Kodaionline_logo
 
  
Discovery
  
  
:: Kodaikanal Prehistory ::
Kodaikanal is unique place. Rows and rows of silky pine trees sloping down to clear, cold streams, spectacular views which suddenly disappear in foamy mist, people bundled up in sweaters and overcoats. We seek peace quiet in a hill station, not the noise and fume of factories. Hopefully the powers-that-be will not allow kodaikanal to become spoilt.


Sometimes, aroma of the past clings and becomes a part of the present in kodaikanal. It has had a most interesting and colorful history, beginning with the day Lieutenant Ward, a British surveyor, rode up on his horse from the plains. Visitors always have questions about Kodaikanal’s history, because clues to it are everywhere.

To start with, the Palni Hills, about which Hindu Mythology gives a lovely story. One day Lord Shiva called his sons Subramaniya and Vighneswara, and announced a contest : a spin around the universe. The prize, a beautiful fruit. Subrmaniya solemnly set off on the long journey but clever and worldly Vighneshwara stayed put. Remembering that Shiva was himself the universe, he quickly walked around him and got the prize. On returning from his arduous and unnecessary journey, his brother was understandably upset. Good father that he was, Shiva consoled him, "Palan-ni" i.e 'Thou art the fruit', meaning that he was the choicest fruit or product of the world. The place where this drama took place was Palani, a town at the bottom of the hills.

After 1868 no subsequent gazetteer refers to this story. The more generally accepted explanation is that the name Palani Hills is a translation of the Sanskrit Varahagiri, or Boar Mountains, and the reason for the name is given in the ancient Madhura Sthala Purana. This Purana is composed of 64 legends, the 45th of which tells that the rishis, local sages, transformed twelve naughty children who had mocked them into pigs. Shiva, however, rescued the children and eventually promoted them to high office in the Pandiyan government. Representation of this story appear among the sculptures of the Puthu Mandabam or Tirumalai Nayakar’s Choultry, a building now used to house the museum collection of the Madurai Temple.



The source of the name Kodaikanal is not so straightforward. The early missionaries called their center Palani Hills, as did the early Civil Service doctors. After 1860 the name was written as Kodaikanal in British government correspondence (or Kudaikanal, a later Kodaikanal), but there is no indication of the exact Tamil pronunciation. In Tamil one word may have a vast range of meaning depending on how it is pronounced. Early Tamil poets used Kodai – Kanal to describe forests that are always green, even in summer. Literature from the nineteenth century implies "Forest of creepers". 'kanal' is the Tamil word meaning a dense forest, but 'kodi' or kodai could be pronounced four different ways and mean four different things, all of which could appropriately explain the name. 'kodi' (- long "O" means "The end"; 'kodi' (- short "O") is a creeper; 'Kodai' (- long "O" ) is "summer" ; Kodai'(- short "o") means, "Gift".

Though there are reliable ancient sources of Greek and Roman times which refer the hills of South India and which document a tribal distribution similar to that of today, the earliest specific references to Kodaikanal and Palani Hills are to be found in the Tamil Sangam literature of the early Christian era. At this times a comparatively advanced civilization centered at the Pandiyan capitl, the City of Madurai. This literature consists mainly of eight anthologies. The Ettutokai, and a further group of Ten Idyllys, the Pathupaattu, which together contain more than 2000 poems of varying lengths. They abound with descriptions of the hills, forests, and hill – tribes.

Though there are reliable ancient sources of Greek and Roman times which refer the hills of South India and which document a tribal distribution similar to that of today, the earliest specific references to Kodaikanal and Palani Hills are to be found in the Tamil Sangam literature of the early Christian era. At this times a comparatively advanced civilization centered at the Pandiyan capitl, the City of Madurai. This literature consists mainly of eight anthologies. The Ettutokai, and a further group of Ten Idyllys, the Pathupaattu, which together contain more than 2000 poems of varying lengths. They abound with descriptions of the hills, forests, and hill – tribes.


warrior chief of the Kodai Hill with white flowering jasmine hedges !
O hunter with powerful bow and ferocious fleet –
footed hunting dogs with which you destroy entire herds of deer….
May you live free from disease !
One of the poets used the word kodai – kanal to describe :
" forests that are green even in summer".


THE FIRST KODAI

Kodai has been put on the anthropological map by the presence of prehistoric remains scattered around the Palni Hills. Some of these may date to 5000 BC in the Stone Age: others are more “recent”, a mere two thousand years old.

TRIBAL SETTLEMENTS

Several thousand years later, two tribes migrated into the Palnis the Palaiyans and the Pulaiyans. Of the two, the palaiyans seem to have been the real jungle people. They were tree dwellers who lived in jungles of upper Palnis, using grass and leaves to make their clothing. Their homes were in caves, under rock or in plat forms built for safety in the tree. Kukkal caves, some 40 kms from Kodai, show traces of Palaiyan occupation. They ate roots, wild fruit and honey, and smoked out flying squirrels from trees. They made fire using steel and quartz and by lighting floss from silk cotton seeds. When one of the tribes died, the others left the body back as they moved to another place for some months. The palaiyans were also very inhabitants of Palni, and spoke Tamil and their customs showed resemblance to the customs of the people the plains except that the brides wore Tails of white beads. They worshipped their own deities of gods namely Mayandi, Karumariamman and so. Their style by dancing for hours for the sound of the drums.

Compared to the Palayians, the Pulaiyans were a tame lot. They were meat eaters. But they were probably the first architects and builders of the hill terraces, which characterize the lower slopes around kodai. Early missionaries reported that their social customs were simple and practical : divorce, for instance, was a quick little ceremony.

But happy times were over when, in the 14th century, there was another migration to the hills. This time it was the Kannuvar Vellalans, farmers from Coimbatore plateau. Energetic and industrious, they took over Pulaiyan lands and made them their slaves. The 17th and 18th centuries saw further invasions during Vijayangar, Maratha and Muslim Rule. Heavy taxes imposed by alien rulers, cholera, famine and the persecution of the lower castes drove more and more people hill-wards, soon to form the first settlement of the Upper Palanis, Vellagavi. There are proofs available about settlement of Pre – Historic tribes at Kodaikanal by visible artifacts such as dolmen homes of great store slabs. After the primitive tibes of Paliyans and Pulayans in the 14th century villagers of Palani foothills fled into Kodai hills, to escape oppressive rule in plains and also from invasion of Tippusultan.


EUROPEANS VISIT

The first European to visit Kodaikanal was Lt. B.S. Ward, surveyor in the year 1821, whose head quarters was Vellagavi village. The British in India were always looking for places where they could escape the heat and germs of the plains for "salubrious air devoid of malarial vapours, lofty enough to escape the scourge of typhus and other parasites". The number of children’s graves remains as the witness to the gravity of the problem. They wanted a neat and healthy surrounding near Madurai to rest and for recreation. They were happy to know about the hurtful hills with favorable climate and easy accessibility from Madurai and Periyakulam from the reports of Lt. B.S.Ward. some of the notable persons who visited kodaikanal were J.C.Wroughton, Sub- Collector, C.R.Cotton, Judge and Dr. Weight. Dr. Fane built two warehouses in 1845 in the lake road. British government built offices on the present St.Mary’s road.


VISIT OF THE AMERICANS

By 1800s several American Mission were functioning in India one among which was American Madura Mission. They started the coffee plantations in the hill. In 1845 the American missionaries moved in building two bugalows on the southern edge of the plateau which is Kodaikanal. They are Sunnyside and Shelton, which still stand. In the year 1860, the first church was built jointly by the Bishop clad well constructed a church for Anglicans. American Madura Mission built their union church in 1895. From the year 1860 onwards there was an all round improvement due to the visits made various dignitarites Roman Catholics bought a bungalow for the fathers to rest and it is now called as La Providence, which is located in Upper Shola road.

Sir Charles Travelyon and Lord Napier, who were the Governors of the Madras Presidency visited Kodikanal in the years 1860 and 1871 respectively. Major J.M. Partridge was the person who introduced Eucalyptus trees and Wattle trees in Kodikanal in the year 1867.

Sir Vere Henry Levenge, who was the Collector of Maurai lived in Pambar House after his retirement. In the year 1863, through the tireless efforts of Sir levenge, the man-made lake of Kodikanal, the foremost attraction of the tourists was formed. He arranged for peasure ride in boats in the lake. He also planned and executed several approach roads to Kodikanal. He is the one who introuduce foreign trees and vegetables, like Pine Farms and Rears, to Kodaikanal. In the year 1872 Lt. Coacker cut a path along the after ridge of steep sough eastern side which commend a magnificent view of the plains below, which was named after him as Coacker’s Walk.

  
Changing LINKS