Tippu Series Part 7: Force Conversion in Coorg & beyond

Tippu’s Life Mantra was expansion.. & expansion… & expansion by any means… by forcible conversion to ensure loyalty. His first, second & the third languages were barbarism. His world revolved around expansion & would go to any length to fulfill his wishes, sometimes with vengeance.. as if possessed by some satanic powers. He would do anything & everything to conquer the world. At least Alexander the great went to grave as a Wiseman but Tipu’s cruelty was beyond imagination. He was also a man of many passions… blood was his main passion… Out right cow slaughter was yet another passion… His theory of killing the cows was to deprive people of the essential milk, manure for the crops & indirectly indicating you are next if you don’t obey my orders!! What ingenuity!!

Another passion was “penies trimming” (early days in Kodagu Tipu’s nick name was bith..-muripava… (bith = penis) it may sound strange but I remember that when I was young, we used to visit our clan homes (maternal & paternal) during summer holidays. {Clan homes are something like a group of individual homes surrounding the main home which is like the substratum of the clan). Those nostalgic memories even today brings a warm feeling… going to my mother’s “Balyamane” (clan home) was the best.. my Mum’s parents were dead even before I was born but we went to her Uncle Konerira Devaiah Thata’s house. His wife was a very fine woman… She was my favourite among all the older women I knew… a frail & gentle woman with the mental strength of a horse ran the house so well… she always had something nice to offer us kids to eat. I would sleep with her some times to listen to stories. Older men told us stories.. including clan stories.. War stories… Sometimes we heard the discussion among the men… there was no dearth of anything… there was always someone to cater to our requirement of any kind. Women fed us, the ones with bottom less pit for a stomach. All the other older men & women even my Mum’s 50th cousin also treated us like their own. Evenings whichever kitchen sent the best aroma attracted us most!!Evenings after lighting the lamp… all the kids said their ‘Baayepata” (alphabets, tables, counting, etc…) then it would always be story times. Sadly those kind of set up is almost extinct.. It was so much fun… there were no dearth of uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins… we were welcome in every home, could eat or play wherever we wanted… if any elders see a little boy running around without shorts, would yell at them.. odu mummyra pakka chaddi itta baa.. Tippura kuli bandruva.. The terms for the young boys used were “kokmani Murchiruva” or Kokmani katturuva” (muri = cut, katturva = will steal). Go immediately to mamma & wear shorts.. Tippu’s ghost might come. Even his ghost was not trusted. Such was the scar left behind.

I remember hearing the words, “aa nichangu narakatulu jaga ille..” (for that …. even in hell there is no place… I don’t know the equivalent word for nicha in English). Now as I learn more about him I understand what the elders said has some meaning… I am sure his soul wonders on the street after being kicked out of hell for nasty behaior, often catching up with some weak soul & sometimes wonders off to Vidhana Soudha & comes in the dreams of the sleeping politicians. That’s why you can see them coming up with words like “Mannina maga”, Great rulers, etc….

The Captivity of Kodavas at Seringapatam speaks chiefly of the capture & imprisonment of Kodava Hindus by Tipu Sultan, the ruler of the Kingdom of Mysore, during a number of attempts to suppress their rebellion in the 1780s. These captives were forcibly deported, some of them were converted & some were killed. The estimated numbers of the captives vary according to different sources, from 500 (according to Punganuri) to 85,000 (according to B. L. Rice). During the Third Anglo-Mysore War (1789-1792) 5,000 Coorg men along with their families, amounting to 12,000 people escaped from prison in Seringapatam (Srirangapatna) & came back into Coorg.

Kodavas are a race, relatively small but close knit community with unique culture. They practice caste endogamy and family exogamy to ensure healthy off-springs. Hence every individual clan is related to all the other clans too. Kodavas are born & conversion is not acceptable. Hence loss of a single member means a lot to the community. To the Kodavas, maniac Tipu’s bigoted dance of death & ethnic cleansing at their homeland remains a wound that will never heal. Like the Kodava proverb goes “Chuttava markalu, chuduchittavangu marivakaiyule” (the one set fire can forget but the one who got burnt can never forget). As a way to remember, many Koadvas had their dogs named as Tippu!! Street dogs in Coorg are contemptuously called Tipu a measure of how intensely he is reviled there. Poor dogs…

Guess he could not tolerate anyone having a happy family life, which irked the malicious Devil’s Advocate Tipu the most… bringing out the worst in him, which eventually shattered the happy families.

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