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Saturday, 26 May 2018

19th Century pictures of a Kodava family

These pictures show early members of the Mathanda family.

Appachu, with his sons, paying respect to his father Karicha (c.1859)

The first picture is of a grandfather, his son, and young grandsons. This photograph was taken by Rev. G. Richter, who was in Kodagu between 1856 and 1870. As the principal and inspector of Central School, Mercara, Richter wrote the Gazetteer of Coorg (or Manual of Coorg) in 1870. This picture is dated 1859. This picture made its way to the 1875 People of India photographic series.

The elderly man in the picture is Mathanda Karicha, called Mattana and mistaken for the Subahdar of Mercara by Watson and Kaye (in 1875). His son is the distinguished but unassuming decorated war hero Mathanda Appachu. He is the real Subahdar, albeit of Beppunad, in Mercara (Madikeri) taluk, and recipient of the war medal his father wears. As a mark of respect and humility, Appachu gave his father and clan elder the medal to wear. His eldest son wears the kokkethathi, or moon pendant, worn by both men and women. The male members of this family are seen wearing Kuppya Cheles of different colours. The grandsons are Chengappa, Nanjappa, Belliappa and Poovaiah in an unknown order.

Subahdar Appachu among other thakkas (c.1865)

The second photo shows Appachu among eight Kodava thakkas in the 1860s. They are mistakenly called 'Coorg priests' by the Europeans, while in fact, they were actually native leaders. Appachu was Subahadar of Beppunad in the 1850s. In the 1860s, he became Head Sheristadar (native judicial official) at Madikeri.

Diwan Appachu, his sons and relatives (c.1870)

The third photo shows Appachu and his four grown-up sons in 1870, some 20 years after the first photo. The children in the 1859 photo are now young men. The middle-aged Appachu in the same 1859 photo is now an old man.

Between 1867 and 1876 Appachu was Diwan of Kodagu. Mathanda A. Chengappa was claimed to be South India's first Barrister. He studied in London but died young in 1875. Mathanda Nanjappa was an Assistant Commissioner of Coorg (Kodagu) and died the same year, in 1875. Diwan Appachu died the following year in 1876. Another son, Poovaiah, also died early, as a bachelor. Two other boys in this picture are relatives who have not been identified.