By P.T. Bopanna
Is saffronisation killing the soul of the Kodavas (Coorgs), a microscopic community in the state of Karnataka?
Not long ago, because of their high literacy rate and their long exposure to education, the Kodavas were one of the most progressive communities in India, on par with the Parsis.
Though Kodavas are one of the most evolved societies in India, they have turned fanatics in recent years, so much so they cannot tolerate a cartoon (in picture) where the Kodava fondness for alcohol is highlighted.
Due to the absence of the dowry system in the community, Kodava women were a liberated lot.
However, the situation has changed dramatically in the last two decades, ever since the BJP started taking roots in Kodagu (Coorg). The Kodava society, known for its ancestor and nature worship, switched over to Brahminical Hinduism, influenced by the Hindutva ideology.
Kodavas have inhabited on the slopes of the Western Ghats from time immemorial and have unique customs and religious practices, strikingly different from that of the neighbouring cultures in south India. However, they have been bracketed as Hindus by the government, though they do not satisfy most of the parameters for being considered as Hindu.
There is no caste system among the Kodavas, which is the most important yardstick to qualify as Hindu. Kodavas believe in ancestor and nature worship and Brahmins have no role in their rituals.
A major deviation from mainstream Hinduism is the practice of meedi offerings for ancestors which consist of food items, including non-vegetarian dishes like pork. Along with the food, liquor is also offered to invoke the blessings of ancestors. This practice is inconsistent with the rigid notions of ‘pollution’ practiced by orthodox Hindus.
When this writer featured the above cartoon by Nala Ponnappa (in picture) recently on a Facebook post, the Hindutva trolls took exception on the grounds that it showed the community in poor light.
These Taliban Hindus have no respect for the artistic expressions of a cartoonist. Incidentally, Ponnappa is also a Kodava. He had drawn the cartoon for P.T. Bopanna’s first book ‘Discover Coorg’ published in 2006.
If a community has lost its sense of humour, then there is something seriously wrong.
About the author: P.T. Bopanna is a Bengaluru-based journalist and author. He has written seven books, including ‘Are Kodavas (Coorg) Hindus?’