The hardy and charming people who inhabit these lands are known as the Kodavas, and are renowned for their distinguished martial history. The earliest references to the Kodavas are found in Tamil Sangam literature dating back to the 2nd century AD. The origin of the Kodava people remains a mystery and there are a number of interesting theories that add to the romance and mystery of the region.
While the Coorgs or Kodavas are the majority race, there were many other groups that contributed to the melting pot. The second largest community of Coorg are the Gowdas. In the days of the Kodava kings, they supported agricultural activity, and turned into stealthy scouts in times of war. They lived near the border in order to sight the enemy and provide an advance warning. Today, they still tend to live close to the borders and are a prosperous farming community.
The short-statured Yeravas and Kurubas laboured in the fields, and later in the coffee estates. Some of these tribals are employed by the forest department today, their keen knowledge of the forest and its animals help in curbing poaching and forest product smuggling.
The natives were not traditional businessmen, and this encouraged traders from outside Coorg to migrate here. The industrious Moplahs from neighbouring Kerala, and a few families of traditional business communities from other parts of South India moved in to form the backbone of trade and commerce.
The first Christians were Konkanis from the Mangalore coast, including many who were freed from Tipu Sultan’s captivity, after his defeat. They came to Coorg at the invitation of the king, to help rebuild the kingdom shattered by war. In more recent times, Christians from Kerala too have settled here as plantation owners and traders.
Many other communities and cultures go into making the intriguing mosaic that is Coorg, among them Lingayats, Tulus, Male Kudiyas, Medas, Siddis from Africa (now called Kapalas) and the Poleyas.
Kodavas – The Martial Race!
Legend has it that during the conquest of Alexander the Great, many of his Indo-Greek soldiers, migrated down south, married the natives and settled down in the hilly areas of the Western Ghats. The traditional kupya costume worn by the men resembles the Greek toga and their fair complexions and aquiline features are said to resemble the Grecian prototype.