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?’

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4 Responses

  1. Madappa says:

    I think Hindutva is giving a revived sense of pride and much needed non-alcoholic approach to Kodavas. If anything it is doing good to the community. People like this author are the ones doing more harm to the community.

  2. Nithin Nachappa says:

    Even though readers might think what the writer has said is inconsistent to today’s realities, ancestororial worship had been the connector to our creator, which largely is gone today. So is the idea of classifying food as veg and non veg. I don’t think our ancestors had any such classifications on food. And I could also see intolarence today again people belonging to lower hindu castes, when historically our ancestors used to welcome these people from malbar and other adjacent regions giving them dignity and land. Our embracing of Vedic system mostly 300 yrs ago as a consequence to Tippu and his father’s conquest, saved our Hindu identify, but today it has made sure we have almost lost ancient way of kodava life and kodava spirit. It is very heartening to say that most understanding and research on our roots and history are done by western scholars, than our fell Hindus. That’s gives me suspicion that do modern day Hindu identity really celebrate diversity?? Or should be really revert back to our ancestors customs and philosophy to really be true Kodava by heart and soul??

  3. Prashant Ponnappa says:

    Hindutva will kill Coorg culture because we aren’t really Hindu’s by origin. We may have adopted it recently due to threats from Tipu and because it was what others around us followed. We should avoid it as much as possible. And Hinduism as an excuse to not drink or eat meat is just stupid

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