Origin of KODAVAS (Coorgs) – is it still a mystery??

The origin of Kodavas has been an anthropological puzzle… shrouded in mystery & yet to be decoded… why do they look different & standout in the crowd?? Why do they guard their custom so proudly & closely? And of course, why do Kodava women command great respect & have a large say in raising the family? Perhaps the mystery is hidden in their own day to day lives????

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Have you ever wondered why, unlike the rest of the Hindu communities, Kodavas have the unique custom of Bride’s Mother tying the ‘Pathaak’ (Kodava equivalent of Mangala-sutra) to the bride? It’s a known fact that in every Hindu marriage, the husband ties the ‘Mangala-sutra’ (aka thali) to the bride on the big day. However, according to Kodava custom it is tied by the bride’s mother on the night before the official wedding. There is a very interesting legend to go with… which perhaps might shed some light on the much debated origin of Kodavas as well.

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In the yore… at the period when the earth was visited by Gods & Goddesses, a lovely Devi-kanye (Apsara) fell in love with a man from the earth. The man, a prince** new to the area, was lost while hunting & was resting under a tree mesmerized by the beauty & serenity of the Kodava land. Leaning on the tree, surrounded by nature bathed in all her magnificence, the misty clouds, the mating call of the birds & animals echoed the silent valley below, the air filled with passion & the sight of beautiful maiden took him by surprise. The Prince also fell in love with the gorgeous Apsra instantaneously…. how could he not? Without realizing that she was not in his league he fell in love passionately. Love has no boundary & love is blind after all.

Forgetting his tiredness, his missing entourage, & kingdom, they spent some beautiful moments together. However, both the Devi-Kanye & the Prince were fully aware of the fact that Her father & family would oppose & forbid her from marrying him. They would stop her from leaving the heaven again & any effort from her to meet him would cost her status of the Devi-hood. The thought of separation would be unimaginable… he would rather die than separate from his love. She felt the same way too… she would not give up easily on her love. She made him promise to take care of himself & she promised that she would return to him one day. He was also aware that unlike the Apsara, he could not wait forever because for a mortal like him, death would be inevitable.

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There was no choice but to part from each other & when it was time for her to leave she started crying. She treaded the path back home with heavy heart & tears in her eyes, looking pathetic. On the way she met her old acquaintance, the Naga-Deva & Devate (Snake God & Goddess). They chided her saying why the usual cheerful maiden had tears in her eye & said that crying definitely never suited her beautiful face. If there is any way they could help her to make her happy?

Upon hearing her story, they wanted to help her & the wise couple comes up with a solution to her problem. They said there is a way for her to marry him without him tying the managala sutra & be his wife but with one condition. As a human her husband cannot tie the Mangala-sutra to her but someone from her world can tie the knot on his behalf & she can retain her Devi-hood. But that someone has to be very unique because they should love & care for her more than anyone that ever existed in the three worlds does without expecting anything in return. They suggested that she ask her mother to tie the Mangala-sutra & sanctify her relationship with her prince charming. They also promised her that both of them would stand guard for her protecting from all the evils & perils in the human world.

Her kind hearted, sympathetic mother agreed to tie the Mangala-sutra & symbolize the marriage so that she could go & live with her lover. Her father & the rest of the family also agreed to let her go too. Hence she got married in heaven by her mother with family blessings & left to her husband’s house the following day. Even today Kodavas have two Muhurthas**** on same day. One is separate with each one’s family & the other one “Dampathi-Muhurtha” (dampathi means couple) with the presence of both the families, something perhaps is one of its kind!!

Both lived happily ever after till the prince died of natural causes, raising beautiful family of eleven sons. The eleven sons had hundred each of their own sons, expanding the families further. Years passed & seasons changed & so did her family; her husband died, children died & when her grandchildren started growing old, unbearable at the thought of losing them she returned to heaven*** with sad heart.

The descendants of Apsara & the prince still maintain the tradition to this day… Kodavati women get their Pattak tied by their mother a day before she gets married in the presence of all the elders of the clan & goes to her husband’s house the next day. Priest is absent in Kodava weddings. Each Kodavati is treated very special like the Devi-Kanye. To this day the Pattak holds a Snake Hood on top prominently as protection. Kokke-thati the traditional & compulsory second jewelry worn at the wedding also has a Snake Hood as tribute to Naga Deva & Devate.

So now you know from where the Kodavas originated…. Am I kidding?… is it a fairy tale?… NO Sir it’s the living fact… attend a Kodava wedding & see for yourself… Have a good day.

*The word Mangala-sutra (mangala meaning holy/auspicious & sutra meaning thread) is a sacred necklace that the groom ties around the bride’s neck on the day of the wedding in a ceremony called Mangalya dharana (wearing the auspicious), there by giving her the status of his wife & life mate. Thereafter, the wife wears the Mangala-sutra all her life or till the time the husband is alive as a sign of their marriage, mutual love, goodwill, understanding & faithful commitment to one other. She discontinues wearing it if she is widowed.

** Some say the Prince was none other than Chandravarma, youngest of the four sons of Kshatriya King Siddhartha, the Emperor of Matsya Desha of Chandravamsha (Lunar lineage). He was both pious as well as a great adventure seeker. His eleven sons married the princesses of Vidarbha.

***It is also said that the Deva-kanye was on earth due to a curse & when the period was over, she returned to heaven.

**** Muhurtha (equivalent to mangala) in Kodava custom is the auspicious moment on which stipulated time, the bride or groom is made to sit & seek blessing from the elders. You can read more about it in one of my future articles on Kodava marriage.

Based on the Legend which I heard when I was very young.

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