Coorg – anglicized from Kodagu – is a district in South Karnataka, lying between 11°56’ and 12° 52’ North Latitude and 75° 22’ and 76° 12’ East Longitude.
The ancient annals of Coorg is described in Indian mythology by the Kaveri Purana, which forms an episode in four chapters of the Skanda or Kartikeya Purana. The Kaveri Purana seeks to glorify the holy river Kaveri, whose divine origin, its intimate relationship with Rishi Agastya, and its course through the Eastern country into the sea, all conspire to give it a character of surpassing sanctity. Mythology states that Coorg was known as Brahma Kshethra/ Matsya desha/ Kroda desha. The name Kodagu is a derivative of Kroda Desha according to some. Postulates suggest that the people of Coorg are descendants of the ancient Greeks. Another theory states a resemblance of the name and people to a place called Kurd in Turkey.
The Coorgs are the descendants of the Ugra race according to a reference of the history of the Kadambas. Coorg, with its rich forests and soil coupled with paddy cultivation attracted several invasions by the neighbouring kings. There is a historical mention of conquests by Cheras, Chalukyas and the Hoysalas. It was then guided by the rule of the Vijayanagar kingdom. After the decline of the Vijayanagar kingdom, the Nayaks of Ikkeri – the Paleygars (chieftains) – assumed independence. One of the Ikkeri princes assumed the garb of a Lingayat priest, entered Haleri Nad of Coorg, and gained influence over the surrounding areas. Over a period of time, he was declared the chief of that area, and he officiated the Haleri dynasty of Coorg which ruled the region for the next 221 years.
Coorg was then subjected to constant invasions by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan. Demolitions of many Hindu Temples, forcible conversion to Islam were some traumatic episodes narrated here often. The last Haleri king then entered an allegiance treaty with the British, and peace and prosperity followed. The British introduced coffee, spices and the colonial lifestyle in Coorg. Coorg continued to remain a state after independence till 1956 after which it was merged with Karnataka.
People and customs
Coorg is chiefly populated by its native ethnic group, the Kodavas, who were freeholder farmers and militiamen in the ancient past. Other communities that reside in Kodagu district are Gowdas and Muslims and include Airi, Meda, Male-Kudiya, Kembatti, Maringi, Kapal, Kolla, Kavadi, Kurubas, Koleya, Koyava, Kanya, Kudiyas, Banna, Ganiga, Golla, Thatta, Yeravas, Malaya, etc
There are also families of the Brahmin community, most of whom were brought here by the rulers for the purpose of offering poojas at various temples. Kodava oral traditions are very rich, some of the traditional folk songs have been compiled into the Pattole Palome. The Kodavas are mainly ancestor-worshippers but are also polytheists and worship a number of deities.
The Kodagu men wear ‘Kupyas’ (knee-length half-sleeved coats) over a full-sleeved white shirt. ‘Chale’ i.e. a maroon and gold sash is tied at the waist and an ornately carved silver dagger known as ‘Peechekathi’ is tucked into it. ‘Odikathi’ is yet another knife that is tucked into the Chale at the back. Furthermore, a chain with a minuscule gun and a dagger hanging onto it gives them a martial look.
The saris worn by women folk are pleated at the back and the pallu fixed with a brooch is also wrapped in a very unique way. They wear either a full-sleeved or three-quarter sleeved blouse and cover their head with a scarf. A traditional gold beaded necklace known here as ‘Kokkethathi Jomale’ is widely worn by the women of Kodagu.
The three main festivals celebrated in Coorg are
- Puthari – Pudhiya (new) + Ari (rice) as a harvest festival.
- Kail Poldh – Kail (weapon) + Poldh (festival) as Ayudha Pooja
- Kaveri Sankramana – Every year, mid-October, at a predetermined time, when the sun enters Tula Rasi (Tula Sankramana), a surge of holy water (Theertha) erupts from the birth place of River Kaveri. Thousands of people gather to take a dip in this holy water.
Coorg is a rural area whose income was mainly from agriculture, plantations and forestry. Today it has become one of the finest hill station destinations in India. Hotspots include Talakavery, Madikeri, Nagarahole National Park, Bhagamandala, Kavery Nisargadhama, Thadiyanda Mol, Nalnad place, Iruppu falls, Abbi falls, Bylakuppe, Omkareshwara temple etc.
Situated along the Eastern declivities, Coorg has a lot of natural beauty, mostly unseen and unexplored. An attempt has been made here to get off the beaten track, and present snapshots of what Coorg can offer on the other side.
The Town of Virajpet amidst Cleome flowersà Cleo in Greek is a prefix often translated to mean ‘pride’, ‘fame’ or ‘glory’. Species of Cleome are commonly known as spider flowers, spider plants, spider weeds, or bee plants.
Venture out of the usual and you will see ridge after ridge of grassy forest clad hills, gently sloping down in wavy lines, bold and abrupt, raising their steep summits into the clear blue sky.The varying colors and hues of the same landscape evoke different emotions in different seasons.
“Knowledge would be fatal. It is the uncertainty that charms one. A mist makes things wonderful.”― Oscar Wilde.It is a refreshing feeling to wake up early in the morning at the Brahmagiri hills next to Talakavery. The blanket of mist encompasses the viewer with an ethereal feel.
A road through Nagarahole National Park à The park derives its name from ‘naga’, meaning snake and ‘hole’, referring to streams. The park was an exclusive hunting reserve of the kings of the Wodeyar dynasty of Mysore. It was set up in 1955 as a Wildlife Sanctuary and later its area increased to 643.39 km (399.78 mi). It was upgraded to a National Park in 1988. This park was declared a Tiger Reserve in 1999.
The Monsoon Mountains –> They halt the West-Monsoon winds and bring down the rain and are rightly called so
A typical streamwith its unsurpassed melody and beauty, a common sight in the middle of coffee estates
The Perambadi Lake enroute to Kerala from Virajpet offers a very calm and relaxed feel
The Chelavara falls offers a picturesque view of the landscape with gushing water in the middle of thickly clad trees.
Sarathabbi Falls –>The only main river that flows into Arabian Sea from Coorg is the Barapole River which is seen on the left. It is joined by theSarath River forming a falls with a whopping clear drop of 434 feet.Sarathabbi, as it is called locally offers a breathtaking view, and it is a breathtaking climb too.
Malabar Jasmine Jasminummalabaricum –> Kadumallige, as it is called in Karnataka, It is native to South India. A climber that can grow 3 to 5 mtrs,the fragrance of the flowers is invigorating. It is considered sacred and is seen planted near temples.
The brilliant Glory Lily, which created a sensation when it was first brought into Europe from the Tropics was “Methonica” to one nursery, “Liliumzeylanicumsuperbum” to another,”Mendoni” to a third. Carl Linnaeus decreed that it should henceforth be called be called GloriosaSuperba, one of its earliest names. It is called as the Thok Poo (Thok= Gun, Poo = Flower), it is banned entry into the house except on the day of KailPoldh.
The Oriental Garden Lizard Calotesversicolor, is an agamid lizard which is an insectivore. It assumes a bright red throat during the breeding season and gets the title “bloodsucker”. They become highly territorial during this time. It is a sight to watch them brighten up their throat and do push-ups to discourage intruding males.
Leafcutter Bees are cavity nesters, so named because they use cut-leaf fragments to line their nest.They are very efficient pollinators. They do not carry pollen baskets on their legs like most bees do. Instead, they collect pollen by the hairs on the underside of their abdomen.In research, it is seen that about 150 of these little bees working in greenhouses (or similar) can provide the pollination service of 3,000 honeybees!
If you see another bee following the Leafcutter Bee, it would be a Cuckoo Bee (Coelioxyssp) which hascome up with the kleptoparasitic habit of laying its eggs in the nests of Leafcutter bees, reminiscent of the behavior of cuckoo birds.The Cuckoo Bee enters the nest of a Leafcutter Bee and uses its long tapering abdomen to insert eggs in between the layers of leaf surrounding the Leafcutter Bee brood cell, into the pollen mass inside. The eggs hatch into Coelioxys larvae which kill the young ones of the Leafcutter Bee and also eat the food stored for them.
Foxtail OrchidRhynchostylisretusacalled as “Seethe dande” in Kannada (Sita from Ramayana, and Dande –garland, because of her expertise in weaving garlands) is named so after the long inflorescence of this orchid, which can grow up to 2 feet. This has been declared as the state flower of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. In Assam, it is popularly known as KopouPhool, and is an integral part of a Bihu dancer’s attire.
One of the rare jewels of the deep Western Ghats is this seductively fragrant and beautiful wild orchid called the Curled AeridesAeridesCrispum; Aerides means ‘of the air’, referring to the plant’s sustenance and Crisp refers to the consistency and the margins. The flowers are capable of remaining in bloom for over a month. In Kannada, it is also called as the “DraupadiDande” which translates to garland of Draupadi.This is due to her inability to weave long garlands as opposed to “Seethe Dande”.
Imagine yourself sitting on a couch, legs on a carpet, sipping a cup of coffee, and the horror when the carpet comes alive, attacks you and starts to eat you. That exactly would be the scenario for an unsuspecting victim of this virtually invisible Lichen Huntsman Spider Pandercetesgracilis. Probably the first of this kind seen in India,the spider is around five inches, and is mildly venomous. It has strong limbs that are even capable of eating small birds and bats.Seen here is the spider encircling its eggs with forelimbs.
Indian Ornamental Tarantulas Poicilotheriaregalis are tree-dwelling spiders from the forests of South Western and Eastern India. They are the ecological equivalents of huntsman spiders; they are fast, agile, active hunters that do not build a web but shelter beneath loose tree bark or in hollow branches.Though not very venomous, they do carry a nasty painful bite. Some of them, when attacked by a predator, rub their limbs on the hairs of the back, causing them to fly into the eyes of the predator causing intense irritation.
One of the most beautiful swallowtail butterflies of the region, the Tamil Peacock Papilioparistamilana is an endemic butterfly found in Southern India. It is also known as the Sahyadri Paris Peacock.
Veiled Stinkhorn Phallus indusiatus, also known as the bamboo fungus, bamboo pith, long net stinkhorn, crinoline stinkhorn or veiled lady, is a fungus in the family Phallaceae, or Stinkhorns. It grows in woodlands and gardens in rich soil and well-rotted woody material. The fruit body of the fungus is characterized by a conical to bell-shaped cap on a stalk and a delicate lacy “skirt”, or indusium that hangs from beneath the cap and reaches nearly to the ground. It is edible,very nutritious and considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac in some places.