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History and Origin of Coorg

Coorg or Kodagu as it is officially known is one of the tiniest district in the southern part of Karnataka covering an area of 4,104 Sq Km. Coorg has several stories around its very name. The river Cauvery originates here at a small place called Talacauvery and is worshipped by the locals and hence the name Kodava which means blessed by mother Cauvery. Kod means give and avva refers to mother Cauvery, so the Kodavas call themselves children of Cauvery.

Coorg or Kodagu (originally called Kodaimalenadu) means 'dense forest on steep hill'. Coorg, dubbed as the Scotland of India, lies on the Western Ghats. There are many versions behind the origin of the name Kodagu. According to the Puranas, Kodava is the redifned name of Krodhadesa, meaning 'Land of Anger', said to have been inhabited by the Kodava tribe.

While for some, it is believed to have been named after the River Cauvery (Kaveri), where 'kod' means 'give' and 'ava' means 'mother' - which means Cauvery is the 'mother to the people'. Few believe the name originated from the Kannada kudu which means 'dense forest' on a steep hill. It is said that the history of Coorg dates back to as early as 888 AD.

The kingdom was ruled by many dynasties, starting with Gangas of Talakad, Kadambas, Cholas, Kongalvas, Changalvas, Hoysalas and Nayakas. Information on its early history has come primarily from the various inscriptions on stone and copper plates of 9th - 10th century.

The Haleri dynasty was the last noteworthy dynasty to rule the whole of Kodagu. It came into power around mid-16th century and was founded by a young price from Ikkeri. It was the first dynasty in the history of Kodagu, whch spanned 234 years and ruled the entire region.

There are several myths surrounding the origin of the Kodavas themselves, the most popular being that they are descendants of Greeks who settled down here after the conquest of India by Alexander, the great. However the Kodavas have retained their original customs even though they have merged with the larger milieu. They worship Karana (ancestors) as family deity, Cauvery as mother and Iguthappa as presiding deity. While they pray in Hindu temples, they revere Ainmane or the ancestors house as the place of worship.

It is said that the history of Coorg was mainly deciphered through inscriptions. Several Indian dynasties from the Gangas, Cholas, Hoysalas, Nayaks have left their stamp here. However it is the Haleri kings who have reigned over Coorg for about 250 years. Bitter battles have been fought by Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and the British to conquer Coorg during their era.


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