Kodaikanal: Vanishing Heritage of an Island in the Sky
Last week Kodaikanal International School hosted the launch of a landmark publication on the town’s history, architecture and ecology. Kodaikanal: Vanishing Heritage of an Island in the sky was officially released at the KMU by principal Corey Stixrud and the team that put the book together. The book is the result of a collaboration of different authors, photographers, architects and the Kodai chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). It was edited by Pradeep Chakaravarthy, Anil Choudhry, Jayashree Kumar and Girija Viraraghavan – all members of the Kodai community with a variety of important talents and interests.
The title reference to “sky islands” pays tribute to an idea proposed by Robin Vijayan and now widely used amongst many of us working in ecology and conservation in the southern Western Ghats. Bob Stewart and Tanya Balcar of the Vattakanal Conservation Trust contributed the chapters on the natural heritage of the area. Pippa Mukherjee supported this with important natural history contributions.
One of my favorites aspects of the book is the fine architectural drawings of the older bungalows and buildings in Kodai. INTACH commissioned these drawings and sent a team of young architects to make the drawings on site in 2013. The details and presentation of the drawings makes for interesting reading (though you may need the help of a magnifying class as they have been shrunk down to fit the 10” x 10” pages). The chapter on Poombarai village, with its rich illustrations and narratives, illuminates the early, pre-colonial agricultural settlements in the remote Palani Hills. Like many other chapters in the book, it brings forth facts and details about the town and hills that are otherwise not well known.
In general this is a must-have book for anyone interested in Kodaikanal, its history and location in the Palani Hills. As a contributor (of several landscape and wildlife images) I am slightly irritated that the individual articles and images in the book are unacknowledged (a decision made by the printer, apparently). The quality of maps is disappointing, given the options available. Aside from these minor quibbles, this is a book worth having on your coffee table.
REFERENCES & FURTHER LINKS
Lockwood, Ian. “Palani Hills: Then and Now.” Ian Lockwood blog. September 2013. Web.
“ “Up Close and Personal with Trimeresurus macrolepis.”Ian Lockwood blog. September 2009. Web.
Mitchell, Nora. The Indian Hill Station Kodaikanal. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972. Print
Niyogi Book webpage on Kodaikanal: Vanishing Heritage of an Island in the sky. Web.
Wyckoff, Charlotte Chandler. Kodaikanal 1845-1945.London: London Mission Press, 1945. Print & Web.