KAIL PODH: THE UNIQUE FESTIVAL OF ARMS CELEBRATED BY PEOPLE OF COORG

By Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa

To a Kodava living outside Kodagu, Kail Podh is one of those days when one gets to encounter their unique cultural traditions. While in Kodagu the festival is celebrated on different days, elsewhere Kail Podh is observed at homes on the third of September. After the Putthari harvest festival, Kail Podh is the next important festival of the people from Kodagu. On this day the community usually gathers in their public spaces and celebrate the event.

The Kail Podh day begins with the youngsters touching the feet of their parents. Traditional and household weapons, such as guns, war knives, swords, spears, bows and arrows, are cleaned and placed near the thookbolcha (hanging prayer lamp) in the house. Thokk Poo (Glorioso Superba flowers) are placed upon the nozzles of guns placed upright against the wall. Prayers are made facing the  thookbolcha. The Kodava deities, the river deity Kaveramma, the chief preceptor Mahaguru Igguthappa and the supreme ancestor Guru Karana, are invoked.

The women get together in the kitchen and prepare Kodava cuisine. Traditional rice dishes such as  steamed dough balls called kadambuttu, voti bread, paaputt plain cakes and nooputt noodles, along with meat dishes such as Pandi (pork) curry, Koli (chicken) curry and Yerchi (mutton) curry as well as desserts like akki payasa (rice kheer) are cooked and served. The family members then partake these meals with relish.

Outside Kodagu, the Kodava Samajas organise folk dances, sports, such as shot put, rifle shooting and other cultural events. In Kodagu these events happen at the various village greens, or Mands, of Kodagu. The Kodavas usually wear traditional costumes on this day. Kodava cuisines, especially pork and rice dishes, are prepared and served on these events.

The Kodavas maintain the weapons of their ancestors as far as possible. They are handed down from generation to generation. During weddings, male representatives of families related to the bride and the groom cut banana stalks each with a single stroke of the Odi katti (large Kodava warknife). A gun is fired in the air during the birth of a son and at the death of an individual. This is meant to announce the news to the neighbours. Upon hearing the gunshot the villagers will gather at the house.

The Kodavas worshipped weapons in keeping with their martial traditions. Their ancestors owned arms of various kinds. They had different native war knives, among them billhook shaped odi katti, ornate, sheathed, small piche katti and straight bladed baal katti. They also had spears and straight bladed long knives known as Barchi.

 Wishing all the Kodavas and other people from Kodagu a very happy Kail Podh.

Photos by Joyappa Palandira

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