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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Where did the Coorgs come from?

The hypothesis is that they could be Kurds or Greeks


Publication: The Times of India
Date: November 23, 1997
Author: M. Gautham Machaiah

The origin of Kodavas (Coorgs), a martial race inhabiting Karnataka’s picturesque hill district Kodagu, has always been shrouded in mystery. But a book which has scientifically analysed their origin has come to one conclusion: They are not original inhabitants of India.

While the book, A Study of The Origins of Coorgs, by Lt Col Kongetira Chinappa Ponnappa, has not succeeded in pinpointing the roots of Coorgs, it says that they could be descendants of either pre-Muslirn Kurds or pre-Christian Georgians.

“All available clues point to the strong possibility that the Coorgs came to India as part of the pre-Muslim forces of the Persian emperors or with the light troops of Alexander the Great, or as part of the troops during the time of pre-Christian Bactrian Greeks.”

There is a great similarity between the Coorgs and pre-Muslim Kurds. Like the Coorgs, the kurds dwelt in mountain country for more than 2,000 years. Their dress, physical features, history in fighting various wars, bear a striking resemblance to Coorgs. However, after the Kurds embraced Islam, their cultural traits were overwhelmed by Islamic culture.

Stating that the Coorgs have no similarity to the Dravidian race, the book quotes Sir Erskine Perry who points out: “The Coorgs have no resemblance to any races of South India. By far they are the finest race I had seen in India in point of independent bearing, good looks and all outward signs of well-being.”

Coorgs are a different kind of people as compared to others in the country. They do not celebrate any of the Hindu festivals or follow their customs. Unlike other communities, Brahmins have no role in any of their ceremonies, be it marriage, death or festivals, the book says. Drawing a parallel between the character of Greeks and Coorgs, the book adds, “Like the Greeks, the Coorgs have an instinctive hatred for servility or sycophancy. 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.”

The Coorgs’ strong foundation of Greek culture indicates that they directly descended from the pre-Christian Greeks or were in close intercommunication with the Greeks. It is also likely that the Coorgs originally dwelt in the mountains of northern Iran, Taurus, Asia Minor or Caucausus and came to India as part of the fighting troops.

Their basic dress, ‘Kuppya’ and ‘Chele’, is suited to the cold climates and is similar to the attire in central Asia and Caucausus.

“Another possibility is that the Coorgs descended from pre-Muslim Kurds. There is no doubt that they were mercenaries in the Persian Army and probably in the armies of Alexander the Great Looking at the Kurds even today in Northern Iraq or Northern Iran, one is struck by their similarities in dress with the Coorgs."

But until a final conclusion is drawn, the debate will continue: Where did the Coorgs really come from?

(Picture sourced from www.boloji.com/places/024e.htm)

COMMENTS

These days there are enough books and theories on the origin and decendancy of the Coorgs. But why is no one from Coorg bothered to study the contribution of the dynasty that ruled the kingdom for almost three centuries. The palace is now housing government offices and the area around the tombs has been encroached. Is this the attitude one shows to monuments of historical importance? Are these not of any archaeological value?
-Manohar Yadawatti, Bangalore

Thanks Gautham. I just sent the Coorg story to a bunch of people. Do we have any more material for reading on this topic? Thanks!
-Sindhu M.C, New Jersey

Gosh ! Coorgs then are a totally mixed up race. Pre-Kurds, Pre-Georgian and what not ! And where does that leave me - a cross between a Coorg and a Tamil Brahmin ? A total Mocktail !!
-Kartik Krishnaswamy, Bangalore

I knew that our race had some Greek origin because apparently in Greece there are a few streets with Coorg names(not quite sure how far it is true).But this was something worth reading.. Thanks Gautham. It is time to do a little more research on my own race!
-Sneha

A really good post.
-Raky

31 comments:

Kartik said...

Gosh ! Coorgs then are a totally mixed up race. Pre-Kurds, Pre-Georgian and what not !
And where does that leave me - a cross between a Coorg and a Tamil Brahmin ? A total Mocktail !!

Surabhi said...

Coorgs Coorgs Coorgs!!! Phew!

Kishor Cariappa said...

Hi Gautham,

Pls check this link:

http://kishorcariappa.blogspot.com/2007/12/omani-link-for-kodavas.html

Vijay said...

They are kannadigas originally.

Kodava means Kodu (Give)& avva means mother (referred to cauvery).

rathi gangamma said...

Nice to know that Coorg has a fascinating history and i believe Coorg is the anglicised name of Kodagu

Rathi Gangamma

coorg said...

Good content on the kodavas. i think here you mentioned so many about culture and about kodavas, check this link to know more, just cpy and paste this on the browser - www.onsouthindia.com

rishika said...

Thanks ..i wanted details regarding this origin of coorgs ..and you have written it quite well..

raky said...

really good post, most of the people want to know these culture of the region. kodavas have good culture in karnataka with great place. Coorg is the best place for kodavas.

sneha said...

I knew that our race had some greek origin because apparently in Greece there are a few streets with coorg names(not quite sure how far its true).But this was something worth reading..thanks Gautham & its time to do a little more research on my own race!!

satyvachan said...

waiting for the coorgs original identity. After reading so many books to find the origin of coorg is not yeild any result. Still awaiting to know the origin.... of....KODAVA

gaurav cariappa said...

yes der r streets with COORG names.....ders even a strait....aiyappah STRAIT....in italy i think.....

jimcari said...

a nice blog... but would have preferred more subjective information...like...was there a coorgi king?...the journey from Greece to Madikeri... how did coorgis become a warrior clan...where were the coorgis in 17th or the 18th century ?...and also the fact that coorgis are the only community in India to have a licence to carry a gun...has not been mentioned...overall it was good read

Koravanda Cariappa said...

Indian demography is a grand mix. As the wave of humans swept past from west, it did have a pattern. Groups consisting of a race gradually moved, got absorbed and dissipated. However some groups which found an uncontested area to live, did get settled in those geagraphical boundaries, to retain unique identifiable racial charecteristics, like Kodavas. Kodavas or the Coorgs appear to have moved in male only or predominaently male configuration, from where ever they started. They might have taken females from around the Coorg geographical areas, which are mainly Dravidian, till a semblance of male to female ratio/balance was achieved. That is why there is a Mothertongue unique to Coorgs, which is a mix of then existing Dravidian tongues. However some experts in languages can filter some words and expressions which are not part of Dravidian language inputs, to zero on to the 'Father tongue' of Kodavas. Also, when we study the physical aspects of Kodavas, the anthrpology swings from caucatious to Dravidian !
I will touch upon some such aspects,words & expressions, some time later.
The above write up is purely on my observations and conversations with elders (At best its postulation).

Koravanda Appiah Cariappa

satyvachan said...

some says we haild from North east, Himachal, some says we are from gulf countries. It is difficult to know our origin. Some of them done the research but all the studies are giving different opinions. But really I would like to know our origin....

jimcari said...

good information...
your analysis makes real sense and could be closer to facts which are not available on any text...
may be due to the local configuration ...there could have been an adopted mix of langauge and culture and also in the belief of hindu gods...
it would be interesting to have more info upon the swing from caucasian to dravidian...
more importantly...what about the eating habits (especially pork meat)...if the mimigration had taken place from persia to dravidin land...where none of these sects have an history of pork eating...so, what made kodavas feast on pork?...was there an abundance of wild bore in the region where they lived...
similarly there are many more unanswered questions which need to be understood...

jimmy cariappaa

Subbaiah Sajan said...

This is a Great Article !!, Luv'd every bit of it. I have collated various articles on Coorg including photographs on COORGBOOK
Even this Article is Included with Due credit to the author. Keep the Work Going. What can be done is to go the modern way that i'am currently working on, to do a DNA Mapping of Various Men in coorg to find out their Ethnic origin.

Dmuccatira said...

Here are some insights and discussions to further our understanding our origin.

Devaiah Muccatira



Physical appearance of the Kodavas



The Coorgis exemplify the unreduced Indo-Brachid type par excellence. Most males typically are of a rather robust, sinewy leptosomatotype constitution, or of an athletic, mesomorphic build with broad, powerful shoulders, strong chest and strong, protruding muscles with little fat. The males are very retrognathic, often with square jaws and positive chins.
Their physical appearance is congruent with their reputation of being a fearsome, brave and martial warrior people.
The males are darker skinned due to the high-energy, warrior-like lifestyle they lead. The darker pigmentation of the males in comparison to the females must be attributed to the high UV exposure of these warriors, both in ancient and modern times. Yet, relatively light skinned males are not a rarity. The females typically range from a olive-light brown complexion to a medium brown, as seen in the pictures I was able to furnish. However, white and rosy skinned variants are not all that uncommon.
The bone structure is designed roughly and gives of an impression of great physical strength. The legs and calf bones are well developed, and appear to stick out, giving of a very sturdy look. The face is also muscular and broad, the skin firm and thick, the nasal index ranges from leptorrhine to borderline mesorrhine.
The cranium and the lower jaw are also very powerfully made. The leptomorphic males tend to have prominent profiles, with prominent, long noses; often with a receding lower jaw.
The leptomorphic individuals often possess a skull that is long and narrow, sometimes short and low, and often has little rounding. Many are however, mesoprosopic. The Coorgis, males and females alike are mostly brachycephalic.
As per the anthropometric data on the Kodavas dating back to 1915, the proportions of the head range from an average cephalic index of 79.9, to a maximum of 89 and to a minimum of 74. (Range = 15)
The average nasal index is 72.0, the maximum being 86 and the minimum being 61. (Range = 25)
The relative prominence of the nose i.e the oribito-nasal index on an average is 120, with the maximum being 130 and the minimum being 108. (Range = 22)
(Note - These measurements are rather typical of Indo-Brachid groups.)



___Note: The above content is strictly opinions voiced by researchers, anthropologists and geneticists. The content should NOT be misunderstood or misinterpretated._

Dmuccatira said...

Origins
The Coorgis have been claimed as descendants of many groups, ranging from Indo-Greeks, to Indo-Scythians to Turks.
They are said to have migrated from Mohenjadaro, in the Indus basin. Incidentally, Cro-Magnon and Alpo-Dinaric skulls were unearthed in this area, which is essentially the racial type of the Coorgs (viz. Indo-Brachid).
My opinion on the whole matter is that they are descended of the inhabitants of the Mohenjadaro and were originally purely Indo-Brachid, but eventually acquiring Gracil-Indid influences.
As of now, my persona opinion is that they cannot be deemed as having either an Indo-European or Dravidian in origin. According to some sources, the Coorgis claim to be true Kshatriyas, and even "Aryans". Much of their culture seems to be a blend of the two. The fact that they speak Dravidian language in it's purest form might throw light on the possible language of the Indus civilization.
The dark skinned males among the Kodavas reminds one of the dark skinned variants that one is able to see among the Rajputs of Rajputana, who can sometimes have dark skin coupled with very refined features, alongside the much admired colored hair and eye pigmentations.
The Coorgis represent a similar demographic, just that they're more on the Indo-Brachid influenced side, although Nord-Indid individuals are easily discernible.
Because of their unique history and physical appearance, the Kodavas/Coorgis were a frequent subject of studies by British scholars. Sir Erskine Perry, wrote of the Kodavas that they "have no resemblance to any of the races of South India".
Some anthropologists describe them as a rugged, athletic and previously war-like people who see themselves as a lost Aryan nation.
The men of Coorg, says a certain Thornton, are a handsome, athletic race, usually above the middle size, and, with scarcely any exceptions, well limbed. The women are not so tall in proportion, but are well made and well looking, though rather coarse, but fair in comparison with the men. Both sexes are laborious, and industrious in the practice of agriculture, their main and almost exclusive employment ; except that the men shoot and hunt, partly to destroy animals injurious to their crops, and partly for the produce of the sport. They are well clad, the men wearing a turban, and a gown reaching to the feet, and being girt round the waist with a shawl or handkerchief, to which they attach the formidable knife. The women wear a loose cotton wrapper, reaching from the shoulders to the knees, and a small white cloth tied round the head. Both sexes daily, after labour, wash the whole body in warm water.
A principal cause of the strong and vigorous constitution of the Coorgs, which has been greatly aided by the excellent climate and open-air life of the people, is according to some, owing to their custom of late marriages.



Note: The above content is strictly opinions voiced by researchers, anthropologists and geneticists. The content should NOT be misunderstood or misinterpretated.


Devaiah Muccatira

Unknown said...

Gautham: Good piece, but with today's DNA profiling technology the origins of the Kodavas should be fairly easy to establish.

The only problem is that a study like this will need to include samples collected across several countries that include India, Greece, Macedonia, Corsica, Sicily, Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and parts of Russia.

This means that this can probably be done by institutes located in the western hemisphere which have access to DNA samples already collected here or have resources to conduct collection drives.

My feeling is that eminent Kodavas need to get together and take this up as a project, approach DNA study labs all over the world and try to inspire them into investigating the origins of the Kodavas. Anyone up to it?

Machimanda Appaiah Deviah

amit bheemaiah said...

In continuation to your information on the origin of Coorgs, I agree to the fact that our ancestors were part of Alexander The
Great's Greek army. While he was invading the world and just when he was getting weak and his army was diminishing, a group from his army realised that
they would either be killed in the war or due to illness if they stay with alexander or by the people of their kingdom if they get back. Thus, decided to leave his army and
escape. Its possible that they would have come to coorg since it used to be dence forest in the early days, now called as coorg. No, that they have escaped from the army
they dint want their generation to end, they wanted to build their families, so the soldiers started visiting the closest town populated with Lingayaths(which is why we
have some lingayath essence too) for women, the Now Mysore and that's how Coorgs emerged. Though we do not have any evidence to prove this piece of information,
its just a possibility of where we come from.

Aryavart said...

The moment I saw the traditional dress of Coorgi males and their traditional dagger secured in their cummerbund, the word I uttered was 'Kurdi'! The dress is very similar to the Kurdish(Northern Iraq) people and more so of Lorestan(Iran). Philologists have suggested that the Kurdish roots in distant history(before or at the time of Mithra worshipping Arya invasion into Iran) were closer to Iran than in the mountains of present day northern Iraq. The resemblance with the western and north western Iranian culture is too strong to be rule out!

The Vedic or Avestan cultures aren't close either. The Yazidi people in Kurdestan, even today, follow a mix of ancient pre-Christian and pre-Avestan traditions of the Kurdish and western Iranian regions with elements from later period religions. A good research on the Yazidi people might trace some similarities?

Present day Kordi/Kurdi people may not have a strong resemblance to their pre-Islamic roots but their martial capabilities and free spirited attitude are immortalised by several historians over the centuries. In fact, Saladin the Kurdish warrior was instrumental in the Islamic Jihad against the Christian Crusaders.

I apologise if any of the Coorgi people reading this take my comments as offensive in any way. I have been reading Iranian history and that of its near regions for over a decade now and have been looking at the ancient culture of the people. It is all out of curiousity and is not my area of expertise or professional research. However, through my readings, and also having seen the sketches of what Scythian/Iranian/Bactro-Afghan people dressed like, I couldn't resist contributing what I know of. Being able to look in the past and trace the steps of human journey is probably one of the most interesting things we can experience in our lifetimes. :-)

Thanks you.




Here are some traditional songs and dances of the people showing their dressing styles and the Lori video has to be particularly noted-


Lorestan -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxVveNb1BT8



Kordestan -

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MOvcROHXx2o

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_aZnbykQrg

ambika10777 said...

Hi,I am not much of sociology student,or my comments here won't be as professional as the other..But I am coorg and being one ,have all the interests of a greek.having travelled all over the world,greece holds a special place in my heart.Also most of my European collegues tell I don't look like a Indian..Pandanda.vishwanath.Uthappa

ambika10777 said...

Hi,I am not much of sociology student,or my comments here won't be as professional as the other..But I am coorg and being one ,have all the interests of a greek.having travelled all over the world,greece holds a special place in my heart.Also most of my European collegues tell I don't look like a Indian..Pandanda.vishwanath.Uthappa

Ankur Tiwari said...

Hi Gautham,

I was wondering if we have biological analysis on COORS. Like genetic and pedigree analysis.

hari said...

Please check a place called Pattada in Italy, a small town(or probably a glorious village)covered by small mountains, with a populations of 3000 to 3500. They are very famous for the knifes or daggers they make, which, uncannily resembles the Peeche Katthi. God Knows if there is any connection but the attire they wear is also very very similar to our Kuppya...........

bobcari said...

This is a mystery, and i guess the search will go on. But what we were is not what we are now. cultural mix is gripping in, leading to a new cultural race...
However we are proud to be a Kodava and will always be..

Cariappa Ponnakachira

mamath raj said...

Hi Gautham , you did a great job by finding out the origines of coorg. Hope so you could help us to know more about our coorg history.

mamath raj said...

Try to get more information about our coorg history, custome & origine.Try to publish the more details in coorg blogs. So that everyone can know .

Mandanna Macharanda said...

No matter wer v r from, whom v belong to.. always PROUD to be a COORGY..!thanks Goutham sir. never knew so much about us.

Mandanna Macharanda said...

No matter wer v r from, whom v belong to.. always PROUD to be a COORGY..!thanks Goutham sir. never knew so much about us.

Vivek Bopiah said...

The Greeks never used a peeche katti. The Arabs did use a similar shaped Khanjar.
The Greeks never used a mande thunni which the Arabs of all shades use to cover their heads.
I have not found any similariteis between Kurds and Coorgs except for a phonetic resmblane. Alas Coorg was the modified name given by the British because they found it difficult to pronounce Kodagu & Kodavas.
There is a strong possibility that after Islam was being forced down the throats in Arab countries the original ancestors decided to move to India rather than convert. The Arabs, especially had thousands of years of trading relationship with the India, especially Oman.
Most of the Arab countries used Indian currency and stamps not having their own till as late as 1971.
Coorgs have no script hence no recorded history!!!