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Wednesday, 17 December 2014


(Queries and clarifications regarding General Karumbaya’s 'Kodavas through the ages’ and Prof. Appaiah’s 'Kodava history')

Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa

Isaac Newton once said: 'If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ I cannot agree any more. On the other hand I hope that all who read this would respect my opinion (which is based on facts) and freedom of expression.
I respect Prof. Ponjanda S. Appaiah’s research, I have spoken with him a number of times and I have seen his CD as well. But I tend to disagree with a few of his theories. I believe he has been more generic in his approach while I have been more specific in mine. I have read Dr. Iychetira M. Muthanna’s books and found gems in them. But I have discovered a few errors in his works and I have improvised on them. Lt. Col. K C Ponappa’s ‘Origins of Kodavas‘ is an admirable book which analysed different communities. I believe that time brings about improvisation of every nature. My own findings are different from each of theirs.
I have been following Major General Karumbaya’s article on Facebook which has appeared in the Coffeeland Newspaper as well. I laud the General’s zeal behind writing this piece and thank him for doing so. The General has presented his opinion of the matter very well. However I don’t agree with some of the historic matters discussed. The valid queries that I have are more of an academic nature than of anything else.
Firstly, I would like to ask Maj Gen Karumbaya about the actual sources that he has used, since some of his statements sound more like his own opinion. Prof. P. S. Appaiah has been mentioned. I am assuming that Dr. I. M. Muthanna’s books have also been referred. I agree that we are a distinct culture and language. But I don’t agree with some of the claims being made.
Origin of Kodavas
I disagree with the etymology of the words Kodava and Kodagu that has been suggested. I would say that they come from the root word ‘Koda’, ‘Kodu’ or ‘Kudu’. Ancient inscriptions of the tenth century have used the terms ‘Kodumale’, ‘Kudugu nad’, ‘Kodunad’ and ‘Kudunad’. The old Kodava songs speak of Kodava and Kodavu as the people and the land, which in Kannada is translated as Kodaga and Kodagu and in English as Coorg.
Prof. Appaiah claimed that the Kodava language is not Dravidian but Indo-Iranian and that the ancestors of the Kodavas were Barzani Kurds who came to India as part of Alexander’s army. Initially the Professor used to claim that the Kodavas were culturally Babylonian in origin. Later, as his research developed, he has come to claim that the ancestors of the Kodavas were Barzani Kurds who came to India as a part of Alexander’s army and twelve families settled down in Baithur in Kerala. But the big question: where is the actual proof for all this? Mere physical appearances and resemblances are not enough. Many other communities also share such resemblances.
The Assyrian jewellery resembled Kodava jewellery a lot more. The Odikatti and the Pichekatti resemble the Omani Khanjar and the Yemeni Janbiya a lot more. How can one be so sure that the ancestors of the Kodavas definitely came along with Alexander and not with any other people: for instance the Persians or the Scythians? Also why should they have come with anyone else, why couldn’t they have come on their own, like the Jews or the Parsis? However they came, unfortunately there are no written accounts available.
Alexander did not have to bring the Kodavas by land, they could have come on their own by sea as well. The Andamanese and Nicobarese people moved on crude boats, definitely more than 20,000 years ago, to cross the sea from mainland South Asia to the Andaman and Nicobar islands. Dholavira, the Indus Valley civilisation port in Gujarat, was active 3,000 years before the Christian Era. Hindu and Buddhist monks, missionaries and sailors, as well as a few kings, travelled to South East Asia and East Asia. So sea navigation was very much a reality in prehistoric times although later sea travel came to be held as a taboo by Indians. Also if any community, outside Africa, claims to have arisen from their place of residence then that is all hogwash.
But I agree with Prof. Appaiah’s claim about the twelve parent clans. My understanding is that the twelve families spread out. Two families (Mundiolanda and Bovverianda) initially settled near Ponn Muthappa temple in Payyavur across the state border near Napoklu, one family (Puggera) initially in Baithur (Vayathur) across the state border near Peggala. Eight families settled in Kodagu (from Nalnad to Kiggatnad) while the remaining one became extinct. These eleven remaining families became the ancestors of the Coorgs.
It is said by Prof. Appaiah that the Kodava language is Indo-Iranian. The words that are actually Indo-Iranian are mostly of new origin, from languages such as Hindi and not found in the old Kodava songs. We might have an admixture of Indo-Iranian blood in our veins but our language is definitely Dravidian. The grammar and most of the words of the Kodava language are essentially Dravidian.
Kaveri Purana
Chandra Verma is myth, I agree, and the myth was an explanation given by the later settler priests. The established anthropologists of India like Hutton and B. S. Guha had divided the races of India into six groups: ’Negritos’, ‘Austrics’, ‘Dravidians’, ‘Brachycephals’, ‘Mongoloids’ and 'Indo-Aryans’. The Kodavas, along with most of the Khatri Punjabi (represented by the ten Sikh Gurus), the Maratha, the Gujarati, the Bengali and the Parsi, along with a few Shenoy and Iyengar Brahmins, are classified as 'Brachycephal' and not ‘Indo-Aryan’.
The article claims that Agastya lived in the fifth century AD! Agastya, if he ever existed, is said to have lived during the times of the Ramayana. This epic was composed, and it was very much around, long before the fifth century AD. But I agree that the 'Kaveri Theerthodabava’ event on Tula Sankranthi is a natural phenomenon. Elsewhere in the world, there are a number of springs which arise once a year and feed rivers.
Many have claimed that the Kaveri Purana is part of the larger colossal Skanda Purana (supposedly written in the sixth century AD). However the Skanda Purana doesn’t contain anything about the Kaveri Purana anywhere. Its printed and translated versions are readily available. An explanation given for this is that the Kaveri Purana is a Sthala (local) Purana and hence not found in the standard versions. The actual probable source for the Kaveri Purana is a 17th century Tulu work called the Kaveri Mahatmye. Diwan Bittianda Nanjappa got Srinivasa Iyengar to translate the work into Kannada in the 19th century.
Blank Pages of History
I agree with the claim about Achu Nayaka’s attempt to seize power. Achu Nayaka was related to the Ajjikuttira and the Kattera families. He was aided by two other Kodavas: Utta Nayaka, commander of Beppunad Armeri fort and husband of Princess Neelammaji (daughter of Muddu Raja of Madikeri), and Kollakongi Nayaka of Kadiyatnad in Bavali. The Raja during those times was Siribayi Dodda Virappa (1728), son of Muddu Raja. Utta Nayaka had even been partly successful and went on to declare himself Raja of Kodagu for a while. He invited the Waynad Raja to attack Dodda Virappa but they both were defeated. Diwan Pardanda Ponnappa who finally defeated the three Nayakas and helped Virappa Raja was later executed by the Raja himself.
During the Mysore Sultanate invasion many of the written accounts (like palm leaf records and copper plate records of families and kept in the village temples) were destroyed. They were written by astrologers in the Kodava language but using the Malayalam script.
I disagree that Igguthappa was unknown until the reign of Linga Raja (1811-1820). Igguthappa was known during the times of Kaliatanda Ponnappa (1600 AD) as well, because Ponnappa and his parents were known to be devotees of Igguthappa. In fact Linga Raja came to know of Igguthappa because of his Diwan Apparanda Bopu (who remained as a Dewan until around 1840).
End of Haleri Rajas Rule (1834 AD)
The claim that Diwan Cheppudira Ponnappa and Diwan Apparanda Bopu helped the British and led the Kodavas against the last Raja of Kodagu is false. What has been written down is that there was a war when the British invaded Kodagu in 1834. Mathanda Appachu, a Kodava chieftain, led the initial resistance against the British. The Raja, a man who was usually known for killing a number of his people and relatives, instead hid in his palace in the forests of Nalnad. The people thereafter simply stop resisting the invasion. The Raja, scared to appear in person before the British, then sent his Diwan Apparanda Bopanna (Bopu) to surrender on his behalf before the British.
Thank you.
Richter’s ‘Gazetteer of Coorg’ (1870)
Kodagina Ittihasa, D N Krishnaiah
Coorg Memoirs (the story of the Kodavas), Dr. I. M. Muthanna
History of Kodagu, Prof. P. S. Appaiah
Nuggets from Coorg History, Chepudira P Belliappa
The Rise and fall of the Coorg state, P T Bopanna Palanganda
The early Coorgs, Long ago in Coorg, Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa