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.