By P.T. Bopanna

The gay wedding involving a Kodava (Coorg) man in the United States has exposed the fault lines in the Kodava community rooted in Kodagu (Coorg) district of Karnataka State.

The same-sex marriage has also provided an opportunity to the Kodavas to introspect on the strengths and weaknesses in the community and also given an opportunity to emerge stronger.

Dr Sharath Ponnappa, a Kodava, married Sundeep Dosanjh, a Punjabi American, last month. In one of the wedding ceremonies held on September 26, the couple wore traditional Kodava attire. 

Reacting to the wedding, the president of the Kodava Samaja at Madikeri in Kodagu, K.S. Devaiah (in picture below) said: “This wedding, where the couple wore traditional Kodava attire, is an insult to the entire community. Hence, after a meeting the members of the Kodava Samaja, we have recommended ostracisation of Sharath Ponnappa from the community.”

K.S. Devaiah, president, Madikeri Kodava Samaja

The action of the Kodava Samaja has apparently not gone down well with members of the community, going by the debate on social media. An article written by K. Natasha Ponnappa, a corporate lawyer, faulting the community leaders for their boorish stand on the issue, evoked widespread response in the social media.

Natasha wrote: “Although I believe that we are all entitled to our opinions, it is equally important to tell our respectable elders and peers where they are wrong and most of all educate them on issues that put us behind on a humanitarian perspective.”

The Madikeri Kodava Samaja, a toothless body, has apparently exceeded its limits in calling for ‘ostracization’ of Sharath from the Kodava community. The action of the Samaja shows they are living in a bygone and feudal era.

During early 20th century, there was the practice of ‘ostracizing’ (porambadi) a member who went against the diktat of the clan. With the breakup of the joint family system in Kodagu and the country gaining Independence, the concept of ostracization disappeared and was replaced by rule of law.  

This kind of feudal mind-set is not confined to Madikeri Kodava Samaja, but involves most of the Kodava Samajas across Kodagu.

The Kodava Samaja at Balele in Kodagu had recently passed a resolution not to rent their premises for weddings to Kodavas who marry outside the community.

The ongoing debate has provided an opportunity for the community to introspect on its shortcoming. There is need for bringing together all the Kodavas on a single platform.

Though a federation of Kodava Samajas exists on paper, it is at best a ‘private limited company’.

The Kodavas deserve an apex body of enlightened leaders, elected by the members of the community, to guide and represent the community.

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3 Responses

  1. A K Monnappa says:

    Not renting out the Samaja building for a intercaste marriage cannot be a regressive step; traditions do get diluted if the wedding hall is rented out to non-Kodava weddings. And yes we need a strong apex body to coordinate & guide the activities of the “vanishing Kodavas”!

  2. CP Belliappa says:

    Scientifically it is still not clear whether the reason for LGBTQ is genetic, childhood environment or the upbringing and influences during formative years. There are so many sexual orientations nowadays that it is quite amazing. Besides LGBTQ, there are several classifications including: binary, nonbinary, pansexual, and I don’t know what I am. The world has come to accept these diversities in sexuality and has made it not illegal. The West has gone a step further to allow same-sex marriages. However, what I don’t understand is why should one be ‘proud’ of being other than heterosexual. Gay Pride and Celebrate being an LGBTQ etc., are in my opinion influencing the minds of the young. I read somewhere about a teacher giving an assignment to her class of 9-years-olds to write love letters to their friends of the same sex. A recent article in Time Magazine talks about a couple giving a gender-neutral name to their son, so that ‘they’ (the author does not want to use he or she!) decide what gender identity they want to be when they are adults! These ultra-liberal trends are almost suggesting and confusing young minds to be other than normal. I have no issues with what an adult chooses and there should be no discrimination in leading a normal life. But to make it as though it is a great achievement not to be heterosexual is something I find hard to digest. Kodavas are proud of their customs and traditional attire. I personally do not appreciate it being used to demonstrate Gay Pride. I can understand the outrage expressed by Mr K.S. Devaiah at the Kodava doctor using kupiya-chele with his new husband. By making a spectacle of his marriage the Kodava doctor has hurt the feelings of a large number of Kodavas.

  3. Col Harbaksh Singh Dham says:

    This is Col Bellathanda Harbaksh Singh Dham, with Mother BA Amakka @ Lalitha and Father Maj Baljit Singh Dham. I am a proud Indian & the most unique mixture of the MOST FIERCE MARTIAL RACES KODAVAS & KHALSAS.

    My parents married in 1958 & my mother is from Village- Konjangeri, Parane. I was born in 1963, please come & take out my Kodava Blood. I am a PROUD KODAVA – my Grandfather Shri BM Appaiah was the Palace Overseer & Estate Manager of Maharajah Mysore. Mother was Champion Javelin, Discuss Thrower, and Long Jump from Maharani’s College, Mysore.

    The richness of every community comes in, when you adapt to modern times, which can’t be viewed from spectacles of orthodoxy. Kodava Community is doing great wonders in every field & Maa Kaveri will Bless the Community to keep progressing & Shining in every sphere of life.

    But we have to have a practical and pragmatic view- where all views & all orientations are accepted. Warmest Regards to all Community Elders

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