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Coorg is fast growing hot destination for holiday makers in India. It is important to know the history of place before you book your holiday or pack your bag. Let me share you about Coorg history, Culture, Uniqueness of Kodava / Coorg Marriage, Coorg Dance form and Coorg Festivals. They are unique from rest of the country and hence British compared this with Scotland and called ? Scotland of India?.
Coorg History: The first mention of Coorg or Kodagu as it is locally and officially known is found in the Tamil Sangam Literature around 2 nd Century AD. From then on, the history of Kodagu has largely been recorded in its orality, a social history of its own people and their ways of living and relationships with the unpredictable nature that Coorg inhabits. The people of Kodagu have been small scale agriculturists with hunting and gathering supplementing subsistence until the arrival of coffee plantations with the British. As in any thick-forested hilly terrain that has harsh climatic conditions, the people of Kodagu have found means of survival that has made their minds and bodies best suited to rigor. From the well documented times of Lingayat kings (1600? 1834), to the rule of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan in late 18 th Century and the coming of British in 1834, Kodagu has had a chequered political history. After independence from the British, Kodagu was a separate C grade state until 1956 when it was merged with the then Mysore, now Karnataka state.
Coorg Culture: As has been noted by many, the culture of Coorg varies significantly from those of their neighbours leading to speculations of their origin. People have also argued that it is the isolated hilly region that Coorgs inhabit and the non-involvement of caste-hindus that has led to quite a different culture among the Coorgs. The difference in culture is manifest through its religion, language, food habits, costumes, societal structure, festivals, performances, and so on. The Kodava religion mainly revolves around ancestor worship and worship of river Kaveri. The language of Kodavas also known as Kodava, is one of the oldest Dravidian languages. As is well known, the manner of dress among Kodava is known for its striking difference. The saree which women wear has its pleats behind and the loose end on the front. This style it is noted suits the hilly and rainy terrains. The male dress which is now largely worn only during rituals is called kupya-chele, consists of a black long coat among other things. The societal structure which forms one of the most important feature of Coorg culture is its clan-based system where the Kodava society is divided into clan system and there are about 850 clans known today. Each of these clans usually trace their origin to one village in Kodagu where they have a place of ancestral worship known as kaimada. This clan system and forms of worship, different from dominant religions have fascinated anthropologists and commoners alike.
Uniqueness of Coorg Marriage: Among the many communities that inhabit Coorg, the community of Kodavas predominantly have been representing Kodagu. The practices of Kodavas that vary drastically from the neighbouring Kannada or Malayalam speakers have evinced much interest amongst many. One of the most colourful and enjoyable rituals of the Kodavas is their wedding ceremony. Kodava wedding unlike Hindu wedding, is very participatory where everyone involved ? family, clan members, villagers, extended members of family and friends equally involve. What sets apart a Kodava wedding is the practice where elders solemnise rituals, without the involvement of a priest. Also to be noted that it is the mothers of bride and groom who tie maala (a piece of jewellery, representing wedding status) to their son and daughter signalling that they are wedded. That meat including the famous Kodava pork — pandi curry, and liquor is served, there are drums and dance makes the wedding vibrant and an event that one looks forward to.
Coorg Festivals: What makes Coorg festivals celebrated by Kodavas unique is their connection to their livelihood practices. Kodavas celebrate three major festivals ? Kailpod, on September 3 rd , Kaveri Sankramana on 17 th or 18 th of October and Puthari, which falls on a full moon ? during late November or early December. Kailpod is a festival celebrated immediately after the paddy sowing and replanting season. After the season?s heavy work, Kailpod is the time to revere everything and everyone for providing Kodavas the means to survive. It is a time to make merry after the hard work demanded by the paddy cultivation. Kaveri Sankramana is the day when river Kaveri which takes birth in Talakaveri in Kodagu springs as a fountain and the day marks people?s respect to the life-giving nature. Puthari, the harvest festival is the most important and loved festival among Kodavas. Celebrations vary from clan to clan and village to village. It is a day when family members from afar come home for the first harvest of the season. Puthari is mostly celebrated in the nights and the call of poli poli deva (god, bring us prosperity) resounds in the air. After every family gets home from the paddy field the first harvest, all members feast, burn crackers, have a drink or two. It is also the puthari kalinji (puthari yam) and thambutt (snack made of rice, jiggery and banana) along with pork and kadumbutt (rice balls) that make the festival special.
Coorg Dance form: Equally colourful, vibrant and participatory are dance forms of Kodavas. The week after the harvest festival Puthari is usually the time for the villagers to gather in what is called mand and dance. While bolkkaat, Kolaat, Kattiyaat among others are for men and the popular ummattaat is for women. Like many tribal dances, what is interesting about dances among Kodavas is that they are not individual based but are group-based. There is no restriction or any rigid framework for who should dance and how. The dance largely works on improvisation and is open. Also very popular today is the dance during the last leg of Kodava wedding. This dance for the wedding valaga (music) is danced within a loose stylistic framework and is free-flowing and enjoyable.
Writer : S. Mahalingaiah, Director, Skyway International Travels, Bangalore and promoter of www.coorgtour.com