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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 obtained the license for firearms such as pistols, revolvers, and double-barrelled shotguns.

Cover picture source by Google Image

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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.

Kodavas Guns Tradition
Kodavas Guns Tradition (Google Image)

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.

Kalipodh Festival coorg
Kalipodh Festival (Google Image)

Kailpodh Festival

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.

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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.

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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 people
Kodavas people (Google Image)

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.

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Traditional Kodava House
Traditional Kodava House (Google image)

Kodava Culture

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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Weapons are Worshiped
Weapons are Worshiped (Google image)

Martial Tradition

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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