By P.T. Bopanna

This is the season of the year when Kodavas (Coorgs) in Kodagu district of Karnataka perform the annual ritual of Karanang Kodpo held in memory of ancestors.

A 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.

“What this means to me is that for Kodavas, the relationship between ancestors and the living is direct, unmediated by anyone. Our ancestors are as much a part of us as we are part of them”, says Dr Sowmya Dechamma, Fulbright scholar and researcher, specialising in minority and Kodava cultures.

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 gods are kept in these sacred spaces. In the olden days, even the hanging lamps were not there in the central hall, and the lamp was placed in a hole made in the wall. And river Kaveri is worshipped as water and not as an image.

Kodavas should ensure the sacred spaces are preserved and avoid hanging photos and calendars in the central hall of the ancestral homes.

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.

Photo courtesy