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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Munnar - Very high above the hills

During their stay in India, the Britishers, unable to cope up with the harsh summers, found their way up in the hills and exploited  cooler places  congenial for holidaying  thereat. It would be wrong to suggest that they discovered them as all those places were known to our monks and ascetics who had their dwellings in such places for seeking spiritual pleasures. They were required to traverse through the wild.   The infrastructure created by the British only served their own limited purpose. Such places came to be known as Hill Stations. There are several such cooler places in the state of Kerala. However only “Munnar” has the distinction of being a hill station. This place is situated 130 kilometers East of Ernakulam (Kochi – Cochin) on the Western Ghat mountain ranges. The area around Munnar is around 6500 to 8500 above sea level and therefore has cool and salubrious climatic conditions through out the year. Munnar in the local dialect stands for “three rivers”.

The land around Munnar is supposed to be owned by “Punjar” Royal family. Centuries ago, the ‘Pandyan’ dynasty ruling at Madurai, had to flee to avoid persecution at the hands of ‘Cholas’ who conquered their kingdom. The Pandyans finally reached Munnar and lived in peace. The Punjar royal family are descendents of the early Pandyan settlers. One John Daniel Munroe was the Commissioner in the service of the erstwhile princely state of Travancore. During 1877 he obtained on lease an area of over 1,36,000 acres from the Punjar Royal Family for the purpose of establishing Coffee plantations. Subsequently the terms of lease were modified to include tea and other crops as well. At the outset Munroe established an Agricultural Society followed by a company “Kannan Devan Hills Plantation Ltd”. In 1976 Tata Finlay acquired the plantations of Munroe. Now that company is known as Tata Tea. A  legal battle is ensuing between the Tata Tea and the Punjar family as the later is striving to get back all its land.

Since one of my sister-in-law was brought up at Munnar, I know that it was a small sleepy town. It is only in the last two decades that it got transformed into a major tourist centre. The environment had to pay a heavy price for the developments that have ensued. A plethora of resorts/hotels have mushroomed for which thousands of trees were felled. The Government of the State belatedly realised the harm being caused to the environment and ordered demolition of many un-authorised structures.

As told earlier, this area was identified and acquired for the development of plantations. Tea and Coffee plantations cover the major portion of the territory. Additionally at Munnar and adjoining rural areas, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Garlic and Black Pepper are extensively cultivated.  There are lakes, streams, a dam and several National Parks within a radius of 20 kilometres of Munnar. The flora and fauna and bio-diversity of the area attracts thousands of tourists annually and a good number being foreigners. One more important event being the blossoming  of Neela Kurinji (Strobilanthus) in the mountains and valleys once in 12 years and some times even once in 7 years. Its said to be blue every where but looks purple or violet.. This flower has medicinal properties and is used as a traditional medicine for several ailments.
Photo:http:// myhappyjourney.com
Around 15 kilometres from Munnar  the Ervakulam National Park is the protectorate of the endangered Nilagiri Tahr (a kind of mountain goat). This particular specie is native to India and is found on the higher edges of the Western Ghat ranges. Initially they were spotted in the Nilagiris (Ooty) and hence the name. Incidentally Nilagiri stands for Blue Mountains and the association is with the flower named above. All over the country the Nilagiri Tahr number a bare 2000 and the largest herd of around 800 are resident at  Ervikulam. Normally they are found in groups and their habitat is 6000 feet above the mountain ranges. They are very strong physically and weigh around 100 kilos. They are also not shy of tourists. They may come nearer to you without any fear and will pose for you unhesitatingly. They are under threat and their population is dwindling. One main reason being the greedy humans who hunt them whenever possible. The second reason being their inbreeding. Because of clusters of human population on the hills, they are unable to keep in touch with their distant folks scattered  on the mountains.

Since exhaustive information is available on Munnar in the wikipedia and the net, I am cutting short. The main motivating factor was to show the Nilgiri Tahr encountered by us during our short visit. 

Photos: PN Sampath Kumar


  1. Yes, agree with you. These days Munnar has become commercialized. But it still maintains its natural beauty.
    Who knows what happens after 10-15 years.

  2. Wonderful narration.. The Pandiyan story is interesting. I visited Munnar long long ago..But had to cut short my trip owing to personal emergency back home. It is on my list. Your post has rekindled my interest. As Nisha pointed out,sooner the better, if one needs to visit places like this.

  3. beutiful narration ....

    गणतंत्र दिवस के पावन अवसर पर आप को ढेरों शुभकामनाये

  4. I visited Munnar 2-3 years back and thought then it is still very beautiful.

  5. Amazing landscape and very beautiful photos. Your blog is full of beauties and interesting topics. I like it a lot. My compliments! NAMASTE!

  6. I have never been there but have heard a lot about this place and willing to catch all these sites with my own camera. thanks for enhancing my interest sir.
    विनायक सेन वाले मामले में यूरोपियन युनियन के हस्तक्षेप पर आपने कहा कि 'यह तो हमारे अंदरूनी मामले में हस्तक्षेप है' मुझे लगा कि कोई अपनी बीवी को बेदर्दी से मार रहा हो और राहगीर कह गुजरें कि 'उनके घर का मामला है जी' :)

  7. Hello PNS,

    You have provided plenty of information along with some lovely photos on Munnar.I never realised there is so much story behind Munnar.

    From the news papers I read that there is a court case going on between the Kerala government and the Tata Tea. The government is accusing Tata's of having encroached on unauthorised govt. land.

    I always give credit to the Britishers for giving us wonderful tea gardens,railways,armed forces,post and telegraphs and a civil administration.We have improved a lot since the day of Independence, yet the British gave us all this to start with even if it was only for serving their own purpose.

    When I was working with Avery's I used to make regular trips to Munnar for business purposes.I used to stay in Muir Cottage which had a lovely garden full of flowers.In my spare time I used to spend some time in this garden admiring the flowers.From the cottage grounds I could see a Mosque, a Church and a Temple on a hill close by and they were all close to each other.It was a lovely sight.Should I say this was a real symbol of religious harmony?

    I used to walk by a rivulet there close to the Kannan Devan Head quaters and the pure water made a gurgling sound as it flowed.It a wonderful soothing sound.

    There was a huge football ground in the town and an old cinema hall close by.I watched some movies there.

    While driving up the hills leading to Munnar from Adimali during rainy season I could see any number of small water falls on the way,

    Your interesting post brought so many lovely memories back to me.

    Best wishes,

  8. Such wonderful country!

    Namaste & thank you for finding my blog :)

    Aloha from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral



  9. I belive among many of the hill stations, Munnar still retains the charm. I had the good fortune to visit Munnar Time and again, each visit full on its own memories. But thanks for throwing in the histrical acpects of Munnar, Honestly I did not know most of it.

  10. Dear Subramaniyam Uncle,

    Thank you for your wishes. I changed my profile snap ... I hope u'll not get afraid now.


  11. sunder prastuti... mannar visit jaoor karna chahunga agr mauka mila to.

  12. Beautiful and informative post !

  13. even i am just back from kerala, kerala is so beautiful, so full of natutal beauty. munnar is a nice hill station

  14. I enjoy blogs like yours, full of interesting history, human as well as natural. Your post evokes a sense of wonder and mystery. You have a truly wonderful perspective.

  15. yes, munnar continues to be beautiful inspite of senseless human intervention.
    i have posted 3 blogs on munnar.came straight from my heart after a visit to munnar

  16. Sirji Pranam.In 2008,when i went to Kerala for Indian History Congress,i went to this Hill Station Munnar.Really it is wonder place.Very ifromative post.Thank You sirji.

  17. Beautiful place, very picturesque.

  18. Hi P.N. It definitely looks a wonderful place to visit!! Though a bit misty in one of the pics...

  19. i spent some lovely time in munnar during our honeymoon!!!
    really loved the tea gardens there!!!

  20. Hi P.N. Subramanian!
    Thanks for your comment at Blogtrotter Two, which is now showing an amazing village in Southern France: Saint Paul de Vence! Enjoy and have a great Sunday and week ahead!!

  21. Munnar hill station is characterized by unsullied landscapes, pristine valleys, majestic mountains, tea plantations. Munnar Tourism

  22. मुन्नार के बारे में जाना, बढिया पोस्ट,

  23. Thanks for your lovely comment.
    Awaiting for your new post.

  24. Munnar is famous for several attractions such as Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Eravikulam National Park, Tata Tea Museum, CSI Church, Sita Devi Lake of Devikulam, Thoovanam Waterfalls, Sandalwood forests, Mattupety Dam, Echo point and much more.

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