The Kodavas have a distinct ethnic identity they have zealously safeguarded over the centuries. They have their own unique language, customs and traditions.
The names of Kodava people are characteristic and include a clan name. The clan is central to Kodava culture and families trace their lineage through clans. Marriage within a clan is discouraged.
Kodavas have many cultural differences from the other communities in southern India. Though they are Hindu, Kodavas do not accept Brahmin priests, preferring that ceremonies are conducted by their own elders. The elders of the community help in organising the ceremonies. The importance of the fire god found in most of the Hindu rituals is usually absent in Kodava culture. Usage of slokas and vedic chants is also not present.
Easily one of the most martial cultures in the country, these are a people who ritually worship their guns and swords. Interestingly, till a few decades ago, the birth of a male child was marked with a gun shot, announcing to the world the arrival of a warrior. And when the child was named, he was fed the preserved meat of the tiger, in the belief that he would one day grow up to fight like one.
If a culture could have a set objective, for Coorg it would definitely be the creation of fierce fighters. There is about the Coorg, a certain rugged frontier spirit even to this day. A spirit which motivates him to join the armed forces, the police, the forest department…wherever there is adventure to be found.
The exotic and differently flavoured Kodava cuisine is predominantly non-vegetarian. Their signature dish is the unusual Pandi or pork curry served with Kadumbuttu or rice dumplings. Succulent Koli or chicken curry, Nool Puttu or rice noodles and Bembla or bamboo shoot curry are other unusual Kodava dishes.
Every Coorg ritual – naming ceremony, marriage, or a house warming, and even many festivals have a strong martial element. At weddings today, thick banana stems are chopped with a short Coorg sword to indicate that the groom’s party has fought and taken as many lives for the bride’s hand. A symbolic throwback to the days when men fought for the women they loved. Handsome people, colourful traditional costumes, feasting, dancing and good humour make Coorg weddings a highly enjoyable spectacle. You will find that women are respected deeply in Coorg’s liberal society and that chivalry is still very much alive.
The harvest festival is called Puthari or ‘new rice’, when the first stalks of rice are cut, gun shots are fired into the night sky in joyous abandon. As for the festival of weapons, it offers Coorgs a chance to hone their marksmanship by shooting a coconut fixed high up on a towering tree. This was also the season when Coorgs would once gather and go off into the forest, to hunt the tiger and the boar. For reasons of conservation, all hunting is now banned.
The Tiger Wedding!
A Coorg warrior who killed a tiger was honoured by the ‘nari mangala’. A celebration similar to a wedding, only, in the place of the bride was the dead tiger. The last recorded tiger wedding was in 1873. A man who killed a tiger, could shape his moustache in a certain curling manner called the galle meesey.