The Vanishing Kodavas

The Vanishing Kodavas (Eminence Designs, 2013) is a widely acclaimed cultural study that tells the story of the Kodava people in their own voices. The Kodavas, a rustic, militaristic hill people with a tradition of oral cultural transmission are believed to have migrated to and settled in the western ghat region of Kodagu. The many theories regarding their origins remain unsubstantiated. Structured into patrilineal descent groups, they were farmers and warriors, ruled through their early history by their own chieftains who owed political allegiance to a continuously changing mosaic of bigger kingdoms around them and later, by a local dynasty of Lingayat kings, supported by a council of chieftains. The Kodavas have distinctive social and cultural practices which have survived into the present century. Using historical records, diaries and letters, folklore, songs, stories and oral histories, the book explores the history of the people, offering new perspectives on Kodava history and culture.

In the period spanning 1998-2013, Kaveri Ponnapa made field trips across Kodagu, documenting village festivals over multiple cycles, witnessing and participating in ancestor propitiations and the life events of a community. Since publication, The Vanishing Kodavas has prompted a widespread revival of interest in understanding the culture and heritage of a numerically small but distinct people who continue to maintain their cultural identity. This website uses the extensive research contained in the book, and incorporates additional material from ongoing research since 2013 to further expand an understanding of Kodava history, society and cultural heritage.