In both Malayalam and
Tamil, the word ‘Munnar’ means three rivers, as it is merging place of
three mountain streams. The Duke of Wellington was the first prominent
person to visit Munnar.
Munnar was once the summer capital of the British in southern India.
Munnar was developed to cultivate tea plants by British although it was
first discovered by Scottish planters. In the early developmental stages
only Tamilians worked ther as few Malayalis inhabited in that area Munnar.
But later more and more Malayalis were recruited as employees to work in
plantations and bungalows, that were build for estate managers of British
origin. They occupied most of the top posts. Some of the bungalows that
were build for them is still in good condition and being used.The local
people here speak Malayalam, the official language of Kerala and since
there are a lot of Tamilians, the second language is Tamil.
Munnar has an ancient history and prehistoric relics that can be dated
back to Stone Age civilization. The written history begins only from 10th
century. In the early 19th century, the headman of the villages of
Anchanad, Kannan Thevar, held lands to the north of the high ranges, which
belonged to the local Rajah of Poojar.
According to record history, the first tea sapling was planted by A.H.
Sharp at Parvathi, part of the present Sevenmullay estate, consisted of 50
acres of land in the surrounding jungle.
J D Munro, a British lawyer and tea planter leased close to 600 sq. km of
land around Munnar, which was then covered with thick jungle, from the
Poonjar chief, a subordinate of the Maharaja of Travancore. He then
cleared the jungle for Tea plantations. This land was later known as
Kannan Devan (Kannan Thevar) Concession Land.
Later in 1895, Messrs Finlay Muir & Company bought Munro’s land and in
1976 Tata-Finlay Ltd. purchased it. Then in 1983 James Finlay Group sold
their remaining share holdings and the company became known as Tata Tea
Ltd., the largest integrated tea company in the world.