|About||Mankulam hills lay on the northern side of Munnar, of Idukki District, in Kerala, south India on Western Ghats.|
HISTROY OF MANKULAM
IN FRONT OF OUR EYES
Mankulam hills lay on the northern side of Munnar, of Idukki District, in Kerala, south India on Western Ghats. 1967 is the starting point of new era of migration and settlement here. At first, seven families arrived. Several families followed, most of them from Meenachil Taluk and Pala. They bought large pieces of land from 956 acres owned by kayyalakkakam family of Pala and started cultivation. Many landless began to arrive and encroach the adjoining vast areas of 75000 acres possessed by Kannan Devan Tea Company from 1969. They were evacuated but the wave of encroachment was never to recede. 1973 witnessed another massive encroachment. This time also the Government acted with iron fist. In 1980 rulers decided to take over the surplus land from Kannan Devan and distribute it to the landless. About 2250 hectares were distributed in plots in 1980, 1985 and 1999. More and more people arrived to scratch and win their luck in this new found land. Yet, even now they are destined to fight for the right of their land. In fact the history and story of this part of earth began very earlier – Stories of expectations; stories of defeat; stories of blood and tears! Around Mankulam there are thirteen tribal settlements of Muthuvans and Mannans. They have been dwelling here for hundreds of years. All over Idukki district we see them in small groups in their havens in dense forests. Many groups think they are the descendants of those runaways from Tamilnadu. The vanquished and displaced in the wars during Chera, Chola, Pandiya regimes flew for their lives and found their hide outs in Western Ghats forests.
Beyond Eyes, Carved
By 1877 Mr. John Daniel Monroe started to plant tea, Cinchona, Coffee and Rubber in Munnar on the owned land purchased from Punjar Kovilakam. Labourers remember ‘Kannan’ and ‘Thevan’ are two hill pulayas of the original tribal stock. Mr. Monroe assigned the work two align a route to Kothamangalam from Munnar via 50th mile, Mankulam , Kurathikudy and Avarukutty. Mr. Monroe named his plantation after them ‘Kannan Devan Tea Estates’ in gratitude. However ‘Travancore Revenue Manuel’ says even before 1877 this area was known as Kannan Devan Hills. The history of planting rubber at Mankulam goes back to AD 1884. By that time, first time in India, two experimental rubber plantations were started in the then Travancore state. One at Mundakayam and the other at Anakulam (Mankulam). Mundakayam plantation was the brain child of Mr. Murphy and Mankulam plantation was of Mr. Edgar, both Britons. Mr. Edgar, a retired hand incorporated “Kothamangalam Rubber Plantations” by 1890 and started clearing Anakulam – Mankulam area for planting. Workers were bought and brought from Madras State (now Tamilnadu) in herds.
Some tricks they played on work folk were very interesting. Planter’s men used to sow some copper coins over ‘Koormullinkadu’ (thorny bushes) to persuade workers to clear them. Glitter of those copper coins made them to ignore piercing thorns to the flesh and bleeding wounds. Men were recruited from Malapuram, one northern district, to tap rubber and process latex. One bungalow was built at 50th mile for Mr. Edgar himself. No laborers were let to leave the place. The workforce was provided with Alcohol, Opium and Ganja as to tranquilize them. They were trapped amidst the thick forest and destined to work there or become manure to the plantation! Many of them subdued to Malaria and Cholera. Escapers hunted down by planter’s men or wild beasts. Cracking sound of the whip and cries were the order of the day. The heavy raining and flood of M.E 1099 (AD 1924) dispersed the Travancore totally. Eastern side of Western Ghats was the worst recipient of the lash. Hills slid down to occupy valleys. Mud and rocks flown to plantations. Stretches of old Munnar road washed away. Plantations dispersed and the entire Mankulam isolated. Mr. Edgar foresaw the dooms day. It is believed orders passed to set ablaze the lines of laborers. Hundreds of hapless creatures burned alive. The story spread by mist and wind says, mounted on the horseback a bold leap to the crystalline blue waters of ‘Perumbankuthu waterfalls’ – put the full stop to the saga of Mr. Edgar! Now one large basement called ‘Bungalow thara’ (Basement of Bungalow) lays lazy at 50th mile, keeping in mind all it witnessed.
If we stand patiently with sharp ears behind the curtains of the Neolithic age, we will hear a lot of stories – weeping; giggling; of sighs and determinations of wilderness. We will witness community living thrived between BC 500 and AD 300 in this area. There are remnants of Muniyaras (Burials, habitats and safe havens of Megalithic humans) here at Munipara, Virinjapara and Viripara. Found in later explorations even Roman mints in many points of High ranges, pointing to a interacting community far beyond. Longer cattle tracks also found all over this high lands. Imagine those beasts like humans hunting and fighting Bison, Tigers, Bears and Elephants at Viripara or Munipara with stone axes!
Back to the present – this breathing moment
A stretch of more than 20 kilometers in between Kallar and Anakulam, two kilometers wide, lays virgin for inquisitive eyes. Now there are motorable roads, power and telecommunication facilities in these sleepy hilly village. 9807 inhabitants distributed over 303 sq. kilometers of land live here in peace of mind. This part of the world is gaining momentum as the ‘First Organic Village’ in the state. 90 sq. kilometers of preserved natural forest bordered by Munnar, Rajamala, Anakulam, Pampadumpara, Edamalakudy, Ooshimala, Kuttampuza and Adimali ranges and vigilant wild life in her bosom takes guard of her slumber. A kingfisher sitting in a bamboo raft in Nallathanni River pointing its beaks on a jumping fish may ignore you. A silver cloud kissing the peak of the Parvathi Mala may not see you. Cardamom hills shall send it’s own wild porcupine to ‘assess’ you. However, no doubt so many waterfalls along three rivers of Mankulam will sing with you.
A passerby can watch a crossing wild rabbit on the road in the whirling mist of early morning. Afternoons are of those wild mahouts come to Anakulam River to drink ‘oruvellam’, (after drinking oruvellam – water gushing up from springs in the middle of river – wild elephants become light hearted and take out their pranks and start to behave like drunkards. Manklam is the only place in the world, where pachyderms parade for you.) Shoulder in shoulder with spectators. In the evening whistling Mynas will cheer you up and songs of a Cuckoo may sooth your soul. Reverberating cries of a Kezha (wild goat) calling it’s mate may penetrate your night. Sure, a stroll on these serene valleys will rejuvenate you!!