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 related 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, lately 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 lots of of plantations, and grew into the hub of pure history and ornithology it’s in the present day.

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 process of remodeling the modest observe meant for cartloads, tongas, and individuals 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 observe 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 Ok Balu, Municipal Commissioner, Coonoor, discussing how the smaller city was all the time much less outstanding than Ooty. Ooty turned extra standard, as British troopers have been despatched there for remedy as a result of of the dwelling climate. The complete inhabitants of Coonoor in 1847 included 30 Europeans and 250-plus Indians. Two hundred and fifty acres of land have been beneath 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 worthy as it’s one of the earliest ones to point out the city with 9 European residences, a neighborhood shandy, ‘chettrum’ for Indians and the Davison’s lodge in-built the 1800s, which was destroyed in a fire. A brand new constructing was erected as a substitute in 1987 which is in the present day dwelling 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 similar 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 piece 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 known 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 title ‘Marabar Line.’
  • Sarat Chandra Bose was beneath 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 e book 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 protecting 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 pupil 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 similar to the Church of All Saint’s and Pasteur Institute, the city is well-known for its UNESCO World Heritage website, 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 in the present day are testimony to history, says Ok Balu, Municipal Commissioner, Coonoor. For instance, the first traveller’s bungalow is the place the Magistrate Court capabilities in the present day. 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 will likely be a digital tour of the gallery quickly. You may also go to

You have reached your restrict without cost articles this month.

To get full entry, please subscribe.

Already have an account ? Sign in

Show Less Plan

Subscription Benefits Include

Today’s Paper

Find mobile-friendly model of articles from the day’s newspaper in a single easy-to-read record.

Faster pages

Move easily between articles as our pages load immediately.

Unlimited Access

Enjoy studying as many articles as you want with none limitations.


A one-stop-shop for seeing the newest updates, and managing your preferences.

Personalised suggestions

A choose record of articles that match your pursuits and tastes.


We transient you on the newest and most vital developments, 3 times a day.

*Our Digital Subscription plans don’t at the moment embody the e-paper ,crossword, iPhone, iPad cellular purposes and print. Our plans improve your studying expertise.

Leave a Reply