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Kodava-speaking people seek one identity

By Jeevan Chinnappa

MADIKERI Jan. 16 . Is it time for all Kodava-speaking people to unite under one roof? Going by the positive signals that have emerged at the Kodava Samskritika Mela held here recently, it is. As many as 18 communities, including the Kodavas, speak the Kodava tongue, but they have maintained different identities so far.

Whether the cry has cropped up due to the declining Kodava population or its culture is difficult to say. It could be one of the reasons. The Kodava population is around one lakh in Kodagu and an identical number lives outside the district. They have gone in search of greener pastures. This is one of the main reasons for the crumbling of the traditional Kodava joint family system.

The former minister, M.C. Nanaiah, who was a guest at the mela, harped on the need for the 18 Kodava-speaking communities to come under one umbrella. His views were based more on the need to check the activities of an organisation that has now taken "Kodava culture on to the streets". Mr. Nanaiah suggested that all the 18 Kodava-speaking communities come together and ponder over preserving the unique culture in the "Ain Mane" (ancestral homes) and "Kaimada" (place dedicated to ancestors).

The views of Ittira Biddappa were different. He wanted all the Kodava-speaking communities to unite to bolster its declining population. He was of the opinion that Kodava culture meant the culture of 18 Kodava-speaking communities.

M.D. Nanjunda, academic, was forthright in arguing that it was high time other Kodava-speaking communities got due recognition as Kodavas. In other words, those other than Kodavas must be brought under one fold, and the Federation of Kodava Samajas, the Akhila Kodava Samaja, and the Kodava Samaja units should put their heads together to arrive at a conclusion. Kodavas should cash in on the linguistic minority status to start a chain of academic institutions.

The Kodava-speaking people in Kodagu include Kodava, Amma Kodava, Airi, Hegade, Banna, Maleya, Koyava, Koleya, Madivala, and others.

The cry for the Kodava-speaking communities to come together is not new. In 1980, over 400 members of the Koyuva family in Srimangala were taken in as Kodavas. The Akhila Kodava Samaja played a crucial role in this venture. It is said that applications of some members of "Airi", and "Banna" families who have volunteered to come under Kodava fold, as also some who have married Kodava girls or vice-versa, is pending before the Akhila Kodava Samaja.

There was a time when the attempts being made to bring all the Kodava-speaking communities together suffered a minor setback. Some members of the "Hegade" and "Airi" communities demanded representation in the Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy. Members from those communities have been chosen members now. This is seen as a step closer to realising the goal of forging unity.

Some Kodava-speaking communities are of the opinion that they should be declared as Kodavas by the federal Kodava body without being asked to file applications. Some, on the other hand, are waiting eagerly to join the Kodava fold. There is also the possibility that the body concerned, whether Akhila Kodava Samaja or the Federation of Kodava Samajas, is likely to gauge the antecedents of the Kodava-speaking communities before considering their claims. In that case, a relaxation in the rigid rules may be necessary.

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