Kodagu, popularly known as Coorg, is one of the most frequented weekend hotspots in Karnataka. This anglicized name – Coorg came into existence after the East India Company took over Kodagu in 1834. Madikeri being the district capital and the main town is located at an altitude of 1067 meters above sea level. Often referred to as the ‘Scotland of the East’, Coorg is famous for its coffee plantation and Pork Pandi Curry. Apart from the chicory free coffee, Coorg is also known for spices such as black pepper and cardamom. What makes Coorg unique is that it is not yet connected by rail or air. Tucked away in the scenic Western Ghats, it is 260 kms from Bangalore, 120kms from Mangalore and 120kms from Mysore. Its forests are also home to the Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarahole National Park, Talakaveri Wildlife Sanctuary and the Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary.
According to the local language, Kodava means ‘blessed by Mother Kaveri’. Their Huthri festival which is celebrated during the months of November to December is unique as it marks the end of the rice planting tenure in September and commemorates the Kodava warrior tradition. The Kodavas (Coorgis) are a martial race, and hence exempt by the Indian Arms Act from possessing a license for a firearm within the district. It has produced many famous personalities in the Indian armed forces like Field Marshal Cariappa, who was one of the two Indian armed forces officers to hold the highest rank of Field Marshal, and General K. S. Thimayya who was the Chief of Army Staff.
Pandit Nehru had once aptly stated about the region, “Coorg has given great Generals to the Indian Army. It is noted for its choicest coffee and if I am permitted to add one more to these specialties, I can mention that Coorg is famous for its beautiful and comely women.”
Kodagu’s recorded history dates back to 9th and 10th century, which reveals that it was ruled by several kingdoms in southern India including Pandyas, Cholas, ending with the Hoysala rule in the 14th century, after which the Vijaynagar Empire took over.
After the defeat of the Vijaynagar kingdom by the Deccan Sultans in 1565, the Nayaks started ruling Kodagu. After the fall of the Changavas, a prince from the Ikkeri or Bednur family dressed as a Lingayat priest settled at Haleri, close to Madikeri. Gradually with time, he gained authority and power and created a base to be ruled by the Lingayat Rajas. As the Lingayats merged their power in Kodagu, they made Haleri their capital, and established the Paleri (Haleri) dynasty, which ruled the region for 200 years. It was under the Paleri dynasty that Kodagu became an independent kingdom.
Haider Ali rose to power in Mysore during the 18th century and tried to capture Kodagu. Much later his son Tipu Sultan, in an attempt to fulfill his father’s dream to seize Kodagu, held the prince Dodda Vira Rajendra of Kodagu captive. With the help of the loyal subjects of Kodava, the prince managed to escape from captivity, defeated Tipu Sultan and recovered Kodava.
From 17th to 19th century, the Wodeyars ruled over Kodagu till the British took over in 1834. Dodda Vira Rejendra Wodeyar and the East India Company signed an agreement in 1790, whereby the later would provide protection to the Kodavas from Tipu Sultan. In 1858, Colonel Fraser was appointed the first Chief Commissioner after the British government took over from the East Indian Company.
Much later, a writer of the Gazetteer of Mysore and Coorg, Lewis Rice traced the lineage up to 1834 when the East India Company overthrew the last Paleri King.
After independence, Kodagu was declared a ‘C’ State in 1952 and in 1956 Coorg was recognized as a district of Karnataka.