Coorg or Kodagu is chiefly populated by its native ethnic tribes Kodavas. Besides, other principal communities that reside in Kodagu District are Kodagu Gowda and Muslims while the minor tribes that dwell in Coorg include Airi, Meda, Male-Kudiya, Kembatti, Maringi, Kapal, Heggade, Kolla, Kavadi, Kurubas, Koleya, Koyava, Kanya, Kudiyas, Banna, Ganiga, Golla, Thatta, Yeravas, Malaya, etc. Chief languages spoken in Coorg are Kodava, Are Bhashe, Kannada, Tamil, English and Hindi. The natives of Coorg also known by the epithet Kshatriyas are ancestor worshippers and follow the martial tradition. Some of the tribes of Coorg find their origin in farm Laborers and Hunter Gatherer Foresters.
The citizens of Kodagu are polytheists and worship a number of deities, some of them being Bhagwathi, Mahadeva, Bhadrakali, Subramani, Ayyappa and Iggutappa. Various occupations adopted by the ethnic groups of Kodagu are: artisans, basket and mat-weavers, drummers, wandering musicians, farmers, toddy-makers, etc. Agriculture is the most important factor that upholds the economy of Kodagu and the main crops cultivated in this region are rice and coffee.
The Kodagu men wear ‘Kupyas’ (knee-length half-sleeved coats) over a full-sleeved white shirt. ‘Chale’ i.e. a maroon and gold sash is tied at the waist and an ornately carved silver dagger known as ‘Peechekath’ is tucked into it. ‘Odikathi’ is yet another knife that is tucked into the Chale at the back. Furthermore, a chain with a minuscule gun and a dagger hanging onto it give them a martial look. The saris worn by women folk are pleated at the back and the pallu fixed with a brooch is also wrapped in a very unique way. They wear either a full-sleeved or three-quarter sleeved blouse and cover their head with a scarf. A traditional gold beaded necklace known here as ‘Kokkethathi Jomale’ is widely worn by the women of Kodagu.
The most remarkable festivals of Kodagu include Kailpodhu, Kaveri Sankramana and Puttari.
Kailpodhu, celebrated from the 18th day after the sun enters the ‘Simha Raasi’ (generally in the month of September) denotes the completion of the transplantation of the rice crop. ‘Kail’ means the weapons and ‘Podhu’ means festival. On this day weapon are worshipped and various sports and physical contests are organized. Traditional sports such as ‘Thenge Porata’ i.e. snatching a coconut from the hands of 8–10 people, ‘Tenge Eed’ i.e. throwing a stone at a coconut from a distance of 10 to 15 paces, throwing a ball sized stone backwards over the shoulders etc are held at the time of Kailpodhu.
Kaveri Sankramana celebrated in the month of October is dedicated to the River Goddess Kaveri. When the sun enters the moon sign Tula, the holy tank of Talakaveri; from where the Kaveri River originates is naturally filled with holy water. This water venerated as ‘Tirtha’ is believed to be sin cleansing and moksha giving. Devotees from different parts of the region congregate at Talakaveri and immerse themselves in the blessed water of the Tirtha. It is also believed that if this water is fed to the person who is dying, he or she will attain the state of complete salvation. On the day of Kaveri Sankramana married women wear new silk saris and offer Kanni Poojas to a cucumber or a coconut that symbolize the Kaveri River (an incarnation of Goddess Parvati). On the day of Kaveri Sankramana dosa and vegetable curry and payasa are cooked.
Puttari, also known as Huttari is a rice harvest festival celebrated in the month of November or early December. Tambuttu, puttari, Kari and poli poli are certain dishes cooked on this day. The entire family gathers in their common family house called ‘Ain Mane’; decorated with banana leaves, green mangoes and colorful flowers. Subsequently, the eldest member of the family hands a cutting tool over to the head of the family and escorted by a woman of the family they head towards the paddy fields in a procession through a bejeweled pathway. A gunshot is fired and the beginning of the harvest is marked with the chanting of a prosperity song. Some of the harvested rice is taken home and offered to the Gods. Youngsters perform dances and light fireworks. A communal dinner is thrown in the town and everybody attend this banquet.
Kodagu in Kannada Films: In a Kannada movie named ‘Muththina Hara’, a South Indian heroine named Suhasini is depicted wearing a Coorg style sari and dancing to the tunes of a Coorg Song ‘Madikeri Sepoyi’ (Madikeri soldier) against the backdrop of the misty hills of Coorg. Another worth mentioning song is ‘Madikeri Mele Manju’ by G.P. Rajataram that talks about the ‘Mist on Madikeri’. Apart from these songs, a number of lyricists have been inspired by Coorg and composed songs describing its beauty.