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03 Dec 2023, Edition - 3064, Sunday

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Pollachi: A Paradise Under Attack

Dr. CV .Kannaki Uthraraj


Pollachi—Pozhil Vaichi: A settlement surrounded by glades; the skyline of the Western Ghats curves around it, Pollachi and the villages near it, with innocent , agrarian folk, take one back to a life in tune with nature. .

It strides the tall Western Ghats stretching north to south with the Palghat Gap in between and is blessed by both the monsoons that ensure glistening green slopes. Silver rivers wind down as falls and flowing, swelling, bubbling, frolicking through the plains.

That the prehistoric man roamed these hills is indicated by the unique rock graves where he buried his beloved ones. These men were of a smaller build and they left small stone tools as evidence of their existence. It was indeed a tropical version of the Garden of Eden.

The tall trees of the tropical forest here grew with their wild party of shrubs, creepers and grass in close competition to reach the sky. The sunlight in turn fought hard to reach the ground, while the orchids and summer flowers sprayed multi colours over the slopes.

Here the herds of gentle giants relaxed in the river bed; the royal cat licked his stripes after marking his territory; the young bison mothers nursed their young ones; the spotted deer herd had all the grass they wanted to chew and the hornbill pecked a jamun fruit for his lady in the tree’s hollow nurturing the young ones. The crickets and thousand different birds and insects sang in sequence, the anthem of the forests for the peacock to dance below a dark grey pregnant cloud. It was indeed paradise.

As humans entered to dominate and destroy, these creatures shrunk away meekly as they were hunted and killed, captured to serve the greedy, selfish man.

Back in the 5th Century BC, this picturesque settlement fell on the trade route of Greeks and Romans who would travel through this region to Madurai, Uraiyur and other trade hubs in the south.
It was ruled by the Cheras during the Sangam period between the 1st CE and the 4th CE and it served as the eastern entrance to the Palakkad Gap, the principal trade route between the west coast and Tamil Nadu.

The Gangas of Thalakkad ruled it for over five centuries. The medieval Cholas conquered the region in the 10th CE.Mudi konda chola nallur ( the first known name of Pollachi) obviously titled so to honor the coronation of a brave Chola king, was later re-christened as Pozhil Vaichi as the exotic virgin monsoon forests covered the slopes of its hills.

The story goes that the Chola princess married off to the king of this region was sent here with a whole clan of warriors who settled down as agriculturists.

The bounties of the Orient—-pearls , tusks and spices passed through this town. It thus became the ideal town of the medieval Chera and Chola kingdoms. With the prosperity of trade and bounty of agriculture in a salubrious climate, constantly pampered by the blue mountains and thick forests. nature , lifestyle, religion, art and culture were in a charming symbiosis.

After the decline of the Cholas by the 15th Century, it was ruled by the the Vijayanagara Empire . After the fall of the empire in the 17th Century, the Madurai Nayaks, who were the military governors of the Vijayanagara Empire established their state as an independent kingdom.

In the latter part of the 18th Century, the region came under the Kingdom of Mysore, following a series of wars with the Madurai Nayak dynasty. After the defeat of Tipu Sultan in the Anglo-Mysore Wars, the British East India Company annexed Kongunadu to the Madras Presidency.

The famines in the Kaveri basin forced agrarian Gounder communities to seek newer pastures.The obvious choice was the south west valley where the soil was fertile with perennial rivers watering it.

Anaimalai was the last town , the name indicating the wealth of wildlife. Steeped in religion, the migrants sought to name their settlements after their guardian deities and heroic hunters and thus the came names of Vettaikaranpudur, Malayandipatnam , Kaliapuram , and so on.

Thus this region known popularly as Kongu Naadu became a niche agrarian civilization, characterised by a society respecting all castes , maintaining a societal rule,code and culture, apart from running the local government.

Hospitality became the hallmark and anyone was a welcome guest in the Kongu home. All communities lived in perfect harmony and all religious beliefs were respected. The royal Zamins of Uthukuli, Samuthur , Ramapatnam and Puravipalayam ensured a peaceful rule under the British.

The sanction of the Parambikulam Aliyar project has put this town on a different trajectory. The rich forests of the western ghats ,it’s flora ,fauna , the majestic wildlife took the bullets. Timber trade became a prosperous business while at the local homes tiger skins and tusk displays spelt the misery of the hunted.

The project however made the life giving waters reach the remotest farm and the farming shifted from rain dependant crops to cash crops. Coconut plantations slowly replaced almost all fertile land. The prosperity of Pollachi reached its pinnacle. The land and people attracted tourism and Pollachi went to a new high.

Even the march of Tipu Sultan’s army and the vagaries of the East India Company did not ruffle this picturesque town. Trade and agriculture held it strong. The Pollachi sandai, which functions even today, stands testimonial to a robust agro economy.

The graph of modernism in Pollachi was smooth which always had its feet firmly on the ground. Hence the soft spoken timid agrarian generation preserved honesty, respect and values in each household with pride and passion: Home was heaven, parents next only to God and affection the greatest comfort zone. Dignity and respect were a way of life here.

Lately, however, Pollachi has made the headlines for all wrong reasons.
The advent of internet brought in a deluge of changes to this pristine town. The influx of negative metro influences, especially the social media, have caused havoc on the minds of the naive young homespun folk.

Several sites on social media tore the family fabric and prompted innocent girls to jump over conventions without a thought only to become victims of sexual predators.
The greed of commercialisation brought more vultures in the name of tourism. The Mardi Gras groups from outside this peaceful town have invaded the quiet of our serene surroundings bringing shame and disgust.

Sorry we cannot allow you here nor can we permit the younger generation being corrupted in the name of freedom of thought just because it is approved elsewhere.

Whoever backs you, politicians, the rich and famous, whoever we don’t care and we don’t want your kind here. We have never uttered these words in all our lives. But now we scream: “ Leave our Pollachi alone.“

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