It’s not just Nature that has bestowed its enchanting beauty on Coorg, but the rich and ancient culture of its people who seem eternally joyous in their countenance, forthcoming in their hospitality and deep in their worship of Nature that gives the region an other-worldly charm. Not a surprise then that one of the 7 most sacred rivers of India – Cauvery, is born here, to a people who reveres all forms of nature and has deified their own ancestors in honour of their wisdom. Most ancestral homes or ‘Ayn-mane’ as they call it, have a shrine built close-by attesting their profound veneration of their ancestry.
The original families also called as ‘Okka’ in native Coorgi, is patriarchal in its lineage though unlike other patrilineal customs, the women of the household enjoy a far greater importance and independence to their male counterparts. Education and self-determination is the highest among Kodava women compared to the rest of its neighbourhood.
Descendents of a martial tribe, the Coorgis are proud of their warrior heritage and are fiercely protective of their freedom but are equally welcoming of other ideologies, customs and faith in their midst. Though predominantly Hindu, the Kodavas follow a peculiar tradition that is totally endemic to their culture and almost hermetic in its practice; for eg, they do not have a priest performing their marriages or death ceremonies, they pride in having weapons as part of their traditional attire reflecting their Kshatriya roots and even shoot in the air to announce a birth or a passing. Their weddings too, aren’t solemnised by holy priests but by their own elders and community members in a grand jamboree of fun, food, music and dance which apparently hasn’t changed since their ancient tribal past. So also, libation and meat are a central part of their festivities which is either rare or unheard of with mainstream Hindu practices.
A culture that is so zestful and larger than life would but naturally transfer that zing into their food which is exquisitely distinct in its flavour and diverse in its variety. ‘Pandi Curry’ or Pork curry is a staple in Kodava tradition which takes prominence in all their festivities along with a slew of unique bread, rice cakes and fish preparations that are not just spicy and colourful but offered with great pride and honour exemplifying their elegance and cordiality as a people who are genuinely happy to play host.
Besides the rich culture, Coorg is also a place of many surprises and must-see spots; did you know the largest settlement of Tibetan exiles live in Bylekuppe? What was once a sleepy outskirt of Coorg is now a thriving centre of Tibetan people who brought with them their rich tradition, culture and heritage which over the years, have added a new voice and vibrance to the peaceful region. The Dubare elephant camp is a community of another kind; where elephants are trained under the supervision of naturalists while offering many activities for the tourists to interact safely with the pachyderms. But if you are the kind that likes it wild, then there’s Nagarhole and Pushpagiri National Parks where you could spot Leopards, Tigers, Sambhars, Gaur, Deers, Langurs, Boars, Sloth Bears and a lot more. Coorg is also a paradise for trekkers with so many circuits in the mountains and the forests each with its own breath-taking views and experiences, but it’s always safe to hire a guide along. The Brahmagiri Thadiyendamol or the Kumar Parvatha treks are some of the most exhilarating besides being the tallest point of Coorg. There’s also rafting on the rapids for the adrenaline junkies at the Barapole river but be warned, its only seasonal. Mountains and Forests, Mists and Rivers also mean plenty of water-falls; Iruppu, Abbe and Mallalla falls are among the most scenic and adventurous spots while for the more peaceful n spiritual seekers, there is the Talacauvery (holy birthplace of Cauvery), the Omkareshwara temple or the Golden Temple at Bylekuppe.
While these are well known spots one must see during their visit to Coorg, there are countless other unknown or less known places that are open to your discovery. And plenty of stories too.