Ponnampet Town in Kodagu

By P.T. Bopanna

The decision of the Kodava Samaja at Ponnampet in Kodagu (Coorg) district in Karnataka to ban the cutting of cakes at Kodava weddings is nothing but a move to push the Hindutva agenda of the saffron brigade.

President of the Samaja, Chottekmada Rajiv Bopaiah recently announced ban on cutting of cakes and popping of champagne, and barring bridegrooms from sporting beards and women from letting their hair loose at wedding mantap.  

Bopaiah was quoted as saying: “Kodavas have their own distinct culture. We can survive only if our culture survives. Cutting cakes and sharing of champagne by new couples during marriage ceremonies is not our culture. The decision has been taken in this regard in our annual meeting.”

In the past few years, the Hindutva forces that control the Kodava Samajas across Karnataka have been laying down similar diktats. The saffron brigade has been trying to replace Kodava culture based on ancestor and nature worship with Brahminical practices.

It is evident that these so-called Kodava leaders lack the knowledge of Kodava culture which is not frozen in time and remain flexible enough to meet the needs of changing circumstances. The immensely practical and pragmatic nature of Kodava customs made them easy to comply with because the codes of conduct and traditions of Kodava faith were transmitted orally down generations, with no ‘guru’ or ‘dogmatic document’ to dictate customs.

The restrictions announced by Ponnampet Kodava Samaja is not only regressive, but an insult to the Kodava community which is progressive and one of the highly evolved societies in India because of the steps taken by their forefathers to embrace education and inculcate scientific spirit.

A few years ago, these Taliban-minded Kodava elements ordered that women should not climb the steps at Brahmagiri hill at Talacauvery because they were ‘unclean’ (due to menstruation) on the advice Brahmin astrologers.

Last year Bangalore Kodava Samaja committed a sacrilege by performing ‘homa’ in its premises. Though bracketed under Hindu religion for official purposes, the community practices tribal faith which does not involve any Vedic practices like ‘homa’, a sort of public fire ritual, performed by Brahmin priests.

The Balele Kodava Samaja in Kodagu passed a resolution last year against renting their premises for weddings to Kodavas who marry outside the community.

The priority of the Kodava Samajas should be to unite the community, rather than take ‘regressive’ measures to alienate the community.

The purpose of a Kodava Samaja is to promote the wellbeing of the Kodavas and to strengthen Kodavame (Kodava culture).

Every Kodava Samaja should introspect as to what it has done to promote Kodava culture. From this yardstick, every Samaja has failed because they have done very little to promote and protect Kodava culture. The Samajas are nothing but glorified wedding halls.

It is time the Kodava Samajas across Karnataka publish their achievements in promoting Kodava culture before playing the role of culture police.

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4 Responses

  1. Sampath Appaya says:

    Kodava community has its own customs and traditions which are very unique. The Kodava samajas are trying to protect our culture and traditions in the larger interest of our community.

  2. Suresh Panje says:

    Sad news and hopefully sane senses will put an eternal halt to such trends. Among all the communities in south India, Coorgs (Kodavas) have been the most progressive over the past two centuries. Hence it is high time that both the elders and the youngsters managing the affairs of various Kodava Samaja institutions don’t fall prey to the whims and fancies of the saffron brigade with blinkered outlook in their thoughts and deeds.

  3. Kaveri says:

    It was with disbelief that we read the article in the papers about the set of “Commandments” issued by the Samaja. Law of the land and individual rights of people in the community come first. And these proclamations are not the LAW. So the alcohol that flows freely at the drop of a hat is not “Western” influence? But Champagne is. So did all the hundreds of couples that were blessed by women with their hair open, meet with bad fates, and those that were blessed by women with their hair tied up were not? So the happiness of the couple rests on strands of hair. It is baffling that such petty things can be conjured up by human minds. And then the Groom’s choice of to be bearded or not is also an issue now. Yes we all know the connotation behind the beard. The most unkind “rule” is the No Pathak for the woman who dares to marry outside the community. The Pathak is symbolic of a mother’s blessing and affection for her child. Who dares to stop a Mother from doing this for her child? So this is the punishment meted out to the family as well. Well done for khap bent of mind. Dear Samajas and its members, please focus your considerable energies on reviving and protecting the true heritage, language and culture of the Kodava community. Our district needs effective administration, motorable roads, educational institutions, hospitals, protection against rampant tourism, environmental degradation and loss of species. And let us recognise Kodava achievers in ALL fields….not only in sports and the Forces.
    Self serving divisive forces will only weaken us. We have always been a progressive community and pushing such silly taboos as common practice is alarming. I hope better sense prevails.

  4. I have been living in the States since 1975; have adapted to various vagaries of different cultures , whilst preserving our fabulous Kodava Culture. We are in the 21st century which basically calls for a look into our existing culture, but trying to ban our Kodavathis for mensturating, or marrying a Non Kodava is simply awful & extremely backward. I have married a Scottish lass & our 2 beautiful daughters are just the best.

    So please ignore the K Samajas & carry on with your happiness!

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