Efforts to preserve Kodava takk

Kodavas have a rich oral tradition, with the folk songs mirroring the Kodava way of life from a bygone era
Last Updated : 03 January 2022, 08:54 IST

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Traditional Dudi Paatkaaras; (top) English translation of Pattole Palame, a book of Kodava folksongs.
Traditional Dudi Paatkaaras; (top) English translation of Pattole Palame, a book of Kodava folksongs.

When Mundanda Rajesh Ponnappa’s grand uncle gave him one of the last surviving copies of Andolath Paat — a book in Kodava takk (language) written by his great grandfather Periyanda Changappa — two aspects struck him.

The existence of this book had almost faded from people’s memories and that he could not decipher the content as the language, though written in Kannada script, was quite archaic.

“Periyanda Changappa was a dudi paatkara, a folk singer. This book is essentially a compilation of folk songs. I felt the loss of this book would amount to loss of our intangible cultural heritage. So, to do my bit, I got it republished,” says Rajesh Ponnappa.

Kodavas have a rich oral tradition, with the folk songs mirroring the Kodava way of life from a bygone era. There are songs to commemorate both ordinary and extraordinary events in people’s lives. These songs were mostly orally transmitted, which means few people know them today, posing an imminent threat to the region’s folklore.

“In ancient times, education was not widespread in Kodagu. Hence writing was not popular and most communication was verbal. The local kingdom of Kodagu used Kannada as the language of administration. Therefore, Kodavas used to write petitions and even personal letters in the Kannada language,” says Mookonda Nitin Kushalappa, who often writes about Kodagu and Kodava culture.

A number of scripts were invented by a number of individuals such as Dr Koravanda Appayya, Dr I M Muthanna, Appaneravanda Kiran Subbaiah and linguist Gregg M Cox in the recent past. “But none of them gained much popularity,” Nitin adds.

The Kannada script continues to remain the main script used to write the language. This has two issues — not all phonetic transcriptions in Kannada are accurate, as there are some speech sounds that are not present in Kannada.

The other one is that with Kodavas spread across the globe, such written works will remain inaccessible to the Kodava diaspora.

Though it will be a challenge, writer C P Belliappa feels that the Kodava community has realised the importance of preserving their language and the rich folklore handed down over several generations.

“Concerted efforts are being made by several organisations to rekindle the language that is down-to-earth, witty, and filled with the wisdoms of our ancestors. Restoring the oral traditions with proper recordings in written words and in other mediums is in progress. An example is Talk Pariyana, an initiative by Chodumada Saroo Annaiah, where stories related to Kodagu are narrated in Kodava takk and uploaded on YouTube,” says Belliappa.

Other notable efforts are underway. The epic Pattole Palame by Nadikerianda Chinnappa has been translated to English by Boverianda Nanjamma and Chinnappa.

There are also newspapers published in Kodava takk such as Poomaale and Brahmagiri, founded by Ajjinikanda Mahesh Nachaiah and Ulliyada Poovaiah respectively.

Boverianda C Uthaiah and Thangamma have compiled a comprehensive Kodava-Kannada-English dictionary called Kodava Arivole.

The Karnataka Kodava Sahitya Academy is working towards conserving Kodava takk. Mangalore University will also be offering MA in Kodava takk, and will introduce the language as an optional language in undergraduate programmes.

“Today there is hardly any language which doesn’t use English words. When speakers of a language use words from other languages, they tend to disuse the equivalent native words. This way a language and its vocabulary gets replaced gradually. It is important to make a conscious effort to use words from the native vocabulary while speaking that language,” notes Nitin.

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Published 31 December 2021, 16:07 IST

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