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To Wear an Identity
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How the character of a community is defined by its attire

The way a people dress is indicative of a certain culture. Dress codes are not just about clothing styles and colors. The uniqueness of a group’s culture and lifestyle is subtly coded in the attire they craft and the manner in which they wear them.

The Kodavas of Coorg in the state of Karnataka have long been known for the originality of their customs and costumes. Both men and women wear distinctive clothing that is a hall mark of this community.

Kodava men used to be distinguished by the Kupya, a ubiquitous knee length tunic they wear over a plain white shirt and tied at the waist with a gold and maroon sash called the Chele. Into this is tucked the ceremonial dagger, the Peechakathi , an indispensable accessory of the formal attire of Kodava males attesting to their martial heritage.

Black Kupyas are the norm, worn at most community functions. However, some senior men of standing in the community would wear white Kupyas that conferred a special distinction upon its wearer. Red Kupyas are worn at the festival of the goddess Bhagwathi. These are of a very special design and fabric to mark the occasion.

In the old days Kupyas and their inner white shirts and head cover formed a complete dress. Today they are paired with churidhars, socks and shoes to match contemporary trends. 

Another integral piece of the Kodava male attire was the Mande Thuni or head gear.  It is a white piece of cloth that was always present upon the heads of men as they went about their daily tasks. This would take on more ceremonial tones with rich colors when worn at weddings, especially by the groom.

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