:: Historic Kodai ::
OCT -07

Indu Chandok’s ‘memories’ of trekking routes in the forties and fifties of the twentieth century have stirred up my own ageing memory cells, and I am therefore prompted to share my recollections with the young residents of twenty first century Kodaikanal.

The climb up that Indu describes was only the commencement of the route to what we knew as ‘pig valley’. The cross itself was a much later addition, the work of some zealous young men, and its removal in the fifties was the act of other equally zealous young men! I know, for our home that my parents built nestled at the base of the ‘stone cross’ hill. In those days, the Bear Shola stream above the falls was a placid rivulet with enchanting clear pools, where trout fishing (yes, trout fishing!) was tried by ageing Englishmen who cautioned us not to break the silence. We didn’t –but the giggling girls from Presentation Convent on their weekly outing did –much to the annoyance of the anglers. Beyond –miles and miles of green scrubland – God’s own country, our Kodaikanal, till the Observatory (‘Nakshatra Apees’ in local parlance) came into view.

We ran all the way down from Observatory Hill – where we part company with Indu –climbed the footpath on Mount Ebenezer (‘Chemman Medu’), and down again to what was then the beginning of Upper Lake Road, to Bear Shola Road, and Lloyds Road. We slowed down to climb our own hill (oh, why did my father choose to build his house so high up?) for a fabulous lunch.

But to follow Indu’s path –Ida Scudder’s house ‘Hill Top’ was famous not only for its flowers but its intricate rain water harvesting arrangements. Remember, there was no municipal water supply then.

Just below ‘Hill Top’ was ‘Ashram’ (hence, ‘meditation rock’) where Rev. Kaithan held his spiritual retreats every summer. The meditation classes were judiciously mixed with studies on comparative religion and Gandhian household chores.

At Pambar falls I would like to leave Indu to walk back to ‘Wilbet House’, while we follow a low footpath called ‘Priest’s Walk’ that wound its way below St.Marys, Mount Pleasant and Coaker’s Walk all the way down to Shenbaganur. Occasionally we would overtake a catholic priest in a meditative mood, but we would be in a hurry to get to the Sacred Heart College in time for lunch!

- Saraswathi Gowrishankar

Sep -07

Now that I am in KIS, (Kodaikanal International School), Bendi field triggered my memory of what people told me they did there those days. At the end of May there was an occasion called, “International Evening”, It was organized by KIS and was held at Bendi field. There were stalls scattered around the ground and in one corner you would have the KIS band playing the most popular hits of that time. The school had a stall selling ice-cream, fudge, hot-dogs and other food. The cakes that were sold by Mrs. Henderson, (I have heard that these cakes were the best ever). These are the few stalls that I was told about but there were many more. It must have been a lovely evening.

There were also the boat races- The Regatta. Lots of people participated in them and on the day they were held you could see all the cars in Kodai around the lake. It was a big picnic. Everyone brought food, drinks, picnic umbrellas and some cloth or stool to comfortably lounge on. They would eat, chat, watch and cheer the participants, (all being either part of the family or family friends). To me the races sound nicer then; what about you?

Picnics, now a big and rare occasion, were a usual pastime then. There was more greenery, peace and quiet, and an environment in which one could find solitude and contentment or in simpler language, satisfaction with life. These picnics were generally outdoor potlucks, with lots of friends and quite a spread. The spots frequented then were Bear Shola, Fairy Falls, the reservoir, Pillar rocks, (quite a deserted place then, I doubt that there was even a tiny tea stall), Neptune’s pool, Pine Forest, or any beautiful spot in the woods.

There are fewer picnic spots now, and all of them are crowded, polluted and hardly green. Plastic cups, paper plates, wrappers, packets, needed for a picnic, are found scattered all over the place due to lack of bins or just plain lack of hygiene. I went for a picnic this May to Neptune’s pool. It was slightly less crowded than Bryant Park on the day of the flower show. There had not been much rain so there was only a little water in the pool, but the garbage in it definitely compensated for the lack of water. Every group (about 16 in each) was shown around by a ‘LOCAL’ guide, who in no way stopped the tourists from polluting the place. Is this what they mean when they say that the world is getting more, “ECO – FRIENDLY”???

However, Neptune’s pool seemed calm, quiet, peaceful and spic and span compared to the Pine forest, which was in no way different from a ‘mela’ with stalls. People were creating quite a racket and strewing garbage all over (one could write pages and pages about the garbage). Oh yes, there definitely more people than trees in the Pine forest.

Next time you go on a picnic take a sack along with you to throw all the waste that you created and maybe show others how to keep their environment clean? I am only asking you to maintain the natural beauty that so many come here to see.

- As researched by Minali Srinath KIS 11th grade.

Mar - 07

Many books talk about the meaning of the name KODAIKANAL, and they more or less come up with the same idea that there really is no one meaning for the word. According to author Badri Vijayaraghavan the name Kodaikanal was used only after 1860.

In earlier correspondence found, he says, the address Palani or Pulney Hills was used. He goes on to tell us about the Sanskrit meaning of Palanis, Varahgiris or Pig Hills, and says, “Legend has it that a devout sage who lived on these hills transformed 12 mischievous children who angered him into pigs! Lord Shiva later rescued them”.

According to Nora Mitchell;s research, representations of this story appear among the sculptures of the Puthu Mandapam. And Tirumala Nayak’s Choultry, a building now used to house the museum collection at the Madurai Temple. Her research has brought us this meaning of Kodaikanal. She says, “Kanal is the Tamil word meaning a dense forest, but that Kodai or Kodi could be pronounced in four different ways and mean four different things, all of which could appropriately explain the name. Kodai with the long Tamil ‘ o ’ means the end; Kodi with short ‘ o ’ is a Creeper; Kodai with long Tamil ‘ o ’ is a summer and Kodai with the short ‘ o ’ means gift.” To get the meaning of the two words together Nora talks of a poet who used the word Kodaikanal with the long ‘ o ’ to describe: “forests that are green even in summer”. Badri feels the correct meaning is yet to be determined, though the tangle of creepers and hanging roots, which are plenty in kodai, has convinced quite a few that it means forest of creepers rather than forest at the end, another meaning for it.

Even though the name was not established early on, the history of the kodai hills can be traced back thousands of years, says Badri. Nora says that the first people to live here, who have left visible artifacts, were the dolmen-builders. Three types of megalithic structures have been discovered – dolmens, kistvaens (or cists), and stone circles. The dolmens are rectangular chambers created by two or more upright stone slabs, topped by a cap-stone. The cists are closed buried dolmens, generally of smaller size, which seem to be tombs where funeral urns have been found. The stone circles, mostly elliptical in shape, seem to be burial sites, as urns have been found with pots, copper, brass etc. and human bones, buried below the surface. The builders of the dolmens are unknown, and the sites have not been carbon-dated; but it seems clear that the dolmen peoples became settled agriculturalists.

She then goes into great details of the successesive tribes, the Paliyans and Puliyans. Badri has summarize-ed very nicely about the early settlers in his book “Kodaikanal, A Forest of Creepers”..

- Zarreen Babu

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