Hale highlanders with colourful legends, distinct clans, ceremonies, customs, costumes and a love for life and their green land of grassy hills. Not the Scots – but the Kodavas of South India, a thriving community that traces their history back to the beginning of the first millenium. A district of Karnataka, Coorg is a little gem of a hill station tucked away in the Western Ghats, a fertile jewel that has over the ages been valiantly defended by her people.
One theory has it that the Kodavas descended from the soldiers of Alexander the Great who had made their way into India and eventually married into the local population. The Kodavas in fact have a distinguished record for serving in the Armed Forces producing luminaries such as Field Marshal Cariappa and General Thimayya.
But Coorg consists of other communities as well including the Gowdas, Mappilas, Tulus, Yeravas, Lingayats and the Kurubas. The Kodavas, notably, have built a reputation for themselves as great cultivators and in more recent times have continued the tradition of coffee cultivation that was begun by the British in the area. Coorg grows some of the best varieties of coffee and continues to supply some of the world’s finest pepper as they have since the days of the Spice Trade.
In this paradise of misty coffee plantations, orange groves, forests, grasslands, the Kodavas have carved out a way of living that has admirably preserved their natural environment on rambling estates and plantations, while at the same time drawing sufficiently for their own needs.
One look at their traditional cuisine is enough to read into the richness of the land and its traditions. Rice is the clear staple in every meal and here you’ll find chappatis made of rice flour – it’s called akki roti and just perfect with traditional Coorg accompaniments. For me the simple clincher is the classic combination of rice dumplings and pork curry. There’s also rice-based nooputtu (very much like the puttu one gets in Kerala, in fact there are large varieties of puttu made in Coorg) in combination with chicken curry. Of course it doesn’t stop at this – there’s the excellent bamboo shoot curry called baimbale and a host of stunning non-vegetarian dishes and comforting desserts.
You have a rare chance to take part in the recherché charms of Kodava cuisine right here in Delhi at WelcomHotel Sheraton between 22nd July and 1st August.
For more information, please visit the Gourmet Guide.