FINDING YOUR ROOTS

The story draws inspiration from the land of the Kodavas, Coorg. To the western world, Coorg is often described as the Scotland of India. In this collection, I look at Coorg from my perspective of how Princess Victoria Gowramma would have looked at this region of her ancestors. Born on a Sunday on the 4th July 1841, the baby princess was born far away from her ancestral roots, in Varanasi. She is the favorite daughter of the exiled king of Coorg, Veerarajendra. He was exiled on account of a misunderstanding between him and the British India Company in 1834. The King was first exiled to Vellore and, later in 1836, to Varanasi.

The Kodavas worshipped nature and their forefathers. Though ruled by the Haleri Rajas for several centuries (who are Shiva-worshipping Lingayat sect) and then by the British who tried to influence Christianity, the Kodavas remained true to their faith even though they became anglicized in their lifestyle. This collection looks at this region through the longing eyes of Princess Victoria Gowramma who was practically snatched from her roots at birth due to her father’s unfortunate circumstances. She was then encouraged to embrace the faith of Christianity as part of a failed strategy by the exiled king to fight for his rights, in England. She lost her connect with her land and died unhappily on 30th March 1864. She was buried in Brompton Cemetery in London.

She now wishes to find her roots…

UNEARTHED ECSTASY

Longing to see her land, the Princess places her feet on the soil of the Kodavas. As she witnesses the flora and fauna around her, she experiences an emotion of “Unearthed Ecstasy”, a joy that has no boundaries whatsoever. The Princess has re-discovered her true belongingness in the soil of Coorg. She sees the scenic attraction of the Brahmagiri hills and the ever-flowing Iruppu Falls as it gushes down the rocks to fulfill the thirst of the coffee plantations and the rich forest lands.

The cool breeze of Coorg act as messengers of the melodies of the birds. The princess imagines the beautiful peacock secretly trying to romance the beautiful Bird of Paradise flowers by teasingly touching the bright orange flowers with his feathers. She looks at the wonderful Malabar Trogan and the Nilgiri Laughing Thrush chirping their songs as they glide from one branch to the other. The evergreen woods of the Western Ghats offer shelter to the Tiger, the Elephants and rarely found Star Tortoise. In the west of Coorg, the most common trees are the Rosewood and several species of acacia.  She expresses all these beautiful scenes through the artworks of the people of her country.

MYSTIC UNION

Princess Victoria Gowramma recollects all the wonderful tales of her people by her parents and aunts while they were in exile in Varanasi. She also remembers the rich Kodava costumes that she was made to wear when her portrait was made in London. She respects the rich fabrics and ornamentation of erstwhile royalty, merged with the nature. The Kodava woman drapes her
sari in a beautifully distinctive style, with the traditional jewelry worn by Kodava women is typical which is inspired by nature. The daggers, Aydakatti and Pichangatti, are an integral part of
their traditions and religious beliefs. The Kodava man’s attire is a kupya (long black or white wraparound tunic) secured with a red gold-embroidered silk sash, into the front of which is tucked a pichangatti and a white turban is tied around his head. The princess also learnt of the
NariMangala where the king to be will have to be able to defeat the tiger and marry the soul of the tiger. The King’s duty is that of the protector of his people and all the living beings of his land.

SYMPHONY OF RAINS

Coorg is famous for its monsoon. The rain beats upon the land of the Kodavas as mightily as its people would beat on their drums during the Valaga dance. The rhythm is accentuated by the sounds of the cricket that paces itself with the rains in perfect harmony. The butterflies flutter itself in between the
rains as if to give a beautiful entertainment of colors to the Gods during interval. The winds make the trees sway in waltz and the snails paces itself slowly and surely through the soil. The whole place is covered with green color in perfect contrast to the grey clouds that one sees in the sky. The Princess sees how beautiful the Symphony of the Rains is as created by the Gods. Indeed, a perfect unison of sound and visual to give her the peace that every human long for.