From Academic Kids

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A coffee plantation in Coorg

Kodagu (previously called Coorg) is a district of Karnataka state, India. Kodagu is said to be derived from the Kannada kudu, meaning steep or hilly. Kodagu lies in the Western Ghats of southwestern Karnataka, bordered by Dakshina Kannada district to the northwest, Hassan district to the north, Mysore district to the east, and Kannur district of Kerala state to the south and southwest. Coffee is grown extensively in the district. The population in 2001 was 545,322, increasing 11.64% from 1991 to 2001, and 5.75% from 1981 to 1991. The capital of the district is Madikeri (also called Mercara), meaning 'place of the bees'.



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An ethnically dressed coorg woman

Kodava Thakk, also known as Coorg Language, is the primary language spoken in Kodagu. Kodagu is home to several other languages, including Kannada, Tulu, and Ravula. All are Dravidian languages.

The Kodavas,also known as coorgs,are of unknown origin.The circumstances in which they came to Coorg, settled and presumably married local women, is still a mystery with ethnologists. Facially the Kodavas look very different from other races in India.

The Kodava people live a rich life due to the economic freedom provided by the coffee market. Kodavas are a warrior race and have jealously hung on to their independence. Kodavas defeated Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan's armies many a times and proved invaluable allies to the British in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War, in which the Sultan of Mysore Tipu Sultan was killed. They have many warrior practices such as carrying a ceremonial knife on their wraparound robes, martial war dances and their marriages are held in a very unique way, unlike other indian marriages. The culture also includes communal gatherings where drink, dance and special meat dishes seasoned with Garcinia are central attractions.

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A wedded coorg(Kodava)couple.

The names of Kodava people is also characteristic and include a clan name. The clan is central to Kodava culture and families trace their lineage through clans. Marriage within a clan is discouraged. The Kodava language or Kodava Thakk has no written tradition, and has approximately over 200,000 people of 18 groups speak Kodava in and outside the district. Some of these groups are Kodava, Heggade, Iri, Amma Kodava, Koyava, Banna, Madivala, Hajama, Kembatti, and Meda,according to Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy. Most speakers are bilingual in Kannada, as Kannada is a primary language of other communinities in Coorg, excluding moplahs and tamilian coffee estate labourers.

Sir Hilton Brown in his article "The Astonishing Land of Coorg" in Blackwoods Magazine,1922. wrote; "Who are the Coorgs(Kodavas)?That is the standing riddle of South Indian ethnologists,and more the amateur delves into its intricacies,the more hopelessly befogged and lost does he become. Whence came these strikingly different people,and how did they get into coorg? They are certainly not aboringines of the place;for these one most fall back on Yeravas,Kurumbas and other jungle savages,not dissimilar to the hill tribes found all over south india.No doubt the coorg has a good deal of South Indian about him,especially the West Coast South Indian;but his catereristically individual nature,his remarkable and unique dress,and certain of his customs are not South Indian at all.Barring all ethnology and arguing from common sense,one would call the Coorgs a separate people".

Sir Erskine Perry pointed out that "the kodavas(coorgs)have no resemblance to any of the races of South India" and adds that,"by far,they are the finest race I had seen in India in point of independent bearing,good looks and all the outward signs of well-being".

The Kodavas(Coorgs) are a warrior race and their customs and traditions are very unique in india.

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A sketch of a Coorg Warrior in action during a war around 1850's

Lt.Connor,one of the original observers of the Coorgs(Kodavas)has said in his "Memoirs of the Kodagu Survey":- "They may be said to be armed from their childhood,and the military spirit is inculcated in them right from birth.War and agriculture seem to be their twin national pursuits.No harm has arisen from this happy combination of soildier and husbandman.They show no trace of the savage disposition which often characterises the warrior class.The feelings that attach the highlander to the mountains and that fondness for the country which distinguishes subjects of small states are observed among coorgs(kodavas)."

The Yerava, or Ravula, live in Kodagu as well as in adjacent Kerala, where they are known as the Adiya. They are primarily Hindu agricultural workers.

Among the other tribes or castes of Kodagu are the Heggades, cultivators from Malabar; the Ayiri, who constitute the artisan caste; the Medas, who are basket and mat-makers, and act as drummers at feasts; the Binepatta, originally wandering musicians from Malabar, now agriculturists; and the Kavadi, cultivators from Yedenalknad; all these groups speak Kodava, and conform generally to Kodava customs and dress. Of the Tulu people, the Gaudas, who live principally along in western Kodagu, are the most important; they speak Tulu and wear the Kodava ethnic dress during ceremonies. Other castes and tribes are the Tiyas and Nayars, immigrants from Kerala; the Vellala, who are Tamils; and the Marathi. Of the Muslims the most numerous are the Moplahs and the Shaikhs, both chiefly traders,who's origins are from kerala.

In all, the most famous son of Kodagu is Field General C Kariappa, the first Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of free India. He was elevated to the honorary title of Field Marshal at the ripe old age of 83.


Kodagu lies on the eastern slope of the Western Ghats. It is a mountainous district, presenting throughout a series of wooded hills and deep valleys; the lowest elevations are 3000 feet above sea-level. The loftiest peak, Tadiandamol, has an altitude of 5729 feet; Pushpagiri, another peak, is 5626 ft. high. The principal river is the Kaveri, which rises on the eastern side of the Western Ghats, and with its tributaries drains the greater part of Kodagu. In. the rainy season, which lasts during the continuance of the southwest monsoon, or from June to the end of September, the rivers flow with violence and great rapidity. In July and August the rainfall is high, and the month of November is often showery. The yearly rainfall may exceed 160in.; in the dense jungle tract it reaches from 120 to 150; in. the bamboo district in the west from 60 to 100 in. Coorg has an average temperature of about 60 F., the extremes being 52 and 82. The hottest season is in April and May.

In the direction of Mysore the whole country is thickly wooded; but to the westward the forests are more open. The flora of the jungle includes Michelia champaca (Chumpak), Mesua (Ironwood), Diospyros (Ebony and other species), Toona ciliata (Indian mahogany), Chickrassia tubularis (Red cedar), Calophyllum angustifolium (Poon spar), Canarium strictum (Black Dammar tree), Artocarpus, Dipterocarpus, Garcinia, Euonymus, Cinnamomum, Myristica, Vaccinium, Myrtaceae, Melastomaceae, Rubus (three species), and a rose. In the undergrowth are found cardamom, areca, plantain, canes, wild pepper, tree and other ferns, and arums. In the forest of the less thickly-wooded bamboo country in the west of Kodagu the most common trees are the Dalbergia latifolia (Black wood), Pterocarpus marsupium (Kino tree), Terminalia coriacea (Mutti), Lagerstroemia parvifiora (Benteak), Conocarpus latifolius (Dindul), Bassia latifolia, Butea frondosa, Nauclea parvifiora, and several acacias, with which, in the eastern part of the district, teak and sandalwood occur. Among the fauna may be mentioned the elephant, tiger, tigercat, cheetah, wild dog, wild boar, several species of deer, hares, monkeys, the buceros and various other birds, the cobra di capello, and a few alligators.


The most interesting antiquities of Coorg are the earth redoubts or war trenches (kadangas),which are from 5 to 25 ft. high, and provided with a ditch 10 ft. deep by 8 or 10 ft. wide. Their linear extent is reckoned at between 500 and 600 m. They are mentioned in inscriptions of the 9th and 10th centuries.

The early accounts of Coorg are purely legendary, and it was not till the 9th and 10th centuries that its history became the subject of authentic record. At this period, according to inscriptions, the country was ruled by the Gangas of Talakgd, under whom the Changalvas, kings of Changa-nad, styled later kings of Nanjarayapatna or Nanjarajapatna, held the east and part of the north of Kodagu, together with the Hunsur talk in Mysore. After the overthrow, in the 11th century, of the Ganga power by the Cholas, the Changalvas became tributary to the latter. When the Cholas in their turn were driven from the Mysore country by the Hoysalas, in the 12th century, the Changalvas held out for independence; but after a severe struggle they were subdued and became vassals of the Hoysala kings. In the 14th century, after the fall of the Hoysala rule, they passed under the supremacy of the Vijayanagara empire. During this period, at the beginning of the 16th century, Nanja Raja founded the new Changalva capital Nanjarajapatna. In 1589 Piriya Raja or Rudragana rebuilt Singapatna and renamed it Piriyapatna (Periapatam). The power of the Vijayanagara empire had, however, been broken in 1565 by the Muslim Deccan sultanates; in 1610 the Vijayanagara viceroy of Srirangapatna was ousted by the raja of Mysore, who in 1644 captured Piriyapatna. Vira Raja, the last of the Changalva kings, fell in the defence of his capital, after putting to death his wives and children.

Kodagu, however, was not absorbed in Mysore, which was hard pressed by other enemies, and a prince of the Ikkri or Bednur family (perhaps related to the Changalvas) succeeded in bringing the whole country under his sway, his descendants continuing to be Rajas of Coorg till 1834. The capital was removed in 1681 by Muddu Raja to Madikeri (Mercara). In 1770 a disputed succession led to the intervention of Hyder Ali of Mysore in favor of Linga Raja, who had fled to him for help, and whom he placed on the throne on his consenting to cede certain territories and to pay tribute. On Linga Rajas death in 1780 Hyder Ali interned his sons, who were minors, in a fort in Mysore, and, under pretence of acting as their guardian, installed a Brahmin governor at Mercara with a Muslim garrison. In 1782, however, the Kodavas rose in rebellion and drove out the Mysore troops. Two years later Tipu Sultan reduced the country; but the Kodavas having again rebelled in 1785, he vowed their destruction. Having secured some 70,000 of them by treachery, he drove them to Seringapatam, where he had them circumcised by force. Kodagu was partitioned among Muslim proprietors, and held down by garrisons in four forts. In 1788, however, Vira Raja (or Vira Rajendra Wodeyar), with his wife and his brothers Linga Raja and Appaji, succeeded in escaping from his captivity, at Periapatam and, placing himself at the head of a Kodava rebellion, succeeded in driving the forces of Tipu out of the country. The British, who were about to enter on the struggle with Tipu, now made a treaty with Vira Raja; and during the war that followed the Kodavas proved invaluable allies. By the treaty of peace Kodagu, though not adjacent to the British East India Company's territories, was included in the cessions forced upon Tipu. On the spot where he had first met the British commander, General Abercromby, the raja founded the city of Virarajendrapet.

Vira Raja,who, in consequence of his mind becoming unhinged, was guilty towards the end of his reign of hideous atrocities, died in 1809 without male heirs, leaving his favorite daughter Devammji as rani. His brother Linga Raja, however, after acting as regent for his niece, announced in 1811, his own assumption of the government. He died in 1820, and was succeeded by his son Vira Raja, a youth of twenty, and a monster of sensuality and cruelty. Among his victims were all the members of the families of his predecessors, including Devammji. At last, in 1832, evidence of treasonable designs on the raja's part led to inquiries on the spot by the British resident at Mysore, as the result of which, and of the raja's refusal to amend his ways, a British force marched into Coorg in 1834, On 11 April the raja was deposed by Colonel Fraser, the political agent with the force, and on 7 May the state was formally annexed to the East India Company's territory. In 1852 the raja, who had been deported to Vellore, obtained leave to visit England with his favorite daughter Gauramma, to whom he wished to give a European education. On the 30th of June she was baptized, Queen Victoria being one of her sponsors; she afterwards married a British officer who, after her death in 1864, mysteriously disappeared together with their child. Vira Raja himself died in 1863, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.

The so-called Coorg rebellion of 1837 was really a rising of the Gaudas, due to the grievance felt in having to pay taxes in money instead of in kind. A man named Virappa, who pretended to have escaped from the massacre of 1820, tried to take advantage of this to assert his claim to be raja, but the Coorgs remained loyal to the British and the attempt failed. In 1861, after the Mutiny, the loyalty of the Coorgs was rewarded by their being exempted from the Disarmament Act. Coorg was the smallest province in India, its area being only 1582 square miles (4,100 km²). As a province of British India, it was administered by a commissioner, subordinate to the Governor-General of India through the resident of Mysore, who was also officially chief commissioner of Coorg.

After India's independence in 1947, Coorg became a province, and in 1950 a state, of India. In 1956, when India's state boundaries were reorganized along linguistic lines, Coorg became part of Mysore state, which in 1972 changed its name to Karnataka.

External link

Template:Districts of Karnatakasv:Coorg kn:ಕೊಡಗು


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