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Castes and tribes of southern India (Volume 4) online

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Superintendent, Madras Government Museum ; Correspondant Etranger,

Soci6t6 d'Anthropologie de Paris ; Socio Corrispondante,

Societa Romana di Anthropologia.



of the Madras Government Museum.






(blanket). An exogamous sept of Kuruba.
Koriannayya (fowl sept). An exogamous
sept of Bant.

Korono. Karnam, Mr. H. A. Stuart writes,* " in-
cludes both Karnam proper, and also Korono, the
accountant caste of Ganjam and Orissa. The following
remarks relate solely to the Uriya Koronos. The word
Korono is said to be derived from kirani, which means a
writer or clerk. The origin of the Koronos is uncertain.
One writer says that they are Kayasts of Northern India,
who are of Kshatriya origin. Mr. R. C. Dutt says, in
his History of Ancient India, that, according to Manu,
the Koronos belong to the Kshatriya Vratyas, who do
not perform the religious rites. And, in the Raghuvamsa,
the poet Kalidasa describes Koronos as the offspring of
a Vaisya and a Sudra woman, and he is supported by the
lexicographer Amara Sinha. It is said that the ancestors
of the Koronos were brought from Northern India by
Yayatikesari, King of Orissa (447 526 A.D.), to supply
the want of writers and clerks in certain parts of Orissa.
The Koronos are worshippers of Vishnu. Their cere-
monies are performed with the aid of Brahman priests.
The remarriage of widows is not permitted. They eat

* Madras Census Report, 1891.


fish, and the flesh of goats and deer. The Uriya Koronos
observe the gosha system, and carry it to such an extent
that, after a girl attains puberty, she is not allowed to
appear before her elder brother. Their titles are Patnaik
and Mahanti."

The heads oftheGanjam villages are, Mr. S. P. Rice
informs us, " called Korono, the doer, and Karji, the
manager. The Korono, who is really only the account-
ant, but who, by reason of his higher education, is
generally the ultimate authority in the village, appropri-
ates to himself the title Potonaiko, as his caste distinction.
The word signifies the Naik or head of the town." It
has been noted that " in the Telugu districts, the Karnam
is usually a Brahman. Being in some respects the
most intelligent, and the most unpopular man in the
village, he is both feared and hated. Murders of account-
ants, though infrequent, are not unknown." Of proverbs
relating to Karnams, the following may be quoted :

Even if a thousand pagodas are levied from a village,
not even a cash will be levied from the Karnam (a pagoda
is a gold, and a cash a copper coin).

The Karnam is the cause of the Kapu's (cultivator
caste) death.

The hungry Karnam looks into his old accounts (to
worry his creditors).

The co-operation of the Karnam is as necessary as
the axles to the wheels of a cart.

One Karnam to one village.

A quiet Karnam is as little cared for as a tame

If a Karnam trusts another, his end is near.

If an enemy is his neighbour ; if another Karnam is
his superior ; if the Kapu bears complaints against him,
a Karnam cannot live on.


The Koronos are divided into various sections,
e.g., Sishta or Srishti, Vaisya, Majjula, and Matihansa,
some of which wear the sacred thread. The Vaisyas
are not allowed to marry their girls after puberty,
whereas the others may marry them before or after
this event. A woman of the Bhondari caste is employed
on the occasion of marriage and other ceremonies,
to perform certain duties, for which her services are

Korra (millet : Setaria italica). Anexogamous sept
of Gudala.

Korti. An occupational name, derived from korto, a
saw, of woodsawyers in Ganjam.

Kosalya. A sub-division of Mali, named after
Kosala, the modern Oudh.

Koshti. Koshti or Koshta is the name of a weaving
and cultivating caste of Chota Nagpur, a few members
of which have settled in the Madras Presidency (see
Risley, Tribes and Castes of Bengal). Koshta is also
the name by which the Khatris of Conjeeveram call the
Patnulkaran silk weavers.

Kota. According to Dr. Oppert * " it seems prob-
able that the Todas and Kotas lived near each other
before the settlement of the latter on the Nilagiri. Their
dialects betray a great resemblance. According to a
tradition of theirs (the Kotas), they lived formerly on
Kollimallai, a mountain in Mysore. It is wrong to
connect the name of the Kotas with cow-slaying, and to
derive it from the Sanskrit go-hatya (cow-killer). The
derivation of the term Kota is, as clearly indicated, from
the Gauda-dravidian word ko (ku) mountain, and the
Kotas belong to the Gandian branch." There is a

* Original Inhabitants of Bharatavarsa, 1893.
IV- 1 B


tradition that the Kotas were formerly one with the
Todas, with whom they tended the herds of buffaloes in
common. But, on one occasion, they were found to be
eating the flesh of a buffalo which had died, and the
Todas drove them out as being eaters of carrion. A
native report before me suggests that "it is probable
that, after the migration of the Kotas to the hills, anthro-
pology was at work, and they got into them an admixture
of Toda blood."

The Kotas inhabit seven villages (Kotagiri or kokal),
of which six Kotagiri, Kil Kotagiri, Todanad, Sholur,
Kethi and Kunda are on the Nilgiri plateau, and one is
at Gudalur at the north-west base of these hills. They
form compact communities, and, at Kotagiri, their village
consists of detached huts, and rows of huts arranged in
streets. The huts are built of mud, brick, or stone,
roofed with thatch or tiles, and divided into living and
sleeping apartments. The floor is raised above the
ground, and there is a verandah in front with a seat on
each side whereon the Kota loves to "take his siesta, and
smoke his cheroot in the shade," or sleep off the effects
of a drinking bout. The door-posts of some of the huts
are ornamented with carving executed by wood-carvers
in the plains. A few of the huts, and one of the forges
at Kotagiri, have stone pillars sculptured with fishes,
lotuses, and floral embellishments by stone-carvers from
the low country. It is noted by Breeks * that Kurguli
(Sholur) is the oldest of the Kota villages, and that the
Badagas believe that the Kotas of this village were made
by the Todas. At Kurguli there is a temple of the same
form as the Toda dairy, and this is said to be the only
temple of the kind at any Kota village.

* Account of the Primitive Tribei and Monuments of the Nilgiris, 1873.


The Kotas speak a mixture of Tamil and Kanarese,
and speak Tamil without the foreign accent which is
noticeable in the case of the Badagas and Todas.
According to orthodox Kota views, a settlement should
consist of three streets or keris, in one of which the
Terkaran or Devadi, and in the other two the Muntha-
kannans or Pujaris live. At Kotagiri the three streets
are named Kilkeri, Nadukeri, and Melkeri, or lower,
central, and upper street. People belonging to the same
keri may not intermarry, as they are supposed to belong
to the same family, and intermarriage would be distaste-
ful. The following examples of marriage between
members of different keris are recorded in my notes :












First wife Kilkeri, second wife


The Kota settlement at Sholur is divided into four
keris, viz. : amreri, kikeri, korakeri, and akkeri, or near
street, lower street, other street, and that street, which
resolve themselves into two exogamous groups. Of
these, amreri and kikeri constitute one group, and
korakeri and akkeri the other.

On the day following my arrival at Kotagiri, a
deputation of Kotas waited on me, which included a
very old man bearing a certificate appointing him head-
man of the community in recognition of his services
and good character, and a confirmed drunkard with a
grog-blossom nose, who attributed the inordinate size
thereof to the acrid juice of a tree, which he was
felling, dropping on it. The besetting vice of the Kotas
of Kotagiri is a partiality for drink, and they congregate


together towards dusk in the arrack shop and beer
tavern in the bazar, whence they stagger or are helped
home in a state of noisy and turbulent intoxication. It
has been said * that the Kotas "actually court venereal
disease, and a young man who has not suffered from
this before he is of a certain age is looked upon as a

The Kotas are looked down on as being unclean
feeders, and eaters of carrion ; a custom which is to
them no more filthy than that of eating game when it is
high, or using the same tooth-brush week after week, is
to a European. They have been described as a very
carnivorous race, who "have a great craving for flesh,
and will devour animal food of every kind without any
squeamish scruples as to how the animal came by its
death. The carcase of a bullock which has died of
disease, or the remains of a deer half devoured by a
tiger, are equally acceptable to him." An unappetising
sight, which may be witnessed on roads leading to a
Kota village, is that of a Kota carrying the flesh of
a dead buffalo, often in an advanced stage of putridity,
slung on a stick across his shoulders, with the entrails
trailing on the ground. Colonel Ross King narrates t
how he once saw a Kota carrying home a dead rat, thrown
out of a stable a day or two previously. When I re-
peated this story to my Kota informant, he glared at me,
and bluntly remarked in Tamil "The book tells lies."
Despite its unpleasant nature, the carrion diet evidently
agrees with the Kotas, who are a sturdy set of people,
flourishing, it is said, most exceedingly when the hill
cattle are dying of epidemic disease, and the supply of
meat is consequently abundant.

* Ind. Ant., II, 1873- t Aboriginal Tribes of the Nilgiri hills, 1870.


The missionary Metz narrates * that " some years
ago the Kotas were anxious to keep buffaloes, but
the headmen of the other tribes immediately put their
veto upon it, declaring that it was a great presumption
on the part of such unclean creatures to wish to have
anything to do with the holy occupation of milking

The Kotas are blacksmiths, goldsmiths, silversmiths,
carpenters, tanners, rope-makers, potters, washermen,
and cultivators. They are the musicians at Toda and
Badaga funerals. It is noted by Dr. W. H. R. Rivers t
that " in addition they provide for the first Toda
funeral the cloak (putkuli) in which the body is wrapped,
and grain (patm or samai) to the amount of five to ten
kwa. They give one or two rupees towards the expenses,
and, if they should have no grain, their contribution of
money is increased. At the marvainolkedr (second
funeral ceremony) their contributions are more exten-
sive. They provide the putkuli, together with a sum of
eight annas, for the decoration of the cloak by the Toda
women. They give two to five rupees towards the
general expenses, and provide the bow and arrow,
basket (tek), knife (kafkati), and the sieve called kudsh-
murn. The Kotas receive at each funeral the bodies
of the slaughtered buffaloes, and are also usually given

Though all classes look down on the Kotas, all are
agreed that they are excellent artisans, whose services
as smiths, rope and umbrella makers, etc., are indispen-
sable to the other hill tribes. The strong, durable ropes,
made out of buffalo hide, are much sought after by
Badagas for fastening their cattle. The Kotas at

* Tribes inhabiting the Neilgherry hills. By a German Missionary,
f The Todas, 1906.


Gudalur have the reputation of being excellent thatchers.
The Todas claim that the Kotas are a class of artisans
specially brought up from the plains to work for them.
Each Toda, Badaga, Irula, and Kurumba settlement has
its Muttu Kotas, who work for the inhabitants thereof,
and supply them with sundry articles, called muttu, in
return for the carcasses of buffaloes and cattle, ney
(clarified butter), grain, plantain, etc. The Kotas eat
the flesh of the animals which they receive, and sell the
horns to Labbai (Muhammadan) merchants from the
plains. Chakkiliyans (leather-workers) from the plains
collect the bones, and purchase the hides, which are
roughly cured by the Kotas with chunam (lime) and
avaram (Cassia auriculata) bark, and pegged out on
the ground to dry.

The Kota blacksmiths make hatches, bill-hooks,
knives, and other implements for the various hill tribes,
especially the Badagas, and also for European planters.
Within the memory of men still living, they used to
work with iron ore brought up from the low country,
but now depend on scrap iron, which they purchase
locally in the bazar. The most flourishing smithy in the
Kotagiri village is made of bricks of local manufacture,
roofed with zinc sheets, and fitted with anvil pincers, etc.,
of European manufacture.

As agriculturists the Kotas are said to be quite on
a par with the Badagas, and they raise on the land
adjacent to their villages crops of potatoes, bearded
wheat (akki or rice ganji), barley (beer ganji), kirai
(Amarantns), samai (Panicum miliare}> korali (Setaria
italica), mustard, onions, etc.

At the revenue settlement, 1885, the Kotas were
treated in the same way as the Badagas and other tribes
of the Nilgiris, except the Todas, and the lands in their


occupation were assigned to them at rates varying
from ten to twenty annas per acre. The bhurty or shift-
ing system of cultivation, under which the Kotas held
their lands, was formally, but nominally, abolished in
1862-64 ; but it was practically and finally done away
with at the revenue settlement of the Nilgiri plateau.
The Kota lands are now held on puttas under the
ordinary ryotwari tenure.

In former days, opium of good quality was cultivated
by the Badagas, from whom the Kotas got poppy-heads,
which their herbalists used for medicinal purposes. At
the present time, the Kotas purchase opium in the bazar,
and use it as an intoxicant.

The Kota women have none of the fearlessness and
friendliness of the Todas, and, on the approach of a
European to their domain, bolt out of sight, like
frighted rabbits in a warren, and hide within the inmost
recesses of their huts. As a rule they are clad in
filthily dirty clothes, all tattered and torn, and frequently
not reaching as low as the knees. In addition to domes-
tic duties, the women have to do work in the fields,
fetch water and collect firewood, with loads of which,
supported on the head by a pad of bracken fern (Pteris
aquilina) leaves, and bill-hook slung on the shoulder,
old and young women, girls and boys, may continually
be seen returning to the Kotagiri village. The women
also make baskets, and rude earthen pots from a black
clay found in swamps on a potter's wheel. This consists
of a disc made of dry mud, with an iron spike, by means
of which it is made to revolve in a socket in a stone
fixed in the space in front of the houses, which also acts
as a threshing-floor. The earthenware vessels used by
the Todas for cooking purposes, and those used in
dairy work, except those of the inner room of the ti


(sacred dairy), are Isaid by Dr. Rivers to be made by
the Kotas.

The Kota priesthood is represented by two classes,
Munthakannan or Pujari, and Terkaran or Devadi, of
whom the former rank higher than the latter. There
may be more than two Terkarans in a village, but the
Munthakannans never exceed this number, and they
should belong to different keris. These representatives
of the priesthood must not be widowers, and, if they lose
their wives while holding office, their appointment
lapses. They may eat the flesh of buffaloes, but not
drink their milk. Cow's flesh, but not its milk, is tabu.
The Kotas may not milk cows, or, under ordinary con-
ditions, drink the milk thereof in their own village, but
are permitted to do so if it is given to them by a Pujari,
or in a village other than their own. The duties of the
Munthakannan include milking the cows of the village,
service to the god, and participation in the seed-sowing
and reaping ceremonial. They must use fire obtained
by friction, and should keep a fire constantly burning in
a broken pot. In like manner, the Terkarans must not
use matches, but take fire from the house of the
Munthakannan. The members of the priesthood are
not allowed to work for others, but may do so on
their own account in the fields or at the forge. They
should avoid pollution, and may not attend a Toda
or Badaga funeral, or approach the seclusion hut set
apart for Kota women. When a vacancy in the office
of Munthakannan occurs, the Kotas of the village
gather together, and seek the guidance of the Terkaran,
who becomes inspired by the deity, and announces
the name of the successor. The selected individual
has to be fed at the expense of the community for
three months, during which time he may not speak


to his wife or other woman direct, but only through
the medium of a boy, who acts as his assistant.
Further, during this period of probation, he may not
sleep on a mat or use a blanket, but must lie on the
ground or on a plank, and use a dhupati (coarse cloth)
as a covering. At the time of the annual temple
festival, neither the Munthakannans nor the Terkarans
may live or hold communion with their wives for
fear of pollution, and they have to cook their food

The seed-sowing ceremony is celebrated in the month
of Kumbam (February- March) on a Tuesday or Friday.
For eight days the Pujari abstains from meat and lives
on vegetable dietary, and may not communicate directly
with his wife, a boy acting as spokesman. On the
Sunday before the ceremony, a number of cows are
penned in a kraal, and milked by the Pujari. The milk
is preserved, and, if the omens are favourable, is said not
to turn sour. If it does, this is attributed to the Pujari
being under pollution from some cause or other. On
the day of the ceremony, the Pujari bathes in a stream,
and proceeds, accompanied by a boy, to a field or the
forest. After worshipping the gods, he makes a small
seed-pan in the ground, and sows therein a small quantity
of ragi (Elusine Coracana). Meanwhile, the Kotas of
the village go to the temple, and clean it. Thither the
Pujari and the boy proceed, and the deity is worshipped
with offerings of cocoanuts, betel, flowers, etc. Sometimes
the Terkaran becomes inspired, and gives expression to
oracular utterances. From the temple all go to the
house of the Pujari, who gives them a small quantity of
milk and food. Three months later, on an auspicious
day, the reaping of the crop is commenced with a very
similar form of ceremonial.


During the seed-sowing festival, Mr. Harkness,
writing in 1832,* informs us, " offerings are made in the
temples, and, on the day of the full moon, after the whole
have partaken of a feast, the blacksmith and the gold and
silversmith, constructing separately a forge and furnace
within the temple, each makes something in the way of
his avocation, the blacksmith a chopper or axe, the
silversmith a ring or other kind of ornament."

"Some rude image," Dr. Shortt writes,! "of wood
or stone, a rock or tree in a secluded locality, frequently
forms the Kota's object of worship, to which sacrificial
offerings are made ; but the recognised place of worship
in each village consists of a large square of ground,
walled round with loose stones, three feet high, and con-
taining in its centre two J pent-shaped sheds of thatch,
open before and behind, and on the posts (of stone) that
support them some rude circles and other figures are
drawn. No image of any sort is visible here." These
sheds, which at Kotagiri are a very short distance apart,
are dedicated to Siva and his consort Parvati under the
names of Kamataraya and Kalikai. Though no repre-
sentation thereof is exhibited in the temples at ordinary
times, their spirits are believed to pervade the buildings,
and at the annual ceremony they are represented
by two thin plates of silver, which are attached to
the upright posts of the temples. The stones surround-
ing the temples at Kotagiri are scratched with various
quaint devices, and lines for the games of kote and huli-
kote. The Kotas go, I was told, to the temple once a
month, at full moon, and worship the gods. Their

* A Singular Aboriginal Race of the Nilagiris.
t Tribes of the Neilgherries, 1868.

At Kotamale there are three temples, two dedicated to Kamataraya and one

to Kalikai.

C- 1



belief is that Kamataraya created the Kotas, Todas,
and Kurumbas, but not the Irulas. " Tradition says
of Kamataraya that, perspiring profusely, he wiped
from his forehead three drops of perspiration, and out of
them formed the three most ancient of the hill tribes
the Todas, Kurumbas, and Kotas. The Todas were
told to live principally upon milk, the Kurumbas were
permitted to eat the flesh of buffalo calves, and the Kotas
were allowed perfect liberty in the choice of food, being
informed that they might eat carrion if they could get
nothing better." According to another version of this
legend given by Dr. Rivers, Kamataraya " gave to each
people a pot. In the Toda pot was calf-flesh, and so the
Todas eat the flesh of calves at the erkumptthpimi
ceremony ; the Kurumba pot contained the flesh of a
male buffalo, so this is eaten by the Kurumbas. The pot
of the Kotas contained the flesh of a cow-buffalo, which
may, therefore, be eaten by this people."

In addition to Kamataraya and Mangkali, the Kotas
at Gudalur, which is near the Malabar frontier, worship
Vettakaraswami, Adiral and Udiral, and observe the
Malabar Onam festival. The Kotas worship further
Magali, to whose influence outbreaks of cholera are
attributed, and Mariamma, who is held responsible for
smallpox. When cholera breaks out among the Kota
community, special sacrifices are performed with a view
to propitiating the wrath of the goddess. Magali is
represented by an upright stone in a rude temple at a
little distance from Kotagiri, where an annual ceremony
takes place, at which some man becomes possessed, and
announces to the people that Magali has come. The
Pujari offers up plantains and cocoanuts, and sacrifices a
sheep and fowls. My informant was, or pretended to be
ignorant of the following legend recorded by Breeks as


to the origin of the worship of the smallpox goddess.
" A virulent disease carried off a number of Kotas of
Peranganoda, and the village was abandoned by the
survivors. A Badaga named Munda Jogi, who was
bringing his tools to the Kotagiri to be sharpened, saw
near a tree something in the form of a tiger, which spoke
to him, and told him to summon the run-away Kotas. He
obeyed, whereupon the tiger form addressed the Kotai
in an unknown tongue, and vanished. For some time,
the purport of this communication remained a mystery.
At last, however, a Kota came forward to interpret, and
declared that the god ordered the Kotas to return to the
village on pain of a recurrence of the pestilence. The
command was obeyed, and a Swami house (shrine) was
built on the spot where the form appeared to the Badaga
(who doubtless felt keenly the inconvenience of having
no Kotas at hand to sharpen his tools)." The Kotas are
not allowed to approach Toda or Badaga temples.

It was noted by Lieutenant R. F. Burton * that, in
some hamlets, the Kotas have set up curiously carved
stones, which they consider sacred, and attribute to them
the power of curing diseases, if the member affected be
only rubbed against the talisman.

A great annual festival is held in honour of Kama-
taraya with the ostensible object of propitiating him with
a view to his giving the Kotas an abundant harvest and
general prosperity. The feast commences on the first
Monday after the January new moon, and lasts over
many days, which are observed as a general holiday.
The festival is said to be a continuous scene of licentious-
ness and debauchery, much indecent dancing taking place
between men and women. According to Metz,t the

* Goa and the Blue Mountains, 1851.

t Tribes inhabiting the Neilgherry hills. By a German Missionary.


chief men among the Badagas must attend, otherwise

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