MESMERIZING MUNNAR

Munnar is a hill station on the Western Ghats, a range of mountains situated in the Idukki district of the Indian state of Kerala. The name Munnar is believed to mean "three rivers", referring to the town's strategic location at the confluence of the Madhurapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundaly rivers. Munnar town is in Kannan Devan Hills ( KDH ) Village in Devikulam taluk and is the largest panchayat in the Idukki district having an area measuring nearly 557 km². The nearest major railway stations are at Ernakulam and Aluva (approximately 140 kilometres (87 mi) by road). The nearest airport is Cochin International Airport, which is 105 kilometres (65 mi) away.


Most of the native flora and fauna of Munnar have disappeared due to severe habitat fragmentation resultant from the creation of the plantations. However, some species continue to survive and thrive in several protected areas nearby, including the new Kurinjimala Sanctuary to the east, the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, Manjampatti Valley and the Amaravati reserve forest of Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary to the north east, the Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park to the north, the Pampadum Shola National Park to the south and the proposed Palani Hills National Park to the east. These protected areas are especially known for several threatened and endemic species including Nilgiri Thar, the Grizzled Giant Squirrel, the Nilgiri Wood-pigeon, Elephant, the Gaur, the Nilgiri langur, the Sambar, and the Neelakurinji (that blossoms only once in twelve years).


In both Malayalam and Tamil, the word ‘Munnar’ means three rivers, as it is merging place of three mountain streams. The Duke of Wellington was the first prominent person to visit Munnar.Munnar was once the summer capital of the British in southern India. Munnar was developed to cultivate tea plants by British although it was first discovered by Scottish planters. In the early developmental stages only Tamilians worked there as few Malayalis inhabited in that area at Munnar.


But later more and more Malayalis were recruited as employees to work in plantations and bungalows, that were build for estate managers of British origin. They occupied most of the top posts. Some of the bungalows that were build for them is still in good condition and being used.The local people here speak Malayalam, the official language of Kerala and since there are a lot of Tamilians, the second language is Tamil.


Munnar has an ancient history and prehistoric relics that can be dated back to Stone Age civilization. The written history begins only from 10th century. In the early 19th century, the headman of the villages of Anchanad, Kannan Thevar, held lands to the north of the high ranges, which belonged to the local Rajah of Poojar. According to record history, the first tea sapling was planted by A.H. Sharp at Parvathi, part of the present Sevenmullay estate, consisted of 50 acres of land in the surrounding jungle.J D Munro, a British lawyer and tea planter leased close to 600 sq. km of land around Munnar, which was then covered with thick jungle, from the Poonjar chief, a subordinate of the Maharaja of Travancore. He then cleared the jungle for Tea plantations. This land was later known as Kannan Devan (Kannan Thevar) Concession Land.


Later in 1895, Messrs Finlay Muir & Company bought Munro’s land and in 1976 Tata-Finlay Ltd. purchased it. Then in 1983 James Finlay Group sold their remaining share holdings and the company became known as Tata Tea Ltd., the largest integrated tea company in the world.