One can feel Coorg in the air as the plains of Mysore district rise into verdant cloud covered hills. A small and picturesque place, Coorg district is a land associated with pristine wilderness, cool climes, and a vibrant culture. Pandi curry, open gun ownership, and large hockey tournaments are some of the more common associations one makes with the martial race that inhabits these highlands, but there is much more to this fascinating region.
Coorg has a population of 260,000 and is home to some of the last wild areas of South India, which sit nestled next to sprawling estates and plantations. A visit to Coorg is a step back in time, where tradition is weaved into the everyday lives of the people. An adventure always waits for you in Coorg, one of Karnataka’s last frontiers.
Quick Facts about Coorg District
- Main Towns – Madikeri, Virajpet
- Nearest Railway Station s– Mysore – 120 kms, Mangalore – 135 kms
- Nearest Airport – Mysore – 120 kms
People and Lifestyle
The Kodavas are the people who call Coorg District home. Owners of a proud history, the Kodavas are an ancient race and have found mentions in old Hindu texts such as the Puranas, where they were described as fierce warriors. In more recent history, Coorg District was part of the Haleri Rajas’ kingdom. The Kodavas have a history of animosity with the emperors Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan and had thwarted many attempts of control by the Mysore kings.
Coorg falls in between many linguistic zones and hence there are many languages are spoken here, which includes the indigenous Kodava language, Tulu, Are Bhashe, Kannada, Konkani, Urdu, and Malayalam.
Today, the Coorgis have a proud and continuous legacy of contributing to the various wings of the Indian Armed Forces. Field Marshal KM Cariappa, independent India’s first military commander hails from this district. The major festivals of the Kodavas (or Coorgis) are Kailpoldu, Kaveri Sankramana and the harvest festival – Puttari. The Kodavas have a symbiotic relationship with the forest and are traditionally fond of game hunting. Some of this translates to exotic and unique dishes, wild boar being a favourite. The more popular culinary highlights of the Kodagu district include the world-famous pork curries of Coorg, steamed rice balls and a spicy monsoon special, the Coorgi style bamboo shoot curry.
Agriculture, tourism, and agroforestry are the main economic pillars of the Coorg district. The maximum of India’s coffee comes from Coorg. The coffee plantations of Coorg provide a perfect foil for a burgeoning tourist sector, with many visitors looking to experience the plantation life of these fertile hills.
Spices and timber are also mainstays of the local industry. Some of the major spices grown here include pepper and cardamom. Paddy is slowly being upstaged by other economically more viable crops but remains one of the main products of the region. Rosewood and sandalwood are two of the most valuable timber found in Coorg. Kutta, a small township close to Nagarhole, is known for its handicraft industry, which uses local products.
Climate and Geography
The steamy summers of Coorg last from March to the end of May, with temperatures exceeding into the thirties. The summers are followed by the rich and calming monsoons – Coorg district receives one of the highest rainfalls in India, most vigorous during the months of July and August with constant showers all the way till November.
The district is a captivating site in the monsoons as mist envelopes the higher reaches of the forests. Winters in Coorg are very mild by most standards, with temperatures sometimes dipping into single digits but usually hovering around the early to mid teens. It usually will not get hotter than 20 degrees in the winter months of Coorg – December to February. Coorg also receives some blossom showers in the month of March.
Coorg is a largely mountainous area, falling on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats. The highest peaks of the district are Tadiandamol and Pushpagiri, which both top the 1700 metres.
A river of cultural and economic importance, the Cauvery is the main water body in Coorg and originates in Talakaveri, its riverine influence stretching across and draining almost the entire region. The Kodagu district is wedged between the Western Ghats of Kerala in the south and southwest, and the Dakshina Kannada, Hassan and Mysore districts of Karnataka to the north, northwest, and east.
The Wilderness and Forest
Coorg is one of the naturally most scenic and rich regions in the country and falls in one of the major biodiversity hotspots of the planet – the Western Ghats. The Nagarhole National Park in the district spreads over 640 sq. kms into the Mysore district. An erstwhile hunting reserve, Nagarhole is home to some of the rarest species including the tiger and Asiatic elephant.
The Talakaveri, Brahmagiri and Pushpagiri Wildlife Sanctuaries are also a hotbed of conservation and offer visitors the quintessential Western Ghats experience and sights.
Wildlife is part and parcel of life in the Kodagu hills. Many a conversation over rum and snacks with a local will end up with the description of leopards and tigers entering estates and carrying off the livestock and pets. Local wildlife also includes an abundance of wild boar, which the Coorgi’s love to hunt.
The Towns of Coorg
The main towns of Coorg include the district headquarters Madikeri, the base for most excursions into the district. Virajpet is another main town, an important centre for the coffee and spice economy. Tadiandamol, the highest peak in Coorg is located near Virajpet.
Somawarpet, Kushalnagar and Gonikoppal are also important urban centres of the district and known for being picturesque getaways for tourists. Thithimathi is a town in Coorg famous for its elephant training centre.
A fascinating land of warriors, a land of predators that stalk the night, of vibrant festivals and of hunting parties, Coorg is an enigma in the modern world, nestled in the backyards of the more urbane spaces of Mysore and Bangalore. A visit to Karnataka is incomplete without experiencing the land of the Kodavas.