Coorg Culture

Coorg or Kodagu is fundamentally inhabited by its indigenous ethnic tribes known as the 'Kodavas'. In addition to that, other prime communities those dwell in the Kodagu District include, the Kodagu Gowdas and the Muslims. Numerous minority tribes viz. Airi, Meda, Male-Kudiya, Kembatti, Maringi, Kapal, Heggade, Kolla, Kavadi, Kurubas, Koleya, Koyava, Kanya, Kudiyas, Banna, Ganiga, Golla, Thatta, Yeravas, Malaya, etc also reside in the Coorg Province. The major languages spoken in Coorg comprise; Kodava, Are Bhashe, Kannada, Tamil, English and Hindi. The native inhabitants of Coorg also known as the 'Kshatriyas' are ancestor worshippers by practice and they have been following their inveterate martial traditions over the generations. A number of ethnic groups of Coorg locate their origin in farm laborers, hunters, gatherers and foresters too.

The citizens of Kodagu are believers by faith and worship many deities; some of them being Mahadeva, Bhagwathi, Bhadrakali, Ayyappa, Subramani, Iggutappa, etc. The most noteworthy occupations taken up by the tribal communities of Kodagu include; farmers, basket and mat-weavers, artisans, toddy-makers, wandering musicians, drummers, and so on. The most essential factor that supports and upholds the economy of Kodagu is agriculture while the chief crops cultivated in this area happen to be rice and coffee.

Here, the men wear 'Kupyas' meaning the 'knee-length half-sleeved coats' over a full-sleeved white shirt and tie 'Chale' which means a maroon and gold sash at the waist. 'Peechekath', i.e. an ornately designed silver dagger is tucked into the Chale sash and the 'Odikathi' knife is also tucked into the Chale at the back. Additionally, the shackle with a minuscule dagger and a gun augments their martial appearance. Women folk wear a sari that is pleated at the back while the pallu of the sari is wrapped in a very unique way and fixed with a brooch. Women wear either a full-sleeved or a three-quarter sleeved blouse and cover up their head with a scarf. 'Kokkethathi Jomale' is the traditional gold beaded necklace that is commonly worn by the ladies at Kodagu.

The most extraordinary festivals of Kodagu are Kailpodhu, Kaveri Sankramana and Puttari.

Kailpodhu is usually celebrated in the month of September on the 18th day after the sun enters the 'Simha Raasi'. 'Kail' means the armaments and 'Podhu' means festival while the Kailpodhu Festival denotes the conclusion of the transplantation of rice crop. On the auspicious occasion of Kailpodhu, weapons are worshipped and several games and physical sports are held. 'Thenge Porata' (seizing a coconut from the hands of 8'10 people), 'Tenge Eed' (throwing a stone at a coconut from the distance of about 10 to 15 paces), throwing a ball sized stone over the shoulders towards your back etc are the traditional contests organized at the time of Kailpodhu Festival.

Kaveri Sankramana is a traditional festival that is dedicated to the Mother Goddess 'Kaveri River'. Celebrated when the sun enters the moon sign Tula, this festival generally falls in the month of October according to the English Calendar. The Kaveri River originates from the holy tank of Talakaveri and the water of the Talakaveri Tank is believed to be extremely sacred, sin cleansing and salvation giving. Devotees and pilgrims from different corners of the region assemble here at the time of Kaveri Sankramana and immerse themselves into the blessed 'Tirtha' of Talakaveri. It is locally believed that if you feed the holy water of Talakaveri to a person who is dying, he or she will accomplish the status of complete salvation i.e. Moksha in the afterlife. On the day of Kaveri Sankramana Festival, the married women wear new silk saris and offer the 'Kanni Poojas' to a coconut or a cucumber which is believed to be symbolizing the Kaveri River or the Goddess Parvati. People cook dosa, vegetable curry and the traditional sweet called payasam on the day of Kaveri Sankramana.

Puttari also called 'Huttari' at various places is the harvest festival that is celebrated in the month of November or early December in the honor of the newly yielded crop of rice. On this day people cook various delicious dishes named Tambuttu, Puttari, Kari and Poli Poli. The common family house known here as 'Ain Mane' is decorated with banana leaves, green mangoes and colorful flowers on the occasion of Puttari and the entire family gathers there and makes merry. The eldest member of the family confers a cutting tool upon the head of the family who is later escorted by a woman of the family towards the paddy fields. The entire pathway to the paddy fields is marvelously decorated and the family sets out to the field through this pathway. A gunshot is fired, a prosperity song is sung and thus the beginning of the harvest is marked. Some portion of the freshly harvested rice is carried home and offered at the feet of the presiding deity of the family. At the time of the Puttari Festival, the youngsters light fireworks and perform dances. Not only that, a communal dinner is also arranged and the whole town partakes in this social banquet.

Kodagu in Kannada Films 'Muththina Hara' is a Kannada Movie wherein a South Indian heroine named Suhasini is portrayed wearing a Coorg style sari and dancing to the tunes of a famous Coorg Song 'Madikeri Sepoyi' (the soldier from Madikeri) against the imposing backdrop of the cloudy hills of Coorg. 'Madikeri Mele Manju' composed by G.P. Rajataram is yet another worth mentioning song which describes the 'Mist on Madikeri'. Other than these songs, numerous lyricists also derived inspiration from the arresting splendor of Coorg and composed innumerable songs relating its immaculate beauty.

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