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The Kodavas

The kodavas are a distinctive race of India known for their bravery since ages, are the only race in India that has been permitted to acquire guns without a licence. Women folk, both beautiful and highly educated, occupy a predominant place in the family while the men folk, tall and handsome, look after the coffee estates.

Kodavas are fond of hockey. Pork is the main dish of this community. Kodavas worship The Holy River Cauvery and their ancestors. Kodavas are blessed by touching the feet of elders in the community. Every kodava name includes their clan/family name by which they are identified.

List of Kodava Family names (Mane-pedha = House-Name)

History of Origin

The exact origin of the Kodava tribe is unknown. The Hindu Puranas (Kaveri Purana of Skanda Purana) claim that Chandra Varma, a Chandravanshi Kshatriya and son of Emperor of Matsya Desha , was the ancestor of the Kodavas.

However a common theory about their origin is that they might be Arabs, mostly from the parts of Iraq, Oman or Yemen who migrated to the Kodagu/Coorg at time unknown. Another theory suggests that might be the Descendents of soldiers of Rajput ancestry with Indo-Scythian origins.

Kodava Takk / Kodava language

Kodava Takk, with no script of its own, is a mixture of Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. Besides kodavas, the other communities that speak Kodava Takk include Amma Kodavas, Iri, Hajama, Kembatti Holeyas, banna, madivala, meda and Peggade. Kodava takk has a lot of similarity in accent and pronunciation with that of Beary bashe, a dialect spoken by Bearys of Tulunadu.

Kodava Attire

The attractive kodava dress, unique from the rest of Indian traditional wear, has its own value in the kodava community. It is worn on special occasions like marriages, festivals or other community gatherings/ceremonies.

Men’s wear

Black knee length over coat that reaches until elbow [kupya] with a scarlet sash [Chaley] carrying a silver dagger [Peechekathi] and a gilded turban [Mande Tuni].

Women’s wear

Indian sari with the pleats running through the chest from behind, the end of which is clipped with a traditional pin in the right collarbone. [Normally the pleats/pallu runs through the shoulders].

Kodava Customs & Tradition

The names of Kodava people are 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 forbidden.

The family unit of the Kodavas is called the okka. It is a joint patrilineal clan with males of common ancestry. The male members of an okka share an okka name. Currently there are about 1000 okka names and families in Kodagu. Traditionally all the members of an okka lived in a large ancestral home called ain-mane (ayyangada mane – House of the Elders). Usually the ain- mane has a courtyard in the front surrounded by thick mud walls and bamboo thatched roof. Out houses for additional living space were also common.

Ain-mane is surrounded by large property (jamma) and by huts of laborers attached to the okka, who provide necessary services. This cluster of homes and property form the nucleus of a village called ur. A group of ur or villages is called the nad. A number of nads make a sime. Traditionally there were eight simes in Kodagu. The land belonging to the okka is cultivated jointly by the family members and cannot be partitioned or sold.

The oldest member of the family is the head of the okka and is called pattedara or koravukara. It is a hierarchy that is passed on to the eldest member of the clan by right. Similarly each ur (or ooru), nad and sime has a headman called as takka. The takkas settled disputes and imparted justice after consultation with other elders. Girls and boys from one okka cannot marry within the same okka. However, cousin marriage between children of brother and sister is accepted (but not between children of two brothers or two sisters).

Once married, a girl assumes the okka name of her husband. Mother is held in high esteem in Kodava society. Mother is the first one to bless a young married couple or a journeyman. Unlike Hindu society, a widow is still allowed to participate in happy occasions like marriages of her children. She is the principal figure to conduct the marriage ceremony that traditionally is conducted without a Brahmin priest. A widow is allowed to remarry and this is a common practice as it is fully accepted.

Kodava Cuisine

Boiled rice (Koolu) and rice gruel(kanjee) formed the staple food of the Kodavas. The coconut, jackfruit, plantain, mango and other fruits and vegetables were widely used. Ghee was used in well-to-do families and on festive occasions. Rice in the form of 'Kanji' or 'Koolu' was served at meals along with curries and other additional dishes.

Non-vegetarian food was not objectionable and alcoholic drinks as a rule weren't prohibited. Pork, chicken and river fish were commonly consumed as also were game meat occasionally but beef was prohibited, as killing of the cow was resented and the Kodavas had a pious attitude towards cows like other Hindus. The wealthy owned large herds of milch cattle. Sweet dishes like akki payasa were prepared during festive occasions. Other special dishes included Otti(rice roti), Paaputtu (similar to idli), Noolputtu (rice noodles), Thambuttu(a sweet), etc. ...more

Kodava Festivals

(Submitted By: Vaterira Pavan Bopanna)


Kailpodhu is celebrated on the 3rd of September. That is, on the 18th day after the sun enters the Simha (Leo) Raasi. Kail means weapon or armory, and Pold means festival. The day signifies the completion of "nati" - meaning the transplantation of the rice (paddy) crop.

Normally, during the months in which the family is engaged in the fields, all weapons are deposited in the "Kanni Kombare" or the prayer room. The festival also signifies the day that men should prepare to guard their crop from wild boars and other animals.

Hence, on the Kailpoldu day, the weapons are taken out of the Pooja room, cleaned and decorated with flowers. They are then kept in the "Nellakki Nadubade" - central hall of the house, the place of community worship. Each member of the family has a bath and then they worship the weapons. Feasting and drinking follow. The eldest member of the family hands over a gun to the senior member of the family, signifying the commencement of the festivities. The whole family assembles in the "Mand" (open ground), where physical contests and sports, including shooting, are conducted. In the earlier days hunting and cooking of the wild animals was part of the celebration, but these days the shooting skills are tested by firing at a coconut tied on to the branch of a tall tree.

In the earlier days, there were sports like grabbing a coconut from the hands of a group of 8-10 people (thenge porata), throwing a stone about the size of a cricket ball at a coconut from a distance of 10-15 paces (thenge eed), lifting a stone ball of about 30-40cm lying at one's feet and throwing it backwards over the shoulders, etc. These sports are now conducted in community groups called Kodava Samajas in towns and cities.

Kaveri Sankramana

This festival normally takes place in mid-October. It is associated with the river Kaveri, which flows through the district from its source at Talakaveri.

At a predetermined time, when the sun enters Tula Rasi (Tula sankramana,) a fountain from a small tank fills the bigger holy tank at Talakaveri. People throng in thousands to take a dip in this holy water. The water is collected in bottles and reaches every house in Kodagu, and this is called Theertha - holy water. This water is preserved in all Kodava houses, and a spoonful of this water is fed to the dying, in the belief that they will attain moksha (emancipation) and gain entry to heaven.

On this day, married women wearing new silk saris perform puja to a vegetable, usually a cucumber or a coconut, wrapped in a piece of red silk cloth and decorated with flowers and jewels, mainly 'Pathak' (Kodava Mangalasuthra), symbolizing the goddess Kaveri. This is called the Kanni Puje.

Kanni means the goddess Parvati, who incarnated as Kaveri. Three sets of betel leaves and areca nut are kept in front of the goddess, with bunches of glass bangles. All the members of the family pray to the goddess by throwing rice and prostrating before the image. The elder members of the family ceremonially bless the younger. Then an older married woman draws water from the well and starts cooking. The menu of the day is dosa and vegetable curry ( usually pumpkin curry (kumbala kari) ) and payasa. Non-vegetarian food is not cooked on that day. This is the only festival wherein non-vegetarian food is not prepared


Puttari means new rice, and is the rice harvest festival (also called huttari in adjacent Kannada-speaking country). This takes place in late November or early December. Celebrations and preparations for this festival start a week in advance.

On the Puttari day, the whole family assemble in their ain mane (the common family house) which is decorated with flowers and green mango and banana leaves. Specific foods are prepared: thambuttu, puttari, kari, and poli poli. Then the eldest member of the family hands a sickle to the head of the family, and one of the women leads a procession to the paddy fields, with a lit lamp in her hands. The path leading to the field is decorated.

A gunshot is fired to mark the beginning of the harvest, with chanting of "Poli Poli Deva" (prosperity) by all the people present there. Then the symbolic harvesting of the crop begins. The rice is cut and stacked and tied in odd numbers, and is then carried home, to be offered to the gods there. The younger people then burst firecrackers and revel, symbolizing prosperity. Groups of youngsters then visit the neighboring houses and show off their dancing skills, and are given monetary gifts. A week later, this money is pooled and a community dinner of the entire village is celebrated.

All the family members gather for this meal. Dinner normally consists of meat dishes such as pork and fish curry. Alcoholic beverages are also served at such feasts.

Kodava Literature

Pattole Palame, a collection of Kodava folksongs and traditions compiled in the early 1900s by Nadikerianda Chinnappa, was first published in 1924. The most important Kodava literature, it is said to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, collection of the folklore of a community in an Indian language. The fourth edition of the Pattole Palame was published in 2002 by the Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy. Nearly two thirds of the book consists of folksongs that were handed down orally through generations.

Traditionally known as Balo Pat, these songs are sung by four men who beat dudis as they sing. The songs have haunting melodies and evoke memories of times long past. Kodava folk dances are performed to the beat of many of these songs. The Pattole Palame was written using the Kannada script originally; it has been translated into English by Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa, grandchildren of Nadikerianda Chinnappa.

Movies based on Kodava culture

Kodava Movies

Naada Manney Naada Koolu (First Kodava Movie)

Mahaveera Achunayaka

Mandaara Poo


Baal Polundath

Ponnera Manas (2009)

'Kannada' Language movies that portray Kodava culture:

Sharapanjara (1971) - Famous for the song "Kodagina Kaveri".

Huliya Haalina Mevu (1980)

Muthina Haara (1990)

Mungaru Male (2006)

kodava Hockey Festival

The Kodava hockey festival was started in the year 1997 by Pandanda family and the tournament was called "Pandanda Cup". In the year 2003 a record setting 280 teams participated for the Kaliyanda Cup at Napoklu. The maximum women participation was in the year 2000 when 30 women took part in the Cheppudira Cup held at Ponnampet.

The principal rule was that all the members of a team must belong to the same family (surname). The women members of a family were also allowed to be a part of the team. Each year, the Kodava Hockey Festival is organised by different families and the tournament is named after the organising family. After the success of these tournaments, `The Kodava Hockey Academy` was established to govern the related activities.

Kodava Hockey Festival has been referred to the Guinness Book of Records as well. It has already got special mention in the Limca Book of Records, which is recognised as an Indian variant of the Guinness Book.

1997 Pandanda Cup Karada 60 Kaliyanda
1998 Kodira Cup Kadanga 116 Kullettira
1999 Ballachanda Cup Kakotparambu 140 Koothanda and Kullettira
2000 Cheppudira Cup Ponnampet 170 Koothanda
2001 Nellamakkada Cup Ammathi 220 Koothanda
2002 Chekkera Cup Hudikeri 252 Kullettira
2003 Kaliyanda Cup Napoklu 280 Nellamakkada
2004 Maleyanda Cup Madapur 235 Koothanda
2005 Biddanda Cup Madikeri 222 Nellamakkada
2006 Kallichanda Cup Ponnampet 217 Palanganda
2007 Mandettira Cup Kakotparambu 186 Mandepanda
2008 Alamengada Cup Ponnampet 216 Anjaparavanda
2009 Mandepanda Cup Ammathi 231 Nellamakkada
2010 Maneyapanda Cup Ponnampet 214 Palanganda

Kodava Organisations

Coorg Western Ghat Inhabitans Liberation Organization (CWGILO) ....More

Codava National Counsel (CNC) of N.U.Nachappa

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