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Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus?

P. T. Bopanna
Type: Print Book
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Language: English
Price: ₹265 + shipping
Price: ₹265 + shipping
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This book tries to answer the question ‘Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus?’ I have involved some of the finest researchers from Kodagu (Coorg) who are knowledgeable in the matter, to find the answer to this pertinent question. To that end, this book is a seminal work on the religion of the Kodavas.

Being a journalist, I have tried to present the findings of both those who claim that Kodavas are Hindus, as well as those who maintain that Kodavas are not Hindus. The idea is to enable readers to draw their own conclusions, rather than thrust any particular line of thinking on them.

This is perhaps the first time since the world-renowned social anthropologist Prof M.N. Srinivas wrote his monumental work ‘Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India’ (1952), that a serious effort has been made to analyze and debate the various facets of Kodava religion. Prof Srinivas’s book was based on his ethnographical study of the Kodava community for his D.Phil degree at Oxford University.

I wish to summarize here the findings of the various writers who have contributed articles/papers for this book. My own understanding is that Kodavas are not Hindus. Though their original faith was unique and not in common with the core Hindu beliefs, the influence of Hinduism began with the Lingayat Rajas who ruled Kodagu for nearly two and a half centuries from 1600 AD.

The purpose of this book is to inform Kodavas, especially the younger generation, about their original faith and belief system. This may help them to better appreciate their original faith which is slowly being eroded due to the creeping in of Brahminical practices, as young Kodavas move away from their Kodagu roots to urban settings.

Dr. Chotteyandamada Sowmya Dechamma, Professor at the Centre for Comparative Literature, University of Hyderabad, who has done extensive research on Kodava language and culture, opines that Kodavas are not Hindus.

In her paper “Of Death, Rituals and Songs for the Dead: Kodavas and their Histories”, Sowmya notes: “A cursory glance at the customs and rituals of most Kodava-speaking peoples show that they are neither idol worshippers nor do they include priestly Brahmins in any of their ceremonies. All their festivals revolve around agricultural practices and none in the name of any Hindu god.”

Prof. Neravanda Veena Poonacha, who retired as Director of the Research Centre for Women’s Studies (RCWS), SNDT Women’s University, Mumbai, has been critical of the conclusions drawn by Prof. M.N. Srinivas in his book on the Kodavas. Veena says she was disturbed by the book “because I felt the book gazed at the Kodavas as if they were specimens under a microscope.”

She opines: “What I found objectionable was the ways by which his own caste location as a Brahmin coloured his view of Coorg society and religion. In my view, although moulded by several strands of cultural influences, Coorg culture is unique. It was a culture that did not acknowledge the ritual superiority of the Brahmin priests.”

In her article ‘In Search of Meaning – A Pilgrimage to Malethirke Forest Shrine’ Veena says: “The religious practices of the Kodavas are broadly located within the Hindu-fold and yet they are different. They do not follow any of the religious prescriptions that govern the lives of mainstream Hindu communities.”

Maj Gen Codanda K. Karumbaya, Sena Medal (Retd), who has written extensively on matters relating to Kodavas, has called for imbibing the spirit of the original Kodava tribal faith, which considered Nature as their God and ancestors as their gurus (teachers).

General Karumbaya has put forth his views on Kodava religion boldly, without trying to be politically correct. His views are stated bluntly, and he calls for a scientific approach to Kodava religion. The General notes: “In order that Kodavas emerge as a progressive community of the future with a scientific temper, I request our community members to recognize the merits of our original religion bequeathed to us by our early ancestors and discard all those false beliefs acquired from the followers of ‘religions of fear’ and ‘social religions’ with whom our destiny got entangled.”
Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa, author of two books on Kodagu, opines that Kodavas at present largely identify themselves as Hindus, almost by default, since they do not belong to any of the other major religions in India.
Nitin states: “I would like to state that the Kodavas are presently like the mainstream Hindus in some ways and unlike them in other ways. In other words, they definitely follow a distinct way of life which is, however, not completely unrelated to Hinduism. Whether we, Kodavas, call ourselves a sect of Hindus - Kodava Hindus, or followers of an independent Kodava religion is actually a question of perception and therefore of how we label ourselves.”

Roona Uthappa Ballachanda says that modern, urbanized, liberated Kodavas are increasingly clueless about how to maintain their Kodava self in the face of all the enticing new concepts around them and the gradual loss of their traditional lifestyle. “If we don’t have a strong sense of self, if we don’t take the time to spell out what makes us who we are and what is important to our identity, we won’t be able to protect ourselves against external influence and aggression. And if the Kodava is destroyed, Kodagu will follow soon enough”, notes Roona.

Under these circumstances, she argues that a religious minority status for Kodavas would give us a “strong leg to stand on, both in legal battles as well as in community endeavors.”

Getting independent parliamentary representation and full minority status for Kodavas under Article 29 of the Constitution is the road ahead for Kodavas to maintain their culture and way of life.

In their foreword to the book, researchers Boverianda Chinnappa and Nanjamma Chinnappa have called upon Kodavas to imbibe the spirit of ‘Kodavame’, or the Kodava way of life, a precious heritage handed down by their ancestors. “We hope that it will be practiced and preserved for generations to come, and continue to add to the rich diversity of faiths in India,” say the Chinnappa couple, who have gone through the manuscript of this book and offered valuable suggestions.

I have always believed that a good cover design is important for a book. The cover for my last book, the international award-winning ‘The Romance of Indian Coffee’, was designed by my young friend Franz Mendonsa, who has a Master’s in Entertainment Technology from Carnegie Mellon University. This time too, I roped in Mangaluru-born Franz, who currently resides in the United States and works on the Star Wars franchise.

P.T. Bopanna

About the Author

P. T. Bopanna (PalangandaThimmaiah Bopanna) was born on the 30th of June in 1950. He is a journalist and author from Kodagu District in Karnataka, India. Bopanna's career covers working in some of India's leading English dailies. He is the author of nine books, most of which are on Kodagu and cover topics ranging from tourism, culture and politics, to coffee.

Bopanna's various digital assets (websites & social media) were developed over the years and provide a wealth of information on Kodagu. They cover the hilly land's unique cuisine and jewellery, details of the home stays and news from the region.

Going from journalism to activism for Kodagu-related causes was probably a natural progression for Bopanna, as was teaching journalism, with his extensive experience, in the colleges of Bengaluru.

Early life:
Bopanna completed his schooling at Gonikoppal in Kodagu. He obtained his B.A. degree (Economics) from Madras University (Chennai) and M.A. in Political Science from Karnatak University, Dharwad. He also has a post-graduate Diploma in Journalism from Bhavan's College, Mumbai where he was a student of well-known journalist M.V. Kamath.

Bopanna began his journalistic career in 1981 as the Coorg Correspondent of The Hindu newspaper. He worked briefly with The Times of Deccan at Bengaluru, where he was mentored by veteran journalist T.J.S. George.
He joined The Times of India, Bangalore in 1984 as a Reporter and exited after 12 years as Principal Correspondent.

He subsequently worked as Special Correspondent with The Pioneer (New Delhi), at Bengaluru, from 1996 onwards for 13 years, where he covered mostly political news for the paper. He served simultaneously as the Bangalore Stringer of the Associated Press, an American news agency for six years. Here he covered general news with an emphasis on human interest stories.

Bopanna went on to teach journalism to undergraduate and post-graduate students from 2001 to 2006. The institutes he taught at were Surana College, Jain College and Sri Sri Institute of Media Studies, all three located in Bengaluru.

Bopanna won two awards in 1986 instituted by the Bangalore Reporters' Guild for 'Best crime story' and 'Scoop of the year'.

His book ‘The Romance of Indian Coffee’ won the prestigious Gourmand International Award under the ‘Best in the World’ coffee book category in 2015.

Bopanna has written nine books: 'Discover Coorg' (2006, Prism Books); 'The Rise and Fall of the Coorg State' (2009); 'Dateline Coorg' (2010); 'Coorg: Land of Beauty and Valour' (2010, Prism Books): 'The Romance of Indian Coffee' (2011, Prism Books); 'Are Kodavas (Coorgs) Hindus?' (2018), My Coorg Chronicles (2020): Coorg Role Models (2021) and ‘Round And About With P T Bopanna’ (2022).

The book 'Discover Coorg', published by Prism Books Ltd,. Bengaluru, was translated into Kannada and titled – 'Kodagu: Mungaru Maleya Vismayada Nadu'(2008). While another book 'Rise and Fall of the Coorg State' has been translated into both Kannada and Kodava languages.

In 2005 Bopanna launched, a news and tourism portal. The other six websites promoted by him are:,,,, and

DVD on Coorg:
In April of 2015, Bopanna released a 35-minute DVD on Coorg called 'Discover Coorg Video'. It features tourist spots, homestays, Coorg jewellery, golf courses in Coorg, the Kodava family hockey festival and Kodava culture, including the traditional folk dances and Kodava weddings.

Online Campaign:
Through his news portal, Bopanna started an online campaign in 2012 to improve the condition of the neglected Hunsur-Gonikoppal Road, a 45-km stretch of highway between the districts of Mysuru and Kodagu. Due to the pressure exerted by the sustained social media campaign, the re-laying of the road was completed in 2014.

Actively involved in social media, he has more than 20,000 members on his various Facebook groups/pages. Bopanna also conducts an annual poll to select the 'Coorg person of the Year', the winner is picked from a shortlist by members of his Facebook groups. The winners of Coorg Person of the Year title have been featured in the book Coorg Role Models.

Personal life:
Bopanna is the son of P. M. Thimmaiah and Kamy Thimmaiah. His father served as Deputy Conservator of Forests in the Andamans. He is married to Sita Bopanna. Bopanna's son is Devaiah Bopanna, a Mumbai-based creative writer who is married to Bhakti Saraswat and they have a son Raghav Thimmaiah.

Source: Wikipedia

Book Details

ISBN: 9789385741098
Publisher: Rolling Stone Publications
Number of Pages: 122
Dimensions: 5.51"x8.27"
Interior Pages: B&W
Binding: Paperback (Perfect Binding)
Availability: In Stock (Print on Demand)

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