The annual Kodava Convention of North America was held on September 1st and 2nd of 2018 in Myrtle Beach, SC also known as the Golf Capital of the World. Double Tree Resort by Hilton in Myrtle Beach could have easily been mistaken to be a luxurious wedding hall in Kodagu except that it was missing live valaga and baale mariyadi to welcome the guests.
The festivities began a day before with Kadumbutt orutuva event in the house of the host Kambeyanda Dr. Ramesh and Dr. Leela, so reminiscent of a wedding in our Kodagu. The hosts believed that the best way to quench thirst after an evening at the beach is guzzling beer. About 100 early arrivers to the party met the hosts at the Kambeyandas where we were treated with some chilled beverages and food. That was just a start of things to come and Kodava songs reverberated until 3 in the morning at the resort with the customary ‘after party’.
The hosts, Kodavas of the Carolinas with support from folks from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Georgia had taken care of every minor detail and almost redefined hospitality. Breakfast was served, games and entertainment events were organized for all age groups while the performers got together (many of them practicing in person for the first time after months of co-ordination over Skype and WhatsApp). The informal pre-convention had more than 300 guests who let their hair down and partied late into the night. While talented kids like Tarana Muckatira (violin) and Kanishk Muckatira (piano) showcased their talent, we had seasoned performers like Namita Achandira enthrall the audience with her dance moves. Besides, there was an impromptu dance performance by 5-year-old Vianca Kallengada with some moral support from Anwita Monnanda that stole the show. Mediterranean food was as tasty as it was healthy and much appreciated. Vanak yerchi (dry pork) made by Kusha Paruangada made him an overnight celebrity with people chasing him for the recipe. Once the valaga started there was no stopping as Kodavas young and old, men and women were seen dancing like no one was watching. The day ended at 2 AM with the after party in one of the popular roof top bars in Myrtle Beach.
Kodavas of America while partying hard are equally conscious of the society they are part of and their responsibility towards it. A morning walk was organized which not only promoted health and wellness but helped raise funds to help the educational needs of economically challenged children in Kodagu. The day had a packed schedule with various games for children of different age groups besides a game of beach volleyball that helped raise more funds for social cause in Kodagu.
The main event started with the traditional lighting of the lamp by our respected hosts Dr. Kambyanda Ramesh and Dr. Leela Kambeyanda. Avinash Chottangada did the invocation in his inimitable style in chaste Kodava thakk and solicited blessings of Lord Igguthappa and Adi Kaveramme. A special mention about the victims of the recent floods and landslides in Kodagu touched the hearts of everybody assembled in the hall. Thaliyath akki bolcha and baalo paat added the Kodava traditional elements to the event and helped showcase some of the traditions to our younger generation. Aiyappa Kechamada and Aashiq Paruvangada were the masters of the ceremony and made it look like they did it for a living. The ceremony started with prayer song by Kallichanda Kaveri from Denver and was followed by multiple cultural events including songs and dances. I was honored by the opportunity to conduct a quiz competition that not only helped share knowledge about Kodagu, Kodavas and Kodavame but helped facilitate interaction and collaboration among Kodavas who lived in different parts of the country and had not met each other before. It was certainly very satisfying to have the winners and runners up, mostly seniors come on stage and dance to the Kodava valaga. The decorations committee had done an awesome job that would give professional decorators a run for their money. The mural of Sri Padi Igguthappa temple as the backdrop for pictures was surreal.
Gina Konganda, Founder President of Kodava Koota spoke about the organization and on the day of its 1-year anniversary, listed its achievements that includes helping the Sri Ramakrishna old age home on Ponnampet, funding the legal expenses to evict illegal settlers in Devakad in Valnoor and planting about 10,000 saplings in Kodagu. Besides, the first High School Achievement award ($1,000 and a plaque sponsored by Kodava Koota) was presented to Paruangada Bopaiah, son of Paruangada Kuttaiah and Pooja. Kodava Koota which has been running a fund-raising campaign to help in the re-development of Kodagu and the impacted people leveraged the opportunity to collect money that will be used to assist those affected. Kodava Koota will work with reputed organizations in Kodagu to ensure the funds are utilized appropriately and the impacted are benefited.
The bar was open throughout and we did not need a second invitation to enjoy the cocktails. Dinner was sumptuous with Kodava delicacies like Kadumbutt, Pandi Curry, mange pajji, meen para besides biryani, goat curry etc. No Kodava event is complete without Valaga and we danced well into the wee hours of the morning and it was an amazing site to see few hundred people enjoy our traditional music and dance.
Big round of thanks to all the organizers and the list is too long but I would fail in my duty if I do not call out the core team of Dr. Kuliakanda Sannu and Dr. Nalini, Alemada Geetha Kiran, Mukkatira Naina Udai , Baduvanda Dr. Changumani and Dr. Shobha, Kandera Deepthi Sharath, Kolera Shriti and Tarun, Mandepanda Uthappa, Chendrimada Deepa and Bopanna, Chottangada Rupica and Avinash besides Kambeyanda Dr. Ramesh and Dr. Leela. They did a great job and should be proud of themselves. All others’ contributions were great too and I am sorry I will not be able to list all the names.
Somebody asked me in the elevator if it was a big FAMILY reunion that was going on. It got me thinking. He was right. Aren’t we all part of the same family? With common roots, passion and way of life and living 15,000 miles away from Kodagu there is so much love, trust and friendship amongst all of us. If this is not family, what else is?
Carolinas have set the bar (pun intended) high and can’t wait for Boston in 2019!!!!
Some facts and figures:
- 4 – Number of countries from which people participated
- 27 – States in the USA represented
- 54 – Kgs of pork used to make Pandi curry.
- 134 – rooms booked by the attendees in Double Tree Hilton
- 174 – number of Kodava okkas represented
- 389 – Total number of registrations
- 1,850 – Number of Kadumbutt rolled
Please click the links below for pictures from the convention