Coorg is a small district tucked away in, southwest corner of Karnataka state. It is famous for its beautiful coffee estates. The Western Ghat mountain range carve up the region into series of hills. The capital of Madikeri has nestled in a valley at an elevation of over 4000 feet. Kaveri river is the most important river in southern India. And it originates in the mountain of Coorg and worshipped by the local people.
The Kodavas of Coorg
The Kodavas, as the Coorgs call themselves, are fascinating people. They are different from other South Indians in their way of dress and tradition. Yet no one can say for sure from where they came actually. Their origin remains a mystery to this day. Their ancestors were worshippers and maintained an ancestral home. They also had warrior traditions going back to the days. They allied themselves with the British against, mighty ruler Tippu Sultan who, determined to conquer all of South India. Even today Kodavas, known for their exemplary role in the armed forces.
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Kodavas connection with Alexander The Great
History says Kodavas are descendants of soldiers of Alexander the Great, who invaded India in 327 B.C. When his soldiers refused to continue fighting, many of them settled down in India. Some of them instead of returning to Greece married into the local population. Gradually these groups migrated to South India. They settled along with the west coast, going as far as Coorg. There they maintained a separate identity from the others. Later they merged with the local people very quickly.
Kodavas have a distinct culture. They never followed any particular religion but adopted some Hindu traditions. But more significantly, the Kodavas ancestors were worshippers, with family members maintaining an ancestral home called an Ainmane house. An Ainmane house is where Kodava people live their lives which stands apart in architecture. This house is a place of unique bonding. Ainmane has always stood as a mirror reflecting the Kodava culture, life, family practices, worship, and festivals according to seasons.
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The Kodavas are the only community in the country that is being exempted from obtaining arm licenses. Which is strictly prohibited in another part of India. 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), Coorg Gowdas 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.
Those people who had grant land had to provide service to the king when they were summoned. 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. So weapons are worshiped and kept sacred even today.
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