By P.T. Bopanna
The newly launched book ‘Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus?’ by journalist P.T. Bopanna makes a strong case for a religious minority status for the Kodavas to safeguard their unique culture.
The issue assumes significance in the wake of the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government in Karnataka giving religious minority status to the Lingayats in the run-up to the Karnataka Assembly elections. The action of the Siddarmaiah government has divided the politically powerful Lingayat community, which had earlier backed the BJP chief ministerial candidate B.S. Yediyurappa.
The book highlights how the numerically small Kodava community is unique and deserves the religious minority status to safeguard its culture, ancestral homes, sacred groves, traditional land tenure systems and customary laws, which have come under threat in the recent years due to ‘outsiders’ outnumbering the local population, triggered by ‘vote bank’ politics. The looting of the rich forest wealth in the Western Ghats by vested interests has also impacted the indigenous Kodava people and their ancient culture.
The book also tries to answer the question whether Kodavas, who hail from Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka, are Hindus or not. Some of the finest researchers from Kodagu have shared their research experiences in the book which makes it a seminal work on the religion of the Kodavas.
Commenting on the book, Bopanna says: “Being a journalist, I have tried to present the findings of both those who claim that Kodavas are Hindus, as well as those who maintain that Kodavas are not Hindus. The idea is to enable the readers to draw their own conclusions, rather than thrust any particular line of thinking on them.”
The author adds: “The purpose of this book is to inform Kodavas, especially the younger generation, about their original faith and belief system. This may help them to better appreciate their original faith which is slowly being eroded due to the creeping in of Brahminical practices.”
The book questions the concept of ‘Sanskritization’ developed by world renowned anthropologist Dr M.N. Srinivas in his monumental work Religion and Society Among the Coorgs of South India (1952). Written for his D.Phil degree at Oxford University, the book is an ethnographical study of the Kodava community.
The author opines that the belief in ancestor and nature worship is much more rational and scientific, compared to belief in myths and rituals which are alien to Kodava religious practices.
Those who have contributed articles and papers for the book, include Dr. Sowmya Dechamma, Associate Professor at the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad, Prof. Veena Poonacha, retired Director of the Research Centre for Women’s Studies (RCWS), SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, Roona Uthappa Ballachanda, who has a Master of Social Work degree from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, USA, Maj Gen Codanda K Karumbaya, SM (Retd) who has written extensively on matters relating to Kodagu, and Nitin Kushalappa, author of the books ‘The Early Coorgs’ and ‘Long Ago in Coorg.’
The foreword has been written by well-known researchers and authors Boverianda Chinnappa and Dr Nanjamma Chinnappa.
Bengaluru-based journalist Bopanna’s (in picture) book ‘The Romance of Indian Coffee’ had won the 2015 international Gourmand award for the ‘Best Book On Coffee In The World’.
In more than three decades as a career journalist, Bopanna has worked for various national dailies, including The Times of India, based in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Bopanna has authored five books in English and a couple of his books have been translated into Kannada.
The book published by Rolling Stone Publications, Bengaluru, is priced at Rs 100.
BOOK AVAILABLE AT:
Copies of ‘ARE KODAVAS (COORGS) HINDUS’? are available at all the leading book shops in Bengaluru, including the Gangarams on Church Street, and all the branches of Sapna Book House, Bengaluru. The book is also available at Sapna Books, Mysuru. You can also shop online at www.sapnaonline.com.
The book is available at the following shops in Kodagu:
Daily Needs, Gonikoppal
Nilgiri Super Market, Gonikoppal
Arun Stores, Madikeri
Komal Stores, Madikeri