The early accounts of Kodagu are purely legendary, and it was not till the 9th and 10th centuries that its history became the subject of authentic record. At this period, according to inscriptions, the country was ruled by the Gangas of Talakkadu, under whom the Changalvas, kings of Changa-nad, styled later kings of Nanjarayapatna or Nanjarajapatna, held the east and part of the north of Kodagu, together with the Hunasur taluk in Mysore. After the overthrow, in the 11th century, of Ganga power by the Cholas, the Changalvas became tributary to the latter. Both Changalvas and Kongalvas were the Chola feudal lords in Kodagu.Under the suzerainty of Cholas, the Changalvas continued to rule when Raja Raja Chola was ruling in Tanjavur. During 12th century local chieftains in the Chola kingdom rebelled against the Chola kings, among them the Alupas of Tulunad and the Changalvas of Kodagu .However it was the Hoysalas, who were in Belur of Hassan district who drove away the Cholas from the Kannada area of Mysore and surrounding regions. But the Chengalvas who then became independent didn’t accept the rule of Hoyasalas easily. Incidentally, it was during the rule of Pemma Veerappa that for the first time we can see the word “Kodagaru” (Kodavas) carved on the stone shasanas and that the region was called Kodagu. At the same time Kongalvas also accepted the rule of Hoysalas.In the year 1174 AD, Bettarasa the army general of Ballala II, Hoysala King, laid siege upon the Fort of Palpare and fought two battles against the Changalva king Pemma Veerappa. In the first battle Pemma Veerappa defeated the Hoysalas in the “Palser” war but in the second, Bettarasa defeated the Coorgs and made them subordinates.
When the Cholas in their turn were driven from the Mysore country by the Hoysalas, in the 12th century, the Changalvas held out for independence; but after a severe struggle they were subdued and became vassals of the Hoysala kings. In the 14th century, after the fall of the Hoysala rule, they passed under the supremacy of the Vijayanagara empire. During this period, at the beginning of the 16th century, Nanja Raja founded the new Changalva capital Nanjarajapatna.
Inscriptions at Palur and Bhagamandala refer to a king by name Bodharupa (1380) who has not been identified so far properly.A Council of Elders governed over the Coorgs. Some important Coorg Leaders were Achunayaka of Anjikerinad, Karnayya Bavu of Bhagamandala,Kaliyatanda Ponnappa of Nalknad and Uttanayaka of Armeri. The ancient Coorgs were allies of the Kolathiri and Arakkal kingdoms of Kannur, some Coorgs served as mercenary soldiers of these Hindu and Muslim Rajas, but in general they traded large quantities of rice in exchange for gold, salt and other commodities with them.
In 1589 Piriya Raja or Rudragana rebuilt Singapatna and renamed it Piriyapatna (Periapatam). The power of the Vijayanagara empire had, however, been broken in 1565 by the Muslim Deccan sultanates; in 1610 the Vijayanagara viceroy of Srirangapatna was ousted by the raja of Mysore, who in 1644 captured Piriyapatna. Vira Raja, the last of the Changalva kings, fell in the defence of his capital, after putting to death his wives and children.
The Haleri (of Ikkeri Arasu descent) dynasty
Kodagu, however, was not absorbed into Mysore, which was hard pressed by other enemies, and a prince of the Ikkri or Bednur family (perhaps related to the Changalvas) succeeded in bringing the whole country under his sway, his descendants continuing to be Rajas of Kodagu till 1834. The capital was removed in 1681 by Muddu Raja to Madikeri (Mercara). In 1770 a disputed succession led to the intervention of Hyder Ali of Mysore in favor of Linga Raja, who had fled to him for justice, and whom he placed on the throne benevolently. As a gesture of his gratitude the Raja ceded certain territories and offered to pay tribute. On Linga Rajas death in 1780 Hyder Ali interned his sons, who were minors, in a fort in Mysore, and installed a governor as their guardian at Mercara with a Mysore garrison. In 1782, however, the Kodavas rose in rebellion and drove out the Mysore troops. Two years later Tipu Sultan punished the Kodavas and reduced the country; but the Kodavas having again rebelled in 1785, he vowed their destruction. Kodagu was partitioned among Mysorean proprietors, and held down by garrisons in four forts. In 1788, however, Dodda Vira Raja (or Vira Rajendra Wodeyar), with his wife and his brothers Linga Raja and Appaji, succeeded in escaping from his captivity, at Periapatam and, placing himself at the head of a Kodava rebellion, aligned with the British and succeeded in driving the forces of Tipu out of the country. By the ill meant treaty of peace Kodagu, though not adjacent to the British East India Company's territories, was included in the cessions forced upon Tipu. On the spot where he had first met the British commander, General Abercromby, the raja founded the city of Virarajendrapet (this is now usually called Virajpet).
Dodda Vira Raja, who, in consequence of his mind becoming unhinged, was guilty towards the end of his reign of hideous atrocities, died in 1809 without male heirs, leaving his favorite daughter Devammji as rani. His brother Linga Raja, however, after acting as regent for his niece, announced in 1811, his own assumption of the government. He died in 1820, and was succeeded by his son Chikka Vira Raja, a youth of twenty, and a monster of sensuality and cruelty. Among his victims were all the members of the families of his predecessors, including Devammji. At last, in 1832, evidence of treasonable designs on the raja's part led to inquiries on the spot by the British resident at Mysore, as the result of which, and of the raja's refusal to amend his ways, a British force marched into Kodagu in 1834.
On 11 April 1834, the raja was deposed by Colonel Fraser, the political agent with the force, and on 7 May the state was formally annexed to the East India Company's territory, as Coorg. In 1852 the raja, who had been deported to Vellore, obtained leave to visit England with his favorite daughter Gauramma, to whom he wished to give a European education. On the 30th of June she was baptized, Queen Victoria being one of her sponsors; she afterwards married a British officer who, after her death in 1864, mysteriously disappeared together with their child. Vira Raja himself died in 1863, and was buried in Kensal Green cemetery.
The so-called Coorg rebellion of 1837 is said to be a rising of the Gaudas,now a powerful community of Kodagu who dominate in politics,economy and culture of coorg after Kodavas, due to the grievance felt in having to pay taxes in money instead of in kind. A man named Virappa, who pretended to have escaped from the massacre of 1820, tried to take advantage of this to assert his claim to be raja, but the people remained loyal to the British and the attempt failed.It was the smallest province in India, its area being only 1582 square miles (4,100 km²). As a province of British India, it was administered by a commissioner, subordinate to the Governor-General of India through the resident of Mysore, who was also officially chief commissioner of Coorg.
After India's independence in 1947, Coorg became a province, and in 1950 a state by name of Coorg State of Republic of India. In 1956, when India's state boundaries were reorganized along linguistic lines, it became a district of the then Mysore state.
The Chief Commissioners of Coorg were:
- 1947 - 1949 Dewan Bahadur Ketolira Chengappa
- 1949 - 1950 C.T. Mudaliar
- 1950 - 1956 Kanwar Daya Singh Bedi
The Chief minister from 17 Mar 1952 - 1956 was Cheppudira Muthana Poonacha (C.M. Poonacha).
Mysore state later became the modern state of Karnataka, and the formal name of the district returned to the original, Kodagu.