Saturday, 14 February 2009
Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut. Part 4.
Map showing Thomas Baber's route in 1823, part 4. Please click on map for larger version.
"I left Ottakail Karumba at 10 A.M. on the 11th, and arrived at Koodaloor about 1 P.M. about half-a-mile from the karumba, I reached the road I constructed in 1806, from Nelliala in Parakámeatil, to Nambolacota, and continued along it until with three miles of Koodaloor, where is yet to be traced the course of the high road formerly constructed by Tippoo, by the Carâcole Pass to South Malabar; after going about a mile along it, I struck off to the right, by a path which led to Koodaloor, a village at the post of Neddibett, the pass leading up the famed Neelghurries. Koodaloor is a village of Baddagurs, containing between 20 and 30 houses. There are a few Kottara's houses in its vicinity. Here I was met by the Narabolacota Wáranoor, attended by his dependants, and nearly all the inhabitants of Nambolacota. I halted in consequence here for the night, and obtained from them the following information respecting the Neelghurries.
The summits of these mountains comprise a table-land of about forty miles in length, and about twenty broad; it is formed into four náds, or divisions, viz. Nanganad, or Todanad, Makanad, Foranad, and Koondenâd ; the three former are under the collector of Coimbatoor. The revenue collected from the three náds was about 18,000 rupees; it has since been reduced to 6,000. Koondeenad is under the collector of Malabar, and pays annually into the Manár Gát Hobely Cutcherry (in South Malabar) about 1,000 gold fanams. The Màlewarom (proprietor's share of the produce) is about double that sum, and belongs to the Padignacar Kolgum, Rajah of the Samoory family,— to the Pundalore Nair in South Malabar, and to the Numbolacota Wárànoor, which latter lays claim indeed to the whole western portion of the Neelghurries, bounded by the river Keellaata, as called by Malabars, and Paikara by Badagurs. The Koondee Nâd pays also to the Nambolacota Wellakara Mallen Davasom, 101 gindees (about six pints) of ghee, and 120 old fanams. The grains and products peculiar to these mountains, are wheat, barley, watta kádala (a kind of pulse), párápa (dhall), ruggy, corály, keera, chama (millet), and kadoo (mustard); also affeen (opium), ooly (onions and garlick), ghee in large quantities; bees'-wax and honey. The extent of the population my informers could not tell me, though they said they knew of about forty attys (Baddagur villages), about twenty Mundoos, or Todara villages, and about half that number of Kotageerees, or villages of Koturs; the whole population they estimated at about 5,000 souls. The Baddagurs are both merchants and cultivators. They emigrated from Oomatoor in Poonat or Mysore, about three centuries ago; their language is a dialect of Canareese. The Todara are exclusively herdsmen, and the Kotara, artificers, viz. blacksmiths, carpenters, and potters. They also are cultivators. The Koturs and Todars are the aborigines; their language appears to be a mixture of Tamil, or Malialum, and Canareese. Neither the Todars or Koturs follow any acknowledged Hindoo customs; they worship tutelary deities unknown among the people of the plains, while both complexion and features point them out as a race distinct from both Hindoos and Mahomedans. The whole of the inhabitants are remarkable for their simple and inoffensive demeanour. Alluding to the revival of the trade carried on formerly with Malabar, the people seemed to think that nothing would restore it so effectually as by re-opening the highroad formerly constructed by Tippoo, and by the establishment of a salt gola near the foot of the Caracote pass; and of weekly markets or fairs at Koodaloor in Nambolacotta, and at Nellumboor or Mombât; and certainly nothing is more feasible, since the Caracote pass has advantages over every other, viz. water conveyance from the coast, to within a few miles of the foot of it, a level country the whole way from Nellumboor to Caracote, and a pass that is capable of being made practicable for beasts of burden, and even wheel carriages ; the distance through Nambolacota to the Mysore frontier, is little more than half what it is through every other part of Wynaad, and all the nullahs and water-courses are passable throughout the year.
Map showing the final part of Thomas Baber's journey to Ootacamund. Please click on the map for a larger version.
Left Koodaloor on the 12th, at nine, and reached Neddibett, or the summit of the mountains, about eleven. There is a good path-way up this pass. Within a mile of the top the ascent becomes exceedingly steep, the last half mile so much so, as to require considerable labour to carry an empty palanquin even up it; though the whole distance from Koodaloor does not exceed four miles, I was nearly three hours performing it. The distance from Neddibett to Ottakamund cannot be less than twenty miles; the first part of the road is rugged, and broken by cholas or vallies, some of which are very steep, particularly the first, called Poolee Chola. I counted eight of those cholas at from half a mile to a mile and a half from each other, but generally the road is over bare hills, especially in the vicinity of the Keelaketta or Paikara river. During the fair season the river is fordable, on account of the rocks, the whole way across; in the rains it is passed in a basket boat. Here I encamped for the night , on account of my bearers and coolies, who suffered more this, than any preceding day’s journey, in consequence of heavy rain and bleak winds. From this river to Ottakamund the distance is about ten miles, from the most part over downs more level than those on the western side of the river. The whole face of the country between Neddibett and Ottakamund is decked with the richest verdure, and watered by rivulets and springs in every direction, interspersed with patches of jungle in deep glens and vallies. The productions of these hills are totally different from the lowlands. Here are white dog-rose, honeysuckle, jasmine, marigolds, balsams, with out number (tomentosa), hill gooseberry, wild strawberry, Brazil cherries, violet-raspberries (red and white), &c. &c. Many parts are literally covered with ferns and lichens in great variety. The climate is most grateful to an European in health, and reminds one more of his native air than any part of India I have visited.
Arrived at Ottakamund on the 13th of June, where I met with a most hospitable reception from Mr. John Sullivan, the principle collector of Coimbatore." 
If you happen to have passed along this route, or live in one of the places mentioned, I would love to hear from you. I would very much like to locate the villages mentioned, and to get their modern names.
Thomas Baber was at Gudalur as early as 1806, and it is possible that he was one of the earliest, if not the earliest European into the Nilgiris. He wrote: -
"I left Ottakail Karumba at 10 A.M. on the 11th, and arrived at Koodaloor about 1 P.M. about half-a-mile from the karumba, I reached the road I constructed in 1806, from Nelliala in Parakámeatil, to Nambolacota, and continued along it until with three miles of Koodaloor, where is yet to be traced the course of the high road formerly constructed by Tippoo, by the Carâcole Pass to South Malabar; after going about a mile along it, I struck off to the right, by a path which led to Koodaloor, a village at the post of Neddibett, the pass leading up the famed Neelghurries."
Where are "Nelliala in Parakámeatil, to Nambolacota?"
If you know, please email me at Balmer.Nicholas@Googlemail.com
Pages 314-316, Journal of a Route to the Neelghurries from Calicut, Asiatic Journal (New Series) III.