Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Old Fort of Nellialam

The Bald Hill at Nellialam. Please click for a larger image.

Manmadhan Ullattil has drawn my attention to the following paragraph that appears in several editions of the Madras District Gazetteer.

"Nothing remains of the old fort of Nellialam except traces of its ditch. It is said to have been levelled for growing coffee in 1874 by Mr. Adolphus Wright. Just south of the village is a flat-topped hill called Chatur Kottai Dinnai which from the steepness of its sides is almost inaccessible except on the east, and on this are said to have been built two fortified granaries. Traces of the buildings and the defences may still be made out."

From The Nilgiris Madras District Gazetteer, Page 372,by W. Francis 1998.

This raises several fascinating questions.

If the fort was on land capable of growing coffee, could it have been on top of this bald hill?

Presumably even the most inexperienced of coffee planters would not choose to plant coffee on an outcrop, when he had miles of rolling verdant hills to choose from.

If the fort wasn't at this bald hill, where was it?

Is this bald hill Chatur Kottai Dinnai?

Could the two objects on the ground ringed in red be either of the two fortified granaries?

If not, what are they?

If you can help me translate the meaning behind the place name Chatur Kottai Dinnai, I would love to hear from you.

If you live in Nelliyalam and you were able to take photos on this hill, or on any other hill nearby where the fort was actually located, I would love to see those photos.

What does the curved line of rock inside blue line look like close up?

Is it just a bit of natural rock outcrop, or is it levelled boulders from some beast work.

Did Mr. Wright's house face this hill, and did he level it because it spoiled the view, and not so he could plant coffee?

Or was his house somewhere else entirely?

Perhaps he wanted a romantic view of something that reminded him of home, perhaps a Tor or a Scottish Peak, and the derelict remains of the camp spoilt the vista.

The ridge at Nelliyalam showing the bald hill at its eastern end. Please click for a larger image.

As can be seen from this image there is a whole string of villages and plantations along this ridge, but most of these probably date from the 20th Century when the area was opened up to immigrants from other Indian States to promote food growth.

Where are the earliest houses and settlements on this ridge?


Sudarshan said...

Nick : That "bald" hill looks perfectly suitable for coffee, provided it isn't rock (doesn't look like rock for I see traces of green grass within the kidney shaped outline of the former fort). The reason it looks bald or bereft of vegetation may be that the fort and buildings stood on the area and the foundation probably still remains below the surface. VN.

Maddy said...

I think you can see the outlines of an elliptical moat in this picture. also chatur kottai means four cornered fort (sort of) chatur is four and kottai is fort. I do not know what Dinnai is, it could be a badaga word.

Maddy said...

An assumption - dinnai could be thinnai which means flattened floor in colloquial Malayalam.

Maddy said...

could that be right? Fortified granaries should be within the fort walls, not outside. if you look at the faint ellipse, and assume a fort within it, the two granaries are well outside!