SADGURU APPAIAH SWAMI – A SPIRITUAL TEACHER AND INSTITUTION BUILDER

By P.T. Bopanna

Sadguru Appaiah Swami (Palanganda), founder of Kaveri Ashrama in Virajpet, Kodagu district, inspired a generation of Kodavas (Coorgs) with his spiritual discourses. Appaiah Swami (in picture) had committed followers, both Kodava men and women, who were involved in running hostels at Virajpet, where thousands of Kodava children stayed as boarders over the years.

Kaveri Ashrama was in the news recently when the present head of the Ashrama, Vivekananda Sharana Swami, the son of Sadguru Appaiah Swami celebrated his birth centenary. The junior swami, won the hearts of people with his simple living and spiritual talks.

I used to call on the junior swami whenever I visited Virajpet town and handed over my books. Our conversations used to be amiable, though we held different points of view – Swami was a Vedic scholar, whereas I was a rationalist.

The Ashrama is an iconic institution of Kodavas with a record of service to the community. There have been speculation on the future of the Ashrama, its assets and the school being run by the organisation, in the wake of the aging swami not in a position to shoulder the responsibility.

Well-meaning Kodavas should take up the initiative to restore the Ashrama activities to benefit the community. For more on Sadguru, follow the link below:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appayya_Swamigalu

BIRTH CENTENARY OF VIVEKANANDA SHARANA SWAMI OF KAVERI ASHRAMA, VIRAJPET

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By P.T. Bopanna

Vivekananda Sharana Swamiji (Palanganda) of the iconic Kaveri Ashrama, Virajpet in Kodagu district of Karnataka is celebrating his birth centenary on January 12. The Swamiji (in picture), is the son of Sadguru Appaiah Swami who founded the Kaveri Ashrama in 1941.

The senior Appaiah Swami was born as Palanganda Appaiah in 1885 at Kadangamurur in Virajpet taluk.  He was in government service. Though he was married and had children, he was inspired by Ramakrishna Paramhansa and Swami Vivekananda. He became a spiritual teacher and founded a monastery in Virajpet which had several members of Kodava community who had renounced their worldly lives and pursued the path of spiritualism and service. Appaiah Swami passed away in 1956 at the age of 71.

Appaiah’s son who is known as Gappu Annaiah in family circles, became a monk and took the name of Vivekananda Sharana Swami. He was a pious man who later took the responsibility of running the Kaveri Ashrama at Virajpet. Presently, he heads the Sri Kaveri Bhaktajana Sangha which is involved in running the affairs of the Ashrama and other properties attached to the Ashrama.

There have been speculative reports on social media that a Bengaluru-based Ashrama was taking over Kaveri Ashrama as Vivekananda Sharana Swami was too old to carry on the affairs of the Ashrama. There were also reports that vested interests were trying to grab the properties of the Ashrama spread across Kodagu.

A spokesman for the Ashrama clarified that the Ashrama was being run by a trust of 15 members. All the trustees are Kodavas except a member of the Omkar Ashram in Bengaluru who has been included in the trust to offer spiritual guidance.

It is a fact that the Ashrama which was buzzing with activity in the past, has become inactive because the aging Swami is not in a position to shoulder heavy responsibility. It is time for the Swamiji to shed his responsibilities in favour of other trustees.

Since vested interests are spreading misinformation, the Kodagu district administration should keep an eye on the developments to safeguard the interests of the Ashrama.  

The spokesperson claimed the Ashrama belongs to Kodavas and will remain in the control of Kodavas.

COORG PERSON OF THE YEAR: CREATING ROLE MODELS

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By P.T. Bopanna

Kodavas, a microscopic minority community hailing from Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka, were once known for their leadership qualities. This Kodava trait of being natural leaders was very much in evidence in the Defence services and Kodagu came to be known as the ‘Land of the Generals’.

However, in the last few decades, the community has not produced many truly outstanding men and women, except in the arena of sports.

There could be many reasons for the setback. Though Kodavas are one of the most highly educated communities in India, they have not been able to break the glass ceiling in their chosen areas because of the lack of killer instinct.

As a chronicler of Kodagu, I felt one of the reasons for their inability to play leadership roles, was the absence of enough ‘role models’ in the community. There was a time when many from Kodagu used to crack the IAS, but in the recent years, one hardly comes across such achievements.

Probably, because of the reservation policy of the government, it has become difficult for Kodavas to get representation in the all-India services.

With a view to reignite the famed leadership qualities in the community,
I decided to promote ‘role models’ by starting ‘Coorg Person of the Year.’

The concept first took shape in 2005 and Dr Kavery Nambisan,
a novelist and medical practitioner, was selected as the first Coorg Person of the Year. The selection was made based on the basis of a poll I conducted through my news portal
www.coorgtourisminfo.com. There has been no looking back since then. Every year, I conduct a poll to select the Coorg Person for that year. The final choice is made by me after going through the feedback I receive from the members of my Facebook groups and pages, numbering more than 25,000.  

I did not want to confine the competition to the Kodava community, as I feel people from all communities hailing from Kodagu should be involved in the exercise. For instance, one of the joint winners of the title in 2018 was industrialist Ashok Kumar Shetty, who donated part of his land to the government for building a road which was damaged by the floods and landslides of 2018. This, despite the fact that he himself had lost a big chunk of his land to the landslide.

In 2013, Dr S.V. Narasimhan, a bird-watcher and environmentalist, who is also a medical practitioner from Virajpet town, was the choice for Coorg Person. He was featured under two categories in the 2013 edition of the Limca Book of Records.

Dr Narasimhan, the author of the book “Feathered Jewels of Coorg”, pioneered the concept of spreading wildlife conservation messages through his unique hand-painted cards.

Age is no bar while selecting the Coorg Person. For instance, the winner of 2020, Dr Sanjana Kattera, a corona warrior, is in her twenties.

I do admit that sometimes the most deserving people have failed to win the Coorg Person title because the selection is made on the basis of the contribution of a person in that particular calendar year. One of the persons who richly deserved the title, but failed to make it was the late Pandanda M.  Kuttappa, who conceptualised the Kodava ‘family hockey’ festival.

Source: ‘Coorg Role Models’ authored by P.T. Bopanna (in picture). Rolling Stone Publications (2021).  The paperback book is available on both Amazon and Flipkart.

Amazon link:

Flipkart link:

https://www.flipkart.com/coorg-role-models/p/itm52d5a3d0a5bbc

ARE KODAVAS (COORGS) A SEPARATE RACE OR A TRIBE?

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By Maj Gen Codanda K Karumbaya, SM (Retd)

I am glad that Justice (Retd) P.P. Bopanna agrees with me that Kodavas are not Hindus. He has rightly pointed out that we presently come under Hindu laws. This anomalous situation has arisen because the Union government decided to bracket small communities like Kodavas, who do not belong to any major religious groups, with the majority Hindu religion, since it is impractical to have exclusive laws for every community in India, due to the large number of communities involved.

Therefore our customary laws, which were first codified by Maj. Gen. Rob Cole in 1871, have changed and are bound to change in the future also, until we have a Uniform Civil Code as envisaged in the Constitution.  I consider that these changes are good for us and for the country. This decision of the government does not mean that we are Hindus and not a separate community. Under Article 25(2) of our Constitution, even bigger religious groups like Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists come under Hindu laws; but that has not prevented them from getting minority status.

As regards Justice Bopanna’s contention that Kodavas are a separate ‘race’ and not a ‘tribe’, it is true that a number of early writers have referred to Kodavas as a separate ‘race’.  However they have also referred to Kodavas as a unique ‘tribe’. For example, G Richter in his book ‘The Gazetteer of Coorg’ writes “The Coorgs or Kodavas as they are properly called, are the principal tribe of the country and from time immemorial, the lords of the soil………..”. But the same author writes elsewhere that “Coorgs are a hardy race and bear with fortitude a great deal of hardship…………”. Both the terms were used rather loosely by many early writers to indicate that our community is different from others in many ways.

After Independence, in pursuance of the government policy to discourage distinction between communities based on race, the 1951 Census of India did away with racial groups in India altogether. The National Census of India no longer recognises any racial group in India. Prof Ponjanda Appaiah in his book ‘A History of Coorg’, notes the views of the UNESCO published in 1951, that no race today can be called pure and that there is not the slightest scientific basis for considering race as a determinant of inferiority or superiority in the physical and mental capacities of people.

I have consulted a fellow Kodava, Dr Cheyanda Manu, who teaches anthropology in the University of Mysuru. He has confirmed that Kodavas are a separate tribe and not a race. Even the constitutional expert, Prof Balveer Arora has this to say: “While earlier the Kodavas referred to themselves as a distinctive race and/or nationality, a more accurate description of the Kodava people would be in terms of a linguistic and cultural community with distinctive tribal characteristics.” Therefore to call ourselves as a separate race would be wrong and will not be accepted. To call ourselves boastfully as a ‘martial race’ is doubly wrong because there are other communities in India that are equally brave.

Some recent authors refer to Kodavas as an ‘ethnic minority’ meaning ‘a group within a community which has different national or cultural traditions’.  According to Dr B.S. Guha, a noted sociologist, the people of India are derived from six main ethnic groups, viz. Negritos, Austrics, Mongoloids, Dravidans, Western Brachycephals and Nordics. He thereafter lists various communities coming under these different ethnic groups. Coorgs and Parsis are the two communities in India who belong to Western Brachycephals. Parsis have been given minority status. Why have Kodavas not been given the same status?

A comprehensive list of tribes in India in alphabetical order is available in the website www.culturopedia.com.  Kodavas are rightly included in this list and it has been correctly stated that members of the Kodava tribe live in the Kodagu region of Karnataka, which lies in the Western Ghats. I have gone through the entire list of these tribes. Out of 645 tribes in India which comprise 8.6% of the total population of India, only Kodavas have been denied scheduled status. (I request others to cross check my findings). I feel that this decision of the government is justifiable as we Kodavas are mostly land owners with houses of our own and good education. We therefore do not meet the criteria laid down for measuring the backwardness of a community.

Armed with facts and statistics, we should convince the policy-makers that Kodavas are a rare and unique tribal community in India which needs to be given Constitutional protection. We definitely meet the criteria for earning minority status and special status for our homeland Kodagu, where our Ainmanes (ancestral homes), Kaimadas (ancestral shrines) and Jamma lands (ancestral land with hereditary tenure) are located. We have been accorded linguistic minority status (thanks to the initiative taken by some Kodava educationists) which, however, is not the same as full minority status which entitles us to many more benefits.

As of now, we Kodavas, can blame no one but ourselves for not being united in asking for our rights under the Constitution. We do not belong to the majority communities who enjoy political power, nor do we belong to those classified as minorities, and SC/STs (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes), who are privileged to get more benefits. Ordinarily Kodavas would prefer that all citizens of India are treated equally; but because Indian politics is highly communalised, that is not going to happen. This inequality has become further aggravated by the division of the country on linguistic basis in 1956.

Unfortunately, our politicians, in whom Kodavas have so far placed great faith, have failed to promote our legitimate demands as they do not want to be on the wrong side of their political masters who belong to the majority communities. Their subservient attitude and survival instincts are understandable; but some of them have been guilty of coming in the way of Kodava unity. Prof Balveer Arora in his speech at Gonikoppal, in December 2007, at the invitation of the Codava National Council, stated: “The Codavas will need to be made aware that unless they themselves claim these as distinctive markers of their identity, the efforts to seek and gain Constitutional recognition will not find adequate support in policy making circles”.        

Our main drawback is that we do not have a common non-political organization based on democratic lines, where we can sit together, discuss our problems, find solutions, and project our demands in an appropriate manner.

Source: Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus? by P.T. Bopanna (2018). For paperback copy of the book on Amazon, please follow the link below:

ANCESTOR WORSHIP: KODAVAS (COORGS) SHOULD MAINTAIN SANCTITY OF THEIR PLACES OF WORSHIP

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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 Ainmanes.com

SECOND EDITION OF KODAVA REFERENCE BOOK ‘PATTOLE PALAME’ TO BE LAUNCHED ON OCTOBER 1

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By Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa*

The second edition of the Kodava reference book Pattole Palame will be launched on October 1. The second edition has all the songs, ballads, proverbs, stories etc. in Kodava thakk with the corresponding English translation presented side by side. The book will be launched at the Madikeri Press Club at 2 p.m.

It is nearly a century since our grandfather, Nadikerianda Chinnappa, compiled and wrote the Pattole Palame in Kannada, with the songs, stories, proverbs etc., written in the Kodava language (using the Kannada script). It was published in 1924, and has run into seven reprints – the latest being in 2019. The eighth reprint to be published by the Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy is due shortly.

It is 17 years since our English translation of the Pattole Palame was published in 2003. This book has gone into three prints, and is now out of print. It is deeply satisfying to know that it was well received and that there is a continuing demand for both the original Pattole Palame and its English translation. That has encouraged us to work on this, the second edition of our translation, in which the English text, for the most part, is the same as in the first edition, with some additional footnotes and a few improvements. The significant difference, which enhances the value of this edition, is the bilingual format adopted in it as described in what follows.

Over the years since its publication, we have gathered more information related to our customs and folklore and better nuanced the translation of some words for which we had not got the exact meanings earlier. The additional information and corrections are based on what we learnt during our many field visits all over Kodagu during 2003 to 2008 when we collected information on ainmanes (ancestral homes) for our book, ‘Ainmanes of Kodagu’ (2014), and later, when we helped authors Boverianda Uthaiah and Thangamma in editing their Kodava language dictionary, ’Kodava Arivole’ (2016). 

Very early on, some readers of our translation of the Pattole Palame had suggested that it would be useful if the next edition could adopt a bilingual format, with the English translation of the songs, stories, proverbs etc. presented alongside the originals in the Kodava language – and that is exactly what this edition does. 

In the bilingual format, the songs are presented in two parallel columns on each page, with the original Kodava song in the column to the left and its English translation in the column to the right. For stories, proverbs and larger texts, the original Kodava text and its English translation are given on facing pages. Occasionally, where the text is a short one, the original Kodava text is given first, followed by its English translation. We believe that this format will help readers and researchers of the Kodava language and culture to better understand and appreciate the words and phrases in the original work. Occasionally, in a traditional narrative in the Kodava language, the compiler has used Kannada for an introduction or a short explanation. In such instances, we have retained his Kannada text, and given the English translation next to it.

We have in this edition aimed for a closer verbal and visual equivalence between the original Kodava lines and the English translation. We have also made greater use of the recurring phrases in the original Kodava songs in the English translation too, to try to capture the lyrical resonance in the songs.   

We take this opportunity to add some observations and comments that we believe are important for the reader of the Pattole Palame to keep in mind. 

  • The Kodava language is an independent Dravidian language and not a dialect, as was wrongly surmised by early western writers. Studies have shown that the Kodava language belongs to the South Dravidian group of languages, which branched off from Proto-Dravidian, probably around 3000 years ago (1000 B.C.)
  • Besides Kodavas, about 20 other smaller communities who immigrated to Kodagu long ago consider the Kodava language as their mother tongue, and have generally adopted Kodava cultural practices and songs. They too have kept this oral tradition alive. 
  • The compiler, Nadikerianda Chinnappa, in his documentation of Kodava culture in the Pattole Palame, described the social order and value system that was prevalent when he wrote the book (late 1800s and early 1900s), without being judgmental about it.
  • Some aspects of Kodava customs, where current practice differs from what is given in the Pattole Palame, clearly show the influence of Hinduism/Brahminism on Kodava culture – an influence that appears to be increasing with time. For example, many Kodavas today follow some Hindu traditions such as the one that requires the eldest son to light the funeral pyre of his parents, although that is very unlike the Kodava tradition where it is the spouse who lights the funeral pyre. Interestingly, most people consult and follow the Pattole Palame even today, in spite of the fact that it describes the cultural practices prevalent in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
  • The influence of Hinduism/Brahminism on Kodava culture is also seen in some of the songs. The Songs of Kaveri and of Sarthavu are based on Hindu legends. So are the references to Yama, Shani and Narayana in the Funeral Song and to Hindu gods in other songs. The Songs of Gods and Goddesses in Chapter Four (all except the Song of Sarthavu) which narrate the stories of gods who ‘came‘ to Kodagu from Kerala or through Kerala clearly show the influence of religious practices and traditions prevalent in that region. On the other hand, the Songs of Heroes in Chapter Five describe the social order and traditions in the native Kodava community, with the exception of the Song of Seven Maidens.
  • It is also notable that in the Songs of Heroes, Kodava women are shown to be bold and unafraid, talking to strangers and inviting some of them to their homes. They also do not hesitate to question and challenge elders in public. In one story, a Kodava woman attacks and kills a tiger, and is honoured for that in the same traditional fashion as a man would be.

Incidentally, early in 2000, Sri G.N.Devy, Director of the project ‘Literature in Tribal Languages and Oral traditions’ of the Central Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, asked us if we could work on a trilingual edition of the book, to include a Kannada translation besides English, and add a transliteration of the Kodava songs etc., in the Roman script. The International School of Dravidian Linguistics, Trivandrum, asked us if we could work on a transliterated version of the Pattole Palame along with the English translation. The current bilingual edition is a first step in that direction. We would like to work on the Kannada translation and the transliteration of the Pattole Palame. Both these tasks need time. If we cannot, we hope that someone else will undertake this work in the future. It should be noted that a few of the songs have already been translated into Kannada by various authors.

If indeed the Kodava language is silenced and the Kodava culture is forgotten, as is feared by many, these efforts at transliteration and translation of documented Kodava customs and folklore into other languages may at the very least help retain the memories of the identity and cultural heritage of the Kodava speaking people. We, however, dare to hope that the future will challenge and disprove such apprehensions, and that these efforts will promote the preservation of the Kodava language and culture and contribute to the celebration of the diversity of languages and cultures in India.

We have been blessed by circumstances that gave us the opportunity to translate the Pattole Palame written and published by our grandfather. It is our sincere hope that this edition will further help in understanding and preserving our living traditions and folklore – a precious heritage that was handed down orally in the past and was first committed to writing in the Pattole Palame.   

* Photo of Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa, researchers

SANSKRITIZATION: FAULTY INTERPRETATION OF KODAVA CULTURE BY PROF. M.N. SRINIVAS?

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By Dr Veena Poonacha*

Background of Ethnography Frozen in Time

My review essay, ‘Ethnography  Frozen in Time,’ written in 2003, for the Economic and Political Weekly was born out of my discomfort with  Prof. M. N. Srinivas’s book Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India. This book, first written in 1952 and reprinted in 2003, with a fresh introduction from Andre Beteille, is considered a sociological classic. Yet, it was a book which disturbed me deeply, when I first read it, as a post-graduate student of sociology.  The reason why the book disturbed me was because I felt the book gazed at the Coorgs/Kodavas, as if they were specimens under a microscope.

I felt Srinivas’s interpretation of Coorg culture was not the culture I knew. As a child born to Coorg parents, I presumed I knew the culture I grew up in. It was a culture that did not recognize the ritual authority of the Brahmin priest; the various Coorg rites associated with birth, marriage and death are conducted without an officiating priest. Yet, here was a sociologist who argued that the Coorgs sought to rise in the caste hierarchy by adopting certain Brahminical values, through a process he called ‘sanskritization.’

I would have had no objection to his theory, if he was describing a simple process of acculturation (i.e., the process of cultural exchange and adaptation) which occurs naturally in a shared socio-cultural space. What I found objectionable was the ways by which his own caste location as a Brahmin coloured his view of Coorg society and religion. In my view, although moulded by several strands of cultural influences, Coorg culture is unique.  It was a culture that did not acknowledge the ritual superiority of the Brahmin priests.

The flipside was that I decided way back in 1985 to pursue my PhD and study the Coorg cultural heritage.  I was awarded a PhD degree in 1991 for my thesis Women in Coorg Society: A Study of Status and Experiences through the Use of Proverbs, Folksongs, Oral Histories and Genealogies. It was an attempt to study Coorg culture from the standpoint of women’s experiences.

While undertaking my thesis, I was advised by my guide, Dr.Neera Desai, an eminent sociologist, not to question Srinivas’s concept of ‘sanskritization,’ since he was considered one of the doyens of Indian sociology. However after receiving my PhD, I have been able to present an alternative interpretation of Coorg culture within social history. It was only when the Economic and Political Weekly asked me to review his book in 2003 that I was able to voice my critique in the review.

Srinivas’s interpretation of Coorg culture is still largely unchallenged. So defining was Srinivas’s work, that even writers like B.D. Ganapathy, who in the 1960s to 1980s wrote extensively on Coorg culture, did not question it. This is not to discount the importance of B.D. Ganapathy’s work.  I have referred to his works extensively for my thesis. I feel B.D. Ganapathy’s works as well as I. M. Muthanna’s works should be preserved and made available widely.  It is in this context that I feel, the translation of Pattole Palame by Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa into English is extremely important. It has made Nadikerianda Chinnappa’s valuable work available to all scholars on Coorg. In translating this classic into English, Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa have rendered yeomen service to scholars who undertake the study of the Coorgs. Many other Coorg scholars are now writing about our unique heritage, which to my mind is a positive trend.

Source: Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus? by P.T. Bopanna, Rolling Stone Publications, 2018.

*Photo of Dr Veena Poonacha

The paperback copy of the book is available on Amazon:

AUTONOMOUS KODAGU COUNCIL IS THE ANSWER

By Dr Sandeep Shastri*

The Indian federal system is unique and distinct in a wide range of ways. The defenders of the classical Western notion of federalism even went to the extent of arguing that India was not a truly federal state. They were willing to concede only a quasi-federal status to the Indian arrangement as crafted by the Constitution. If federalism is seen not as a set of formal institutions and procedures but as a ´way of managing diversity’, then it could be argued that the political system the Constitution inaugurated was very much a federal system.

Both at the dawn of Independence and at the moment of the adoption of the Constitution, a variety of factors dominated the nature and course of politics in the country. A theme that appears to be the undercurrent of all political activities was the desire to maintain the unity and integrity of India. This was a concern which was topmost on the minds of most well-meaning Indians. There were differences and debates on how that unity was to be forged and the integrity was to be protected. The Congress leadership in the early years after freedom was convinced of the need for a strong Centre and questions of state rights were not a high order of priority. Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru even went to the extent of asserting that it really did not make a difference whether a region was part of one state or another as long as it was an integral part of the Indian Union!

This mindset provides a backdrop for the analysis of developments relating to the status of Kodagu around the time of the re-organization of states in 1956. Any demand for a new state was invariably kept waiting at the “gates” of existing boundaries that had been roughly drawn up and the effort appeared more to be to negotiate all such demands within the contours of the states already broadly worked out. Kodagu was one such demand that was negotiated in this manner and thus became a part of the Mysore (later Karnataka state).

The Kodagu region which became a district of the Karnataka State, started off with just two Assembly seats which later increased to three when the number of seats in the state legislature increased. With the new round of delimitation of the Assembly constituencies, the seats assigned to Kodagu have once again reduced to just two.

With the reorganisation of States, Kodagu lost its identity as a distinct Parliamentary constituency and became a part of Mangalore and later Mysore West Lok Sabha constituency. In recent years, the Lok Sabha member representing the constituency which covers the Kodagu region has never been from the Kodagu area.

Over the years the Kodagu region has seen an increasingly assertive demand for its being given the status of a state of the Indian union. This demand has gained currency largely because of the manner in which the region has lost its political clout and representation within the Indian Union on the one hand and its inability to bargain effectively within the state of Karnataka. Given the limited number of seats it has in the state Assembly, its voice is often not heard in the corridors of power. Successive chief ministers have given a token representation to the region by making a legislator from that region as a minister and really nothing more. Even though the region has the distinction of providing the state with a chief minister, it did not alter in any significant way the weightage of the region in either the State or the Indian Union.

The question is not one of mere political representation. It is a fact that the cultural distinctiveness of the region is fast eroding. Little has been done to develop the economic base of the region and effectively tap its tourist potential. This automatically triggers off the demand for a distinct status.

Given the contemporary reality and the nature of politics and political processes in India, what best can the Kodagu region and its people hope for? It may be a bit far fetched to demand the status of a separate state at this point of time. There are larger regions with stronger claims for a separate state that the Indian Union finds difficult to concede. It is clearly apparent that the Central government will not re-open the states reorganisation question but will take up individual demands from time to time.

In this context and keeping in mind the best interests of the Kodagu region and its people, it may be more worthwhile for a limited autonomy being sought. The creation of an Autonomous Kodagu Council within the State of Karnataka may be a more viable option. There could be a clear delineation of functions and responsibilities outlined in the provisions for the creation of this Council. It would then be the responsibility of the people of the region to ensure that this Autonomous Council zealously works to protect and promote the cultural, social, political and economic interests of the region.

*Dr Sandeep Shastri (in picture) is a political commentator.  

Source: ‘Rise and Fall of the Coorg State’ by P.T. Bopanna, Rolling Stone Publications, 2009.

The ebook is available at Google Play Store:

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/P_T_Bopanna_Rise_And_Fall_Of_The_Coorg_State?id=8y1lEAAAQBAJ

HEROES OF THE FREEDOM MOVEMENT IN COORG    

By P.T. Bopanna         

Though the Coorgs (Kodavas) benefited from the British rule, the nationalist movement sweeping India, did not spare Coorg (Kodagu). The freedom movement threw up several leaders from Coorg. Many common people, including students, courted arrests in large numbers to protest against the British rule.  During the ‘Quit India’ movement alone, 150 people were arrested in Coorg and 80 persons were imprisoned.

Among those who were in the lead during the early years of the freedom struggle, were Congressmen – Pandianda I. Belliappa (in picture) and Paruvangada Kushalappa. The latter had an untimely death in 1928 at Madras while he was returning from the Calcutta Congress session.

The first batch of freedom fighters to be arrested in Coorg in 1930 were Pandianda Belliappa, Kollimada Karumbayya (who later became a Rajya Sabha MP in 1954-55), Janab Abdul Ghafur Khan, of Bilugunda, and H.R. Krishnayya, of Besagur.

Coorg women did not lag behind during the freedom struggle. The women who courted arrest were Baliatanda Muddavva, Pandianda Seetha Belliappa, and Mukkatira Bojamma.

The Kodagu Weekly, started by the Coorg Company in 1920, was instrumental in spreading the nationalistic awareness among the people. The stalwarts of the freedom struggle, including Pandianda Belliappa and C.M. Poonacha were part of the editorial team of the Weekly which featured mainly political issues.

In 1929, Congress volunteers picketed liquor shops and other business establishments selling foreign goods at Virajpet and Madikeri. In a daring act, Mallengada Chengappa, B.G. Ganapaiah and Mandepanda Cariappa removed the Union Jack, and hoisted the Indian National flag at the Madikeri Fort in December, 1930.

Around the same period, C.M. Poonacha was involved in the composing, cyclostyling and distribution of a publication named ‘Veerabharati’ from Gonikoppal.  The police finally managed to track the cyclostyling machine. Poonacha was sentenced to nine months rigorous imprisonment at Kannur jail. 

Students of the Madikeri Central High School too participated in a strike, leading to the closure of the school for 10 days. The students arrested on the occasion included S.R. Narayana Rao (literary figure Bharati Suta), C.B. Monnaiah and Poojari Ramappa. The students were rusticated from the school.

Public meetings were held at Virajpet, Gonikoppal, Hudikeri and Irpu to spread political awareness. Among those who addressed these meetings were Jammada Madappa, Chokanda Devaiah, Kalengada Chinnappa, Vokkaligara Annaiah, Ajjamada Madappa, Ajjamada Ayyamma, Ajjikuttira Chinnappa, and Ajjikuttira Ponnappa.

Harikatha Vidwan Belur Keshavadas was externed from Kodagu for staging Harikatha programmes to infuse patriotic feelings among the people.

Several senior Congress leaders such as Allur Venkata Rao, Ranganath Diwakar, and Kamaladevi Chattopadya visited Coorg to motivate local leaders.  Eminent writers like D. R. Bendre, K.V. Puttappa, Masti Venkatesh Iyengar, D.V. Gundappa also made trips to Coorg to enthuse the people. 

Many affluent planters who were used to dressing in Western attire and consuming foreign liquor, started wearing traditional Indian dresses and also gave up alcohol.

In 1930, the sale of liquor was affected due to the picketing of liquor shops under the leadership of Koravanda Ponnappa. Many women, led by Kotera Accavva picketed liquor shops.

During the annual Keil Poldu festival, the sale of liquor came down from 800 gallons to 200 gallons at Virajpet and from 300 gallons to 36 gallons at Gonikoppal. Consequently, several excise contractors were not able to pay the bid amount and had to give up their contracts. According to a report, the sale of arrack which was 2,742 gallons in Coorg in 1929, dropped to 229 gallons in 1930.

Mahatma Gandhi toured Coorg in February, 1934, to propagate the eradication of untouchability. The Mahatma visited the Harijan colony at Kaikeri in South Coorg. He stayed at the Ramakrishna Ashrama at Ponnampet. Gandhiji who entered Coorg from Thithimathi, visited Gonikoppal, Hudikeri, Virajpet, Ammathi, Siddapur and Suntikoppa prior to addressing a large public meeting at the ground near the Raja’s Seat in Madikeri.

The freedom struggle peaked in Coorg during the Quit India movement. Pandianda Belliappa, Kotera Karumbaiah, Chekkera Monnaiah, and Kollimada Karumbaiah were arrested in August, 1942. C.M. Poonacha was arrested while returning from the Bombay session of the Congress. Subsequently, Biddanda Cariappa, Korana Devaiah, Mandepanda Somaiah were arrested. They were taken to the Vellore Jail in Madras State. Students too were in the forefront of the movement. These included Ajjikuttira Appanna, Paruvangada Uttanna, B.D. Subbaiah, Maneypanda Chinnappa, and Singura Kuttappa. Around 90 students of the Virajpet High School were expelled from the school hostel.

The office of the Kodagu Weekly was sealed and its Sub-Editor B.D. Ganapathy was arrested.

The events which marked the freedom struggle in Coorg go to prove that the people of Coorg did not lag behind in nationalist fervour and sacrifice. 

Source: Rise and Fall of the Coorg State by P.T. Bopanna. Rolling Stone Publications (2009). The ebook is available on Google Play store.

https://play.google.com/store/books/details/P_T_Bopanna_Rise_And_Fall_Of_The_Coorg_State?id=8y1lEAAAQBAJ

KODAVA HERITAGE: WHY ‘KODAVAME’ (COORG WAY OF LIFE) IS RELEVANT TODAY?

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Researchers Dr Boverianda Nanjamma Chinnappa and Boverianda Chinnnappa (in picture) have tried to answer the question as to why Kodavame or Kodava way of life is relevant today.

In their foreword to the book ‘Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus?’, the couple has noted that Kodavame is a precious heritage “handed down to us by our ancestors”.

In their foreword, the Chinnappas wrote:

We commend P.T.Bopanna for his initiative in selecting the theme for this book and bringing together well-known writers to contribute to it – a book whose time has come. This book may well be the catalyst that will help Kodavas understand and appreciate their way of life and take steps to preserve it.

The title of this book ‘Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus?’ is undoubtedly thought-provoking. It is an important question for today’s Kodavas to ponder upon – a question that may not even occur to most of them. While seeking to answer it, this book attempts to understand the question, discusses it from various points of view, and introspects on ‘Kodavame’, the way of life of the Kodava community.

Kodavas are an ancient tribe, who were primarily ancestor and nature worshippers. Like most primitive tribes, they deified their ancestors; they respected the forces of nature that governed their lives, and worshipped the deities who they believed embodied or controlled each of these forces.

Hinduism is an ancient religion that evolved over a long period of time. It is more a spiritual way of life than an organized religion. Unlike the other major religions, Hinduism has no one holy text that defines it but a multitude of sacred writings that cover a whole range of beliefs. Amongst its countless gods are the tribal deities who were absorbed into the Hindu pantheon.   

Over time, with the spread of Hinduism in South India, Kodavas, like other tribal groups, assimilated some of the Hindu beliefs and forms of worship, although they did not accept Brahmins in their rituals or adopt the caste system of Hinduism. Their deities too were absorbed into the Hindu pantheon.

The articles in this well-researched and informative book address the question posed in the title from the points of view of several writers – views that overlap, converge, diverge and sometimes are quite different from each other. The writers have defined the key words in the title, or words related to it – ‘Kodavas’, ‘Hindus’ and ‘religion’ – in order to clarify and elaborate their views. They have pointed out the stark differences between some of the Kodava customs and those followed by Hindus and have shown how, over time, the Kodava way of life has moved towards the Hindu way of life. And, in order to give some context to the question, they have described Kodava customs and practices and narrated its history in brief.

The author of the book, P.T.Bopanna, says this is “a serious effort…to analyze and debate the various facets of Kodava religion” and “to inform Kodavas, especially the younger generation, about their original faith and belief system” and “help them to better appreciate their original faith which is slowly being eroded….”

That raises another question – why is it important that Kodavas be made aware of and appreciate their original faith? This has been answered in different ways by the writers and may be summed up as: so that they are inspired to maintain their unique identity and faith which respects elders and nature and which keeps their society stable and helps protect the environment. One may further ask – but why is it important to practice and preserve this unique identity and faith? To which, the answer in this book is: because it adds to the diversity and richness of global culture and helps it survive, just as the variety of species in nature adds to the rich biodiversity of life on earth and helps it survive.

We wish to add another dimension to this answer: The immensely practical and pragmatic nature of Kodava customs made them easy to comply with. Because the codes of conduct and traditions of Kodava faith were transmitted orally down generations, with no ‘guru’ or ‘dogmatic document’ to dictate customs, they were not frozen in time, and remained flexible enough to meet the needs of changing circumstances.

In the words of Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakishnan: “It is essential to every religion that its heritage should be treated as sacred” to help “transmit culture and ensure the continuity of civilization.”… “A living tradition influences our inner faculties, humanizes our nature, and lifts us up to a higher level. By means of it, every generation is moulded in a particular cast which gives individuality and interest to every cultural type.”

The writers Bopanna chose for the book, as their articles reveal, have themselves lived the Kodava way of life, have observed Kodava cultural practices keenly, studied them, thought deeply about them and questioned them. They have written honestly, boldly, forcefully, and with conviction. Each writer wrote from his or her perspective, unaware of what the other contributions to the book would be, and that has added to the value of the book as a text to be debated.

We urge Kodavas to read this book attentively, debate and discuss the views presented in it, especially the ‘way forward’ suggested at the end. And, at a personal level, we encourage them to understand and practice the simple, unique faith of the Kodavas with pride. Kodavame is a precious heritage handed down to us Kodavas by our ancestors. We hope that it will be practiced and preserved for generations to come, and continue to add to the rich diversity of faiths in India. 

Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus? by P.T. Bopanna is available on Amazon: