Why Kodavas eat pork and not beef – Part 1/2

Coming back, all said & done I am sure the land was infested with Kadu-pandi (wild boars), the ancestors of present day domesticated pigs. Boars also known as suid, sus scrofa, wild swine & Eurasian wild pig, etc., are originated in Asia but where I have no idea!! Till the arrival & settling of Chandravama & Co., the land perhaps was filled with scores of free roaming wild animals. With no one to fear except the tigers and maybe leopards, & with plenty of water bodies/swamp, greens, roots & games, the highly adaptable hogs must have ruled the land with polle-pandi (female – sow). With the arrival of the humans & their farm lands & their domesticated animals it must have been a feast for the hogs.

The boars are opportunistic omnivores with voracious appetite (hence the term eat like a hog) & will eat anything that they can lay their hand sorry mouth on. I wonder how strong their long nose & lip must be as they plough anywhere & everywhere including under the bamboo bush which is hard surface to access. They are habitual rooters along with their strong nose in a constant search for food. With snouts to the ground, they eagerly push away the soil in search of tasty morsels including mushrooms. With their acute sense of smell acting as a guide, the dig-up gaily any rooted crops like colacasia, sweet potato, ginger, turmeric, etc. In the quite of the night months of work destroyed overnight. They affect agronomic crops as well as pasturelands, staying in an area long enough to devour its resources before moving on & crops like cardamom bushes are destroyed overnight. Vegetable patches, paddy fields, sugar cane plantation, you name it they attack it. They not only eat but also destroy everything beyond repair. I have seen their power of destruction with my own eyes when I was young. As a little girl I remember my father going wild-boar Bote (hunting) & it was/is considered a delicacy. Once killed it is usually shared among the hunters, neighbors & relatives, & at times dried for later use.

The boars are widest ranging mammals in the world as well as the most widely spread & their adaptability is the secret of their survival. They attack when they fancy, mostly moving in packs. Boars will mate with any sow in season, often battling for the opportunity but just does not perform any familial duties. The species lives in matriarchal societies, a sow herd consisting of young males, inter related females & their kutty (piglets – young ones). The groups known as drifts or sounder travel together as well as back each other against danger. Piglets likes to play, running around in circles & chaseing each other, barking & grunting in delight. Like most mothers sow is a superb protectoress & fearless when it comes to the protection of her young & they can form cooperative groups, & in danger they sound shrieking squeal & are smart enough to place their piglets in the center of their vicious circle of snapping, foaming jaws. However fully grown strong robust males are usually solitary outside of the breeding season. The matured ones with their powerful fangs are very ferocious & are capable of attacking humans & other mammals.

The law of jungle, the survival of the fittest & a hunger game of the yore.. Showcases the naked truth: Either you eat them or they will let you starve to death!! Or even you might become the victim… So the wise men/women seem to have come up with the indigenous idea. Instead of killing them outright why not make them the food? Against the back drop of mass killing of scores of foxes in New World by the newly arrived immigrant just because they linked the fox to witch craft back home or killing of tigers & elephants for fun.. or for that matter the recent killing spree of the over populated wild camels in Australia. But controlling the menace & making use of it is really ingenious!! Seems one of the most practical & smart idea from every angle. Everyone has to pay a price during the process of the cycle of evolution, why not make it advantageous? That’s what I would call the Art of Resource Management!!

Thus began the pork culture of Kodagu & became part & parcel of their culture. To go further they invented the perfect masala & vinegar which is laudable. I bet with you that no one can prepare pandi-curry like the Kodavas do!! The ruby red meat cooked with kartha (black) masala & kachumpuli is exceptional!! Kachumpuli also acts against the tape worms* & also reduces fat from the body. They also have chillie pork another specialty & of course the famous pandi chudukuva & the dry pork preparation. (I will post the recipe some time later). They also found a perfect combination kadambutt (round steamed rice balls) with the locally grown rice to go with it. So now it is the most famous combination not only with the Kodavas but also with the visitors, which strangely could be enjoyed any part of the day. Pandi-curry also goes well with otti (rice roti), taliyaput (cousin of idli), etc.

Kodavas made the boar hunting part of their sport activity too by organizing the group hunting trips. Annual Kailpodu (equivalent to Aayuda pooja) is the first festival of the year for Kodavas, just after they finish their transplantation work as an antidote for both the tired body as well as the pallet. Moreover they have to guard their future paddy crop & ensure the family is well fed throughout the year. So all the weapons, like guns, swords etc., resting in the Kanni Kombare (the prayer room) comes out, well cleaned & polished. Kodavas could keep the guns at home without license until a decade ago. Now we Kodavas can still keep the gun but with a license. The bravery & the necessity & of course the wise usage of gun had prompted the Britishers not to withdraw the guns from Kodavas also. Guess Kodavas were the only privileged ones in that respect in whole of India, like kukri for Ghurkas & kripan for Sikhs.

It is noteworthy that Kodavas don’t kill or eat piglings/piglet or the mothers in consideration to Mother Nature (obey the law of nature) & also to ensure both the supply as well as not to push them towards extinction. I remember my father telling me that no one on earth has the right to take the life of a (any) baby or deprive the baby of its mother. What a lesson passed on & included in our culture by our forefathers. Hats off to their forethoughts & it shows how advanced thinker they were. No wonder Kodava culture treats their children as poo-kunjis (child delicate as a flower) irrespective of the sex without gender bias.

In olden days, a day before the wedding the family used to organize boar hunting to throw banquet to their guests along with other mouthwatering delicacies. With the increasing population of people pouring into Kodagu, the boars have dwindled & hunting boar is prohibited which makes it a tradition of the past. However, the pork still stayed on as delicacy in their pallets along with scores of their dishes.

Basically boars (pigs) are clean & does not urinate of defecate in their sleeping quarters. With their thick skin, Boars are extremely heat sensitive & to cool themselves they roll in mud or wade in water. Pigs like to scratch & rub against trees, fencing & anything they deem fit. This also help them rid of parasites. It’s widely accepted fact that any animal that are allowed to roam & forage freely will be healthier & richer tasting than the farm fed as the muscle-enhancing movement generates a deeper, more flavorful meat. Logically the feral hog meat should be healthier than we give credit for as they are free roaming souls & eats loads of different roots & vegetables. It is said that hogs also eat small insects, birds & mammals if & when they can lay their mouth on.

I remember reading in many Southern parts of USA they are facing the problems with hogs especially the Texan… may be they can take lessons from our forefather’s Art of using Resources to their advantage than wiping out like the fox population… It can be used as a closed-loop system for sustainable meat: landowners can recover costs by selling their trapped pigs, & consumer can have the opportunity to eat some truly exceptional meat at a cheaper rate.

* Because of their constant contact with the soil, the boars are susceptible to tape worm infestation which could be passed on to humans unless the meat is cooked well. This is also applies to leafy vegetables grown in the infested soil so its wiser to wash the leaves especially the ones consumed raw such as coriander, lettuce, etc., in salt water. interesting winery incident on it later.

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How the Kroda Desa got thier name! (Kodagu)

The confusion about the origin of name “Kodagu” itself is as colourful as the origin of the Kodavas & draws lot of curiosity… The name Kodagu is anglicized as Coorg… and I am sure the Britishers must have found it difficult to pronounce Kodagu… Between the confusion people refer to us as Coorgis… to make it clear we are not Coorgis or murgis, we are “Kodavas from Kodagu & speak Kodava takk” blessed children of our dear Mother Kaveramme.

Origin of the name Kodagu is brushed with different strokes & hues by different individuals. As the Indian culture is based on Guru-Shishya Parampara & the legends are passed orally, somewhere it must have got twisted. Many quote the reference in Kaveri Purana as the source & unfortunately my knowledge of Sanskrit is very limited. Hence I really don’t know which version is right which make me support the Kodava Culture & Legends which I am a part of. The only common thread is that Prince Chandravarma & his celestial wife were Kodava ancestors.. To quote few:

The Saga begins with the arrival of Chandravarma, the pious & brave Prince of Mastya Desha, in ancient Kodagu (supposed to be known as Brahma-Kshetra), seeking adventure & solace. After the marriage he settled down in South permanently with his queen of celestial origin. As the family grew larger the need for food grains increased & with that the requirement of cultivable land. So the brave grandchildren of Chandravarma leveled the hills for cultivation with their bare hands, like the wild boars dig up mounds for their sustenance. Hence the land came to be known as Kroda Desa (Sanskrit word Kroda means hog) & eventually Kodagu.

Some go one step further… all the grandchildren were mighty men of valour, strong of arm & foot. Their nails resembled the fangs of boars. WOW Celestial Mother & a Royal Father & children had fangs… how cool is that!! Running short of basic food supply & sleeping quarters, with the nails of their strong hands & feet, they tore up the ground & levelled the slopes of the hills with the valleys in a circumference of five-yojanas (60 miles). So much accuracy!! Then they settled themselves anew in the country, the face of which they had changed by the strength of their own arms. What a sight it must have made…

Another version … When Lord Vishnu returned to Vaikuntha (abode of Lord Vishnu) after killing Hiranyaksha in Varaha (boar) form, on the way Lord Vishnu tore out the fangs & threw it which fell in Kodagu thus getting the name Kroda-Desa.

It is also said that the word Kodagu is derived from the word Kudu, which means Hilly place but not sure in which language though!!

The most interesting aspect of my years of personal observation is that one too many people who comes to Kodagu or hears about the culture wants a piece of the pie & want to be part of the distinctive Kodava culture. And on the way they want to leave a mark & start to come up with their own version of certain things… for example Kachumpuli is the vinegar prepared from the fruit extract of Panapuli (a species of garcinia), indigenous to Western Ghats. But someone with half knowledge of Kodava culture writes Kachumpuli as the fruit. Similarly karik-muripa* (cutting the vegetables) is a part of oorukuduva ceremony but someone writes it as a first day of the wedding ceremony!

But what surprised me most was my experience in Kuwait. More than two decades ago I happened to see a booklet in Indian embassy regarding Coorg, when I went for some official work. In that there was a couple’s picture with their back towards the viewer where the bride was wearing the usual style saree & the groom was wearing white dhoti, white shirt & a Mysore style Peta (turban). I am sure a copy is available in their achieve!!

But Mrs. Amabssador (I don’t remember which year though) took the cake. One day Mrs.Rangaswamy (her husband Mr. H.V. Rangaswamy was the MD of Kuwait India Exchange in mid 90s), an acquaintance of ours called me & said if you don’t mind can I ask you something? I said go ahead.. hesitantly she asked me don’t you all wear blouses back home when you wear Kodava saree? I laughed & said what made you ask such a strange question? In fact my grandmother’s generation even wore jacket (long sleeved relatively longer bodied blouses) & even wore close collared to go with it too. These days only brides wear jacket as part of culture. For that she said she went for a fashion show at the embassy & Kodava saree was part of it. They wore the saree so awkwardly & also the so called model did not wear a blouse. It was rather poor tasted & really looked bad. Since I have seen you wearing the saree at the functions & I know how elegant it is, I asked why they wore like that? For that I was told that Mrs. Ambassador had done research & that’s what she found… Oh boy… God knows where she did her research in Timbuktu or Sahara Desert!! It was the worst case scenario.. I was angry & sorry for that half-knowledge lady at the same time. But what could I do? After all she was Mrs. Ambassador & represents our beloved country… hope she did not do any more fashion shows in other parts of the world!! In a decade or so with the help from Google-mama, future generation sadly will start believing in such quotes including the Kodava kids raised outside Kodagu.

* It is the gathering of women folks – close relatives & from the village – around round tables to assist the cooks by cutting vegetable & rolling kadumbuttu. It guarantees the quality of chopped vegetable as well as the kadambuttu. A gathering looked forward by women as it gave the chance to meet the cousins, exchange recipe & news, talk about latest fashion, & catch up on gossips, etc. sadly now everyone uses the catering services. Thanks to Kodava men, at Kodava weddings, women usually dress up well, meet everyone, be happy, look good & do not cook or chop meat. You can read more about it when I write about the Kodava wedding.

Our ephemeral memories on monuments

On June 6th 2014, the world witnessed the 70th celebrations commemorating the D-Day landing of allied forces on the shores of Normandy. An event commercially romanticized by the Hollywood & the media. Anything for publicity & cash in! The who & who of the big nations were present & news coverage went on & on. Old habits die hard…. Some avoided the hostile encounter so the host president got to eat many meals lunches/dinners in separate quarters. But I guess the French never complain about eating food!

Every time I hear of WWII three different persons comes to mind. First one is my late father who told me that India would never have got independence but for the Second WW, a tide which positively hastened the process for Indians. Otherwise the British would never let go a golden goose… & would still be sponging India of its riches. In a cruel twist, Indians owe thanks to Mr. Hitler, at least we are free from Gulamgiri! Born in free India I did not share much of his sentiments THEN but when I think of it NOW, it makes so much sense to me. Hitler certainly boosted the Cause of the Liberation by shaking the rock & creating financial crisis helping us free from the clutches of imperialism & a win against the racial inequality, & to help the sun to finally set in the British Empire. Something good comes out of everything that happens is true after all at least to few Asian & African countries!!

Second one is my late dear cousin whom I was very fond of, for a different reason. Celebrating the dead. She was the youngest among the seven siblings. Her mother lost 2 of her children when they were in their twenties. From then on the drama started. Every time there was any kind of function or festivities or any gathering, big or small, even at weddings, the mother would conjure her dead children. She would either cry nonstop or keep on praising the dead children. In the beginning it was ok but then it became an irritating affair. Every one misses the loved one & they have the right to be remembered but the ones living needs a life too. Any function among family was a doldrums & all the five remaining dreaded any celebrations, big or small. My cousin once told me I am afraid to die because I hate the thought of my mother crying & making my living siblings more miserable. It is not their mistake that they are alive!

Finally my cousin’s sister-in-law, whose husband suffers from PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), once a lovely young couple, now they are divorced as his depression & night mares led him to substance abuse, violence & abusive combined with paranoia. The gap between his life of defense & the civilian society had a big dent. He lost two of his best friends in the war & he felt guilty because he survived them. She tried her best to help him but his both biological as well as psychological changes were too much for her to handle. They had no children & she realized that she could not baby sit or wet nurse her husband all her life.

My cousin’s mother & her life is a drop in the ocean; imagine the fate of thousands of soldiers returning home after fighting a proxy war. In the grand scheme of warfare who really gains is a trillion dollar question? Colour red seems to be the universal colour these days. It is said that at least every one in five returning from war front suffers from PTSD. How many comes out from it is no one knows. People are always connected by slices of the event. And sadly either bad or sad experiences are securely stored than the happy ones in human psyche. Unfortunately when one individual suffers the effected is on the entire family. Moreover the mental wound just does not end there!!

There are so many monument built in so many countries & spent millions on celebration of commemoration. Sadly, more concentration on the cement & brick than on the flesh & blood still standing & walking. Ironically no one seems to learn any lesson from the past either & history keeps repeating itself. The concrete cannot teach & the warm blood does not have any face or mouth to speak. Perhaps the money could be utilized for the welfare of the survivors & their families. May be every country which prefers sending their soldiers should spend on establishing sizable acreage of land and resources as a cradle for recovery for PTSD soldiers. An open place with peace, tranquility, fresh air, beautiful flowers &, knowing & sharing that there are more people with the same problem combined with yoga & meditation could do wonders for them.

During the WW I, large number of Indian soldiers were forced to fight the war which was not their own. Almost 130,000 Indian either lost or wounded in that time. Compared to the world population of that time it’s a big number. British government built (designed & constructed by Lutyens) the 42-meter high India Gate (originally called the All India War Memorial) to remember bearing the names 90,000 who laid their life, located astride the Rajpath (formerly called Kingsway), on the eastern edge of the ceremonial axis of New Delhi. It’s all conveniently forgotten in the sand of time. Ironically this monument has become a place for relaxation area during summer & a picnic spot during winter & I wonder many of them even knew what monument stood for? I agree that protecting the boarders as well as the interest of the nation is everyone’s duty but Wars mostly happens because of some rabies infected rulers. Hope some vaccine will be invented to cure such disease in the future.

Indians had paid heavy prices for the part of code of conduct “athithi devobava” meaning guest is like god & has to be treated well along with some greedy rulers seeking expansion through outside help had made Indians the victims of outside oppression in the past. A lesson to be remembered… leant… contained!!

Note: PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a life-threatening events such as military combat, natural disasters, terrorist incidents, serious accidents, or physical or sexual assault in adult or childhood. Most survivors of trauma return to normal given a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time. These individuals may develop PTSD. People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares & flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, & feel detached or estranged, & these symptoms can be severe enough & last long enough to significantly impair the person’s daily life.

Wild Honey bee : A tragic story

After my previous article on wild honey thought it would be appropriate to write about a real incident which my husband witnessed. It was in back in 1991. when we were refugees from Kuwait, and my husband was travelling from Madikeri to Virajpet in an open top Jeep. When he was nearing a small village called Kakotuparmbu, he noticed something on the side of the road ahead, a human like figure rolling/wriggling on the ground close to the road with what appeared to be a cloud over it. At first he thought someone must be drunk and sleeping….. or perhaps someone is sick. When he neared the person he wanted to stop and check to see if he could help..suddenly, he realized that the person on the ground was been attacked by swarm of thousands of wild bees, and he got scared because he was driving an open jeep and there was no where to hide if they were to attack him.

The person appeared to be an old tribal lady and was screaming in pain. The cry was heart wrenching. my husband looked at the back of the Jeep for a blanket or bed-sheet or any material that he could use to either shield himself as he went out, or to at least throw at her while he could go get help. If he got out he would be attacked by the angry bees too. A real catch 22 situation. There were no houses nearby. My husband, even though had all the intention of helping could not provide immediate assistance. Instead, he drove away into the next town and when he reached the nearest shop and sight of some people, he stopped and narrated them what was happening and requested if someone could come help. They did go back to help her but by then it was little late. They shifted her to the Virajpet hospital where she succumbed to the bee stings. It haunted him for a long time and he would wake up some times in the middle of the night… he would say any time I think of it or dream of it I feel like electricity pass through my body… I can still hear her cry… I wish I could help her in some way. May be there was something I could do.

Because someone was killed or attacked by the wild bees, we cannot brand the wild (or domesticated) bees to be bad killers. They attack only when they or their territory is disturbed. It can be a broken branch or someone or something trying to get the honey out. Sometimes the mischief mongers will throw stones and run away or easiest and the most effective disturbance is reflecting the sun light through mirror. For some obvious reason the bees gets real agitated. Most of the time it is children who do it for fun without realizing the consequences. Unfortunately the one who disturbed will run away but someone innocently walking nearby will pay the price like the tribal lady.

The place where the lady was attacked, there are many bee hives but not on burga tree but on wild jackfruit tree… perhaps a variety most of you have not heard of. In Coorg it is called “adina chakke” (the normal one is called chakke). It is much smaller in size which fits in the palm, almost the size of a bread fruit. It has small yellow fruit arils. And the seeds like a bird’s egg. The trees are too tall and unlike the other jackfruit the fruit does not grow on the stem but grows on top of the tree on canopy among the leaves. The arils are half the size of thumb. It is smooth and tastes sourish-sweet and you can put couple of arils in mouth at a time!! The fruit does not contain any sticky substance and all the arils are stuck to the center inedible rind of the fruit. When ripe or when the monkey or the birds eat them, the fruit or seed will fall to the ground. Fruit is seasonal. Inside the white jacket the seed has a slightly thicker coating. Unlike the normal jackfruit seed, when dry you can simply remove the coating and eat them raw. It tastes pretty good. Haven’t eaten hem in ages. Any time walking under the tree we would search for the seed and eat them. It is another kind of tree favourite to the wild honey bees. I will post the pictures of the tree later. The adinachakke is not deciduous and there are too many leaves on the canopy. So its little difficult to photograph the fruits.