The word Idukki derived from the word Idukku which means a gorge. The perennial river Periyar flows through a narrow gorge between two granite hills, the legendary KURAVAN and KURATHI where the Idukki Arch Dam is constructed..
History and Heritage
The district was formed on January 26, 1972 carving out of Devikulam, Peerumedu and Udumbanchola taluks from Kottayam district and Thodupuzha taluk from Ernakulam district. It extends by 115 kms. from south to north and 67 kms. From east to west. The area of the district is 5019 Sq. kms. For revenue administration the district is sub divided into four taluks viz., Devikulam, Peermade, Udumbanchola and Thodupuzha. For purposes of developmental activities it is divided into eight blocks Arudai, Devikulam, Elamdesom, Idukki, Kattappana, Adimali, Nedumkandom and Thodupuzha. The district is bounded by Kottayam and Pathanamthitta districts on the south, Thrissur and Coimbatore districts on the north, Madurai, Ramanad and Thirunelveli districts on the east and Ernakulam and Kottayam districts on the west,
Though the district cannot boast of a history of the rise and fall of a few dynasties, it played a significant role in the spiritual development of the country, especially the south. The Ramayana gives a graphic description of the flora of the Pamba Valley.
It is believed that the name Sabarimala derived from Sabari Ashram which was located at Sabari Peedom near Sabari Mala , one of the famous Pilgrim centres. The Lord Ayyappa Temple at Sabarimala is supposed to be the place where a great Jain or Buddhist monk attained Nirvana . (Now Sabarimala is in Pathanamthitta district). The archaeological evidence of the Mangaladevi Temple 15 kms. from Thekkadi in the dense forest bespeaks of an equally shrouded antiquity. May be, with its undulating hills and valleys and the perennial rivers the district formed a recluse for the spiritual seekers of ancient India.
But the history of the present population of the district is very recent. It is a history of colonisation braving inclement weather, wild animals and epidemics. It is also a history of the exploitation of labour and labour struggles. Settling in the district began in all seriousness during the Ministry of Sri T.K.Narayana Pillai, as a sequence to the grow-more-food campaign in the State. These migrants who constituted a few planters and a cross section of the people became the nucleus of the present population. In the days of Shri Pattom Thanu Pillai it became a systematic colonisation. Kallar Pattom colony in Udumbanchola taluk bears the imprint of his name. That the earliest human habitation of the district started from Tamil Nadu in the first two decades of the present century can be gauged from the story that while Maharaja Sri Mulam was personally supervising the construction of the Dam on Mullaperiyar river he felt thirsty and a shepherd called Ankur Rautar gave him milk hot from the udder of the sheep. The delighted Maharaja gave him title over extensive forest land which his descendants sold to land owners in Tamil Nadu and with the help of cheap labour they were converted into Cardamom or Tea Plantations. The area around Munnar developed from the time when the British made it their summer resort. Here too the immediate accessible population was from Tamil Nadu and Munnar became a Tamil pocket in Kerala.
Topography and Climate
Sprawling over an area of 5,061 sq. kms. the district is marked by undulating hills and valleys. The high ranges vary in altitude from 2500 ft. above mean sea level in Kulamavu to more than 5,000 ft. above M.S.L. in Munnar. The highest peak in Kerala, Anamudi is in the district. It is 8,841 ft. high. The different levels of elevation promote the growth of diverse flora. Except a bit of midland region in the western portions of Thodupuzha taluk all the remaining areas consisting of Devikulam, Peermade and Udumbanchola taluks and the eastern portion of the Thodupuzha taluk are entirely highland region. Granite hills touching the skies and being skirted round with thick rain-fed sylvan forest render a terrific charm to the district. There are eleven peaks in Idukki which exceed a height of 6000 ft. above M.S.L. The highland region is having a comparatively cold climate. In peaks above an elevation of 2400 metres the temperature at times falls down to near freezing point in the writer. Occurrence of mist is usual in the highland region lying over an elevation of 1300 metres above M.S.L.
The annual rainfall in the district varies from 250 to 425 cms. But, it is recorded that the annual rainfall had gone upto 700 CMS in certain years. The eastern and northeastern regions of the district get very low rainfall in contrast to other areas. This may go up to 150 CMS at Marayur, Kanthalloor, Vattavada and Thalayar regions. Marayur and Kanthalloor are virtually rain shadow areas, lying in the eastern side of the Western Ghats.
Rivers and Lakes
Periyar, Thodupuzhayar and Thalayar are the three important rivers of the district. Though the Pamba river originates from the district it mostly runs through the Pathanamthitta district. Devikulam, Eravikulam and Elaveezha Poonchira are three fresh water lakes in Idukki.
Flora and Fauna
The district has at present about 260907 ha. forest area. However, the sylvan wealth of the district and the animal life are fast disintegrating due to deforestation, indiscriminate felling of trees, encroachment and poaching. All kinds of wild animals with the exception of lions abound in the forests of Idukki. The grasslands of Peermade are a haven of carnivores like the tiger and the leopard. This is chiefly so, as they are a natural upon. Bison, wildbear, languor and monkeys are a few other common denizens of the jungle. The Thar (striped goat) seen in Marayur region and Rajamala is found nowhere else in the world. The forest glades of Idukki resound in day time with the sweet voices of birds. They include the small wild parrots, mynas, red horned sparrows and a host of other nondescript species.
The valuable trees growing in the forests are teak, rosewood, deodars, sandal etc. The Forest Department has reared large Eucalyptus Plantations in the hilly tracts.
The population of the district, according to 2001 census, is 1,128,605. The density of population is 252 per sq. km.
Most of the Harijans work as agricultural labourers in the tea and cardamom estates. Ayyappancoil and Pampadumpara of Udumbanchola taluk, Kumali of Peermade taluk, Kuttampuzha, Mannamkandam and Marayur of Devikulam taluk, Vannappuram, Vazhathope and Velliyamattom of Thodupuzha taluk are the concentrations of Harijans. Mannans, Mala Arayans, Urali, Muthuvans, Hill Pulaya, Paliyan and Ulladan are the different groups of tribals in the district. All these tribes are not aborigins. The Muthuvans of Marayoor, Kanthaloor and Vattavada panchayats speak Tamil dialects. Their tribal legends show that they were the loyal servants of a section of the royal dynasty of Madurai and they carried the idols of Madurai Meenakshi for the fleeing royal members on their backs which are known in Tamil as 'Muthuku'. Thrown out from power at Madurai the surviving members of the Madurai Royal family established the Poonjar dynasty in Kerala, and the servants who came with them with the idols on heir backs settled in the forests near Tamil Nadu, and are now known as Muthuvans. They are agriculturists. The Mala Arayans of Vannappuram, Velliyamattom, Udumbannoor and Arankulam panchayats are also agriculturists. They look like the plains-dwellers, and believe that they were a section of the Arayans of the coastal belt of Kerala who migrated to the forest and came to be known as Mala Arayans.
Christians constitute the majority among the population of the district. They settled in the High Ranges in the course of their search for pastures anew. Behind the agricultural development of Idukki there is the untold hardship of this hard working people in the early days of settlement. Though there are many rich estate owners among them, the majority are middle class farmers earning their livelihood through their struggle against soil and climate.
Muslims are confined to certain pockets of the district. The municipality of Thodupuzha has a large Muslim population. They are mostly small traders and business men. In Munnar there are a few rich Muslims engaged in flourishing business. The Muslims of Kumily hailed from Tamil Nadu. Some of them have cardamoms estates of their own and the others are engaged in trade. In Peermade there is a large number of Muslim families. The name "Peermade" derived from the name of a Muslim Saint "Pir Mohammed".
Nairs form a small portion of the population of Idukki. The eastern part of Thodupuzha has a considerable Nair population. They are mostly engaged in agriculture.
In Udumbanchola taluk Ezhava are numerically second to the Christians. Most of them are small farmers. In Thodupuzha and Peermade taluks too their numerical strength is comparatively high.
Devikulam and Peermade taluks a large concentration of Tamilians who are mainly labourers in tea and cardamom estates. This population is slightly fluctuating in nature as they are having their permanent settlements in Tamil Nadu. Most of the cardamom estates are owned by Tamilians living in Cumbum, Gudalur and other towns in the adjoining Madurai district.
The economy of Idukki is predominantly agricultural, Cardamom, tea, tapioca, rice, pepper, rubber, coconut, sugarcane, coffee, arecanut, ginger, lemon grass and vegetables are the most important agricultural produces of the district.
Crop husbandry and animal husbandry are thus the main occupation of the people. Agriculturists and agricultural labourers constitute the bulk of the population. About ten per cent of the total population are estate labourers.
"Cardamom small" botanically known as "Elettaria Cardamom" is an export-oriented plantation crop, which is grown at an elevation of 600 to 1200 metres above m.s.l. under the shade of evergreen forests. It is cultivated in 56,376 hectares in Kerala of which 70 per cent is in the Idukki district. On an average Kerala contributes around 70 per cent of the national production of the 'Queen of Spices' in which also Idukki contributes the maximum share. Thanks to the persistent efforts of the Cardamom Board and the co-operation of cultivators and labourers the crop of cardamom has reached an all time high.
The tea bush is planted in 23,415 hectares. Most of the tea estates are located in Devikulam and Peermade taluks. The tea estates of Munnar are owned by large companies. But in Peermade and Vandanmedu areas there are small estates and small individual holdings. Kannan Devan in Devikulam taluk and Malayalam Plantations in Peermade taluk are the biggest tea estates in the district. The Kannan Devan Estate is now owned by the Tata Tea Company while the Malayalam Plantation is possessed by British nationals.
It is grown in 7246 hectares. The main problem of Tapioca growers is the difficulty in marketing their produce. The discovery that silkworm can grow on the leaves of tapioca and yield valuable silk yarn and the proposal to start a factory for manufacturing starch from tapioca may give a fillip to tapioca cultivation. At the same time rubber plantations are making considerable inroads into this sphere.
It is cultivated 3640 hectares. The rice fields of the district are basically double crop ones except in Vattavada and Kanthalloor.
It is grown in 9389 hectares. The cultivation of coffee provides an additional income to growers of other kinds of crops.
It grows on 1600 hectares of forest land and also on titled and untitled holdings of private individuals in the Marayoor region of Devikulam taluk. The sandal tree is declared as State property but extraction of sandal oil on commercial footing is yet to be started.
All the yielding coconut plantations are in Thodupuzha taluk and in Kokkayar and Peruvanthanam panchayats of Peermade taluk.
It is rewarding crop and it is extensively cultivated Peruvamthanam and Kokkayar Panchayats of Peermade taluk and Muttom, Arakulam Vannappuram, Kodikulam, Velliyamattom, Alakode and Karikode Panchayats of Thodupuzha taluk.
It is grown in Marayur and Kanthallur.
There are no major irrigation in the district. The Malankara Irrigation Dam meant to impound the tail-waters of the Idukki Project would irrigate the western portion of Thodupuzha taluk. However, the benefits of the project would largely accure to Ernakulam and Kottayam districts. The ground water resources of the district as a whole are reported to be very poor except in certain localities.
The whole district, especially the high land region is highly suited for economic dairy farming. This is made possible by the availability of fodder and vast areas of pastures for free grazing of cattle and buffaloes. There are about 1,400 hectares of land under permanent pastures besides the forest lands. Cattle can be fed with fodder, mainly green grass which can be collected from pastures or they can be let to free grazing in the pastures. There were 40 veterinary institution, ie., three veterinary polyclinics, one artificial insemination centre, two mobile farm aid units, one mobile veterinary hospital, one clinical laboratory, 30 veterinary hospitals, one veterinary dispensary and one district poultry farm in the district. Also artificial insemination facilities are available in twenty-five centres.
The Indo-Swiss Project now merged with the Kerala Livestock Development and Milk Marketing Board has done admirable work in the field of economic dairy farming in the district. This project came into being during the later half of 1963 on the basis of a bilateral agreement executed between the Swiss Confederation and the Government of India. The headquarters of the project is at Mattupetty in Devikulam taluk. It is located at an elevation of 1700 metres and 15 kms. away from Munnar. The overall control of this project is now vested with the newly formed Kerala Livestock Development and Milk Marketing Board. The extension unit of the project located at Kolahalamedu near Elappara in Peermade taluk serves as a supporting bull mother farm. Also the Regional Semen Bank is functioning at Base Station, Kolahalamedu. The Indo-Swiss Project has evolved the Swiss Brown cross breed of cattle suited for the State. New and intensive programme is being launched to improve the breed of the local cattle. There are about 86 artificial insemination centres in the district, and through them the breed improvement programme is being carried out. The functions of the State Dairy Development Department, the Animal Husbandry Department and K.L.D. and M.M. Board are identical in nature. They highland region is also suited for economic goat rearing.
Eighty per cent of the power production of Kerala is from Idukki district which is generated from the different hydroelectric projects scattered in the high ranges of the district.
Idukki Hydro Electric Project
It consists of three major dams. The Idukki Arch Dam has been constructed across Periyar River in a narrow gorge between two granite hills. It is 550 ft. high and at the base its thickness is 65 ft. This is a double curvature Arch Dam and in regard to height it comes second in the country. No far off from the Idukki Arch Dam, across river Cheruthony is built a concrete gravity Dam. It is known as Cheruthony Dam and its height is 454 ft. The spill way of the Idukki Reservoir is the Cheruthony 'dam. To prevent the water escape through a rivulet, called 'Kalivally' 30 kms west to Idukki Arch Dam, a free masonry dam, is constructed across Killivallly at Kulamavu. It is 328 ft. high.
The water impounded by these three dams has formed a single reservoir spread over 36 miles on a height of 2300 ft. m.s.l. Along a power tunnel from the Kulamavu basin water flowers to the pressure shafts in the underground power house beneath Nadukani hills at Moolamattom. In the power house there are huge generators of a total capacity of 780 M.W. After the generation of electricity water flows through a 4000 ft. long tunnel to a tributary of Thodupuzha river. The Idukki Project was completed with the economic and technological assistance of Canada in accordance with the Colombo Plan of Commonwealth Countries.
The first hydro-power station in the State utilising the waters of the Mundirapuzha river was commissioned in 1939 at Pallivasal with an installed capacity of 13,500 kw. The acute power shortage as a result of increased industrial activities during the wartime necessitated the second stage development of the Pallivasal Project.
Pallivasal- Stage II
Under this stage Dam was constructed at Mattupatty across Mudirapuzha for regulation of water supply to the power station and two sets of 7500 kW each were installed. During the first Five Year Plan one unit of 7500 kW and three more units of 5000 kW each were installed. The storage capacities of Kundle and Mattupetty reservoirs are 270 Mc. feet and 1950 Mc. Feet respectively. A barrage built across the river at Munnar diverts the water through a tunnel 10,235 feet long and through four pipe lines to a power station on the right bank of the river at Pallivasal. This water is used to generate 32.5 mw power.
Sengulam Hydro-electric Project
Under this scheme which was completed during the First Five Year Plan, the tail water from the Pallivasal Power Station is led along 2000 feet long open channel to a pump house forebay. Water is pumped from this forebay to the inlet of a 5700 feet long tunnel. The power generation at this station is 48 M.W.
Neriyamangalam Hydroelectric Project
The project utilises the tail waters of Sengulam Power Station and Panniar Power Station and the excess catchment of the Mudirapuzha river below Munnar. The diversion dam constructed across Mudirapuzha at Kallarkutty has a live storage capacity of 230 Mc. Feet The power station is at Panamkutty, a little downstream of the confluence of Mudirapuzha with Periyar river. The power generation capacity of this station is 45 M.W.
Panniyar Hydroelectric Project
It is developed on Panniar, a tributary of the Mudirapuzha river. Two reservoirs, an upper reservoir at Anayirankal and a lower reservoir at Ponmudi have storage capacity of 1730 Mc. Feet long tunnel and two 2495 feet long pipe lines to a power station situated on the left bank of Mudirapuzha opposite to Sengulam Power Station. The power generation is below 30 M.W.
Lower Periyar Hydroelectric Project
This scheme envisages utilisation of the tail waters from the existing Neriyamangalam Power Station and the spill from Kallarkutty head works, the available yield from the Perinjankutty catchment area below the dam at Kallarkutty, Perinjankutty and Idukki. The project has a capacity of 180 M.W.
Idukki district is industrially backward, despite generation of large quantum of power. Government of India has declared the district as "No Industry District". Lack of infrastructural facilities, vastness and the resulting remoteness of the district and the diversity in climate are all factors which hurdle the establishment and growth of industries in the district. At present there are 2082 registered small scale industrial units functioning in this district.
TRANSPORT AND COMMUNICATION
The Indian Railway does not touch the district of Idukki so also is the National Highway. The Cochin-Munnar Road, Kottayam-Kumily Road, Thodupuzha-Idukki Road and Kumily-Munnar Road are the major roads in the district. Jeeps are the chief means of conveyance. (See Roads in barefacts of Idukki).
There are 290 Post Offices and 73 Telephone exchanges in the district.
There are 134 High Schools, 332 Primary Schools, eight Colleges, four Polytechnic and one I.T.I. in the district.
Medical amenities are poor in the highland region. The tea estate companies maintain their hospitals and dispensaries where outsiders are also treated now. There are 63 Allopathic hospitals in the district. 16 Government Homoeo hospitals and dispensaries and 22 Ayurvedic institutions also function in the district.
There are about 12,000 trading concerns majority of which are dealing mainly in consumer goods. Public markets number 38 and private markets 10.
Idukki is not a region to be disfigured, bulldozed and terraced without proper environmental planning. Normal techniques of urban development cannot be superimposed on Idukki. How best the environmental assets of Idukki can be protected from a possible ecological disaster depends on the concept of spatial and regional planning. The department of Town Planning and Idukki Development Authority have taken up these challenges in the preparation of a development plan for Idukki.
With its matches scenic beauty the district has tremendous tourist potentialities. The Periyar Wild Life Sanctuary at Thekkady is in the district and it ranks the foremost among the places of tourist attractions in Kerala.
Organised around the Periyar Lake, formed by the damming of the Periyar river, this tourist paradise, cushioned into the Virgin jungle of the Western Ghats, can never fail to strike any tourist as a spot of unrivalled sylvan splendour. The sanctuary for wild game spreads over an area of 673 sq.kms. And is located at a height of 900 to 1800 metres above mean sea level area, in many parts it appears to end just round the next bend. Then as the motor launch wends its way further the tourist gaps with wonder as he sees the lake suddenly grow, as it were, into a large expanse or into a vista of an endless fringe of bays and curves.
The wild animals generally seen are elephants, bisons, sambur, monkeys and wild bear. There are tigers foraging in the area but to have a glimpse of them is a matter of luck for the visitors. However, on a sunny summer day, herds of wild elephants numbering sometimes fifty or sixty are sure to be seen grazing on the hills or bathing in the lake. The bisons, however are a wary and hardly lot and hardly ever allow any intruder to approach them. The noise of the cruising boat is picked by their sensitive ears and they withdraw. At certain places besides the lake there are observation towers. Those who are staying at Thekkady for a few days can make use of these towers for watching the animals.
A visit to this sanctuary offers many sided attractions. Some of the famous tea gardens are located around this place. Peermade, 43 kms. below Thekkady on the road to Kottayam, provides opportunity for a delightful golf-course, and if a stopover is desired, the Tourist Bungalow at Peermede offers excellent facilities and good cuisine. The folds of hillock are delectable for hike and trek.
The Kerala's Tourism Development Corporation has provided different types of accommodation for visitors. They can choose either the western style hotel Aranya Nivas at Thekkady or the Edappalayam Tourist Bungalow which is located right inside the sanctuary. The Periyar House at Thekkady is an economy-type lodging and catering especially to group tours and is located near the Aranya Nivas Hotel. Boat-cruising on Idukki reservoir too is a pleasant experience. The different colours of the forest glades changing with the shifting sun and shade make the land around the reservoir a strange world. Munnar town is a summer resort. The English Club there, is a remnant of its bygone glory. Three rivulets namely Mudirapuzha, Nallathanni and Kundala joint together to form "Munnar" (three rivers) near town. The peak of Anamudi atop Rajamalai is another centre for tourists to visit. Trekking the peak is very strenuous but when one is top of it the light airs there would soon ease him. From there one can see the sea around Kochi, the entire Kochi City, and on the east the slopes of the western ghats descend to the vast dry plains of Tamil Nadu. Watching the striped goat is an attraction here.
Keralites have proved their deligence and extra ordinary brillience through out the world. Keralites are well known for their honesty and efficiency in all fields. In the list of Prominent Personalities we have tried to include all famous personalities from Kerala. We are trying to collect the details of the rest. If you have the details of any such personalities, please send to us.