of Archaeology. Due lack of maintenance, a portion of the fort has collapsed.

    Owing to lack of government buildings in Kodagu district, the fort has been converted for the administrative purposes. It is referred to as ‘Hale Vidhana Soudha.’ The fort houses Zilla Panchayat office, land documents assistant director’s office, department for the Empowerment of Differently Abled and Senior Citizens, offices of MLAs K G Bopaiah, M P Appachu Ranjan, MLCs Sunil Subramani and Veena Achiah, district library, court complex and Agriculture department.

    “Hundreds of vehicles enter the premises of the Fort. The Fort is losing its identity. Though a signboard on the protected monument is placed, attempts are being made to disfigure the monument,” said local residents.

    There is no protection for ‘Firangi’ and accessory of rulers. The tourists will be disappointed after viewing the Fort.

    It was said that Haleri ruler Mudduraja had constructed mud fort and palace in the 17th century. Later, it was rebuilt by Tipu Sultan and named it as Jaffarabad. In 1790, Dodda Veerarajendra confiscated the Fort. The Fort came under British rule in 1834.

    The magnificent Fort is visible from any corner of Madikeri town. The fort is in the shape of the circle and two rock-cut elephants attract the visitors. The museum of the Department of Archaeology and Museums is situated in a church built in 1855. The palace that was built by Immadi Lingaraja Odeyar houses government offices and the palace is in a shambles.

    Tourist guide Prakash said, “Tourists are not keen on entering the palace. The rare photographs have lost its charm and beauty. The authorities have not taken any measure to conserve palace that may cease to be a heritage site shortly.”

    DH News Service
    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> District / by Adithya KA / DH News Service / Madikeri – October 21st, 2017

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    Standing tall: Government Archaeology Museum in Madikeri.

    Standing tall: Government Archaeology Museum in Madikeri.

    Two doormen, embellished with silver jewellery and adorning red dhotis welcome visitors while standing guard at the entrance of the Government Archaeology Museum in Madikeri. The museum has been set-up inside a 150-year-old intrinsic church, which is located at the southeast entrance of Madikeri Fort. With Roman Gothic architecture, the 19th century church invites the art connoisseurs into the world of forepassed artefacts. As one crosses the glass-painted windows, sky-reaching arch, limestoned blue walls, and the dwarapalakas at the entrance, one is introduced to Kubera, the Lord of Wealth, revived from the ruins of a temple in Bettageri.

    Artefacts from every era

    While statues of folk deities stand firm on wooden stands, two horns pop out from behind the 18th century Ganesha statue. And they are the horns of a 1922 aurochs, which is now preserved to perfection. Adjacent to the aurochs stands a stuffed life-size leopard, “given to the museum by Mysore Archaeological Society,” explains, Renuka, the curator.

    Inscriptions from the Ganga dynasty, seals from the Lingayat kingdom of Haleri, statues of Jain tirthankaras, 3D paintings of the kings and queens of Kodagu, terracotta and brass kitchenware from 12 century, and beautiful lintel that has been carved from limestone are a few objects that decorate the inner linings of the museum. However, it is the cultural folk deities and the traditional weapons that steal the show here. “People want to see and learn more about the uniqueness of the culture of Kodagu. And they ask for cultural, tale-telling artefacts of the district,” explains Renuka.

    The 18th century swords and daggers from the historical reminiscence of British rule are arranged neatly in a glass case. “The collection also includes the swords used by King Veera Rajendra,” she explains. The cult weapons — odi kathi, peechakathi — synonymous with dagger and sheath knives, tell the tales of the warrior clans of Kodagu. There is also a section of armouries that bring light to the heroic deeds of Kodavas in the army. One of the highlights among these armouries is a heavy bronze cannon of the 17th century.

    The Kodavas also hold special reverence to cult deities that were worshipped in the then extensive, now diminishing, devara kadus or the sacred groves. And the museum is home for many such cult deities revived from 11th and 12th century. Naga idols, masks of boar headed folk gods, idols of the Sun God, Goddess Kali, Shiva-Parvathi idol and Uma Maheshwari idol are just a few to mention among the immense bronze idol collection.

    “Most of them are harake shilpas (ex-voto offerings), which were recovered from the ruins of many temples, and some gifted by the temples for preservation,” she confirms. The museum sheds light on the Jain heritage in the region too. Stone and pot inscriptions and intricately carved statues of Jain tirthankaras — they take one back to between the 11th and 14th century, when the Kongalvas (subordinates of Cholas) were the prominent rulers in the district.

    There is also a section in the museum dedicated to Field Marshall KM Cariappa, who donated many worthy artefacts of the past. While an ornamental chair of the Field Marshall sits at the centre of this section, it is surrounded by various mementos won by him and a few other age-old statues collected by him as an art connoisseur. “They have been exhibited in the gallery in memory of his parents,” Renuka explains.

    The art of preserving

    While the staff of the museum is actively involved in reviving historical artefacts, they have also faced hurdles in preserving some historical objects. Renuka explains, “We make sure that none of the ruins of historical idols are immersed in the rivers and immediately fall into action in collecting them. However, sometimes the beliefs of people work against our actions. One such incident took place in Bhagamandala, where the locals refused to hand over the ruins of elephant sculptures in the area due to religious beliefs. However, learning its importance, they are now preserving the sculptures.” Renuka, as a curator of this museum, has revived over 250 artefacts; the recent one being the painting of King Chikka Veera Rajendra, the last ruler of the kingdom of Kodagu.

    A State-funded museum, the museum attracts a lot tourists during the weekends who also tour the historic fort located in the area. “We are looking at further improving the museum by including a detailed story of the heritage value and revival process of these historical objects,” concludes Renuka. The museum is open to visitors from 09.00 am to 5.00 pm except on Mondays and general holidays.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Supplements> Spectrum / by Prajna G R / October 03rd, 2017

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    Issue To Be Taken Up During Samaj’s Centenary Bash

    Bangalore:

    Kodavas, a distinctive race in Karnataka, have often been dubbed ‘tigers’ largely because of the courage, honour and loyalty shown by two popular generals of independent India, Field Marshal K M Cariappa and General K S Thimayya.

    However, like real tigers, they too are now facing the threat of extinction. According to a recent census by the Karnataka unit of the Bureau of Economics and Statistics, the population of

    Kodavas has alarmingly dwindled from 1.5 lakh in 2001 to 1.25 lakh in 2011. This at a time when the human population is growing at an alarmingly fast rate.

    If this situation continues, community leaders fear that Kodavas, who are largely concentrated in Kodagu (70,000), Bangalore (30,000) and Mysore (15,000) will be wiped out by 2030, considering the slow population growth rate in recent times. Aware of the looming danger, Kodava Samaj, Bangalore (KSB) is gearing up to create awareness among its community members of the dangers involved as part

    of its centenary celebrations beginning Friday in Bangalore. “The whole idea is not only to create awareness on the challenges among our community but also to draw the attention of the state government to help the community sustain its rich culture and tradition,” said Cheppudira Tilak Subbaiah, president, KSB.

    The Kodavas are an anthropological puzzle. No one really knows the origin of the Kodavas but everyone knows and acknowledges that they are different — be it their skin colour, big eyes, long nose, aggressive face and wide chest.

    Some say they are the descendants of soldiers from Alexander’s army. Others say they are descendants of a band of Kurds from the Yemen, Oman, Kurdistan and Iraq region, who fled to India to escape forceful conversions by the sword to Islam. Still others say they are Rajputs or Scythian soldiers who fled the North-West frontier during the Mughal Invasions.

    So why is the community facing extinction? KSB’s vice-president Monnada Seetha Aiyanna said one reason is adopting strict family planning practices, as a majority of the community has migrated to cities to live the hard life. This is largely due to increasing fragmentation of inherited estates, which have turned out to be unproductive for joint families.

    Another general trend is late marriage in the community because of limited choice of brides and bridegrooms. This has naturally impacted the fertility potential of men and women. “All these factors have also given way to the practice of marrying outside the community,” Seetha pointed out.

    It’s a complex situation for the Kodava Samaj to push its agenda. “Neither can we ask the community to have more than two children nor we can restrict inter-caste marriages to check the waning population,” rued Kukkera B Chinnappa and Kaibulira K Ponnacha of KSB, who have taken the initiative to organize a special seminar to discuss the emerging problems of Kodavas during the centenary celebrations.

    Weekend Celebrations

    Kodava Samaj, Bangalore, will celebrate 100 years of existence this weekend. Governor H R Bhardwaj and CM D V Sadananda Gowda will participate in the three-day centenary celebrations starting Friday. The event will showcase Kodava culture and the progress of the people. KSB, an association of about 40,000 Kodavas in Bangalore, was established in 1911 with just eight Kodava families of Bangalore, consisting of 30 people. After Kodagu district — which was a ‘C’ category state administrated by the Centre — was merged with Karnataka in 1956, more Kodavas who migrated to urban areas joined the association.

    In 1960, Jayachamarajendra Wadiyar, former Maharaja of Mysore, gifted an acre of land at Vasanthnagar to Field Marshal Gen K M Cariappa in recognition of his distinguished military service to the nation. Cariappa donated this land to the Coorg Association and enabled the formation of the ‘Coorg Association’ which was renamed KSB in 1962. In 1981, KSB extended its service by establishing the Cauvery School in Indiranagar on land donated to the KSB by late CM R Gundu Rao, and also set up a few colleges.

    ARMED FORCES: Field Marshal K M Cariappa (in pic), General K S Thimayya, Lt General Apparanda Aiyappa

    SPORTS: Rohan Bopanna (in pic), M P Ganesh, M M Somaiah, Ashwini Nachappa, Joshna Chinnappa

    FASHION: Prasad Bidapa (in pic)

    CINEMA: Prema, Nidhi Subbaiah (in pic), Daisy Bopanna, A T Raghu, Harshika Poonacha

    LITERATURE:

    Appanervanda Haridasa Appachcha Kavi, veteran Kodava poet

    CIVIL SERVICE AND LAW:

    C B Muthamma, first woman IFS officer; IGP P K Monnappa, first police chief of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, C Somaiah, former comptroller and auditor general of India; Palekanda Medappa, chief justice of Mysore, Palekanda Muthanna, attorney general.

    POLITICS: C M Poonacha, chief minister of Coorg state (1952-56) and Union railway minister; Meriyanda C Nanaiah, former minister and MLC; Prema Cariappa, former mayor of Bangalore, MP (in pic). manu.aiyappa@timesgroup.com

    source: http://www.e.paper.timesofindia.com / The Times of India / Home> Section – Times City, Page 4 / by Manu Aiyappa / November 09th, 2011

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    Mangaluru :

    The controversy surrounding naming of Light House Hill Road took a historical turn with Sullia Amara Kranti Utsava Samiti too laying their claim to name the road. Turning back pages of history to shed light on role played by Vokkaliga community prior to India’s first War of Independence, the Samiti demanded that the road be named Bavuta Gudde Road and the hillock which also has St Aloysius College continue to be referred to as Bavuta Gudde.

    Gopal Peraje, convener of the Samiti said the 1837 revolt against the British, a good two-decades before the first War of Independence of 1857 was the offshoot of dethroning of the Kodava ruler in 1834 by imperial rulers. The revolt engulfed Kodagu, Sampaje, Sullia, Bellare, Puttur, Kumble, Manjeshwar and even Mangaluru which saw thousands of people rally round the leadership of Ramayya Gowda of Kedambadi. Ramayya was ably assisted by many leaders, he said.

    The dethroning of the Kodava ruler and change in taxation system from material to monetary terms were the main reasons for sparking the revolt, he said. The rebels that marched from Kedambadi took control of government treasuries in Sullia, Bellare, Puttur and Kumble and also went on to wrest control of Mangaluru from the British, he said. The rebels lowered the British flag that was erected on Bavuta Gudde and hoisted the flag of Haleri dynasty of Kodagu there.

    Noting that the rebels wilted under the East India Company’s counter-offensive and many rebels were captured and prominent leaders hanged in public at Bikarnakatte and another leader publicly hanged in Madikeri Fort, Gopal said the rebels ruled Mangaluru for 13-days from April 5, 1837. The Mangaluru City Corporation and state government must take this historic fact in to account and name the road as Bavuta Gudde Road to commemorate this freedom struggle, he noted.

    source: http://www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com / The Times of India / News> City News> Mangalore News / by Jaideep Shenoy, TNN / July 25th, 2017

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    CariappaMusicWingKF11jul2017

    by Nandu Andhare,

    The Cariappa Music Wing at Army Education Corp (AEC) Pachmarhi provides sheer delight, especially to one who loves and savours music, be it Western or Indian. Instrumental music emanating from the shining Brass saxophones, trumpets, clarinets, followed by the heart-beating drumming by the trainee drummers is something revering.

    The scribes visiting the Cariappa Music Wing took a melody out of the hills in their hearts. The visit was arranged by Defence PRO Wg Cdr Samir Gangakhedkar.

    Amid scenic beauty of Pachmarhi hills, the musicians were busy preparing for the farewell programme of the Station Commander.

    The sight was totally mesmerising. Seated in a semicircle under a 240-year-old huge Banyan tree, about 35 musicians, comprising of buglers, trumpeters, saxophonists, vocalists, drummers, repianists, flutiests and guitarists were waiting in anticipation. After the guests took their seats, the veil of suspense was lifted and out flew lilting tunes in perfect synchrony and harmony, enveloping the entire densely-wooded region with heavenly music.

    It was Field Marshal KM Cariappa’s idea to introduce music in military to instill patriotic feeling among personnel and help in bringing in uniformity, imbibing one-nation feeling. It was also his idea to shift the erstwhile location of the Military Music Wing at Belgaum to Pachmarhi.

    The Music wing offers three-year course in Martial Music to potential bandmasters. The school has experienced faculty from civil and military to train the new entrants in various instruments and even vocal. Hindustani classical music is also taught to the soldiers, who learn to play tabla, dholak, harmonium, jaltarang and various ragas based on which are some of the very popular Martial tunes and regimental songs, which when played with harmony can bring goose-bumps. Chests of soldiers and officers swell with pride when the band plays the signature song of the regiment. They may not have professional voices, but the voice of the vocalist exhibits raw patriotism, zeal and the strong will power to complete the task on hand fearlessly.

    The Music wing has a Shantiniketan Band Stand, enveloped under a 240-year-old Banyan tree, where the band practises in complete harmony with nature. Besides there are the Beethoven, Mozart, Tansen and Swami Haridas Training sheds. The Cariappa Music Wing of the AEC is on the lines of theworld famous Kimberly Hall of the UK, where trainees ranging from a Sepoy to Subhedar can pursue a course. Musicians from all the three wings of defence services are trained at the Cariappa Music Wing.

    It has a huge, impressive and up-to-date music library along with a section that displays an assortment of musical instruments, percussion items, with photographs of ceremonial presentations. The library has a good collection of Desh Ke Gaane, Tunes of Valsar, History of Music, Biography, Music Dictionary, Martial Music of Indian Army, Martial Bands and Music of the Indian Army. The Music school teaches Jazz, Pipe and Brass Band. Military music taught at the school is at par with international standards.

    For the visiting scribes, the musicians played the famous ‘Donau Wallen Waves of Danube Waltz’ which was simply haunting. This was followed by ‘Silver Sobre’, ‘Mack and Mack’, ‘Raga Bhupali’ on Jaltarang, and Vibraphon and Xylophone ‘In a Persian Market’. Devotional songs like ‘Deh Shiva’, an entity of Guru Gobind Singh, was also played much to the delight of the visitors.

    Another impressive part of the visit was the Protools Software or recording available at the state-of-the-art recording studio of the music school, where vocal recordings are made separately and then mixed with the rhythm of instrumentalists.

    The AEC Military Music Wing has also got its name in the prestigious Guinness Book of World Records for having performed at Vijay Chowk Delhi in which 4,459 musicians played under One Band Master during the Asiad games.

    As one left the arena of the lilting music, one could see, bandmasters practicing with their mace, wand, drummers letting loose a volley of beats while practicing ‘Beating of the Retreat’.

    Bagpipers were practicing patriotic songs, trumpeters letting off the haunting bugle call of the Last Post. At various points, the sound echoed down the Satpura hills of Pachmarhi.

    source: http://www.thehitavada.com / The Hitavada / Home / by Nandu Andhare / July 06th, 2017

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    The Travancore wolf snake sprawled near the bathroom mirror of the author’s room / Photo by Medha Saxena

    The Travancore wolf snake sprawled near the bathroom mirror of the author’s room /
    Photo by Medha Saxena

    Homestays in Coorg offer visitors a glimpse of a unique eco-system. Coorg or Kodagu is part of the Western Ghats that have been declared a world heritage site. It has many plantations that host hundreds of threatened species

    It had beautiful dark coffee-brown scales with yellowish stripes and a sinuous slender body stretching no more than two feet.

    The languid Tranvancore Wolf snake lay sprawled on the bathroom mirror. It had sneaked in to avoid the gentle night precipitation and was basking in the steam left behind by the hot water running earlier. It was hard to miss once the solar light was flicked on.

    Gradually, it coiled back and slithered to a safer, darker corner behind the mirror. I was not sure at the time if it was venomous since it resembles the common Krait and is often targeted for the same reason. Suffice to say that I lay awake for most part of the night, wondering whether my nocturnal guest would like to take a peek at the room as well.

    This was my penultimate night at the Rainforest Ecolodge on Mojo Plantation nestled at 1100-m altitude in Kodagu, Karnataka. The monsoon in a rainforest comes with its own delights and surprises. Leeches are a case in point. They crave to attach themselves to any warm body passing by to satisfy their desire for blood. But their presence also indicates a fertile soil and ecosystem. They are both the predator and the prey.

    Beautiful butterflies found in plenty during monsoon in the rain forests of the Western Ghats /   Photo by Medha Saxena

    Beautiful butterflies found in plenty during monsoon in the rain forests of the Western Ghats / Photo by Medha Saxena

    Then there are the frogs, toads, spiders, wasps, dragon flies, lizards, snakes and birds. Their tribe multiplies and diversifies with every shower of water it seems. And the heavens provide them plenty of those here. But they only proliferate in undisturbed habitats. Each one of the creatures that call the rainforest home have adapted themselves to it over the millennia.

    Each adaptation and evolution is a fascinating revelation. Weaver ants are a marvellous example. Thousands of them coordinate with each other to stitch together nests out of leaves much bigger than themselves.

    Trees themselves appear like curated art installations climbing vertically and horizontally. They are draped with vines, creepers, fungi, moss, lichen, orchids and a variety of other epiphytes that resemble emeralds and jewels on a bride. They glisten and shine best on bright wet mornings.

    Twinkling fireflies circle the trunks during nightfall. The valley was covered with a million of these mating fireflies a month or so earlier in a perfect ‘symphony in light’ as the student-interns Meghna and Lily, working at the plantation recounted.

    Being in a rainforest during monsoon is also a musical extravaganza. Its inhabitants are engaged in a synchronised performance at all hours of the day. Louder than revellers in a marriage procession the frogs and cicadas often accompany the sound of rain, streams and wind. The cacophony is coupled with serenity in equal measure. If you listen hard enough everything in the forest sings. But how many of us really listen?

    Geography and Bio-Diversity

    Kodagu is part of the wide-ranging Western Ghats, older than Himalayas, spanning from Gujarat to Kerala for 1600 kms. It directly intercepts the Indian monsoon winds. One of the eight ‘hottest hotspots’ of biodiversity, it has 325 globally threatened species (flora, fauna, bird, amphibian, reptile and fish) and many that are unique to this area.

    The lush green forests also help with carbon sequestration and reduction of global warming /   Photo by Medha Saxena

    The lush green forests also help with carbon sequestration and reduction of global warming / Photo by Medha Saxena

    This mosaic of natural beauty was inscribed as a world heritage site in 2012 meant to be protected by the Western Ghats Natural Heritage Management Committee (WGNHMC) and receive international support.

    The tag was achieved after much opposition by states that feared that development will be impeded. Critics said that an informed consent was not obtained from the gram sabhas and Forest Rights Act 2006 was not implemented properly during drafting of the proposal for grant of heritage status. It could also violate the historic customary rights of the adivasis.

    The forests of Western Ghats, however, aid economy and transportation by keeping the ports and creeks along western coast silt-free. The forests and mangroves also help with carbon sequestration and reduction of global warming.

    Other critics say that the declaration has no effect on damaging developmental activities. As recently as June 2, 2017, there were protests in Madikeri over destruction of wildlife habitat, Cauvery river catchment area and forest land for the construction of railways, highways and power lines. As more of the landscape is disturbed there is more human-elephant conflict. Illegal construction, mining and corruption have caused water scarcity during summer months in an area that is generally overfed by rains.

    The ensuing struggles repeatedly point us back towards essential questions of what is development. Who is it meant for? Who do the forests belong to? And how are decisions to be taken in the interest of all parties concerned?

    Organic Farming

    In ancient times the exotic products of the Kodagu region were traded along the Silk Route and on oceanic routes via the Arabian Sea. Cardamom and black pepper were indigenous to this region. Rice was the main crop. Coffee was brought from Yemen to Chikmagalur in India by Baba Budanin in 1670.

    Legend has it that the Coorg Rajas may have given land to Moplahs near Nalkanad who introduced coffee seeds to the area. In the mid-1850s many European coffee plantations sprung up followed by private Indian ones. When the British left, they sold their lands to the local population. There are strong remnants of British culture here, like the North Coorg Planters Club dating back to 1883.

    A walk through the greens gives an idea of the rich biodiversity of the region /  Photo by Medha Saxena

    A walk through the greens gives an idea of the rich biodiversity of the region / Photo by Medha Saxena

    Now a good chunk of the land is covered in coffee, tea, rubber and palm oil plantations. Commercial chemical-based farming and unsustainable agriculture have eroded this landscape. Smaller landholders and farmers still find it difficult to turn a good crop and farmer suicides affect the Western Ghats as well. There has been an attempt to set up farmer-owned companies by Agriculture and Organic Farming Group India. Hundreds of homestays have also come up in Coorg in the past few years to complement agricultural income.

    Sujata and Anurag Goel, owners of Mojo Plantation, have successfully experimented with organic farming doing multiple cropping with cardamom, black pepper, coffee and vanilla under the shade of the rainforest. Spice trees, fruits and vegetables are also grown in open areas.

    A molecular biologist, Sujata Goel explained that fungi secrete enzymes to release nutrients from decaying wood and dead organisms. Shivani, the manager, described on a tour of the plantation that fungal mycelium act as telecommunication networks for the trees to convey threats. They are also used as biological pest control. Similarly, termites redistribute soil and recycle nitrogen. Even weeds have an important role to play as temporary hideouts for insects.

    Plants themselves synthesise compounds (terpenes, tannins, phenolics) to repel insects and convey distress signals to other plants and predators. Chemical pesticides kill the natural defence mechanisms of plants..

    The Wise, Old Relic

    Meghna and Lily recount a magnolia tree that they variously describe as a ‘tree of life’, ‘tree mother’, ‘earth mother’, ‘magical beautiful wise old relic’ that has twists, turns and huge branches that one can climb and roots that open up into giant cave systems and tunnels underneath – in the middle of a coffee plantation.

    It was ‘a metaphor for India’ for them, probably signifying layers of wisdom, age and continuity in a land of general mayhem. Neither trees nor our bodies survive in exclusion to their environment. The commune with nature is complete. If you listen carefully, everything in the forest sings.

    The author teaches in Delhi University

    source: http://www.nationalheraldindia.com / National Herald / Home / by Medha Saxena / June 10th, 2017

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    Role Models: Paintings of General K S Thimayya, Field Marshal K M Cariappa.

    Role Models: Paintings of General K S Thimayya, Field Marshal K M Cariappa.

    Kodagu is not just known for its serene landscape and picturesque surroundings, but also for the valour of its people. Rightly, the district boasts of several military heroes. The statues of such brave men can be seen in Madikeri. The Sudarshan Circle in Madikeri is flanked by the statue of Field Marshal K M Cariappa and the equestrian statue of Subedar Guddemane Appayya Gowda.

    One of the earliest revolutionaries from Kodagu, Appayya Gowda, was hanged by the British in 1837. His contemporary revolutionaries from Kodagu included Subedar Naalnaad Mandira Uthayya, Chetty Kudiya and Shanthalli Mallayya who were imprisoned for many years by the British. Further along the main road, you can see a circle with the statue of General K S Thimayya. If you take the deviation to the right, you will find Major M C Muthanna Circle near the town hall and Squadron Leader A B Devaiah Circle near the private bus stand.

    The first family

    In Kunda, near Gonikoppal, lived the Kodandera family, hereditary chieftains of a group of villages. I M Muthanna’s Coorg Memoirs mentions that Naad Parupatyagar (native village official) Kodandera Kuttayya was the grandson of Diwan Mandepanda Thimmaiah. Between 1901 and 1909, he was the assistant commissioner and highest ranked native official in the then Coorg province. When his wife Dechy, or Dechamma, passed away, a locality in Madikeri was named as Dechur in her memory.

    Two members of this family, Field Marshal Kodandera Madappa Cariappa and General Kodandera Subayya Thimayya, rose to become the chiefs of the Indian Army. Hence, the Kodandera family came to be considered as the first family of Kodagu’s military heroes. Field Marshal Cariappa was the son of Kuttayya’s younger brother Madappa, who worked in the revenue department. General Thimayya was the grandson of Kuttayya.

    Born in 1899, Field Marshal Cariappa, ‘the Grand Old Man of the Indian Army’, studied in the Madikeri Government Central High School and then in the Madras Presidency College. He gained admission at Daly Cadet College, Indore, in 1919 and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in Bombay’s 88th Carnatic Infantry, during World War I. The following year, he served in Mesopotamia (Iraq) and was promoted as a lieutenant.

    He became the first Indian army officer to attend the Staff College in Quetta. He married Muthu Machia, a forest officer’s daughter, had a son K C Nanda Cariappa, who later rose to the rank of air marshal, and a daughter, Nalini. During World War II, Cariappa was awarded the Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE). He became the first Indian to become a brigadier.

    Cariappa also served as India’s first commander-in-chief (C-in-C) between 1949 and 1953. Now this position rests with the President of India. He represented India as its high commissioner in Australia and New Zealand from 1953 to 1956. In 1986, he was made a field marshal. Thus, he became one of the two Indian army officers to hold this rank. He died in 1993.

    General Thimayya’s actual name was Subayya, while Thimayya was his father’s name. He was born in Madikeri in 1906. Admitted to the then Prince of Wales Military College in Dehradun, he was one of the six Indian cadets who underwent training in Royal Military College, Sandhurst, England. In 1926, he was commissioned into the Indian army. In 1935, he married Codanda Nina and the couple went to Quetta. During the Quetta earthquake that year the couple rendered outstanding humanitarian service.

    During World War II, Thimayya was awarded Distinguished Service Order (DSO). He represented India during the Japanese surrender. Between 1953 and 1955, Thimayya was the chairman of the Neutral Nations Repatriation Commission. He gained international fame for the way he handled the exchange of the prisoners of war (POWs) held during the Korean War. In 1954, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Between 1957 and 1961, he was the chief of the Indian army.

    In 1964, he was appointed Commander of the United Nations Forces in Cyprus, where he passed away. Cyprus released a stamp in his memory, and later, his wax statue was displayed in Singapore. Both Cariappa and Thimayya are iconic figures in India.

    Fond memories

    According to Major General Arjun Muthanna, a great grandson of Kuttayya, Cariappa and Thimayya belonged to a generation of Indian officers who stormed the bastion of India’s colonial masters and deftly navigated unchartered situations. Both had huge responsibilities thrust upon them at a relatively young age and rose to the challenge. Cariappa, commissioned as a lieutenant when Indians were just being permitted to become British Indian Army officers, would ‘Outbritish the British’, probably to be accepted and treated as an equal by the British officers.

    A strict disciplinarian, he demanded punctuality and proper dress code. He was fiercely nationalistic and moulded the Indian Army into its current apolitical position.

    In 1948, the Kashmir situation grew tense and war was imminent. Lieutenant General Cariappa became the head of the Western Command and led Lieutenant General S M Shrinagesh and Major General Thimayya. It was during this war that Thimayya helped India secure Ladakh.

    Cariappa’s contemporary and friend, Lieutenant General Nathu Singh, was first offered the post of C-in-C but he declined and stated that his senior Cariappa, who won the 1948 war for India, was more eligible for the post. It was on January 15, 1949 that the three centuries old colonial army became a national army. That was the first time an Indian, General Cariappa, was made chief of the Indian armed forces.

    Every morning, Cariappa paid his respects to the portrait of his parents and the statue of a jawan. He was ever thankful to the soldiers for protecting the country. Hence, he was called the soldiers’ general. Cariappa would go to the war front, even after retirement, in order to motivate the troops.

    Muthanna narrates a personal anecdote about the Field Marshal, “When I called on him at his residence, in Madikeri, in May 1986, to invite him for my wedding, I was wearing a half sleeve shirt and trousers as appropriate for the hot summer day. After accepting the invitation, he commented on my attire saying ‘You’re an officer in the army aren’t you? In which case, you should be wearing a coat and tie.’ I had no response and thought in my mind I’m calling on my family elder. Pat came his next comment, as if he’d read my mind, ‘In case you’re calling on me as a relative you should be wearing our traditional dress of kupya.’ He walked the talk. He was always dressed formally as a respect to the person who was visiting him.”

    Thimayya was charismatic, approachable and had great interpersonal skills. When Thimayya visited his Dehradun alma mater as an alumni, one of the cadets there wanted to know how to address the general. Thimayya simply replied ‘Call me Timmy’, referring to his nickname!

    Some of the other military heroes of Kodagu are: Major Mangerira Chinnappa Muthanna, who was awarded the Shaurya Chakra posthumously, and Squadron Leader Ajjamada Bopayya Devaiah, nicknamed ‘Wings of Fire’, the only Air Force personnel to be awarded the Maha Vir Chakra posthumously so far.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Supplements> Spectrum / Mookonda Kushalappa / May 22nd, 2017

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    CoffeeKF30mar2017

    Famous for its coffee plantations, South India didn’t grow the crop naturally. Now a major producer with several hill tracts growing unique flavours of coffee, it is where the story begins… well, not exactly.

    The southern Indian state of Karnataka is strewn with coffee plantations. The state is, in fact, one of the major producers of coffee in India. ‘Arabica’ and ‘Robusta’ are the kinds of coffee that are grown here under methods which are unique to this part of the country, rather, to the world.

    The coffee here is grown under the shade of tress and is often inter-cropped with spices like cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg and clove, giving it a unique flavour and aroma.

    Interestingly, growth of coffee here is so dense that it might come across as shocking when someone tells you that it all started with the seeding of mere seven coffee beans, which were smuggled to the hills of Karnataka.

    The story that goes around in the coffee plantations down south is that an Indian saint, named Baba Budan, once went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and from there to Mocha – a port city in Yemen and a major coffee hub.

    It was here, in the 18th century, that Baba Budan first discovered coffee, when he tasted it in form of a dark and sweet liquid called Qahwa. It is said that he found the drink so refreshing that despite it being a protected Arabic beverage and industry, he sneaked out seven coffee beans by strapping them to his chest and brought them to India.

    The Baba Budan Hills in Karnataka

    The Baba Budan Hills in Karnataka

    These seven beans, Baba Budan planted in the courtyard of his home, in Chikmagalur, Karnataka – the place now synonymous to the origins of coffee in India. It is from this small patch of land that coffee began to spread over an entire hill – now called the Baba Budan hill – and then gradually to rest of Karnataka and South India.

    Coffee cultivation further boosted in India under various colonies. First, the Dutch began to grow coffee in the Malabar region of south India and then the British steered its movement all over the peninsula, where they found the conditions to be apt for the growth of the crop.

    In fact, coffee plantations in India were made commercial under the management of JH Jolly of Parry & Co, a trading company. Jolly saw the potential of coffee beans growing in the plantations of Chandragiri in Andhra Pradesh and had a petition sent to the Mysore government in the adjoining state of Karnataka, for 40 acres of land to grow coffee.

    This not just boosted the growth of coffee but, post this, the plantations flourished with their production turning into the sole business of many from the region and coffee becoming a major commercial product. Eventually, a coffee board was also set up, which took care of the marketing of Indian coffee. It is this board that we know as the Coffee Board of India, the Indian government’s body taking care of coffee commerce in India.

    Today, the coffee industry in India continues to be a flourishing one with the hill tracts of South Indian states dominating its production and the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu following Karnataka in the list of traditional coffee growing regions. Coffee routes have further elongated to non-traditional areas, including Andhra Pradesh and Odisha on the eastern coast of the country and Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh of North-Eastern India.

    The production of the crop that started on an ambiguous note has prospered into a full fledged industry, supporting the livelihood of many, especially, in the remote hilly areas of South India.

    source: http://www.mediaindia.eu / Media India Group (MIG) / Home / posted in Freestyle / by Surbhi Kapila / New Delhi – March 30th, 2017

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    KodavasKF17feb2017

    Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus? The answer is both ‘yes’ and ‘no’. If one defines Hinduism as a way of life, then Kodavas are Hindus. If one looks at Hinduism from a rigid caste-centric angle, then Kodavas are not Hindus.

    Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975), former president of India, who was one of the most erudite scholars of all times, had said: “Hinduism is not a religion, but a commonwealth of religions. It is more a way of life than a form of thought. The theist and the atheist, the sceptic and the agnostic may all be Hindus if they accept the Hindu system of culture and life. Hinduism insists not on religious conformity but on a spiritual and ethical outlook of life. Hinduism is not a sect but a fellowship of all who accept the law of right and earnestly seek for the truth.”

    The concept of Hinduism as propounded by Radhakrishnan was lofty and incorporated the essence of the ancient Indian civilisation. But in the present era of ‘Mandal’ and ‘Kamandal’ politics, it is caste which determines the Hindu identity.

    Kodavas are a unique race of people who live in Kodagu (Coorg, as the British called it), the smallest district in Karnataka. Very little is known about the origin of this community of warriors who have lived on the slopes of the Western Ghats of South India from time immemorial. This land-owning community known for its martial traditions, has a distinct culture that is strikingly different from that of the neighbouring cultures.

    If caste is used as the yardstick to ascertain whether Kodavas are Hindus, then this small community, numbering less than two lakh, are certainly not Hindus because they do not belong to any Hindu caste and there is no caste system among the Kodavas.

    Another important factor which characterises the Hindu caste system is the belief in the supremacy of Brahmanism. Judged from this yardstick too, Kodavas are not Hindus because there is hardly any role for Brahmins in the various Kodava ceremonies related to birth, marriage and death. It is the elders in the community who conduct all rituals.

    Kodavas are basically ancestor and nature worshippers. Every Kodava is a member of a patrilineal okka (clan) that has descended from a common ancestor. The Karanava, the first ancestor of the clan, is revered as a god, and Kodavas worship the ancestral spirit, their Guru Karona.

    While their ancestors are their guiding spirits, Kodavas consider their elders as their living guides. The youngsters greet their elders by touching their feet three times and the latter invoke their ancestors when they bless them.

    Every ancestral home (ainmane) invariably has a kaimada, a small shrine nearby, where prayers to ancestors are offered. The ancestral homes face the east, and Kodavas start their daily chores by opening the main door of the house and saluting the sun in prayer. And idol worship is non-existent. A lamp (bolcha) or hanging lamp (thook bolcha) is lit, both at dawn and dusk, to invoke the blessings of the ancestors. The lamp is kept in the nellakki nadu bade (central hall in the ancestral home).

    The sacred area around the lamp is empty and no idol or photograph adorns the space. The same goes for the space where meedi (offerings to the ancestors) is kept. Most of the important decisions are solemnised in front of the lamp. However, in recent years, in some ainmanes, framed photos of Hindu gods are kept in these sacred spaces.

    There are no idols in the kaimada, the central place of ancestor worship, where the annual ritual of Karonang Kodpo is held in memory of the ancestors. A few kaimadas have figurines resembling humans, to represent their ancestors. To sum up, Kodavas believe that there is a direct link between the living and their ancestors.

    Major deviation
    Kodavas worship river Kaveri as water and not as an image. During Kaveri Sankramana to celebrate the birth of the river, goddess Kaveri is symbolically represented by a decorated coconut or cucumber.

    Another major deviation from mainstream Hinduism is the practice of meedi offerings for ancestors which consist of food items, including non-vegetarian dishes like pork, the signature dish of the Kodavas. Along with the food, liquor is also offered to invoke the blessings of ancestors. This practice is inconsistent with the rigid notions of ‘pollution’ practiced by orthodox Hindus.

    Though Kodavas had maintained their own religious identity of ancestor and nature worship, things began to change after 1600 AD with the advent of the Lingayat or Haleri kings in Kodagu. The Haleri Rajas built Hindu temples and appointed deva thakkas (temple headmen) to propagate their faith among the Kodavas. Tulu and Kannada-speaking Brahmin priests were brought from outside Kodagu to perform pooja at these temples.

    Over the years, temples dedicated to deities such as Bhagavati or Muthappan have come up in Kodagu. These deities mainly belong to the neighbouring Kerala. Igguthappa, the god dedicated to rain and harvest, was also one such belonging to Kerala. Kodavas also worship a few spirit deities like kulika, pashana murthi etc who belong to Tulunad or Kerala.

    In today’s circumstances, it is essential that we maintain our Kodava identity instead of trying to embrace mainstream Hinduism where we do not belong. The belief in ancestor and nature worship is much more rational and scientific, compared to belief in myths and rituals which are alien to Kodava religious practices. It is best they tribe remains Kodavas and not Hindus.

    (The writer is a senior journalist and author based in Bengaluru)

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> Panorama / by P T Bopanna / February 17th, 2017

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