Kodava cultural pageant held at Balugodu
Is Kodava culture still alive? This reporter wanted to find an answer to this question when he set out to visit Balugodu near Virajpet to witness the recent Kodava festival at the newly started Kodava Cultural Centre (in picture above).
Ever since the Kodavas (Coorgs) started migrating to cities on a large scale in the past decade, there has been a concern on the crisis facing the Kodava community and its culture. More so because of the large-scale sale of lands by Kodavas to ‘outsiders’ and the increasing dominance by outsiders in the affairs of Kodagu.
In the olden days, Kodava culture centred round the Ainemanes (ancestral homes) and the Nad (village). Puthari (harvest festival) was the time when the Kodava folk dance (aat, paat/dance and song) was in full flow at the village greens (mand).
With people migrating to cities, most of the Ainemanes in Kodagu have been deserted and have begun crumbling for want of repair. In the recent years, the festivities have become individual affairs as none live in the Ainemanes.
It looks like the over two dozen ‘Kodava Samajas’ spread across Kodagu and Karnataka have taken up the challenge to revive and preserve the rich folk dance forms of Kodagu.
It is a fact that most of the Samajas are divided houses. This is obvious because the Kodava have always been a divided community which resulted in the community being ruled by ‘outside’ Kings. There have been whispers that office-bearers of a couple of prosperous Samajas have mishandled the finances. This is inevitable when “crores of rupees” have been spent on wooing (wine and dine) voters during the election of office-bearers.
Despite the whiff of scandals, most of the Kodava Samajas have been active in promoting the Kodava culture.
This was reflected at the ‘Kodava Namme’ (festival) at Balugodu. The festival was organised by the Federation of Kodava Samajas. Inter-Samaja folk dance competitions were held which had wide participation from individual Samajas who had taken the trouble to train the participants. It was not just men, but women too competed in large numbers in the Ummath Aat category. There was also a game of inter-Samaja hockey, true to the Kodava tradition.
Those who witnessed the pageantry got the impression that Kodava culture was not only alive, but kicking!
Though the cultural part of the festival was well-organised, there were hick-ups in serving food and regulating traffic. These glitches could have been avoided if the organisers had paid more attention even though such huge turnout of guests was unexpected.
EDITOR’S VIEW: The Kodava Samajas and the Federation of Kodava Samaja are doing a commendable job in preserving Kodava culture. The efforts of the Samajas, especially towards promoting culture, should be supported by its members.
The Kodava community members should consider their Samajas as their new Ainemanes as their old clan homes are not in use anymore.
It is time that those seeking election to Samaja as office-bearers, should desist from holding dinners to win over the voters. This is a new phenomenon which started in Bangalore during the last election. Whatever good work being conducted by the Samajas get vitiated if there is any whiff of corrupt practices.