By P.T. Bopanna

Over 25 years ago, I was invited for lunch at Bengaluru’s iconic Koshy’s by Dr S.A. Subbaiah, IPS, who was then heading the Karnataka State police intelligence wing.

It was unusual to be invited by a top intelligence official. But the invitation was preceded by several developments in which the prime minister’s office (PMO) was interested.

H.D. Deve Gowda had become the prime minister in 1996. He was still preoccupied with the politics in his home state of Karnataka. So much so that it was being joked that Gowda was the ‘chief minister of India and prime minister of Karnataka.’

Around that time, I was hand-picked by the editor of The Pioneer (Delhi) Chandan Mitra to be the Special Correspondent in Bengaluru. I quit Times of India and joined The Pioneer. My brief was to concentrate on the new prime minister who was not well known in Lutyens Delhi.

I produced a series of exclusive articles on Gowda, most of which did not show Gowda in favourable light.

Around that time, I visited the house of Prof. K. Venakatagiri Gowda, a former BJP Member of Parliament. Prof Gowda had turned a bitter critic of Deve Gowda, apparently over Vokkaliga Sangha politics.

Prof. Venakatagiri Gowda told me that he had completed a book on the prime minister and shared with me excerpts from the book titled ‘The King of Corruption and the Unmaking of India’.

The Pioneer carried my ‘scoop’ and it triggered a political storm in Karnataka. No sooner Prof Gowda announced that he was coming out with yet another book on the prime minister. The PMO wanted to ensure that the book did not see the light of the day.

Around that time, I used to speak over the phone with Dr Subbaiah, who held the rank of additional director general of police (intelligence). One fine day, he invited me for lunch at Koshy’s.

Being a teetotaller, he did not take any drinks, but I ordered a beer. We both had a pleasant time discussing developments in Karnataka. It was a memorable occasion because Dr Subbaiah was one of the most well-informed persons I had met in my journalistic career. He had worked for over 17 years with the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s external espionage (spying) agency.

I wish to go down the memory lane and recall my first meeting with Dr Subbaiah, nearly half a century ago.

After completing my MA in political science from Karnataka University, I had approached him to get my marks card attested. He was then the SP of Mysuru. During our interaction, he seemed too busy and did not engage in any ‘small talk’ that follows a meeting between two Kodavas (Coorgs).

Dr Subbaiah was a workaholic and this seems to have led to his sudden death at the age of 52. He collapsed near his house in Indiranagar during his morning walk.

Had he been alive, he would have retired either as Karnataka’s Director General of Police or the head of RAW or Intelligence Bureau.


By P.T. Bopanna

The Kodava community (Coorgs) in Karnataka was once known for its progressive and cosmopolitan outlook. But things have changed. Nowadays, a section of the women in the community observe everything through ‘saffron tinted’ glasses.

These women are upset with actress Rashmika Mandanna of ‘Pushpa – The Rise’ fame for wearing sleeveless blouse while wearing a Kodava or Coorg style sari recently.  

Rashmika wore a midnight blue georgette sari by designer Nitika Gujral. The gorgeous sari featured antique zardozi embroidery. 

When I posted Rashmika’s photo in Kodava sari on Facebook, some of these matronly ladies left comments (hidden!) disapproving Rashmika showing her bare arms.

These ladies forget the fact that fashion is a form of self-expression at a particular period and place and in a specific context.

I wish to bring it to the notice of these ladies, that in the past, a Coorg widow wore only white in the case of the sari, blouse and vastra (head dress). This is not strictly adhered nowadays which is an indication of the progressive thinking in the Coorg society.

For their information, sleeveless or half-sleeved blouses are of recent phenomenon. In the olden days, Kodava women wore Kala Kupya with long sleeves and closed up to the neck.

Gradually, the short sleeved, round-necked choli replaced the traditional jacket. There was a considerable amount of change in this garment after the British annexed Coorg in 1834. There were variations in the styling of the neck. The jacket saw the introduction of the high neck and the band collar. The placket was also first seen with the jacket having an opening in the front. The sleeve also became stylish and fitted with an opening at the end with a sleeve placket.

The jacket initially was a shapeless garment only serving the purpose of an upper garment. Following the influence of the British, the stitching patterns changed. What was initially a garment without darts, had darts in front and at the back. Then came the princess seam and also the patch pocket to serve the utilitarian purpose.

The fabrics changed from cotton to silk to experimental fabrics such as satin and velvet which were more often than not imported. The trims also became more fanciful and instead of the usual press buttons, pearl and shell buttons were used.

For more on Kodava sari, follow the link below:


By P.T. Bopanna

The Coorg style sari recently worn by actress Rashmika Mandanna (in picture), who is fresh from the success of the movie ‘Pushpa-The Rise’ has thrown the spotlight on Kodava (Coorg) sari.

Rashmika, who won the title National Crush of India, hails from the Kodava community in Karnataka’s Kodagu (Coorg) district. Kodavas have a distinct culture.

The Coorg style of draping a sari involves tucking the pleats at the back of the waist, instead of the front. The end of the sari is brought below the left shoulder, and secured over the right shoulder in a firm knot. This style suits Coorg women leading an active life while climbing up and down slopes in their mountainous homeland in the Western Ghats in the Indian State of Karnataka.

Sharing the ‘Coorg Sari’ video featuring Femina Miss India (Miss Photogenic) 2011 Dayana Erappa. Directed by fashion guru Prasad Bidapa, the video featuring Dayana, an international model who is also from Coorg, demonstrates step by step the sequence involved in draping the Coorg style sari. 


C, the first exclusive website devoted to Coorg jewellery and costume, has completed 10 years. The culture of Kodavas (Coorgs) in Kodagu district of Karnataka is distinct from that of its neighbours in southern India.

Besides jewellery, the website has sections for Coorg sari, men’s costume and accessories.

The unique aspect of some of the Coorg jewellery is that they are hollow and lac is filled inside to give them a sturdy appearance. The repousse work commonly used in Coorg jewellery, uses a small quantity of metal, beaten to paper thinness, to convey an impression of weight and solidity, and a three-dimensional effect.

Coorg style bracelets (kadagas) have become popular with non–Coorg women in cities like Mysuru and Bengaluru.

An interesting part of the website is a video featuring Dayana Erappa, an international model who is also from Coorg, on how to drape a Coorg style sari. The video has been directed by fashion guru Prasad Bidapa.

There is a section devoted to Coorg wedding which is a colourful affair and an occasion that allows women an opportunity to show off their saris and jewellery.

Input for the website was contributed by Chindamada Arati Monappa, textile designer. Designer Mevada Deepali Vedprakash also offered valuable help.

The website also features a Coorg jewellery video put together by Dr Dechu Puliyanda from Southern California.  Dr Dechu was helped by Koopadira Aiyanna.

The website was part of the effort by journalist P.T. Bopanna to chronicle the rich traditions of Coorg. The jewellery website was designed by Tiramisu, a Bangalore-based new media solutions company.

For more, check out



By M.M. Thimmaiah*

“What should Kodavas fight for?” is a question typical of a community stranded at the crossroads of their socio-cultural journey. The question can also be rephrased as, “Which road should Kodavas take?” One road will take them towards reaffirmation of their cultural identity and clinging to their roots in Coorg. In political terms this will mean a separate fight for our land, language and continuation of privileges like Exemption under the Arms Act, as also a demand for special constitutional protection for this unique micro-ethnic group in education and jobs. The other road may mean merging in the cultural mainstream of the Nation and making common cause with all the groups fighting for better governance and equal opportunity, through the mechanism of parliamentary democracy.

Before we chart out future journey, a brief recap of our recent past may be in order. The period between 1834 when the British took over the administration of Coorg and 1956, when Coorg was merged with Karnataka seems in retrospect, as a golden era of Kodavas. The establishment of rule of law with a permanent judiciary, the documentation of land records, opening of schools and recruitment of Kodavas in the British Army and Civil Service created ample opportunities for the advancement of the community. The introduction of coffee, a stable commercial crop enabled Kodavas to develop their idle bane lands and establish a sound financial base. Leaving behind generations of persecution and bloodshed the population of Kodavas rose from 24,000 in the 1861 census (quoted by Rev. Richter in the Coorg Gazetteer) to an estimated 100,000 by the middle of the 20th century.

Just before the merger with Karnataka, Kodavas were the dominant social group in Coorg with widespread land ownership, universal literacy, high social status and plenty of job opportunities. The merger of Coorg with the erstwhile Mysore state, at one stroke, not only ended the dominant political role of Kodavas, but saw the beginning of a slow and steady erosion of our rights over our lands and natural resources. Kodava language, culture and heritage were threatened by the progressive state-sponsored imposition of Kannada in education and administration.

Sporadic protests did occur against the steady colonisation of Kodagu. The earliest uprising was against the Barapole and Kumardhara water diversion projects which would have caused submergence of large tracts of low-lying areas in Coorg to supply irrigation water to other districts. During the late 70’s and 80’s Kodagu Moolanivasigala Sangha highlighted the issue of occupation of government revenue lands by settlers from outside, edging out local landless tribals. By the mid-eighties, the Kodagu Ekikarana Ranga was formed as an umbrella organisation, representing all major segments of society, to highlight the lack of development and the special problems of Coorg in the areas of land tenures, tree rights, etc.

Around this time the emergence of a separatist organisation named Liberation Warriors of Kodagu (LIWAK) with its demand for statehood for Kodagu caught the imagination of Kodavas. It brought a lot of media attention to the plight of Kodavas by organising colourful protests in state and national capitals. The organisation however frequently changed its name and objectives and refused to be part of broad-based protests with other ethnic groups of Coorg who were also suffering from neglect by the State government. The symbolic protests of CNC and demands submitted to constitutional heads like the Governor or the President hardly produced any administrative response. The closed leadership of the organisation and the extreme highlighting of caste identity, has unfortunately led to the alienation of Kodavas from the political mainstream and weakened our impact.

The early nineties saw the successful struggle for free market in coffee, to end the exploitation of coffee growers under the monopoly pooling system of Coffee Board. The introduction of free market for coffee not only transformed the economy of Coorg, but initiated a change in the mind-set of Kodavas. Unlike our ancestors, Kodavas are now aware of market dynamics, risk-taking, new forms of investment other than farming, and are slowly learning entrepreneurship.

The present plight of Kodavas is not as miserable as the perception created by the popular narrative of victimhood. Thanks to the merit-based CET system of admission to professional courses and opening up of opportunities in the IT sector, the educated younger generation have been able to find good jobs in the private sector. This has softened the blow from the loss of government jobs due to reservation and corruption in recruitment. The rise in prices of coffee and pepper has enabled even small planters to invest in improvements to their estates, further boosting their incomes in the long run. In fact many of the problems of the community such as extravagant lifestyle, alcoholism and gambling, rising rates of divorce, lack of interest in education and recklessness among youth, are more the symptoms of an affluent and care-free community. These malaise, however glaring do not constitute an existential threat to the community, which is on course in its steady progress. The present generation of Kodavas being well-educated, smart and confident, are poised to grab the opportunities offered by our growing globalised economy.

So what should be the future course of action for the Kodavas in political terms? In a democracy based on one-man-one-vote system, numerically insignificant groups like the Kodavas are bound to be side-lined and neglected by the political system. Dominant groups like the Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Kurubas, Scheduled Castes and Muslims control state power by promoting caste-based politics.

A tiny minority like the Kodavas cannot play the same game of identity politics or that of mass protests as it will hardly create a ripple in state or national levels. As most of the problems faced by us like poor governance, corruption and lack of development are not unique to our community but are common issues, Kodavas should join mainstream movements where they can take leadership positions. Despite our small numbers, Kodavas in the past reached high positions because of our admired qualities such as integrity, courage and sense of fair-play. It may be wiser for Kodavas to leverage this “soft-power” rather than try to match the muscle power and overwhelming numbers of the other social groups.

*Machimada Thimmaiah, a former economist and banker lives in Coorg. A farmer activist, he heads the Coorg Public School, Gonikoppal, Kodagu district.


By P.T. Bopanna

By a happy coincidence, Kodava language has been the flavour of the season this January.

It began with the news that Pattole Palame, the monumental work by Nadikerianda Chinnappa, covering Kodava culture, folksongs and traditions, had completed 100 years.

This was followed by an illuminating article by researchers Boverianda Chinnappa and Nanjamma Chinnappa, who maintained that Kodava thakk, the language spoken by the Kodavas (Coorgs), is an independent Dravidian language and not a dialect, as was wrongly surmised by early Western writers.

I am happy that both the stories were featured prominently in the blog of my recently promoted website, to preserve and promote the unique Kodava culture.

My posts received a lot of buzz and interesting responses. One of them was from Palandira Shubha, who lives in Bahrain. She wrote: “I have a copy of this much cherished book Pattole Palame which was originally presented to my maternal grandfather, Parvangada Kushalappa by the famous Kodava playwright Appaneruvanda Appacha kavi himself! Kushalappa gave it to his older daughter, Boju who gave it to her sister, Bollu (my mum). And I got it eventually.”

While on the Kodava language, I wish to point out that one of the most important literary works which came out in the recent years was the  ‘Koḍava Arivōlé’ (dictionary), by Dr. Boverianda Chetticha Uthaiah and Boverianda Uthaiah Thangamma (in picture), published by Kodava Samskritika Adhyayana Peetha, Mangalore University, 2016.

Though a few Kodava dictionaries had been published in the past, Arivole is the first comprehensive tri-lingual dictionary which, besides providing meanings of the Kodava words in Kannada and English, explains the meaning of words in the Kodava language itself. This dictionary will serve as an important resource material for the development and research of Kodava language in the coming years. The Arivole also uses diacritical marks to indicate the correct pronunciation of Kodava words which are written in the Kannada script. 

Dr Uthaiah, a former professor of agricultural sciences, had told this writer a few years ago that since he was not in a position to write due to age-related problems, he was assisted by his wife in the writing part of the work. Thangamma, born in the Kolera family, helped in the inclusion of Kodava words from Kiggatnad in the dictionary.

Dr. Uthaiah and Thangamma dedicated 15 years to collecting Koḍava words and their meanings to make the dictionary as comprehensive as possible.



By Boverianda Chinnappa and Nanjamma Chinnappa*

A language is not only a means of communication – it is a repository of the cultural values and traditions of a people and an important determinant of its identity. It is a living, dynamic record of the history and experiences of a people, memories of which are preserved and conveyed to future generations in words, proverbs, riddles, songs, myths and stories. 

Kodava thakk (the Kodava language) is the language spoken by the native communities of the district of Kodagu (Coorg), in the State of Karnataka. It is a language whose origin probably dates back to the early history of the region.

International language experts such as Prof.M.B.Emeneau, Prof.P.S. Subrahmanyam and Dr. R.Balakrishnan among others have established that Kodava thakk is an independent Dravidian language and not a dialect, as was wrongly surmised by early western writers.

It is said to be one of the oldest spoken languages in South India, an oral language that now uses the Kannada script. Prof. Emeneau, an Emeritus Professor, Dept. of Linguistics, Univ. of California Berkeley, a scholar in Sanskrit and Dravidian languages, stayed in Coorg for many months, studying the language.  Prof.P.S. Subrahmanyam Prof of Linguistics at Annamalai University, spent time after retirement studying the Kodava language and Dr. R.Balakrishnan Prof. of Linguistics at Annamali University, wrote two books on the Kodava language, Phonology of Kodagu with Vocabulary (1976) and A Grammar of Kodagu (1977).

That the Kodava language belongs to the Dravidian family of languages is undisputed, whatever may be the origin of the Kodavas. Comparative Dravidian studies have shown that the Kodava language belongs to the South Dravidian group of languages, which branched off from Proto-Dravidian. In that group it is closely related to Tamil-Malayalam. The other members of the group are Irula, Kota, Toda, Kannada, Tulu and Koraga. 

Kodava thakk is the mother tongue of the Koḍava community and of about 20 communities of the very early inhabitants of Kodagu. These include the Airi, Amma, Banna, Banya, Boone Patta, Golla, Hajama, Heggade, Kaniya, Kapala, Kembatti, Kodava Nair, Koleya, Koyava, Madivala, Maleya, Marangi, Meda, Panika and Poomale Kudiya, all of whom live mainly in the Kodagu region. All these communities, including the Kodava, are ethno-linguistic minority communities in Kodagu, and together they constitute about 17% of the population of Kodagu.

Besides these, some of the later immigrants who put down their roots in Kodagu are also fluent in Koḍava thakk, a language that they use for everyday conversation – often among themselves, in the market-place, and with communities whose mother-tongue is Kodava. Therefore the actual number of people who can and do speak Kodava thakk is larger than the number for whom Kodava thakk is the mother-tongue.

When the Haleri kings, whose mother tongue was Kannada, started to rule Kodagu in 1600, they imposed Kannada as the court language and as the official language of Kodagu. Ever since then, Kannada has had a major influence on Kodava thakk. When the British rule started in 1834, they introduced formal education in Kodagu with the establishment of schools. Most of the schools had Kannada as the medium of instruction. This strengthened the influence of Kannada on Kodava thakk, an influence which has increased further after Kodagu became a district in the State of Karnataka in 1956.

As is true for any living language, Kodava thakk cannot remain static and insulated from interaction with and from being influenced by other languages with which it has contacts. It continues to grow, borrowing from other languages, especially from Kannada. It has borrowed a few words from Hindi which was acquired by the large number of people from Kodagu who joined the Indian armed forces, and from English which became popular because of the demands of education and employment in modern times.

While Kannada continues to be the official and administrative language in Kodagu, the Kodava language is used primarily in the home, and during cultural occasions and community gatherings. Those whose mother-tongue is Koḍava thakk have a deep attachment to it and the language is an important marker of their identity. 

Koḍava thakk is a spoken language with no script. It does not have much written literature to speak of, as is true for the vast majority of languages of the world. But it is a language that is rich in traditional folk literature – folk-songs, folk-tales, folk-plays, ballads, proverbs, riddles and sayings, all of which were transmitted orally down generations of Kodava-speaking people.  During the rule of the Haleri kings, the Kodava language began to be written in the Kannada script, and following that the folk literature too was written in Kannada to help preserve and pass it on to future generations.  

However, there is a need for five diacritical marks to distinguish the vowel sounds that are peculiar to the language and help pronounce Koḍava words correctly when written in the Kannaḍa script – these diacritical marks have been used in the trilingual Kodava languge dictionary, ‘Koḍava Arivole’ (2016), by Dr. Boverianda C. Uthaiah & Mrs. Boverianda Thangamma Uthaiah.

There is a common misconception that Kodava thakk is a dialect and not a language, since it is an oral language with no script of its own. If the definition of a ‘language’ is ‘one that has its own script’, many major languages of the world like English, French, Spanish and German, which too do not have their own script and use the Roman/Italian script, and Hindi, which uses the Devanagri script, should be called dialects, which of course they are not.

The main body of literature in the Kodava language is oral folk-literature. A very early compilation of Kodava proverbs was done by a German missionary, J.F.Wile in 1886.  It was only in the early 1900s that stories, poems, songs, novels and plays etc., began to be written in Kodava thakk using the Kannada script.

The earliest published works in Koḍava thakk, now considered as classics, are the four plays by Appaneravanda Appacha Kavi (1868-1944) – Yayathi Maharajanda Nataka (1906), Savithri Nataka (1908), Subrahmaṇya Swami Nataka (1908) and Shri Moola Kaveri Nataka (1918) – all of which contain many poems.

And the two books by his contemporary Nadikerianda Chinnappa (1875-1931), the Pattole Palame, a compilation of Kodava folk-songs, proverbs and riddles (along with a description of  customs, written in Kannada) (1924), and Bhagavanthanda pat, his translation of the Bhagavad Gita in the balo pat style of Koḍava folk-songs (1929).  

Other early writers in the Koḍava language since the 1940’s were Bachamada D.Ganapathy and Iychettira M.Muthanna. In the past few decades there have been many more writers in the Kodava language, motivated and encouraged by the Koḍava language weeklies, and institutions such as the Kodava Thakk Parishath and the Karṇataka Koḍava Sahithya Academy. The popular Koḍava language weekly newspapers, Brahmagiri that started publication in 1980, and Poomālé that has been in print since 1997, have contributed much to promote and encourage writers and readers in the Koḍava language.

In 2007, the Karṇataka Koḍava Sahithya Academy,jointly with the Central Institute of Indian Languages, Mysuru, brought out a Language Primer called Koḍava Bārathi, along with teaching tools to introduce Kodava language as an optional subject in schools across Koḍagu. Recently, Mangalore University has announced its plans to offer an MA degree course in Kodava language, the curriculum and guidelines for which have been prepared in collaboration with the Karṇataka Koḍava Sahithya Academy. These are significant efforts to preserve and strengthen the Koḍava language.   

Since 1980, Aḍḍanda Cariappa, a playwright, has written, directed and acted in many plays in the Koḍava language. Significant recent additions to the poetic literature in the Koḍava language are Nagesh Kalur’s Sri Bhagavad Gita Darshana (2008), a translation of the Bhagavad Gita in choupadi (verse of four lines), and Manḍira Jaya Appanna’s award-winning ‘Koḍava Jayā Bhāratha’ (2011), a translation of the epic Mahabāratha in shatpadi (verse of six lines), in which are woven many Koḍava traditions, scenes and situations.

There are two major and well-recognized dialects in the Koḍava language – ‘Kiggatt thakk’ which is spoken in Kiggat nad (South Koḍagu) and ‘Mendale thakk’ which is spoken in Mendale nad (Central Kodagu). There is yet another dialect – the Surlabhi thakk which is spoken by the small number of people in Surlabhi nad (North Kodagu). Over time, the Mendale dialect has become popular and is now the preferred, standardized style of the language, for both speaking and writing. 

According to UNESCO’s 2009 report ‘Atlas of World’s Languages in Danger’, Kodava is one of five languages in Karnataka (the others are Tulu, Koraga, Kuruba and Irula), and one of 196 languages in India and 2500 in the world, that are considered to be ‘endangered’ or ‘vulnerable’. UNESCO warns that unless the concerned authorities take immediate steps to protect and promote them “these languages may vanish by the end of this century”. G.N. Devy, the authority on Indian languages, says that of the nearly 780 Indian languages, 400 are ‘endangered’.

It is our fervent hope that Kodava language will not ‘vanish’ as is feared and that although the language is that of a very small community, we will continue to use it and develop it with more works being written in the language so as to keep Kodava culture and values alive.

*Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa (in picture), researchers, are the grandchildren of Nadikerianda A. Chinnappa, compiler of the Pattole Palame, a collection of Kodava folksongs and traditions.

The couple completed the translation of the Pattole Palame, written in the Kodava language, into English in 2003.

In 2014, the Chinnappas wrote a book – Ainemanes of Kodagu, documenting information on the ancestral homes of the original inhabitants of Kodagu.



By Boverianda Chinnappa and Nanjamma Chinnappa

Our grandfather, Nadikerianda Chinnappa,completed writing the Pattole Palame on the 1st of January 1922 in Karada village, 100 years ago. He noted that date and place at the end of his foreword to the book. 

It was a remarkable achievement for anyone to have done so in the early 1900’s. The University of Mysore called it the earliest extensive collection of the folklore of a community in any Indian language. 

It was a large volume covering Kodava culture, folksongs and traditions, written in Kannada and in Kodava thakk (songs, plays, proverbs, riddles etc.) using the Kannada script. The orally transmitted songs compiled in the book were in the Kodava thakk that was prevalent more than a century ago.

As a police officer, Chinnappa travelled all over Kodagu on horseback.  He was fascinated by the wealth of folksongs and traditions of the Kodavas. Fearing that they would eventually be distorted or forgotten he decided to transcribe them.

Since the Kodava language does not have a script, he used the Kannada script that has been in vogue since the 17th century when the Lingayat Rajas ruled Kodagu. 

He called this collection the ‘Pattole Palame’, which literally translates to ‘silken lore’.

The original text of the Pattole Palame in Kannada and Kodava thakk was first published in 1924 by the author himself. It has run into seven reprints.

It is a very popular ‘epic’ that has been consulted and quoted from innumerous times and is used in resolving legal cases related to Kodava traditions.   

Some of the songs are believed to be over 400 years old[1]. Since they were handed down orally, a singer was free to improvise on them. The songs that were transcribed in the Pattole Palame could be somewhat different from those that are sung today. However, they are broadly representative of the songs that are sung in Kodagu during marriage and death ceremonies, during Kodava festivals and during festivals in honour of local deities and heroes.

Traditionally, these songs, called Balo Pat, are sung by four men who beat dudis (Kodava drums) as they sing. They are sung in a simple tune, to a slow rhythm. The melody is haunting and evokes images of times long past. Kodava folk dances are performed to the beat of some of these songs.

The Pattole Palame also contains humorous stories and plays narrated during the harvest festival, and enchanting ballads about local deities and heroes. There are more than 700 proverbs in the Pattole Palame that provide fascinating insights into the heritage, wisdom and traditional wit of the Kodava people. These songs, stories, plays and proverbs are rich in detail and give a picturesque account of the geography and topography of the land and of the way of life of the Kodavas, a people with a unique culture and an immensely practical outlook on life.

Even when he wrote the book, Mr. Chinnappa was aware that the smaller languages in India were dying and felt the need for an English translation. He started to work on it, but did not live to complete the project. He died of cancer in 1931, at the age of 56, a few months after his retirement.

The need for an English translation is even greater now, especially for the younger generation of Kodavas who, even if they know the spoken language, may not know the Kannada script. Also, this translation could help researchers interested in the folk cultures of India.

The Pattole Palame belongs to a genre of Indian folk literature that might have been lost had it not been transcribed and published. If these folksongs die, it is not only the songs but the collective memory of a people as well that will die. Translations help us preserve that memory and the wisdom in them.  

We realized the importance of his work to make his book available to a larger audience, and decided to complete his English translation in homage to his fore-thought.

It is 17 years since our English translation of the Pattole Palame was published in 2003. This translation has gone into three prints, and is now out of print. We have now completed the second edition of our translation, where we have adopted a bilingual format, which enhances the value of the translation. This edition is being published by the Kodava Cultural Studies Centre, University of Mangalore.

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. This helps the reader to get the meanings of Kodava words that are no longer in use.

We wish to add some important observations.

  • The Kodava language is “an independent Dravidian language and not a dialect, as was wrongly surmised by early western writers. It belongs to the South Dravidian group of languages, which branched off from Proto-Dravidian…” probably around 3000 years ago (1000 B.C.)[2]
  • 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. 
  • The influence of Hinduism/Brahminism on Kodava culture is also seen in some of the folksongs.
  • It is also notable that in the songs, Kodava women are shown to be bold and unafraid, talking to strangers and inviting some of them to their homes. They do not hesitate to question and challenge elders in public.

These efforts at transliteration and translation of documented Kodava customs and folklore will promote the understanding and preservation of the Kodava language and culture, and will contribute to the celebration of the diversity of languages and cultures in India.

If indeed the Kodava language is silenced and Kodava culture is forgotten, these efforts will help retain the memories of the identity and cultural heritage of the Kodava-speaking people – a precious heritage that was handed down orally and was first committed to writing in the Pattole Palame.  

[1] These songs might have originated at different times. G.Richter says in the Gazetteer of Coorg (1870) “Some of them (the songs)…seem to be very old….must have existed previous to the events related in the Rajendra Name…which begins with the year 1633”.

[2]  Source: Introduction to the ‘Kodava Arivole’ (2016), Boverianda C.Uthaiah and Boverianda U.Thangamma.



By P.T. Bopanna

Just like two Indias, there are two Kodagus (Coorg) in Karnataka. One comprises of backward-looking bunch of Kodavas (Coorgs) who think they can protect their culture by issuing fatwas. Another set of Kodavas are forward-looking and believe that education is key to the progress of the community.

It was on account of the progressive sections in the Kodava community, the Coorg Institute of Technology (CIT) near Ponnampet town in Kodagu district of Karnataka has emerged as a centre of excellence, making every Kodava proud of the institution.

Coorg Institute of Technology (CIT) established in 1999 under the aegis of the Kodava Education Society (KES), has completed 22 years.  17 batches of students have graduated since its inception.  Engineers from CIT are employed in MNCs, IT majors, financial sector, management, administration, Indian Defence services, academics, and are entrepreneurs as well. 

So far more than 4000 students have earned their BE degree from CIT.  Out of these about 30% are Kodavas. 

CIT campus is one of the most picturesque in Karnataka (in picture).  Thanks to Tata Solar, the entire power requirement of the campus is met by solar energy.

A new branch, namely, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning (AI & ML) has been introduced from the current academic year.  Other branches available are Computer Science & Engineering, Electronics & Communication Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Civil Engineering.

In 2017, KES introduced Pre-University Course in the campus.  A good number of these PUC students join CIT to pursue their education in engineering.

Instead of getting entangled in needless controversies by resorting to fatwas, the Kodava Samajas spread across Karnataka and other states, should concentrate on developing centres of excellence to hone the skills of the community.

In a recent article in The Indian Express, Dr Chotteyandamada Sowmya Dechamma, professor, researcher and Fulbright Scholar, who has done extensive research on Kodagu culture, said: “If Kodavas have been well-educated, reasonable with their assertion of identity, and relatively peaceful thus far, it is time we realised that it is because of our openness to change and not because we harped on purity.”


Journalist and Author P.T. Bopanna

By P.T. Bopanna*

I have launched my new website to preserve Kodava culture. The website features the unique culture of the Kodavas (Coorgs) who belong to Kodagu (Coorg) district in Karnataka.

I put together my first website way back in 2005. Besides the flagship website, I have also promoted five more Coorg-centric websites.

My intension of starting the latest website is to document the customs and traditions of Kodavas, a microscopic minority community, which is slowly losing its moorings in Kodagu. Most of the younger Kodavas who have been brought up in cities like Bengaluru and Mysuru, are unaware of the essence of Kodava culture. I felt a website was the best medium to increase awareness of and help preserve the culture. The website will come in handy for someone wanting to know about the rituals involved in ceremonies connected with birth, wedding, death, etc.

In order to ensure that the content in the website was authentic, I took the help of Boverianda Chinnappa and Nanjamma Chinnappa who have researched and written about Kodava culture.

Much of the content in the website has been taken from the book Pattole Palame, compiled in 1924 by Nadikerianda Chinnappa, where the Kodava language folksongs, proverbs and riddles are transcribed in the Kannada script and Kodava customs and traditions are described in the Kannada language. The Pattole Palame was translated into English by Boverianda Chinnappa and Nanjamma. I have also borrowed content from their book ‘Ainmanes of Kodagu’.

Topics covered in the website, include the origin of the Kodavas; their customs related to birth, wedding, death and their festivals; the religion of the Kodavas; Kodava language; Jamma land tenure; their passion for the game of hockey; guns in Kodava culture; their ainmanes, etc. There are also video clips related to some of these topics on Kodava culture.

The site has been designed by Bhakti Saraswat-Devaiah. Hope you will enjoy surfing the new website.  

*P.T. Bopanna is a Bengaluru-based journalist and author.