Munnar is a town located in Kerala state in the southern Western Ghats in South India. The name is often used to refer to the whole tourist area of Idukki District of which the town forms a part. Munnar panchayat of Devikulam block is the largest in the district with an area of 557 km². The name of Munnar is believed to be derived from the Tamil words Munu (three) and aaru (river), referring to the town’s strategic location at the confluence of the Muthirappuzha, Chandavurai and Kundaly rivers. The area is surrounded by vast jungles and remains wet and cold during most of the year. The Mattupetty Dam is nearby. The people of Munnar share the culture and traditions of Kerala and their Tamil neighbours.
The entire area of Munnar, nearly about 556.44 square kilometer of land really belonged, and still belongs to the royal family of Poonjar and was given on lease for 99 years by the then poonjar King Kerala Varma in 1887.During the British rule of India, Munnar was developed to cultivate tea plants. At that time, most of the people around the area were employed as laborers for plantations throughout the area. In the early stages of development, only Tamilians and a small number of Malayalis inhabited Munnar. From the late 1890s till 1921, tea was transported down from Top Station by 24 inch railway and ropeway to Munnar for transhipment throughout the World.
Most of the top positions in the estates were occupied by the British “Managers”. A few bungalows were built for them and these are still in use. Munnar was a Hill Station for some British who sought a cooler climate. The two educational institutes in Munnar are Govt. Arts & Science College and College of Engineering Munnar undertaken by CCEK. Hospitals in Munnar are Tata General Hospital, Matha Hospital and Arun Hospital.
The history of plantation in Munnar started in the 1870s. J.D. Munro, a European, identified the agriculture potential of the land on a hunting expedition. In 1877 he leased 580 Sq Kilometres of land from the Poonjar Raja who was in control of the land. Munro formed a co-operative called ‘North Travancore Land Planting and Agricultural Society’ and members of the society started farming in different parts of Munnar. The crops included coffee, sisal and cardamom. Tea plantation was started by A.H. Sharp, another European at the A.H. Sharp Parvathy estate (Present Silent Valley Estate). In 1895 Finlay, a European company entered the scene and acquired about 33 tea estates in Munnar. In 1897 the Kannan Devan Hills Produce Company was formed to manage Finlay’s estates. In 1964 the Tata Group, an Indian corporate giant entered into a collaborative venture with the Finlay leading to the formation of the Tata-Finlay group. In April 2005 tea plantations under the Tata group were transferred to a new company called Kannan Devan Hills Produce Co, Pvt Ltd. Today the company manages 16 estates spread over in about 8600 hectares of land.
Geography and climate
The region in and around Munnar varies in height from 1,600 meters (5,249 ft) to 1,800 meters (5,906 ft) above mean sea level. Munnar enjoys a salubrious climate. The weather ranges between 5 ? (41 ?) and 10 ? (50 ?) in winter and 15 ? (59 ?) and 25 ? (77 ?) in summer. The tourist season is from August to May. However, even the monsoons are lovely with many streams and rivulets in the area.
Flora and Fauna
Most native flora and fauna of Munnar has disappeared due to severe habitat fragmentation by plantations. However, most of the species survive in several protected areas nearby, including the new Kurinjimala Sanctuary to the east, Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary and Manjampatti Valley in Amaravati reserve forest of Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary to the north east, Eravikulam National Park and Anamudi Shola National Park to the north, Pampadum Shola National Park to the south and the proposed Palani Hills National Park to the east. These protected areas are especially known for several threatened and endemic species including Nilgiri Thar, Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Nilgiri Wood-pigeon, Elephant, Gaur, Sambar, and Neelakurinji.
The beautiful hill station of Mattupetty is a 13 km drive away from Munnar. The Mattupetty Lake and Dam is enroute to Top Station and is situated at an altitude of 1700 m. You will often see people enjoying a lazy picnic here. Visitors love the panoramic view of the dam surrounded by wooden hills and tea plantations.
Boating is a popular activity here. The DTPC (District Tourism Promotion Council) Idukki has good facility for boating and has a fleet of speed boats, row boats and pedal boats.
You will love trekking in the Shola forests around Mattupetty which is also home to a variety of birds. Walk along small streams and follow its meandering path till it falls down the hillside as a waterfall. The hill-side is dotted with pretty waterfalls that add to the attraction of the place.