India

Posted by tobysadmin in Coffee Trails

I’m not ordinarily big on bright gold and purple trousers but when in Coorg, do as the Coorgs do. Nithya, my friend whose wedding I’m in India to celebrate trades coffee beans in Australia. His was a traditionally arranged marriage, but the wedding is in true Coorg style and I’m determined to look the part.

The bride and groom have ceremonies of their own before joining one another at the ‘dampathi muhurtham’ blessing in which guests bestow money. The huge hall of ceremonies accommodates the vast crowd. My new colourful attire seems to amuse the guests who laugh as I queue up to offer a gift of money, which works like this: the bride and groom sit next to each other decorated with garlands of jasmine. Beside them is a brass plate with rice on it and a small silver vessel containing milk.

The guests, all smiles, bless the bride and groom with a sprinkle of rice over their heads, followed by a handshake. If a Kodava elder is present, the bride or groom bend over and touch the elder’s feet three times, each time bringing their hands back to their bodies as if to draw in the blessings. Then a little milk is given from the vessel and a monetary gift is discreetly placed in the groom’s hand. Deal done.

The next day I decide to make the pilgrimage to the local Baba Budan Giri Shrine. Legend has it the great sufi (also known as Hazarat Shah Janab Allah Magtabi to his friends) once made a pilgrimage to Al-Mokha, meeting with the Yemeni sufis who had discovered coffee. He yearned to take back some beans to share with his sufi brothers back home, but the Yemenis were fiercely protective of their coffee and anyone caught stealing beans was beheaded.

Baba Budan was determined. Keeping to his plan, he circled the holy Kaaba, kissed the Black Stone and did all the things required of him on the pilgrimage. On his way home he strapped seven coffee beans to his stomach and hightailed it back to India, planting the seeds in what is now known as the Chikkamagaluru district in the state of Karnataka in the Western Ghats, the birthplace of Indian coffee.

Reaching the shrine is a struggle through thick forest and fog, and when we arrive it has been locked off because both Muslim and Hindu groups claim it. Nonetheless I’m sure the smuggling sufi would have smiled on our efforts.

Toby Smith, Founder