Coonoor Heritage Gallery showcasing the history and development of Coonoor opened

History begins with a street in the planters’ city of Coonoor in the Nilgiris. The Ghat Road, which linked the railhead at Mettupalayam with Udhagamandalam (Ooty), handed by way of what was then no bigger than a Badaga village. Today, that village, about 20 kilometres from the standard hill station Ooty, is Coonoor with a inhabitants that has crossed 50,000.

“The need for a proper road arose when Udhagamandalam gained popularity as a military sanatorium and a summer retreat, and that is when Coonoor came into existence in 1833,” says Dr PJ Vasanthan, trustee of the NGO, Clean Coonoor. The NGO, with the municipality, not too long ago inaugurated a Coonoor Heritage Gallery. Set in a municipal constructing close to Bedford, it has a uncommon and fascinating assortment of painstakingly sourced maps, sketches, lithographs, watercolours and images that hint the history of the city: the way it developed right into a municipality with tons of of plantations, and grew into the hub of pure history and ornithology it’s as we speak.

Lithograph of the Old Coonoor Ghat (Captain Stephen Ponsonsby Peacock, 1847)
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

In the 1870s, Lieutenant Colonel GV Law, who was half of the Madras Sappers and Miners regiment, undertook the huge activity of reworking the modest monitor meant for cartloads, tongas, and folks on horseback into one thing that was motorable.

“The alignment wascfaulty and the gradient so steep that it had to be relaid with 14 hairpin bends,” explains Vasanthan. Visitors can get an thought of what the monitor appeared like from a lithograph made by Captain Stephen Ponsonsby Peacocke in 1847. A watercolour by Edward Lear in 1870s captures the new ghat street in all its glory.

The New Coonoor Ghat (A T W Penn, late mid 1870s)

“Coonoor was just a stopover,” says Okay Balu, Municipal Commissioner, Coonoor, discussing how the smaller city was at all times much less outstanding than Ooty. Ooty turned extra standard, as British troopers have been despatched there for therapy as a result of of the house climate. The complete inhabitants of Coonoor in 1847 included 30 Europeans and 250-plus Indians. Two hundred and fifty acres of land have been underneath espresso and mulberry cultivation. The Europeans have been enterprising and developed espresso plantations. Vasanthan culled out this info from a survey report by Lt Col J Ouchterlony. He says a panoramic sketch of Coonoor made by Lieutenant Burton is the most dear as it’s one of the earliest ones to point out the city with 9 European residences, an area shandy, ‘chettrum’ for Indians and the Davison’s resort inbuilt the 1800s, which was destroyed in a fire. A brand new constructing was erected as a replacement in 1987 which is as we speak house to the United Planters’ Association of South India, the apex physique of planters of tea, espresso, rubber, cardamon and pepper in the southern states of India.

Plantation hub

“It was primarily a coffee town which later moved to tea cultivation. We have documented the data to ensure that the next generation knows its history,” says Samantha Iyyanna, managing trustee of Clean Coonoor. Among the displays are uncommon finds corresponding to a map of the district sketched by Captain BS Ward in 1822. “Christopher Penn from the UK donated photographs taken by his great grandfather, ATW Penn, a pioneering photographer in the Nilgiris between 1860 and 1880. Water colour sketches and lithos were sourced online from the British Library website while we got the maps from gazettes and manuals,” says Vasanthan.

There are a number of sketches that present travellers’ bungalows, primarily constructed for Europeans. “A map by Dr PM Benza who was engaged in a geological survey shows the word Coonoor engraved on the traveller’s bungalow. This was in 1835,” factors out Vasanthan.

Black and orange flycatcher

There is a additionally a bit dedicated to Ornithology. The first documentation ever of birds in the Nilgiris is credited to TC Jerdon, a pioneering ornithologist, who noticed, recognized and described fowl species in sketches. Jerdon was lively in the district between 1839 and 1845. He is understood to have described a raptor referred to as the Besra, and later a number of different birds like the Eastern Grass-owl, from the area of the Coonoor Pass. “Species like the Nilgiri flycatcher, Nilgiri laughing thrush, black and orange flycatcher and Malabar lark that are endemic to the Western Ghats can be seen in Coonoor,” says Vasanthan, a physician-turned-bird watcher.

History in Coonoor

  • In David Lean’s film A Passage to India ( based mostly on E.M. Forster’s novel), The Nilgiri Mountain Railway makes an look with a fictitious identify ‘Marabar Line.’
  • Sarat Chandra Bose was underneath home arrest in ‘Fairlight’ bungalow close to Sim’s Park in Coonoor for 5 years in the 1940s.
  • Tea export from right here to the former Soviet Union noticed a surge after Nikolai Alexandrovich Bulganin and Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, visited Coonoor. It additionally led to a requirement right here for Tamil translations of the works of Anton Chekhov’s and Alexander Pushkin.
  • The Hulical Droog Fort in Coonoor, that Tipu Sultan used (it nonetheless stands, however in ruins) finds point out in the ebook Tippoo Sultaun: The Tale of the Mysore War (1840) written by Philip Meadows Taylor.

William Ruxton Davison (an analytical chemist of the Nilgiri Cinchona Plantations at Naduvattam), listed over 200 fowl species throughout a visit overlaying the Nilgiris, Wayanad, South Karnataka and Coorg. The part additionally showcases a collection of fowl work by Miss Margaret Cockburn, thought-about the first bird-woman of the Nilgiris. Personalities like Dr Salim Ali, the birdman of India, accompanied by his scholar who was doing his doctoral thesis about the endemic fowl black and orange Flycatcher, visited Coonoor in the late 1970s.

Nehru’s Visit to the Pasteur Institute (1958)

The gallery narrates landmark moments together with Mahatma Gandhi’s go to. Besides heritage buildings corresponding to the Church of All Saint’s and Pasteur Institute, the city is well-known for its UNESCO World Heritage web site, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway.

Sketch of Coonoor as a Station in 1847 (Source ‘Goa, and The Blue Mountains’ by Lt Richard F. Burton, Bombay Army, published in 1858)

Sketch of Coonoor as a Station in 1847 (Source ‘Goa, and The Blue Mountains’ by Lt Richard F. Burton, Bombay Army, revealed in 1858)
| Photo Credit:
Special Arrangement

Many buildings that also stand as we speak are testimony to history, says Okay Balu, Municipal Commissioner, Coonoor. For instance, the first traveller’s bungalow is the place the Magistrate Court features as we speak. He provides, “The gallery informs the public about modern settlements, historical milestones and heritage structures. We want to inspire the younger generation to protect and preserve them. We plan to bring in more exhibits. We have also appealed to the public to contribute rare photos or other artefacts that they may have.”

There shall be a digital tour of the gallery quickly. You may go to

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