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THE INDIGENOUS CASTES. 23
The country of Coorg has for ages been inhabited by a dozen tribes, though not all of the same standing, •which are distinguished from other castes, imported or immigrated at more recent periods. The following list gives their names according to the rank and dignity claimed by, or accorded to, them in the present day:
1. Annua, or Amma Korfaga, or Kaveri-Brahmans.
2. Korfaga, the chief tribe, both under the Rajahs
3. Aimb6ku/u, (a name corrupted from Aivattu Vok
ka/u, i. e. fifty tenants) gollas or herdsmen.
4. Heggarfe, a tribe of cultivators.
5. Ari, carpenters.
6. Barfige, smiths.
7. Kuruba (shepherd) basket-makers, honey-ga
8. Kavati, jungle<-cultivators.
9. Kurfiya, Baini* cultivators, a kind of jungle-toddy
10. Paleya, farm-laborers.
11. Meda, umbrella and basket-makers.
12. Holeya, slaves.
13. Yerawa, slaves, originally from the Malayit/am country. The two last are sold and bought at a rate much below the price of cattle.
The collection and arrangement of the information, now presented to the reader, has been a task most interesting, a kind of survey of the living field of the Mission. But the difficulties also have neither been few nor small. Little information was obtainable from Government. No census had been taken for sixteen years. Knowledge had to be gathered from the mouths
• Baini, or Beyni. A Palm. Caryota urens.
of the people ; but many, here as elsewhere, are unable, and many are unwilling, to give a eorrect account of the affairs of their own neighbourhood, their own caste. Inaccuracy, exaggeration, detraction impede the progress of the enquirer. This statement is not made for the purpose of magnifying the merit of the labor, the results of which are here given, but to procure pardon for the many imperfections of the following account of the dominant race of Coorg.
THE AMMA KODAGA TRIBE.
This is the indigenous priesthood of Coorg, it would appear. Their real history lies buried under Puraraa rubbish, thrown upon it by the Brahraans. An analogy taken from Tufa tradition will explain my meaning. When the Brahmans for whom Parashuraoia's victory opened the Western Coast, settled in their new country, they found there an indigenous priesthood. They could not destroy them; they could not, or would not, amalgamate with them. What was to be done? The Parashurama ShrisM Kathe (history of the creation of Kera/a by Parashurama) has managed the difficulty. The native priesthood, the Tau/ava Brahmans, are represented as Brahmans, created by Parashurama, but afterwards cursed by him. They were originally fishermen. Parashurama elevated them to Brahmanical rank by investing them with cords, torn form their nets. Afterwards, provoked by their unbelieving presumption, he degraded them for ever. Thus the ancieut priests of the Tulu country were absorbed by the Brahmanical system as Brahmans, lying under a curse. In a similar manner the Ammas of Coorg appear in this Kaveri Purana, as Brahmans indeed originally, but degraded by the curse of the Rishi Agastya.
In ancient times Brahmans seem to have had no footing in this wild, mountainous country, covered
AMMA KODAGAS. 25
-with immense forests, infested by wild beasts, and deluged by the Monsoons. It was an abode fit for Kishis, The Kaveri Purana commemorates the devotions of Kavera, Agastya, Bhaganrfa, Suyajna, who had retired to the highest and most inaccessible solitudes of the Western Ghatts about the sources of the Kaveri. But the Brahmans have never attempted to establish their dominion in Coorg, or, if they have tried, they have not succeeded. A few Brahman-faniilies, however, have long ago settled in Coorg; Haviga, Tain, Marka or old Canarese Brahmans. More lately some Smart a, VaisAnava and Shrivai«Anava houses have established themselves, and furnish the Government with a supply of public servants.
The real history of the Animas, or Annua Korfagas, has thus been effaced, and cannot be restored. However, a few facts may be mentioned as proofs, that the Ammas are the remains of the ancient priesthood, though they know it not themselves.
1. Their common name is Amma Korfaga, which would naturally signify: Coorgs devoted to the worship of Amma, i. e. the goddess of the chief river of the country, the Kaveri.
2. They observe the great festivals of the Coorgcountry in the same manner as the rest of the Coorgs, but of course, as priests, performing puja, &c.
3. They dress like the rest of the Coorgs, though wearing at the same time, the Brahmanical cord. However, on this subject my information is rather curious. It is said, that having degenerated by degrees, and being at last carried away by the Turks, they ceased to put on the holy cord, and began to wear the common Coorg-dress. But it appears to me, that the truth differs much from the current statement. I suppose, that they wore the Coorg-dress originally, knew nothing of Brahmanical pretensions and badges, and differed in nothing from their brethren, except their selection for the priestly office. In more recent times they seem to have inclined towards the proffered patronage of the Brahmans, and to have gradually dropped into Brahmanical habits of thought and life. A good many now wear the holy cord, having laid aside the dress of their country, and all profess to abstain from meat and fermented liquors. This return to Brahmanical initiation and dress was brought about by a Haviga Brahman, the late Karnika, Timappaya. His family still exercise spiritual rule over the Amma Koefagas, who appear to delight in the shade of Brahmanical patronage.
4. They have no Shastra. The whole Coorg-race was unlettered from the beginning. Their own priesthood also, like the priests of ancient Germany and Britain, had no need of books.
In a few generations they may be extinguished altogether. Tradition says, that in former days one half of the soil of Coorg belonged to the Ammas, the rest to the other Coorgs. The Ammas, in virtue of their priesthood, held their lands free of rent. Even now the scanty remains of the tribe are lightly assessed. I understand, the number of their families does not exceed forty, and few only are possessed of some wealth. They do not intermarry with other Coorgs. This separation may be of comparatively recent origin, and certainly hastens their extinction. They are, generally speaking, inferior to the Coorgs in personal appearance and strength of body.
The Brahmanical version of the history of the Amma Korfaga is given in the Kaveri Purana. It is to the following effect:
Chandravarma, the founder of the kingdom and the country of Coorg, called Brahmans from different parts of India, and established them in his dominion. They principally worshipped Parvati. When Agastya ran THE KODAGA TRIBE. 27
to Valamburi—as related in the sketch from the Purana.—to recall, if possible, his beloved wife Kaveri, then about to separate from him for ever, he had great difficulty in persuading her to relent and to change her mind. During the dispute between the Rishi and his wife, the Brahmans, devoted worshippers of Kaveri as they were, sided with the latter and defended her argument. Whereupon the Rishi, in his anger, pronounced a curse against them, which deprived them of their Brahmanhood. The curse was, of course, irrevocable, but Kaveri took them into especial favor, gave them a blessing, made them her own Brahmans, and promised them eternal bliss. Hence they were called Kaveri-Brahmans, and, when in later days the Coorgs arose and filled the country, they became their priests and obtained the name of Amma Coorgs. This Puraraa story seems to me to bear on its face the character of Brahmanical fiction.
THE KODAGA TRIBE.
Whatever may be the historical value of the Kaveri Purana account, there can be no doubt, that the Coorgs have an origin distinct from the population both of the Western coast (Canara and Malayafam), and of the Mysore table-land. Their very appearance proves this. They are a tall, muscular, broad-chested, well-favored race. Many of them do not exceed the neighbouring tribes in height of body, but generally they are of a more robust build, and men of five feet ten to six feet are not rare among them. Their complexion is rather fair, their features generally regular. Having, quite in keeping with the traditions of the country, always considered themselves the Lords of the mountains, having spent their time and strength for generations in war and warlike pursuits, and disdaining, with the exception of agriculture, all low and menial labor,