There are people that are known to the world. Some gain notoriety during their lifetime like Pol Pot of Cambodia, others gain worldwide respect like Nelson Mandela, of South Africa. There are people like Sir Arthur Wellesley, The Duke of Wellington. He is known throughout the world as the man who in 1815 defeated Napoleon Buonaparte at Waterloo. He is as well known in India as the man who eventually defeated Tipoo Sultan. At that time he was plain Colonel Wellesley. A lesser known fact is that in 1790 he is believed to be the first European to see the hills and rivers around Munnar. He reported his observations to the authorities and his simple act led to one of India’s largest tea plantations.
Tea was first recorded as being drunk in China in the 4th century BC. By 1664 tea had became a popular drink in Britain. The mighty clipper ships, of which The Cutty Sark is probably the best known, fed that demand until tea became Britain’s favourite hot beverage and it remains so today.
Tea was introduced to India in 1780 and the rest as they say is history.
The plantation we visited was started in 1878 and today is 86% owned by the workforce. The plantation stretches for miles in every direction and flows up and over the hills and down into the valleys. This description just doesn’t do it justice, it’s one of those things you just have to see.
From here we went to see the Spice garden. This was famous for containing all the spice plants known to India complete with their medicinal properties and recipes. Visitors could climb a tower and look onto the spice gardens laid out before them. That is until the whole thing was turned into an amusement park. I wonder why the two couldn’t have co-existed.
This wasn’t the only disappointment of the day. The road back to Munnar had been closed due to repair being carried out. The beautifully scenic and curvy route to our hotel was lost to us and instead dusty rural tracks were our lot for the afternoon.
Even on the roads there are shrines to all manner of deities. So far I have seen places of worship for Hindu, Muslim and Sikh. To be expected. Ok, how about Greek Orthodox, Church of England, Presbyterian and Roman Catholic.
One of the places we passed on these back roads was a Carmelite Convent. Not as unusual as it may seem. The sound of a choir singing hymns woke me up early one morning. There are Catholic Churches and roadside Christian shrines rubbing shoulders with those dedicated to Shiva and Ganesh. Saint Thomas, the apostle, also known as doubting Thomas, is buried in Chennai. His shrine draws the faithful and the curious in great numbers.
A little ways up the river from Alleppey is a carpenter’s shop. Three generations of the same family have been carving religious statues for Christian churches. They have also exported their work to Australia and Canada.
India also has it’s share of home grown world famous people. There is Sachin Tendulka and Kapil Dev. Both are legendary cricketers in a country where cricket is almost a religion. Indira Ghandi, the first woman Prime Minister of India is known throughout the world for her political leadership. There can be only one name at the top of the list and that has to be Mahatma Ghandi, who through a policy of passive resistance led India to Independence on 15th August 1947.
That isn’t the name I want to leave you with. As religion has been mentioned I will leave you with this.
Some years ago a girl from Albania moved to India. As time went by her impact on the world increased to the point where everyone knew of her. They called her Theresa.