Dutch diary: General Cariappa and ‘Puttari Kol’
Passages from the diary of John van der Woude (in picture above), from Holland, during his visit to Madikeri (Mercara) in 1973. It was his first trip outside Europe at the age of 23. John had apparently witnessed the Madikeri ‘Puttari Kol’ which was attended by Gen. K. M. Cariappa. The photographs taken by John during his visit was earliesr published in the facebook group ‘coorgtourisminfo.com’.
MERCARA, SUNDAY THE 16TH OF DECEMBER, 1973. FROM MY TRAVEL DIARY:
Yesterday afternoon, I was invited by a shopkeeper to attend the Coorg feast this Sunday afternoon, from 2.30 p.m.
All Coorgs of Mercara were flocking to a big lawn at the edge of Mercara. Women and girls with beautiful saris, and men often in rather western costumes. But other men were in the traditional Coorg costume: black, long, with an embroidered belt (with a fine machete) and a flat turban of the same material as the belt.
During the first part of the feast, the costumized men danced around the big tree in the middle of the lawn. At the end of the dance queue young men and boys also danced. All of them had two wooden sticks in their hands, which they hammered to each other during the slow, jagged dance figures. The dance was dictated by one drummer who produced a complicated rhythm. Thus, some 100 to 150 sticks filled the air with their clanging sound. According to the General that I later met, this is the purpose of these wooden sticks indeed, to produce that sound. So the sticks should not be viewed as a replacement of swords. Formerly the sticks had a split top and then produced an even better sound, he said.
After this, the young women had their own dance, in a smaller circle. There were about twenty-five of them, in splendid saris, and I think they were in their early twenties, like me. They danced on the song of two girls in the middle, with varying rhythms.
Then there was a short speech by one of the men in the traditional black costume, followed by a short repeat of some of the male dances around the big tree. This gradually changed into a general dance with the male audience, with the same jagged dance figures, all in a jolly dense crowd.
And now the General. His name is General K.M. Cariappa. At the start of the dance festivities, I was introduced to him by my shopkeeper (the one that had invited me to this feast). At the end of the festivities we met the General again, and he introduced me to several dignitaries, like a diamond trader who gave me some valuable advice for Kulu valley in the Himalayas later on my India trek.
Most people were leaving the terrain now, and the General invited us to drive in his car to his estate, for a glass of whisky. During the ride I gradually understood what an exceptional man general Cariappa is, with his Oxford English, his style, his 18 years old car, and the fact that he let his shoes kiss by admirers (children and women) when we stopped along the road! Also, he stopped a few times to have young boys bring, standing in line, a sort of salutation yell to India, or so I thought. He rewarded this by throwing them some coins.
His house was almost a sort of museum, full of antique Indian and Nepalese art and weaponry. He showed me around and we drank a whisky indeed. I signed his guest book and he wished me a good trip across India.
So far my travel diary for the 16th of December 1973. I have put over 200 photos of this India trek in 1973/1974 on my website. Have a look at http://www.jvanderw.nl/indiatrek/intro.html (or Google at india trek woude). The Mercara section of that photo report has twelve photos of the Coorg feast. In the last section I have added a price list of food and other items of that time. Thanks to Mr. Bopanna for brining my photos to your attention on the Facebook group coorgtourisminfo.com.
John’s E-mail: jvanderw@ tiscali.nl