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haphazard on the slopes of the valleys among dry cultivation and
fields of the peculiar aroinatic -flavoured plantain for which this
country is famous and which goes on bearing for twenty years at
a stretch, even without irrigation. The crops include paddy,
coffee, cardamoms, ginger, turmeric and most of the usual dry
cereals of the plains. Coffee was first planted in these hills by
M. Eraile de Fondclair about 1846. He obtained the seed from
the Sirumalais, where his father had already experimented with the
plant. The coffee gardens, like those elsewhere, have now faUen
on evil days and several of them have been almost abandoned.
Cardamoms and ginger require shade and are grown under the
forest trees. The former take five years to come into bearing.
Turmeric is planted in the open and is eighteen months before it
is ready for gathering.

None of the inhabitants of this part of the range are hill-men
in the strict sense of the word, all of them having come up, in
some distant past, from the low country. They do not differ
greatly from the people of the plains in appearance, dress or
physical characteristics. The principal landowners are the
Kunnuvans, and the Pulaiyans form the chief labouring caste.
Both these communities are mentioned again on pp. 108 and 104
below. Telugu-speaking Chettis and Musalmans are gradually
acquiring a good deal of the land which formerly belonged to
the Kunnuvans ; they trade with these latter, involve them in
financial difiiculties and then take their fields.

The hill cattle are similarly merely animals which have been
taken up from the plains. There are no distinctive breeds like
the Toda buffaloes of the Nilgiris.

Parts of this lower range are feverish. March to July are
perhaps the worst months in them^ but no part of the year can be
considered safe.

The Upper Palnis run from 6,000 to 8,000 feet in elevation.
The highest point in them (or in the district) is Vembadi Shola
hill, which is 8,218 feet above the sea. The sanitarium of
Kodaikanal (p. 245) stands on the southern edge of them. They
differ from the Lower Palnis in possessing fewer ravines and
valleys, much less forest, a colder climate and a more barren soil.

PHYSICAL d:escription. 5

and tliey consist largely of considerable plateaus made up of rolling- CHAP. I.
downs covered wdth coarse grasses, hidden away in the more
sheltered valleys of which are isolated woods called sholas.
Except in these hollows, the soil is usually a thin stratum of black
peaty earth of varying depth beneath which is a yellow clay, and
in many places the underlying rock crops out.

Tlie general fall of the range is to the north, and the slope
in that direction is fairly gradual ; but on the south the hills
terminate abruptly in precipitous cliffs which in parts of the
Kambam valley are veritable walls of rock forjiiing scenery of the
boldest and wildest description. On the north, two great valleys
pierce the range and penetrate southwards through it as far as
the villages of Vilpatti and Pumbarai. Up these, in days gone by,
led two of the most frequented of all the routes followed by the
pack animals of the merchants from Palni, then the chief centre
for the trade with the hills. The path from Palni to Vilpatti is
interrupted in the middle by precipitous ground over which no
horse could travel. The other up the Pumbarai valley is easier.
Both these, like other similar tracks on the range, have now been
almost deserted in favour of the bridle-path from Periyakulam to
Kodaikanal. This bridle-path. Law's Uliat, the new Attur Ghat
(see pp. 155-6) and the roads within the Kodaikanal settlement are
as yet the only really practicable routes on the range. Communi-
cation between village and village is by forest roads and rough

The Pumbarai valley is the most remarkable on the range.
Its almost parallel sides, up which cultivation climbs amid woods
and broken ground, are bounded by precipitous crags which look
as if they had been formed by the sudden subsidence of the
ground between them. I'umbarai itself stands on a terrace at the
head of the valley and (although its inhabitants number less than
1,500) is one of the most important of the Upper Palni villages.
It was once suggested as the station of the revenue subordinate
in charge of these hills and it Loasts a temple to Subrahmanya
wliich is held in much repute.

The houses in this upper range are usually divided by regular
paved lanes, are built of wattle and daub, are thatched with grass
and possess fire-places. The people are chiefly the Kunnuvans
already mentioned, Karakkat Yellalaus and a few of the wild
Palijans referred to again on p. 105 below. In the Upper and
Lower I'alnis taken together there are in all fifteen Government
villages containing a population of just under 20,000 persons.

The crops of the upper range include paddy, coffee, poor
varieties of wheat and barley, and garlic. This latter is the great

patti hills.


CHAP. I, article of export. The frequent torrents pouring down the sides
Hills. of tlie hills, which are almost perennial, are often dammed at the
top of a slope and thence cunning-lj led to irrigate paddy planted
on a series of narrow terraces ingenioQsly cut in the hill-side from
its brow down to its foot. Manure is supplied to these terraces in
liquid form hy leading the stream through the manure-heaps.
The paddy is a coarse variety and takes eight or ten months to ripen.
There are wide extents of land over which the hill folk have no
rights of occupation, and the greater part of these has been consti-
tuted reserved forest. At present the disposal of unsurveyed and
unassessed waste land other than reserves is governed by the
provisions of Board's Standing Order No. 20 and not by the rules
usual in the low country.
Vaiuslumad After the Palnis, the largest area of hill in Madura is the line

^"II-^'mV." which, for want of a better name, may be called the Varushanad
and Andipatti range from the Varushanad valley at the southern
end of it and the village of Andipatti near its northern extremity.
Tins (see the map) runs north-eastwards from the south-western
corner of the disti'ict, almost parallel with the Palnis and
Cardamom liills which face it on the opposite side of the Kambam
valley. Like them, it is an outlier of the Western Grhdts.

The great Varushanad (' rain country ') valley, in which the
Yaigai river takes its rise, is so called after the village of the
same name, now deserted on account of its malaria, the interesting
ruins of which (see p. '518 below) stand on the right bank of a fine
bend of the Vaigai near the centre of the lower part of it. Not
far off are the remains of Narasingapuram, also deserted. At
the uppermost end of the valley stands the prominent Kottaimalai
('fort hill '), 6,
erly Chaturagiri, ' the four-square liill,' from its appearance)
which is 4,172 feet high, is declared to be even now the residence
of celestial sages and is a favourite place of pilgrimage ; and
Kudiraimalai (' horse hill ') 1,262 feet above the sea. The range
is an inhospitable region. It is rugged, gaunt and burnt up,
clothed for the most part with only the scantiest sprinkling of
thorny trees, euphorbias and cactus, covered often with stupend-
ous blocks of naked grtinite and visited by no one but a few
herdsmen and their flocks. The rock of which it is formed contains
numerous narrow dykes of a hard stone which weathers more
slowly than the rest, and these stand out in all kinds of curious
shapes and from a distance often closely resemble L-uildings and
lines of fortification.

From the extreme northern end of these rugged heights the The
odd Ndgamalai \' snake hilP) range strikes oft east and then ^"^'agauiai.ii.
south and runs to within three or four miles of Madura town. It
is well named, being a long, straight ridge of barren rock of very
uniform height ; and local legends declare that it is the remains
of a huge serpent, brought into existence by the magic arts uf the
Jains, which was only prevented by the grace of Siva from
devouring the fervently Saivite city it so nearly ap})roaches.
All the last part of it consists of granuhir quartz of a very light
colour (pale red or yellow) and this renders it a most conspicuous
item in the landscape round Madura.

On the eastern side of the district the most considerable hills sirunialnis.
are the Sirumalais (' little mountains ') which stand some sixteen
miles north of Madura. They consist of a compact block almost
twelve miles across, and their highest points are a little over
4,400 feet above the sea. On the top of them is a basin-shaped
plateau some 3,00U feet high, in the north-eastern corner of which
ftre three small villages inhabited by immigrants from the low




country. The climate is very malarious and the only Europeans
who have ever attempted to settle on the range (the American
missionaries, see p. 250) were speedily compelled to quit it. The
fever of 1809-10 committed great havoc in these hills and the
Survey Account of 1815-16 says that there were then only 89
people left upon them.

The range has always been noted for its great fertility. The
earliest Tamil poems extant speak of the many varieties of fruits
which it produced in abundance, and it is still famous for its
plantains (which are vociferously hawked at all the neighbouring
railway-stations), its coffee and its cardamoms, and grows all the
fruit trees already mentioned as occurring in the Lower Palni
valleys. The Survey Account speaks with enthusiasm, also, of
the timber trees ' of prodigious height and magnitude ' which
grow upon it in those days ; but most of the range belongs to
the Ammayanayakkanur zamindari and its forests have been so
recklessly denuded that much (f the great damage done by the
floods of 1877-78 (the breaching of road^, of the railway, and of
950 tanks in Melur taluk alone) was attributed by the then
Collector to the utter bareness of its slopes.

Mr. William Elliott, Judge of Madura from 1838 to 1840,
appears to have been the first to start planting coffee on the
range, and he is said to have obtained his seeds and young plants
from Mysore. His estate (which is still called ' Elliottdale ')
eventually passed to M. Faure de Fondclair (father of the M.
Emile de Fondclair already mentioned as the pioneer of coffee-
planting on the Lower Palnis ) and from his family to the Eoman
Cath.^lic Mission. ' Vans Agnew's estate ' is another property
on the range which is under European management. The coolies
who work on the estates go up every day and return to their
villages at night. The coffee grown is considered superior to
that from the Palnis. In 1870 Capt. E. A. Campbell, late of the
Madras Army, was experimenting on these hills, on behalf of the
Cotton and Silk Supply Associations, with mulberry trees and
exotic cotton.

K&ranila- The Karandauialais, which stand some eight miles north-east

malais. of the Sirumalais, measure about six miles across and are crowned

by a little plateau un which are three small villages. From all
sides of this run down low ridges enclosing steep valleys each of
which has its own local name and gives rise to a small rivulet. On
the southern slope are the remains of a fine cocoanut garden and
of a hunting-seat of a former poligar.


The Alagarmalais, so called from tlio fa-nous tomi>lo to CU.W. T.
Ala^arsvarai v/hioh etar.ds at the soatliern f(jot (»f thoin tA-e've Hills.
miles from Madara (see p. 2.S2), consist of a ridtre about ten miles j^]^^^^
in length and 1,000 foet above the sea at its highest point, from malaij.
which lesser ridges branch otf in every direction I'lTiniag valleys
which again have each a local name.

The JVattam and Ailur hills merit no lengthy detcription. TheXaitam
They are little, stony ridges and hummocks with steep sides ^J'lfg'^'^'^'"
covered with the shallowest soil, and are of value only for the icon
ore they contain and the scrub they support.

Besides all the above, the district contains a large number Isolarcdh lla
of isolated peaks and heights which belong to no regular range.
Some of these are worthy of passing mention. The Diudigul
rock, the Anaiinalai and the Pasumalai are separately relVrred
to later on fpp. 2-32, 254 an 1 2:S). Eangamalai {o,0'J\) feet),
en the northern frontier of Dindigul, is exceeindsomest peak of its kind in all Madira, aud the
morning mists cling lovingly round it long after they have risen
from the side., of its plainer rivals.

There are surprisingly few noticeable tors among all the
wildernesses of rock with which tlie district abounds. Perhaps
the most reniHrkable 15 that on S6;nagiii, a hill four miles east of
the eastern edge of the Alagarmidais. This consists of one huge
j«tone balanced upon a much sleniierer pedestal, the whole being
perhaps 80 feet hi^rh. It is visible over half Melur taluk aud
Mr. Bruce Foote has likened its appearance from the low grouud
on the north to that of the head and neck of a bcaatiful child.








The Gundar,

muttar ani

and Shanmu-

These many ranges and hills make Madura a very picturesque
country. 'J'hey form a background wliich redeems from the
commonplace even its least inviting portion (the Llack cotton-soil
country of Tirumangalam, diversified only by scattered babul
trees and shimmering mirages) and which elevates its most
charming corner (the deep Kambam valley) into a high position
among the entirely delightful localities in the Presidency. Their
colouring would exhaust the vocabulary of the most facile word-
p.'iinter and their outlines vary infinitely from the gentlest of
grass-covered sloj)es to the wildest of precipitous, bare crags.
Among them all, the Palnis stand without a rival ; whether when
at the first dawn a peak here and a slioulder there advance,
capriciously, into the warm light, leaving all the rest in mysteri-
ous gloom ; at evening, when their topmost heights glow with the
rose-colour of the fading sunset ; or at night, when the big cliffs
resume once more their silent watch over the villages below.
Perhaps of all the many moods of this range the most memorable
is when, during a break in the rains, its summits, looking loftier
than ever, remain wreathed in heavy clouds, while its slopes,
seamed with a hundred torrents and cascades, gleam in the fitful
sunlight with every shade of green and blue, from jade-colour to
emerald, from turquoise to lapis lazuli.

The multiplicity of hills renders the drainage system of the
district somewhat complicated. It is enough to mention shortly
here the direction and general nature of the various rivers. The
irrigation works which depend upon them are referred to below
in Chapter IV.

• The Tirumangalam taluk drains south-eastwards away from
the Varushanad and Andipatti range into the Gundar and its
tributary the Kamandalanadi, which unite outside the district
within the Ramnad zamindari. The Gundar flows through Tiru-
mangalam town, but not until it reaches Kamudi in the Eamnad
country is it utilised to any extent for irrigation. The river is
very uncertain, being often in high flood one day and nearly dry
the next.

The north of Melur taluk drains eastwards into the Tirumani-
muttar and the Palar, which are also fickle streams of little
importance within this district but more useful in the lower part of
their courses.

The red soil plains of Dindigul and Palni in the north of the
district drain due northwards into four almost parallel rivers
which rise in the Palnis and eventually fall into the Amaravati
and so into the Cauvery. These (see the map) are the Kodavanar,


Nanganji, Nallatangi and Slianmuganadi. Like tlie Gundar, they CHAP. I.
are often in heavy flood one day and trickling" streamlets the Kivers.
next. The picturesque falls of the Nanganji near Yirupakshi are '

referred to in the account of that place on p. 809 below. U'he most
useful of these four rivers is the Shanmuganadi (' six-faced
stream '), which receives the drainage of the great Vilpatti and
Pumlbarai valleys already mentioned. Six principal torrents
flowing down from these combine to form it, and hence its name.

The streams thus far referred to drain the outskirts of the The Vaigai
district. The centre is included in the main river system — that ^'^■! '^^ tribu.
of the Vaigai and its tributaries. These latter all rise in the
Palni hills or the Varushanad and Andipatti range, and join the
Vaigai in the valley which lies between these two. Thereafter
the river receives no tributaries of any importance and flows
south-eastwards past Madura town into the Bay of Bengal not
far from Eamnad. The geography of this upper part of the
"Vaigai and the courses of the affluents it there receives can be
better grasped from the map than from any quantity of written

It will be seen that the river rises in the Varushandd valley
already mentioned and at first flows due north in a winding bed.
Nearly parallel with it meanders the Suruli, which drains the
whole of the upper pait of the adjoining Kambam valley. The
head waters of this latter fling themselves down from the lower
spurs of the High Wavy in a beautiful fall which is visible from
the road along the bottom of the valley. Near here are sacred
caves (the chief is the Kaildm pudavu) whicli are annually visited
by many pilgrims, who bathe in the river and sacrifice goats.
The water has the property (possessed by several of the Derby-
shire streams) of ' petrifying ' objects placed in it. The river is
almost entirely supplied from the south flank of the Kambam
valley (the hills on the other side drain northwards into Travan-
core) and until lately it was of comparatively small importance,
Recently, however, the biggest of the Travancorc rivers, the
Periyar, has been dammed up (see p. 126), and turned, by a tunnel
blasted through the watershed, down into the Kambam valley,
where it is led into the bed of the Suruli. In consequence tho
latter is now full of water for nine or ten months in the year.

About two miles south of Allinagaram the Suruli is joined by
tho Teni, an almost perennial stream which rises in the deep
Bodinayakkanur valley. Another two miles further on, their
combined waters join the Vaigai and they arc no more heard of.
The Vaigai is now a deep and rapid stream flowing in a narrow






channel. It soon chang-es its direction and runs cast-north-east-
wards under the northern slopes of the Aifdipatti hills and the
J^Iaganialai. In tliis part of its course it is met. hy the Varaha-
nidi ('boar river') and tlie Manjalar (' yellow river '). The
fo finer of these runs down from the Upper I'aluis through Teri-
jakulam town, where it unites with the Pambar, a stream well
kngwn at Kodaikanal and the falls of which are a prominent
object from the bridle-path leading to that station. The Manja-
lar (sometimes called ' the Yattilagionda river ') dashes down the
side ol' the Palnis just above Devadauapatti in a splendid cataract
200 feet high which is visible from the main road there, and
then races past A^'attilagundu, is joir ed by tl.e A yynmpalaijara river
from tie Lower Palnis and flows into the Vaigai. Immediately
afterwards, the latter turns and begi-^s the soutt-easterly
conr?o wluch it continues until it reaihes the st a. Just at the
point where it rims under the corresponding bend iu the Naga-
malai it is crossed by the important Peranai and Chittanai darns
referred to in Chapter IV, the former of which renders available
for irrigation the water of ti:e Periyar which has reached it
through the Suruli.

Before the advent of this water the Vaigai used to be in
heavy flood for a week or two and dry for almost all the rest of
the vear ; and its supply was so inadequate that in normal years
hardly any water escaped being diawn off by the channels which
lead off from either bank, so that at the point where it enters the
Bay of Bengal the stream was reduced to the merest trickle.
Now even below the two dam?, the flow is more considerable and
more constant.

The soils of Madura belong principally to the red ferruginous

series, the black varieties being
uncommon and the purely are-
naceous sorts entirely absent.
The marginal table shows the
percentage of the assessed area
of ryotwari and minor inam land
in each taluk wliich is covered
with black and red soils respect-
ively. It will be noticed that,
excluding the Palni hills, Tiru-
roangalam is the only taluk in
which the proportion of black
cotton-soil is considerable, and
tliat the other taluks are almost cntirel}' covered with red earths.








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