Munnar

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Munnar the city of heaven!

Munnar is a hill station and town on mountain ranges of Western Ghats located in the district of Idukki in Kerela, a state in the south-west of India. This is situated at around 5,200ft (1,600 meters) above sea level in the Western Ghats Mountain

Munnar used to be a resort during summers for the British rulers, during the colonial times. It is famous for the lush forests and tea estates that seem to be ‘never ending’. Munnar is a home to some species that are endangered like Nilgiri, Neelakurinji. This is one destination that is most sought after by tourists. This is due to its mountains, pristine valleys and the flora and fauna of exotic varieties.

History

Tribal  groups like the Muthuvan and Malayarayan have inhabited this region for thousands of years. According to tradition, Colonel Arthur Wellesley, who was the Duke of Wellington later, was the first person of the British era to pass through Munnar during the campaign of Tippu Sultan in Travancore. This is not substantiated. Benjamin Swayne Ward undertook the first survey of the terrain in 1816-17. He followed Periyar into Western Ghats and managed to establish a camp. This was at the three rivers confluence. The name ‘Munnar’ is derived from here.

The Governor of Madras, Sir Charles Trevelyan instructed Colonel Douglas Hamilton to explore this hill. This was 50 years later. He requested special advice for establishing sanatoria in the South for the British and also revenue developing projects without endangering the environment. Hamilton had climbed throughout the Munnar ghats after 15 years. It was noted by John Daniel Munro that most of the land in Munnar was suited for plantations of coffee. Henry Turn and his brother, AW Turner, managed to obtain the ownership of the Cardamom hills from Travancore’s Raja and started clearing the forests in 1879. After which, many tea plantations were established by different Europeans. This was in 1880. The early plantations had very few facilities and were straw huts. The laborers working in the tea estates were Dalits from Tamil Nadu of the present day.

Finally, the roads were opened to lowlands and in the western presidency of Madras, the Bodinayakkanur, the planters managed to get provisions from the headman. His name was Supan Chetty. His son also provided supplies to the tea estates.

26 estates were established in the hills in 1894, but these faced losses. The KDHC (Kannan Devan Hills Corporation) was registered for operating the tea estates. This was taken over, later, by the American Direct Trading Company Ltd. This company owned almost 26 estates most of which were of coffee, but few of cinchona.

A ropeway was built in 1900 and finally, there were monorails installed for transporting goods easily to the plains. P.R. Buchanan, in 1901, became the General Manager. He started clearing of the jungles for different plantations. Construction started in 1908 on a railway and this opened in 1909. Around 16,000 acres of this region was being cultivated by 1911.

There was a flood in Munnar in 1924. This damaged the rail tracks and the road.A ropeway was created in place of this for the transportation of tea. This was replaced by a modern road in the year 1930. Around 28,000 acres were being cultivated by 1952. Indian planters took over after Independence. The government of Kerala wanted reforestation of all the land in 1971. After negotiations, and Tata managed to keep most of the land.

Even at present times, most of the laborers are without any land.

Where to go

There are multiple options for travelers in and around Munnar.

Anamudi Peak

The Anamudi peak is located inside the Eravikulam National Park. This is considered to be the highest peak in the South of India. This stands at a height of 2700m. You need permission if you wish to trek to this peak. This permission can be obtained from the Forest and Wildlife Authorities.

Anamudi PeakEravikulam National Park

Eravukulam National Park is one of the attractions in Munnar. This is famous for the Nilgiri Tahr, considered an endangered species. This park is spread over 97 sq. km and you can find a number of species of rare birds, animals and also butterflies. This park offers you a good view of the tea plantations and you have the freedom to even trek.

Eravikulam National Park munnar

Mattupetty

Mattupetty is located around 13km from the town of Munnar. Mattupetty is at a height of 1700 m above the sea level. This is known for the beautiful lake and the masonry dam. You can enjoy boat rides here to enjoy the landscape.

Mattupetty munnar

Pallivasal

Located almost 3km from Chithirapuram is Pallivasal, where you find the 1st electric project of Kerela. You can enjoy a picnic here.

Pallivasal munnar

Tea Museum

Talking about the evolution and the origin of tea plantations, Munnar is known to have its own legacy. For preserving this legacy and showcasing some interesting aspects of the growth and genesis of the tea plantations there was a museum opened here a few years ago. This Tea Museum has photographs, machinery, artifacts and more, all of which tell a story about the growth and origin of the tea plantations in Munnar.

Tea Museum munnar

This museum is in Nallathanni Estate.

Best Time to visit Munnar

Most people like to visit Munnar during summers. This is a hill station and the temperature here is pleasant throughout the year. Munnar receives heavy rainfall during the monsoon and you might find it difficult to travel around and enjoy the place.  The best time to visit Munnar is between March and September. During this time the weather is very pleasant.

Getting there

Aluva is the nearest railway station to Munnar. This is around 108 km. From Angamali, the distance is around 109km.

Cochin is the nearest airport.

Camping and trekking are the two most popular activities when you visit Munnar. You can also experience staying in a tree house or probably, visit the tea plantations. Attukad Waterfalls is another place of interest and can be added to your list of ‘must’ visit.