History Of Munnar

On January 26, Idukki will turn 52 years old. As the land that also tells the story of migration completes 52 years, it is on the path of growth. The roads that were once traversed by bullock carts through forests, fighting wild animals, are now high-tech. Tourists from all over the world come to enjoy the beauty of this land. As Idukki completes 52 years, let’s look at how the major areas were then, how they are now, what changes have occurred over the past 50 years, and what is needed in the future. Read on.

Centuries ago, Munnar was solely the land of the Muthuvan tribe, a terrain surrounded by dense forests. Later, many others climbed the hills, clearing the forests and settling there. At some point, the aroma of tea filled Munnar. That history is eventful.

Until the flood of ’99

The Poonjar royal family, who climbed the hills, took control of Munnar in 1252. Their rule continued for centuries. It was during Tipu Sultan’s invasion of Travancore that the British set foot on this land.

Colonel Arthur Wellesley, who led the British army from Madurai, climbed the hills to Munnar via Kambammettu in 1790. The journey was to confront Tipu Sultan. Though Tipu retreated after the war, the British did not leave. The British army took possession of the Kannan Devan hills in Munnar, which they had leased from the Poonjar king. In 1880, A.H. Sharp, a British planter, planted the first tea plant in Munnar.

The British recruited workers from Tamil Nadu to this place. Once there were enough workers, the British built the town of Munnar. There were establishments to purchase the necessary goods for the workers, as well as other recreational facilities.

Horse races, car races, and bike races were organized. As tea cultivation prospered, humans and cattle were no longer sufficient to transport the tea. To address this, the British established the state’s first railway line in Munnar. The route extended from Munnar to the border of Theni district in Tamil Nadu via Mattupetty and Kundala. The coal-powered train carrying sacks of tea started service in Munnar in 1902. The Kundala Valley Railway in Munnar was one of the first railways in the country.

From Top Station in today’s Theni district, tea transported via ropeway to Bodi would reach England through the Tuticorin port. It was during the prosperous period of the tea industry that the flood of 1924 occurred.

In July 1924, the natural disaster known by the elders as the ’99 flood’ occurred. The nine days and nights of continuous rain wiped out the town of Munnar. The railway station, railway tracks, ropeway, electricity, wide roads, schools, and hospitals were all swept away by the flood. Over a hundred people lost their lives during that time.

The Time of Blooming Kurinji Flowers

Even though the Idukki district was formed in 1972, no one had discovered the potential of Munnar. After a cycle of twelve years, in 1984, Rajamala was filled with Neelakurinji flowers. From that time, the outside world began to recognize Munnar. Everyone who came to see the blooming season praised the beauty of Munnar. It took more years for it to become famous as a tourist destination.

Centered around Rajamala, the Eravikulam National Park was established. There, the Nilgiri Tahr, the symbol of Munnar, began to thrive. With the introduction of boating at Mattupetty and Kundala dams, tourists started flocking in. The cold climate, with temperatures reaching as low as minus six degrees, along with the allure of the tea plantations, offers tourists a world akin to paradise. It is the Kashmir of the South.

During the season, thousands of tourists, both foreign and domestic, visit Munnar daily. However, in terms of basic infrastructure, Munnar is still a hundred years behind. Wide roads, toilets, parking facilities, medical facilities, and such amenities are still unfamiliar to Munnar.

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