A Travellerspoint blog

August 2009


An ode to the land of my forefathers

all seasons in one day

Every time anyone meets me and then it is revealed to them that i hail from Coorg, invariably the conversation shifts to discussing the land of my forefathers. Though I was born and raised in Bangalore, the calling that this part of the world map holds is undeniable. People always seem to have so many questions regarding Coorg , the people , what activities they can pursue when they visit the place,etc. So I decided to catalogue some helpful things about Coorg.

Coorgs are a martial race inhabiting Karnataka’s picturesque hill district Kodagu, in the Southern part of India about 250 kilometers from Bangalore, the IT Capital of India. It was nicknamed as "The Scotland Of the East" by some of the officials in the East India Company most notably by Sir Erskine Perry. The history of this race has always been shrouded in mystery and no Coorg is not just about coffee.
Coorgs or Kodavas as we are known in some parts are a different kind of people as compared to others in the country. Unlike other Hindu communities, Brahmins have no role in any of our ceremonies: be it marriage, death or festivals. The birth of a male child is announced by a single gunshot fired in the air, but the death of a family member is made known by firing gun shots in the air. Drawing a parallel between the character of Greeks and Coorgs it is noted that, “Like the Greeks, the Coorgs have an instinctive hatred for servility or being obsequious. A Coorg will never show more than the obligatory respect to a man in the higher orders of officialdom unless he positively respects that man.”

There’s plenty to do and see in this stunning part of the country, but after careful thought I've finally come up with seven particularly interesting or different things to do in Coorg that will add more to your trip.

1. Help an elephant take his daily bath
Near Kushalnagar there is a natural island with 11 acres of land, covered in trees and surrounded by a wonderful wreath of water. The Dubare Forest is maintained by the forest department, who also run an ‘Elephant Training Camp’. The island is reached by a 20 rupees motorboat ride. Tourists visit to witness the daily routines of tamed elephants. These huge mammals are used to the attention, moving through the river water and lying down while visitors pat and clean them. Tourists enjoy scrubbing the ears and backs as the elephants throw water on themselves through their trunks, if you are in the vicinity you are definitively getting soaked :) Once they are given a bath visitors can serve ‘raagi balls’ made especially for them by the forest department. The cool and gurgling waters of the Cauvery River create a pleasant and refreshing atmosphere.
You can get back to the mainland either by the same motorboat or by following a natural stone path through the river.

2. Visit the biggest Tibetan settlement in southern India

Did you know there is an 18,000-strong community of Tibetans living in southern India? Bylakuppe, situated 90 kms away from Mysore city on the Mysore-Madikeri highway, is the largest Tibetan refugee camp, housing thousands of Tibetans in exile. Over 45 years ago Tibetans settled here, creating a ‘mini-Tibet’ in one village.
As you get close, you’ll see Buddhist monks – ‘Lamas’- overtaking you on their speeding motor bikes, their maroon robes flapping in the air. In the market they can be seen wearing Raybans and listening to their i-Pods! ;)
The sense of sudden change as you enter this Tibetan enclave is surreal, with its colorful flags, monasteries and modernised Tibetan culture.More than 7000 monks pursue their monastic education in Bylakuppe’s monasteries, with dedicated veneration to his holiness The Dalai Lama, their supreme master. The Golden Temple, with a 60 ft gold plated Buddha statue, and the recent addition of ‘copper colored mountain’ Zandong Palri it’s an attractive tourist destination.

3. Trek the hills

From easy to arduous treks, Coorg has varying trails for all kinds of adventure seeker. The best season to plan treks in Coorg is between October and February. The three main mountain peaks in Coorg for trekking are Brahmagiri, Pushpagiri and Tadiandamol. You can trek alone or with a guide. Organisations like Coorg Adventure Club (CAC) organise trekking expeditions from time to time and can arrange the necessary facilities for the interested trekkers. The experience has it all: thick forests, sloping hills, waterfalls, incredible views of this area dubbed ‘Scotland of the East’.

4. Watch the hockey festival
Hockey is a traditional game of the Kodava community, the ethnic group of this region. The Kodava Hockey festival in Coorg has run since 1997. The principal rule of the festival is that a particular team is represented by members of a specific family. Each year, the festival is organised by a different family who give their name to the tournament. It’s for both men and women and is considered to be of great importance. The festival was initiated to bring the people of Kodava community closer. The opening and closing ceremonies are held with spectacle of various dances and a demonstration of the martial arts of the Kodavas.

5. Tuck into Coorg cuisine
Even though the people of Coorg are mostly non-vegetarian, they are influenced by the South Indian ways of cooking food. The rich cuisine of dishes use pork, chicken or fish but are cooked with coconut, curry leaves, ginger, chilli and spices like pepper and cardamom.
You have to try it to believe it - try some Pandi Curry with Kadambittu, which is Pork Curry with Rice dumplings.

6. Attend a Coorg wedding
A Coorg wedding is very different from other South Indian weddings, with the customs followed more familiar to those of North India. The bride wears a red sari, draped in an unusual manner that involves tying pleats in the rear, taking around the back and pinning of small portion of the pallu (end of the sari) securely over the right shoulder.
Men and women of Coorg are known for their beauty, bravery and intelligence. The men look handsome in
their long overcoats, with a silken sash around the waist. They carry a customary dagger called
‘pechekathi’ tucked on to the right side of the sash. And YES alcohol is served as a customary ritual, and its usually on the house with the food ;)

7. Walk the plantations


Coorg is densely covered with coffee, pepper and cardamom estates. These estates on the lush and steep hills of Coorg make an interesting walk. You can even stay in one of the plantation properties and learn from the estate owner all about the growth of coffee and important local spices. Not to mention enjoy a piping hot coffee made wish fresh beans as you relax and enjoy the wonderful views.
I leave u with the image of perfect serenity, of misty mountains, lush paddy fields, roaring rivers, gurglings streams, beautiful people and the aroma of arabica coffee tickling your nostrils and the songs of the valley long forgotten.


Until next time

Posted by Ceej 04:26 Archived in India Comments (0)