December 5, 2016
Udhagamandalam: It is a long-established fact that the Nilgiris and tourism are inextricably intertwined. The Blue Mountains is famous not just for the conventional form of tourism but also others like heritage and adventure tourism. However, what is little known is its potential for history-based tourism.
During an interaction with The Covai Post, Dr. PJ Vasanthan, who has done considerable research on various aspects of the Nilgiris, lamented that important archeological sites and people associated with the history of the hills have been ignored.
Specifically mentioning scientist Dr. Francis Buchanan, Dr. Vasanthan said he was the first Englishman to ascend these hills. He ascended the eastern slopes in 1800 on a mission of enquiry under the orders of the then Governor General of India. His work ‘A journey from Madras through the countries of Mysore, Canara, and Malabar, performed under the orders of the most noble the Marquis Wellesley &c.,’ published in 1808, gives a rare insight into these hills.
Dr. Buchanan’s visit is linked to Danayakankottai, an old fort which now lies submerged under the waters of the Bhavani Sagar Reservoir that once served as a garrison of Tipu Sultan who had renamed it to Sharifabad. The earliest mention of the fort is seen in ‘Kongu Desa Rajakkal’ where it is referred to as ‘Nila-valiya-durga’ (Large fort of the Nilgiris), and in two stone inscriptions, one from Hunsur dated 1162 AD and another from Nagamangala dated 1184 AD, where it is referred to as ‘Nilachalla Durggam’ (Fort of the Blue Mountains).
Pointing out that there was a great deal more of Dr. Buchanan alone which fascinate tourists interested in the history of the Nilgiris, Dr. Vasanthan said that it was through the Danayakankottai-Denad Pass that Dr Buchanan traversed that the later day surveyors ascended these hills, and a couple of decades later John Sullivan, intrigued by accounts of the salubrious climate, made his ascent, leading ultimately to the British settlement at Ootacamund.