Coorg people or Kodavas are a well-known martial community in Karnataka. And they are the only community in India that can keep a gun without a license. Kodavas are a martial race and have been bearing arms for 300 years. They still worship weapons and consider them sacred. They obtaining the license for firearms such as pistols, revolvers, and double-barrelled shotguns.
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Why Guns Without License
So why do the Kodavas have special rights? Actually not just the Kodavas even original residents of Coorg who have jamma land (land granted by the king). So the people of Coorg (Kodavas, Coorg Gowdas, and other communities as well who have been granted land by the maharajas) have an exemption from certain sections of the arms act. So it was a simple system – take land for free and don’t pay property tax on it, but when the king needs you, come with your army to assist the king. They always had to be ready with weapons if ever there was a call from the king. For this, you were allowed to keep weapons and practice during peacetime. If you decided you don’t want to fight a war, you had to pay taxes on the land you Owned.
British Era Rule
The Kodavas have been exempted from the Indian Arms Act right from the time it was introduced by the British in 1834. The British made an exception for this tribe in appreciation of their valiant support to them in their fight against Tipu Sultan. Of the 3.8 lakh people living in Kodagu, almost every family possesses a gun, some even ten. The only regulation is that the Kodavas should obtain an exemption certificate from the Government, which gives them the right to possess any gun without a license.
Another story is that Kodavas allied themselves with the British against the mighty Muslim warrior Tippu Sultan. So they were allowed to own and carry arms. Which was strictly prohibited at that time in other parts of India. Indian Government has decided to continue a British-era rule of exempting the Kodavas of Coorg.
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Use of Guns
There has been a very close relationship between the Kodavas and his gun. When there is a boy born in the family a single shot is fired in the air. During the funeral, gunshots are used as a mark of respect. During a house warming ceremony, the tradition is to carry a baby in a cradle, a lamp and the man of the house carries a gun. On completion of all the rituals, a gun is fired to mark the completion of the ceremony. Kodava mainly lives in a hilly area and their house is far away from each other’s house. They make gunshots in the sky when there is an emergency. And hearing that sound, other people ran towards the house for help.
The word Kailpodh means a festival of Armory or weapons. “Kail” means armory/weapon and “Podh” means festivals.
They place their traditional weapons like guns, swords, knives, spears, bows and arrows in the prayer room. They decorate the weapons with flowers and they pray to their God, asking for the well-being of their crops and to give them the strength to protect them from wild animals. This is the significance of Kailpodh. Getting everyone together is one of the main objectives of this festival.