Kodava language

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Native to India
Region Kodagu, Karnataka
Ethnicity Kodava
Native speakers
200,000  (2001)[1]
Kannada script, Coorgi-Cox alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3 kfa
Glottolog koda1255[2]
Kodagu: home of the Kodavas shown above in the map of Karnataka, India (in orange)

The Kodava or Coorg language (Kannada script: ಕೊಡವ ತಕ್ಕ್ Kodava takk) is a Dravidian language and the original language of the Kodagu district in southern Karnataka, India. It is the primary language of Kodavas, but a large portion of other communities and tribes in Kodagu also use the Kodava takk ('speech of Kodavas', the Kodava language).


Dolls in Kodava attire

Although Kodava is the language of the original Kodavas and the Amma-Kodavas, the native speakers of Kodava Takk who are mainly settled in the district of Kodagu,[3] it is also the native language of some other communities such as the Kodava-Heggade, Airi, Male-Kudiya, Meda, Kembatti, Kapala, Maringi, Kavadi, Kolla, Thatta, Kodava Nair, Koleya, Koyava, Banna, Golla, Kanya, Ganiga, and Malaya. Many of these later mentioned communities have migrated into Kodagu from the Malabar Coast region during the period of Haleri Rajas Dynasty. There is no research done so far to find out the variation in Kodava language in terms of these communities. As per 1991 census, the speakers of Kodava Takk make up to 0.25% of the total population of the Karnataka state. According to Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy, apart from Kodavas, 18 other ethnic groups speak Kodava Takk in and outside the district including Amma Kodava, Kodagu Heggade, Iri, Koyava, Banna, Madivala, Hajama, Kembatti, and Meda.[4]

Kodavas Proper[edit]

The Kodava community numbers about one-fifth out of a total population of over 500,000, in Kodagu. They are the indigenous people of Kodagu, the land to which they gave their name. Many Kodava people have migrated to areas outside Kodagu, to other Indian cities and regions, predominantly to Bangalore, Mysore, Mangalore, Ooty, Chennai, Mumbai, Kerala, Hyderabad and Delhi for better job prospects. Some of them have now migrated outside India to foreign countries, like North America (the US and Canada),the Middle East (especially Dubai in UAE and Muscat in Oman) and the UK.[5]

Amma Kodavas[edit]

The Amma Kodavas were believed to be the original priests’ at all important temples in Coorg including temples of Talakaveri, Igguthappa and Irupu. However, with the coming of the Brahmins into Coorg, it appears that the priestly functions gradually slipped out of the Amma Kodavas and fell into the hands of the Brahmins. The religious customs and practices of the hill people of Coorg gradually and subtly began to be influenced by the Brahmin practises and rituals. The role of the Coorg priest, via: Amma Kodavas declined and that of the Brahmin priest increased. In due course, the Amma Kodavas had no role to play in the religious aspects of the people of Coorg.

The loss of this important role earned some powerful Brahmin sympathisers, one of whom was a Havyaka Brahmin Thimmapaya, who had a large following of Amma Kodavas. During the later part of the 19th century, it appears that an attempt was made for assimilating the Amma Kodavas into the Brahmin fold. One batch of Amma Kodavas performed the rites to wear the sacred thread. Another batch is reported to have done so early in the 20th Century. Both these batches were assigned the Gothra names of their Brahmin patrons. The process of assimilation did not move any further. Today, many of the Amma Kodavas wear the sacred thread, a large number of them performing the rites a day before marriage (not after puberty, as done by the mainstream Brahmins). There are as many, who do not wear the sacred thread. Some of the Amma Kodavas do not have gotras assigned to them. They are vegetarians and endogamous. However, all other social activities such as marriage, dress and festivals are similar to the Kodavas. [6]

Kodava Heggade[edit]

The Kodava Heggades (Peggades) are another of these indigenous castes of Coorg who speak the Kodava language although originally they were believed to have come from North Malabar. They have around 100 Family names. They follow the Kodava habits and customs, dress like other Kodavas and speak Kodava Takk. The Kodava Heggades and the Amma Kodavas are similar to the Kodavas and hence might have been related to them in the ancient past.[6]

Kodava Maaples[edit]

'Kodava maaple' or Maaple (Kodava and Kannada :ಕೊಡವ ಮಾಪ್ಳೆ) is a Muslim community residing in Kodagu district of Karnataka State in southern India. In Coorg many Kodavas were converted into Islam during the rule of Tippu Sultan in Coorg. They are called the 'Kodava Maaple' or 'Jamma Maaples' ( not to be confused with the Kerala Mappillas). However some of the Kodava Maaples have married with the Kerala Mappilas and Mangalore Bearys. They contract marriage alliances with the Muslims of Coorg, Mangalore and Kerala. The Kodava Maaples belong to Sunni Islam, refrain from alcohol and eat only Halal. They maintained their original Kodava clan names and dress habits and spoke Coorg language although now they do follow some Kerala Muslim and Beary customs also.

Non-Kodavas/ Immigrants[edit]

These include communities such as, Airi, Malekudiya, Meda, Kembatti, Kapala,Kavadi, Kolla, Koyava, Banna, Golla, Kanya, Maleya and others. Many of these communities had migrated into Kodagu from the Canara, Mysore and the Malabar regions during the period of Haleri Dynasty and to a certain extent culturally ingrained themselves in the Kodava Society. They speak Kodava takk and follow the Kodava customs and habits to some extent.

Kodagu Gowdas were Tulu origin Gowdas who came from Sulya in South Canara and were settled in Kodagu by the Kodagu Rajas in around 1800 AD. The Rajas of Kodagu had to bring in Tulu Gowdas from Sulya and others to settle down in some of the deserted farms of the dead Kodava families to continue the economic activities of the region. These Tulu Gowdas from Sulya became the Kodagu Gowda. They speak Are Bhashe (Kodagu Gowda 'half-tongue', an admixture of Tulu, Kodava language and Kannada). The Brahmins from neighbouring North Malabar served as temple priests in Coorg but didn't possess land in Coorg.[7]


Proto Tamil-Kodagu, Origin of Kodagu language (Kodava takk)

Linguistically, it shows some deviations from other Dravidian languages. For instance, most Dravidian languages have 5 short and 5 long vowels. Kodava has two more vowels, namely the close central unrounded vowel /ɨ/ and the mid central unrounded vowel /ɘ̞/, which can likewise be short and long (Balakrishnan 1976). These peculiarities and distinctness of the language had attracted the attention of scholars from the sixteenth century. However, they did not consider Kodava an independent language. It was considered as a dialect of Kannada, closer to Tulu (Ellis 1816), or closely related to Malayalam and Tamil (Moegling 1855). It is closely related to and influenced by Tulu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Tamil. A majority of the words are common between Kodava and Beary bashe, a dialect which is a mixture of Tulu and Malayalam spoken by the Beary and Belchada community. It was in early 20th century that the philologists and linguists recognized it as an independent language.


Family histories, rituals and other records were scripted on palm leaves called Pattole (patt=palm, ole=leaf) by astrologers in the ancient times. When Kodava was written, it was usually with Kannada script, sometimes with minor modifications, and sometimes in the Malayalam script as well. The folk songs of the Kodavas, called the Palame (also known as the Balo Patt or Dudi Patt), were orally transmitted across several generations. The language had no significant written literature until the twentieth century. Appaneravanda Hardas Appachcha Kavi, a playwright, and Nadikerianda Chinnappa, a folk compiler, are the two important poets and writers of Kodava language. Other important writers in the language were B D Ganapathy and I M Muthanna.

The Pattole Palame, a collection of Kodava folksongs and traditions compiled in the early 1900s by Nadikerianda Chinnappa, was first published in 1924. The most important Kodava literature, it is said to be one of the earliest, if not the earliest, collection of the folklore of a community in an Indian language. Nearly two thirds of the book consists of folksongs that were handed down orally through generations, sung even today during marriage and death ceremonies and during festivals relating to the seasons and in honour of local deities and heroes. Traditionally known as Balo Pat, these songs are sung by four men who beat dudis (drums) as they sing. Kodava folk dances are performed to the beat of many of these songs. The Pattole Palame was written using the Kannada script originally; it has been translated into English by Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa, grandchildren of Nadikerianda Chinnappa, and has been published by Rupa & Co., New Delhi.[8]


Some films are also produced in this language portraying the tradition, culture and nativity of the Kodavas. Kodava Cinema industry is very small and in the year 1972 first Kodava film was produced named 'Nada Mann Nada Kool' directed by S.R.Rajan (1972).


  1. ^ Kodava at Ethnologue (17th ed., 2013)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Kodava". Glottolog 2.2. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ "Kodava-speaking people seek one identity". The Hindu. 
  4. ^ "Will Kodava find a place in Eighth Schedule?". The Hindu. 
  5. ^ K.S. Rajyashree. Kodava Speech Community: an ethnolinguistic study. LanguageIndia.com, October 2001
  6. ^ a b 1. B.L.Rice, Mysore & Coorg Gazetteer, Vol-III. published in 1878, 2. Rev.H. Moegling “Coorg Memoirs” published as in 1855. 3. M.N.Srinivas, ‘Religion and Society among the Coorgs of South India’ published in Oxford in 1951.
  7. ^ Gazetteer of Coorg (Rev.G.Richter,1870)
  8. ^ "– Official Website of Kodava Community". Kodava.org. Retrieved 2012-06-01. 


  • R A Cole, "An Elementary Grammar of the Coorg Language"

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