A popular tourist spot in southern India, Kodaikanal is also referred to as 'Princess of Hills'. The history of Kodaikanal is centered on the growth and development activity undertaken by the British in the region. Right from 1821 to 1953, the hills witnessed a dramatic turnabout of events, rising from being a small, unexplored rural community to a thriving tourist destination. Although the place was initially seen as a potential summer retreat for many British officials, Kodaikanal later became an important centre for treating tropical disease. The year 1853 is a landmark year as Kodaikanal witnessed social and religious reforms in the city. The American and British missionaries brought about further development in the region in the field of education and medicine. Although it started out as a part of their missionary program, the educational institutions in Kodaikanal became a part of an elite group of learning centre. By 1960, Kodaikanal was one of the most sought after destinations by many wealthy Indian families. Read the article to know more about the history of Kodaikanal.
The hills of Kodaikanal were first home to the Palaiyar tribe. The Palaiyar kinfolk, who are belonged to the Dravidian group, lived in the southwestern region of the Ghats, which includes parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Originally, they were nomadic hunters who survived on yam, honey, fruits and berries and lived in caves. Even today, you can find several relics and artifacts belonging to the Palaiyar tribe in the Shenbaganur Museum. Although Kodaikanal has been home to this tribe for long, it was only when the British invaded this secluded hills that the world came to know about their existence. According to the records found in Sangam literature, the place was first mentioned in the classic Tamil verse of Kuruntokai and Ettuthokai. In these two poetic works, Kodaikannal was referred to as the Kurinji hills and served as the backdrop of a love saga between Lord Murugan and his spouse, Valli, a bee-keepers' daughter.
Until 1821, Kodaikanal remained as an unexplored territory in the country. It was B. S. Ward, a British officer, who first climbed up the mountains to inspect the rocky terrain. According to his report, the hills were a scenic sight with an excellent climate, which in turn encouraged the early western settlers to inhabit this region. By 1853, biologists, British army officers and potential coffee planters thronged the place. However, the most significant change t took place in the region when a group of American and British missionaries joined hands to establish a cathedral in the place. The American missionary undertook several charity activities to help the local people and brought about many social reforms in the place.
In 1875, the development activities in the hill-station were at its peak and thus the Indian railways decided to lay down a track from Chennai to Tirunelveli, which led to the hills. In order to improve the infrastructure in the region, further developments were made when the British officials decided to lay down concrete roads that led to the winding pathway of Kodaikanal. By 1883, the hill-station was already getting crowded with more than 615 permanent American and British residents who wanted to escape the sizzling heat wave of southern India. In 1927, Kodaikanal got its first government hospital that was equipped with facilities like X-ray, dental and maternity section, pathological lab, an operation theatre and blood transfusion services. In the year 1953, additional improvements were made to the city with reference to education. By 1953 Kodaikanal was a far more developed hill-station compared to any other hilly terrain in the sub- continent.