Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mythological Origin of the name "Kodagu"

Kodagu has had three names : the first, Brahma kshetra; the second, Matsya desha; the third, Kroda desha. The origin of these names is described through the following accounts.

When Brahma performed his pilgrimage over the world, i. e. India, he came to Sahyadri (the Western Ghats) where he saw a strange sight. A nelli tree (phyllanihus emllica) stood before him, spreading out a hundred boughs. As he looked at the tree, he  saw the form of Vishnu, with conch (shankha), discus and club. The next moment, when he fixed his eye upon it, he saw nothing but a bare tree. Upon this, Brahma worshipped Vishnu many days, pouring upon the tree out of his holy vessel water from the Viraja, river (this river is not to be found in modern geography). On this account the country from which the holy river Kaveri springs, was named Brahma kshetra.

Of the second name two accounts are given. There is a mountain called Half-moon (arddha chandra) near which there is a holy spring. In it Vishnu took the form of a fish and worshipped Siva. Siva blessed the fish with immortality, and Vishnu gave the country the name of the Fish-country (Matsya-desha). The account of this region contains the root of Coorg tradition.

Siddhartha, the king of the renowned Matsya-desha had four sons. They were learned, heroic, strong in battle. The first of them longed to rule his father's kingdom. The second was addicted to pleasure, and served his elder brother. The third had a turn for philosophy. The fourth, the most talented of the four, gave himself to ascetic exercises, and visited all the tirthas, but he felt also a strong desire for dominion, and was fond of worldly pleasure. His name was Chandra Varmma. In due time he took leave of his father and set out to seek his fortune. He was accompanied by a goodly army. He visited in turn many of the holy places landing at last to Brahmadri (Brahmagiri). Here he dismissed his army and devoted himself to the worship of Parvati.

Pleased with the fervent worshipper, the goddess appeared to him, and permitted him to ask for a boon. Whereupon Chandra Varmma aksed her for a kingdom better than his father's, a wife of his own caste, and a fruitful mother of children. He also asked for victory over his enemies and entrance into Siva's heaven after death. Parvati agreed for everything apart from his wish of having children born by a wife of his own caste owning to sins he had committed in his last life. Then she added, that though he will have a Kshattriya wife, he shall also have a Sudra wife who will bear eleven sons. But they will not be Sudras. Being children of a Kshattriya father and a Sudra mother, they will be called Ugra (fierce men).

Parvati went on to say that in this holy country she will appear, in due time, a river rich in blessings, the daughter of Brahma, the daughter of Kavera muni, the wife of Agastya. From the sacred tank of the rishi, near the roots of the holy nelli tree, in the month of Tula, she will flow.

Chandra Varmma, by Parvati's blessing, celebrated his marriage with a bride of his own caste, according to the shastras. Both the king and the queen were crowned by the holy men, and Chandra Varmma, giving houses and lands to the Brahmans, invited people of other tribes also to settle in his kingdom. As this its first king was a son of the king of Matsya desha, the country was called Matsyadesha.

The third name of the country is Kroda desha. The following account is given of its origin. Chandra Varmma was the best of kings. His Kshattriya queen was barren, but his Sudra wife bore him eleven sons. The first-born of them was Devakanta. He and all his brothers were brought up according to the word of Parvati. Like Kshattriyas they received the name, the holy cord and the tonsure, with due ceremonies. When they arrived at maturity, Chandra Varmma was anxious to obtain for them wives worthy of such princes. He heard that the king of Vidarbha-desha (Berar) had a hundred daughters born of Sudra mothers. Ambassadors were sent to Vidarbha Raya, who cheerfully agreed to give his daughters in marriage to the valiant sons of Chandra Varmma. He himself accompanied them to the mountains of the Matsya country and to the palace of Chandra Varmma. When all the festivities were concluded, Vidarbha Raya returned to his own country, but a good number of his people stayed with his daughters in the country of their adoption. Chandra Varmma's family multiplied greatly. Vidarbha Raya's daughters became, by the blessing of Parvati, fruitful mothers.

When age came upon Chandra Varmma, he grew tired of the world and of his kingdom. Calling his sons together, he placed the crown on Devakanta's head, exhorted his sons to love and union, and retired with his two wives to the Himalaya, there to spend the rest of his days in the worship of Parvati and self-mortifying exercises. Before his departure, he told his sons and grandsons that Parvati would soon be born in their country as the holy river Kaveri.

Devakanta was now king. All the houses of Chandra Varmma's sons abounded in children. Each of them had more than a hundred sons. They were all mighty men of valour, strong of arm and foot. Their nails resembled the fangs of boars. Before long there was not room enough for them. The produce of their fields did not suffice to feed them. But they soon righted themselves. They went out to prepare new fields for themselves. With the nails of their strong hands and feet, they tore up the ground and levelled the slopes of the hills with the valleys in a circumference of five yojanas (60 miles). Then they settled themselves anew in the country, the face of which they had changed by the strength of their own arms.

Because this renovation of the country resembled the renowned deeds of the Varaha or Kroda (the boar incarnation of Vishnu), the country of Chandra Varmma's sons was thenceforth called Kroda-desha, and its inhabitants the Kroda people. This word Kroda is said to have been changed and corrupted by degrees into Kodagu, which is the present, and probably was the original, name of the country.

Source: Mysore and Coorg, Vol. III by Lewis Rice

1 comment:

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