Kodava Customs & Tradition

Guru Kaarana Kodpo Paddathi


We worship our ancestors as our main deity. The place where we revere them is called as Kaimada. Once in a year, especially on festive occasions, kaarona is offered meedi or sacrifice by killing fowls or sometimes pigs. Pattedara of the okka will give rice grains to each person’s hand and will speak few words – “Igguthappa, Kaveramme, Guru Kaarananuu thothovi nangada okkakuu, makkakku, yethu kadchiyaku, aala baalaku, nalladaade, ind maaduva kaarbarle thatt mutt injaka adna thidhi neekiyand nangada thappuna oppu maadiyondu……” saying this everyone will throw grains and pray.

Chickens bought by people are untied and the heads are chopped off. Blood of these chickens will be poured on broken coconuts. After this ritual the body of hen is thrown far apart. This procedure is followed on each chickens bought by people.

After finishing above ritual, another coconut is broken and the boars’ leg will be untied. Few hairs from the boars body is pulled and is burnt. Two people from each end will press and hold a stick on boar’s neck and pattanikara will cut and separate head and body. After this, people will turn back to other direction for few minutes; believing that kaarona will touch this yede.

Later on, people who are present there will clean the meat and handover them to pattanikara. From this meat Chicken curry and pork curry is prepared. The prepared food including rice is placed on 5 separate banyan leaf along with cholle, one with water and another with alcohol in front of guru. One yede is placed inside the gudi, another one at thatte thade and remaining 3 will be taken to thootengala by pattanikara along with 2 or 4 people carrying water, incense stick, banana, beetle leaf aracanut, etc.,

After reaching the spot, everyone will stand facing east; water is sprinkled on the spot and these 3 yedes are placed, wick is lighted and incense stick is fired. After sprinkling water around the yede clapping hands “Kaa…Ka….Kaa… is shouted 3 times. Completing this ritual, they return back to kaimada.

The alcohol which was kept for meedi will be drunk by Pattedara and then people will have their food.

Later, kaimada is cleaned and water is sprinkled all around.

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Kailpodh Nammera Paddathi

Ages ago, it was believed that guns shouldn’t be used once you step to Naati Pani (Transplantation) until Kailpodh. But, one day before Kailpodh, guns were taken for Deva Bodi and Deva Bote. On that day, people used to gather and would go for a wild boar hunt. On the same day, they used to shoot domestic pigs in their villages. The thombe of shot animals were cooked and offered as meedhi on that night.

Next day morning, men’s from the respective house would wash their wooden or iron plough, yoke, spade, etc., and place thok pooo and sandalwood paste  on each one of them; Smoke is circulated all around with the help of Canarium Strictum Roxb which produces a sweet smelling smoke. In front of these, Banyan leaf with Berambutt is placed. The number of banyan leaf depends on the number of ox in the cowshed.

After giving bath to ox, castor oil with turmeric is applied on their body and sandalwood paste/ash/kumkum is applied on their forehead. After this procedure, oxen are fed with Berambut which was kept in front of yoke and then they are sent to kundh for grazing.

After performing above rituals, Kadambutt, Pandhi curry and coffee was consumed. Items like Gun, sickle, stick of Kaarana, Gejje thand, etc., were taken out and wiped neatly. Kerosene and coconut oil mix were spread on these items and were kept under the sun for them to heat nicely. Once they get heated, guns were loaded.

After sprinkling holy water inside Kanni Kombare, Nellakki Nadubade, Kayyale and Padasaale, mat is spread and lamp is lighted in the Nellakki placing sickle, stick of Kaarana, Gejje thand, etc.,These items were decorated with flowers and sandalwood paste. Olden days, these rituals were usually performed by the Pattedaras of particular okka. Feast prepared on that day was kept as Meedhi in the kanni kombare. After this, three Banyan leaves were placed on the mat in the Nellakki Nadubaade; on top of banyan leaves feast prepared on the day is placed with little alcohol in three glasses.

Now pattedara will speak few words telling, “Swamy, Nangada Yeth kadchiyakkuu, aal Baalaku, Bolekuu, Ponne Makkakku, illi ullantha bendakakuuu nalladh made endh Igguthappa, Kaveramme, Gurukarananuu thothavvaa”, and people gathered there would sprinkle rice for three times on the lamp and take blessings. After this everyone would take blessings from Pattedara. The alcohol which was kept for yede were consumed by Pattedara first, and later people gathered there will be served with drinks and feast. The 3 Yedes which was kept in the Nellakki, is taken one by one. One yede is kept inside Kanni Kombare, second one is consumed by pattedara first and distributed among gatherings, third yede is taken out and is fed for hunting dogs.

Pooja performed guns and sickles are taken and kept inside Kanni Kombare. Men going for mand after 3’O clock would were Kupya Chaale, Mande thuni and Peeche Kathi and assemble inside Kanni kombare. The okaa’s pattedara would give the guns to these men’s and they would take blessings from pattedara and other elders gathered there.

Mand will have a coconut and banana thombake tied to a tree and the person who shoots this coconut will be awarded. Rest of the people will shoot banana thombake and they were also awarded. After shooting these if the guns were still loaded, the tree (which was tied with coconut and thombake) was shot. After returning back from the mand the guns were placed inside kanni kombare.

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Kakkada Padnett

Kakkada is the fourth month in the Kodava Calendar, which extends from mid-July to mid- August. Kakkada Padnett is the 18th day of the Kakkada Month which usually falls on August 2nd or 3rd. This is a special day for Kodavas, where juice extracted from a special medicinal Plant called “Justicia wynaadensis” is consumed on this day. This plant is referred as “Madd Thoppu” in Kodava language. The tradition of consuming food prepared from Madd thoppu on this day is practiced from ages.

It is believed that on this day, the plant holds 18 types of ayurvedic properties and emits a sweet fragrance. Consuming food prepared from this juice helps in stabilizing the body temperature and keeping the body warm. The leaves are plucked and added to the boiling water and the leaves starts releasing dark violet color aromatic juice. Madd Payasa, Madd Putt and Kakkada Koli are usually consumed on this day.

Weddings and other festivities will not take place in Kakkada month as it is believed to be inauspicious.
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Kani Poojuvo

Kani Poojuvo is the custom followed next day (before sunrise) after the theerthodbhava.

The next day morning i.e. On 18th of October, all families would worship Mother Kavery. Some will keep Cucumber or Coconut wrapped in a red silk cloth or vastra on a bronze plate and decorate with Ornaments like Pathak, jomale and flowers in the Nellakki Nadubaade. In this hall, lamp called Thooke Bolcha is lighted and on another Tripod (i.e. Mukkali) Kavery holy water is kept and worshiped. Afterwards the holy water is sprinkled all over the rooms and all the members in the family throw rice grains on the goddess. The younger members in the field bow and touch the feet’s of elders and take their blessings.

Ancient days, the ladies in the house used to wake up early in the morning, take bath and then prepare dosa – Kumbala Karri. The prepared items along with jaggary, coconut and Banana leaf lamina were taken to the place where Bothu is planted. These items are placed on top of the Bothe and “Koyeee koyeee koyeee” is uttered loudly. Labourers, yerava or poliya will be waiting to consume this food; once they go back they will take this and eat.

After finishing this ritual of placing bothh putt, all the family members in the house will take bath, get ready and  assemble in the Nellakki Nadubaade in front of decorated Kaveramme. Elder person from the gathering will take rice grains and distribute among them and will speak few words  – “swamy Kaveramme nangada Ponne, Makkake, Yetha Kadchiyakku, Bith Bolekuu, aala baalakuu, oru thararthra kashta nashta aakathanake ninga Minjyake nindith Kaapaadyand pondundh bodiyavi”. After saying these words, rice grains will be sprinkled on Kaveramme and blessings will be taken; Theertha which was kept there will be consumed. After this ritual is completed, the woman touches her husband’s feet and asks for his blessings; also takes blessings from other elderly people.  This is called as “Kani Poojuvo”.

On this day, Kumbala Kari and Dosa is prepared in each and every Kodava person’s house and only vegetarian cuisine is consumed.

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Pathalodhi is the tenth day after Theerthodbava/Kavery Shankramana. All auspicious ceremonies and works are usually done during this time

People who go to Kaveri used to get theertha in a brass kindi or in a vaate and used to take blessings from Neighbours and Elders. During this time every newly married bride used to go to her thaamane/parents house and take their blessings. This time is called as Patholodhi (counting 10 days from the day of theerthodbhava).

All auspicious ceremonies and works are usually done during this time. – Guru karonange Meedi beppo, digging earth for building house, house warming, Piercing ears, Yethada bith odpo, etc.

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Pedha idduve paddathi – The Naming Ceremony

From way back, there was a practice of naming the baby within 12 days following its birth. For all these 12 days the baby will be put on a plaited round mat made of bamboo. Before naming ceremony, Nellakki bolcha is lit and prayed for the blessings of Igguthappa, Kaveramme, Gurukarana and few words are spoken by the men folks and the rights are given to the women folks to name the baby.

The birth of a child renders not only the mother of the new born baby, but the whole house unclean and everyone who may come in contact with them. This ceremonial un-cleanness [Sutaka] lasts for 7 days, be the baby male or female. The mother is confined for 2 months to the house and not expected to engage in any work, but to recover her strength and to devote herself entirely to her child. This singular custom no doubt greatly contributes to the general good health and vigor of the Coorg women. Daughters are not much valued. They must be brought up and yet are destined to be entirely alienated from the house by their marriage. Boys are the stay of families. As soon as a Coorg boy is born, a little bow of a castor-oil-plant stick with an arrow, made of a leafstalk of the same plant, is put into his little hands, and a gun fired at the same time in the yard. He is thus, at taking his first breath, introduced into the world as a future huntsman and warrior. This ceremony, however, has almost lost its meaning and ceases to be generally observed. On the 12th day after birth, the child is laid into the cradle by the mother or grandmother, who on this occasion gives the name, which in many instances is both well- sounding and significant; thus for boys- Belliappa [silver-father], Ponnappa [gold- father], Mandanna [the brother of the village-green]; for girls-Puvakka [flower-sister], Muttakka [pearl-sister], Chinnawa[gold-mother].

Married women spreads the mat (Palmbu) and on top of the mat they spread a white sheet and places the cradle, decorated with jasmine flowers in the Nellakki Nadubaade. Either side of the cradle there will be “Mukkali”. The mother of the new born will wear a silk saree and the baby’s mother sits on one stool (Mukkali) and the grandmother sits on the other. A pounding stone is wrapped with a cloth and is placed beside the cradle. They carry the baby before naming it and with the help of two other married women the grandmother of the baby ties a black thread on the waist, wrist and ankle. White beaded thread (Paal mani) is tied around the neck of the baby. The Kajal is heated on the knife and applied to the mother and the baby. Under the pillow of the baby they keep a small knife and a bamboo stick.
The pounding stone is once placed inside the cradle and taken back by the mother and on the other side the lady carrying the baby puts the baby in the cradle and takes it back and this process is repeated thrice and for the third time the baby is put in the cradle and will not be taken out till the rituals are over. After this, the pounding stone is passed under the cradle and the lady beside the cradle takes it and places it inside the cradle, next to the baby’s feet. The grandmother of the baby names the baby by whispering the name thrice into baby’s ear and rocks the cradle thrice. If it is a baby boy, a bow and arrow (Symbolic of martial tradition of Kodavas) is placed on the baby’s hand by the grandfather. This custom was practiced earlier. After all these rituals, the people gathered for the ceremony will bless the baby by giving money and gifts and the cradle is carried by the babies uncle and placed inside the room. 

For 40 to 50 days the pethavva is fed with food which cools the body (like udhu kanji, Menthe paysa). After the 50th day she is fed with laddoo made of sesame seeds and fed for rest of the days. After completing 60 days “Neer Edpo” ritual is done.

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Pooliya - (Reed Basket) shasthra 

Pooliya is a small reed basket that is filled with rice, jaggery, coconut, betel leaves and milk in a small spouted pot (kindi) by Koravakarthi i.e. a responsible lady who oversees the affairs of the family.

The koravakarthi fills the basket in the Nellakki Nadubade with 3 or 5 seer of rice, and for each seer of rice one coconut, one sugar jaggery, Betel Leaf and Arecanut are placed and then the kindi with milk is placed on the top and basket is closed. The groom’s sister or cousin accompanies the bridegroom, carrying the wedding poliya  on her head and handover to bride side.  This is believed to be a vestigial trace of the old custom where the groom’s party took provisions to the bride’s house for the wedding feast.

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Baale Birud: Honour of cutting the banana plant stems

On the path leading to the wedding hall, a row of nine or more (multiples of three) banana plant stems are fixed vertically to small wooden stakes driven into the ground, and the tops of the stems are decorated with flowers. A maternal uncle of the bride and the groom, each in turn, are given the honour of cutting these stems when they arrive. The honoured guest is greeted by the host (the father of the bride/groom) in the traditional manner. He is given an odi kathi and shown the three banana plant stems to be cut down. He offers prayers to his ancestors and village gods along with his villagers and walks thrice around the stems, gently tapping the flowers on top with the odi kathi. Then he cuts the stems one by one, each with a single stroke, exhibiting his strength and skill. He then dances joyfully to the beat of the valaga music along with the assembled people,

When the groom is ready, the wedding band starts playing to herald his arrival at the wedding hall. He walks holding a gejje thand, an ebony staff adorned with silver bands and bells, that serves as his proxy at his wedding, if for any reason he is unable to be present there! The groom is led by his bojakaara who holds an umbrella covered with white cloth over the groom's head. They are preceded by a girl holding a thaliyathakki bolcha and four men beating dudis and singing the batte paat (song for the way). The groom’s sister or cousin accompanies them, carrying the wedding poliya (a reed basket filled with puffed rice, coconuts, bananas, jaggery cubes and a kindi of milk on her head). This is believed to be a vestigial trace of the old custom where the groom’s party took provisions to the bride’s house for the wedding feast.

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Sammanda Kodupa: Bestowal of rights to the bride

The bride  receives the sammanda (rights of relationship) in her groom's okka. This is the essential ceremony that solemnizes the marriage. The elders of the bride’s and the groom’s okkas stand in front of the sacred lamp facing each other in two rows and recite the traditional dialogue that bestows the rights to the bride. The dialogue is characterized by a few exaggerated and humorous comments, and the elders improvise on it with some friendly banter.

When the rights are bestowed, a respected elder in the bride’s party gives his counterpart in the groom’s party twelve pebbles, symbolic of twelve pieces of gold, which represent her birthright in her parent’s home that she has now given up. The groom’s elder accepts only eleven of them, allowing the bride to retain her ties with her family and the right to return to her parents’ house, should the necessity arise.

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Batte Thadpo:  Blocking the bride’s path

When the bride has received the sammanda rights, the groom is ready to lead his new wife to his house. However, the bride's bava (cross-cousin), who could have married her by tradition, blocks her path at the threshold, claiming that she is his by right. After much hilarious arguing and bargaining, the bava accepts a gold coin from the groom and lets her go.

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Types of Mangala

Baalek Mangala

When a man loses one or two wives, a ritual of marriage ceremony to banana stump is performed. This is carried out to avoid the death of his new bride after marriage.

Kuthik Nippo

This was performed to prevent extinction of the bride’s Okka. When an unmarried girl or widow is left in the Okka then she gets married to a boy who agrees to take her clan name in order to continue the Okka.

Kemi Kuthi Mangala 

Ceremony held for piercing ear.

Nari Mangala

This ceremony is held to honour one who has killed a tiger.

Pachadakke Nadapa

This custom is followed to prevent extinction of the Okka. When an unmarried woman is left in the Okka with children, a Kodava man who accepts the children to carry the name of Woman’s Okka will have rights only to have food and clothes from that woman’s house. He can marry another girl to continue the name of his own Okka.

Kudavali Mangala

Marriage to a widow or divorcee

Kanni Mangala

Marriage to a maiden

Paitandek Alapad

Performed to honour a women who has ten living children

Kodhi Mangala 

This custom was followed in the earlier days to celebrate parents love for their child

Mane Mangala

Celebrated to honour the person who build house for their family

Pole Kanda Mangala

Celebrated when a girl attains puberty

Kuliyime Mangala

Ceremony held when a woman becomes pregnant for first time

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Folk Dance


This dance form is performed by Kodava men dressed in all black with an oil lamp in the open field. The dancers hold chavri (yak fur) in one hand and the Kodava sword odi kathi in the other. The dance is performed on the rhythm provided by Dudi. These dances are performed to mark celebrations.


 This dance is performed by the Kodava women wearing the traditional Kodava dress with jewellery and kumkuma on their foreheads. The dance is performed in a circular motion with a swinging rhythm. The dancers hold brass cymbals in their hands. A woman holding a pot full of water is made to stand in the center to represent Mother Kaveri.


This is a religious dance form performed in temples. It is performed by the men of Kodava. It is performed with deer horns that signify the horns of the krishna mruga (a spotted deer in Kodava legend) with rhythmic tunes played on wind instruments and percussion.


This dance form is performed by men in temples where the dancers hold peacock feathers while performing.


This dance form is performed by men dressed in kodava attire. It is a kind of Sword fight where men hold the peechekathi and odikathi while they dance. This is usually performed during festivals.


This dance form is performed by men in the temple courtyards during festivals. The men hold whisks made of Chawri (Yak hair) while dancing.


This dance form is performed by men during festivals.


This dance form is performed by men during the puthari festival. Men wear traditional Kodava attire while performing this dance. Men hold the cane sticks and strike them as they dance to the beat of drums in a large circle around a milk oozing tree in the Mand (village Green).

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 “Aipani” is referred to five types of work carried out in paddy fields during the rainy season.

Types of Aipani

These are the 5 different types of work carried out –

  1. Uppo (Ploughing)
  2. Bith idvo (Sowing)
  3. Anda Kethvo (Bund trimming)
  4. Agae Pani (Plucking seedlings)
  5. Naati Pani (Transplanting)


Uppo – Ploughing

 Ploughing is the process in farming, to loosen the soil for sowing seeds.

This process helps in cutting and turning over the fresh nutrients of the soil to the surface and breaking down the remains of previous crops. This process also helps the soil in holding more moisture content. In the ancient days this process was carried out with the help of animals such as cattle or horses and nowadays by tractors. When agriculture was first started digging sticks, hoes and mattocks were used.

Bith Iduvo – Sowing

 Sowing is the process of planting seeds where good seeds are selected and sowed in the field after ploughing. Sowing can be done in different ways, few among them are Hand Sowing, flat sowing, wide bed sowing, etc.,

Hand sowing is the process of throwing handful of seeds on a ploughed ground. Most of the seeds nowadays are sown using a seed drill. Few seeds require treatment before sowing and this process is usually done by placing medium hot water for 24 – 48 hours depending on the condition of seed.

 Anda Kethuvo – Bund trimming

 Bund Trimming is the process of clearing weeds grown inside the bund of a paddy field.cultivation of plants, it is found that weeds start growing. To remove weeds bund trimming method is carried out. 

The weed growing usually arises when rice fields are not kept flooded continuously with water. Hence weeds should be eliminated so that they do not compete with rice plants by absorbing away the water and nutrients from them. Bund trimming can be done manually by pulling up individual weeds by hands once they emerge. Another method is using Mechanical weeder, which is one of the simple methods. This machine has a rotating wheel mounted vertically in the metal plate that is pushed by hand along the ground.  The weeder churns up the soil and destroys weeds. The churned weeds are left in the soil to decompose so that it returns their nutrients to the soil.           

Plucking seedlings – Agea Pani

 Agae pani is the process of plucking seedlings and tying them in bundles for transplantation.

Rice seeds are first planted close together in one flooded paddy field and then allowed it to grow into seedlings to about 8-10 inches tall. Usually paddy plants shoot out as a single branch and if they are disturbed either by plucking them for transplantation or crushing them, they produce multiple branches and the growth increases naturally. Hence this is one the important reason for plucking seedlings and transplanting them. In Manual method, laborers pull out the pre – germinated seedlings with the help of their hands and tie them into a bundle and later on transplanted. Whereas, in Mechanical methods the seedlings are planted in built in trays or seedling boxes on a thin layer of soil and then fit into a trans-planter machine for transplantation.

Naati Pani -Transplanting

Naati Pani / Transplanting is the process of moving plant from one location to another location.

Rice transplantation can be done either manually or by machines. Manual transplantation suits best for small fields as it doesn’t require any costly machine. The seedlings are pulled out at an average of 15 to 30 days after seeding i.e when it is about 8-10 inches tall and these seedlings must be handled with care so that they grow rapidly. The paddy fields should be transplanted in certain order that it maintains optimum spacing and uniform plant density.

Mechanical transplantation requires less time as one person a day can plant one hectare of land. As mentioned in the “plucking seedlings method”, they are grown on a thin layer of soil in built in trays or seedling boxes and they are loaded on the machine for transplantation. For this method it is necessary to be ensured that the fields are well leveled and puddled. Transplanting of paddy seedlings can either planted randomly or in a straight row.

In random transplanting distance from one plant to another is not uniform. It becomes difficult to operate weeder and other machineries for intellectual operations.

In straight row planting, seedlings are planted in a straight row. Weed can be removed more efficiently either by hand or using machines. Uniform growth of plant is possible in this method. Spraying insecticides and fertilizing becomes easier. There are many disadvantages in this method like, high labour cost, spacing varies with soil fertility and the space between the plants should not exceed 25cm.


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References : www.kodavaclan.co  , Wikipedia,  www.kodava.org , www.ainmane.com , Kodagu Connect,  www.coorgjewellery.in