A Coorg Elder invoking Spirits of the Ancestors & Kaveri during a Coorg Wedding
The Coorg customs are quite different from those of the other people of India. The people of Coorg are well known for being hospitable. A delicacy that is served at community feasts is pork, prepared in vinegar that has been made from a fruit. Pork is the staple meat at any traditional Coorg function.
Weapons form an intergral part of Coorg traditions and religious beliefs. They have a festival completely dedicated to weapons called Keil Podh.
- The Puttari(Huttari) harvest festival is opened up with the firing of guns
- When a family is blessed with a son, a single gunshot is fired into the sky to welcome the little one
- Likewise, when a Coorg passes away, two or more consecutive gunshots are fired into the sky to mark the departure of the deceased
These customs are still followed in Coorg. Coorgs follow Animism and Hinduism. Primarily, the people of Coorg worship ancestors. In their houses, they have idols or images of their ancestors to whom the offer obedience and prayer. The idols are traditionally made from wood or clay, covered with metal, and placed in a shrine called a kaimada that is built close to the ain-mane(ancestors home) entrance.
Coorgs worship nature and they hold the river Cauvery in the highest regards. To them, the holy river is their mother. It is mentioned in the Puranas that the Coorgs were summoned by Lord Brahma when the River was going to take birth. All the Coorgs gathered at Talacauvery and took the first dip when the Goddess appeared and turned into the river. The people of Coorg are blessed by touching their elders’ feet. A mother is held in the highest regard within the Coorg society. The mother is the first to bless a journeyman or young married couple. A Coorg widow may still participate in joyous occasions such as her children’s weddings. She is seen as the principal figure for conducting wedding ceremonies that are conducted traditionally by elders without the participation of a priest.
It may come as a surprise to many that the Kodava(Coorg) language has no word for dowry and prostitution, both of which are absent among the Coorgs. The general level of culture and education among women of Coorg has always been higher, women know their rights and are treated well in the family. A widow may remarry, which is quite common and has always been acceptable in the Coorg culture.
Even though Coorgs are Hindus, their marriage rights are not performed by a priest. Weddings in Coorg are like something from another planet. The groom claims a bride once a member of his clan has killed mock banana trunk soldiers. Following a feast, the men and women of Coorg get down to dancing, to the tribal beats which have not have changed since time immemorial.
The Coorg family unit is known as the okka. This is a patrilineal tribe made up of males with common ancestry. The male members of the okka(clan) all share a unique okka name. Presently, there are nearly 1000 okka families and family names in Coorg.
The okka members worship each okka founder, known as the Guru Karona.
In the central hall of every home in Coorg, you will find a Nellakki Bolucha, a lamp that is lit to honor the Guru Karona(the first patriarch of the clan). The eldest member of an Okka is traditionally treated as the deity. The Coorgs are also worshipers of nature and revere the earth, moon, fire and sun. The cultures and traditions of the Coorgs embrace Hinduism, but are unique and immensely different. Usually a priest oversees none of their births, deaths, marriages or festivals. Meat and libations are served at most of their feasts.