Here in Wayanad lie the remains of a young British planter | To travel

The British desire for conquest helped them build a vast empire spanning the entire world, sparking a saying that the sun never sets on the British Empire. They always searched for new coasts across the world and also came to Indian coasts to hoist the flag of colonialism. British settlers included those who wiped out and those who breathed new life into the people. And others lost their lives halfway through their journey.

The colonizers had also set foot in the verdant forests of Wayanad, known for its pristine natural beauty. The woods of Wayanad began to resonate with the sound of British boots and galloping horses around 1800. Cool weather, intermittent rains and magical haze had drawn the English to Wayanad.

It is believed that the British had reached the nooks and crannies of the forests of Wayanad and scaled Chembra Peak and the Banasura Hills. Discovering new places was a passion for them, to say the least. When the British could not pass through Chenkuthaya Forest and remained in Thamarassery, it was Karinhandan, a tribal person, who showed them the way to reach Lakkidi. But by subsequently killing Karinhandan, the British were making sure they were showing their authority.

It is noteworthy that at that time, only the tribal peoples lived in the thick forests of Wayanad without disturbing the ecological balance and harming the wild animals of the region. The tribals ate the forest and strictly followed the sacrosanct laws of nature.

But the serenity of the woods was disturbed by the sound of the hammering boots of the British. Foreigners realized that the hills of Wayanad were suitable for growing tea if they were stripped of natural vegetation. They have cut down dozens of ancient trees and cut down wild animals to make the area suitable for growing tea. The tribals, who always thought that others were superior to them, followed the line of the British. When there was a labor shortage, the British brought in labor from Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

Interestingly, Wayanad is home to the grave of one of the first British settlers. You have to cross the steep muddy path, which is on the Meppady-Puthumala stretch, cutting the tea plantations in half to reach the tomb near Puthumala. The road is quite dangerous as there are big stones and sharp bends in the path. On both sides you could see workers picking tea leaves from the plantations and after driving for 2 km you could reach the Puthumala bungalow, which is located on top of a hill.

The foreground of the bungalow is covered with thick grass and vegetation. The structure is surrounded by mountains and the hilltops are shrouded in thick mist. The bungalow is currently under the control of Harrisons Malayalam Limited, a rubber producer and tea farmer. Private entities rented the bungalow and built huts on its premises.

The over 150 year old granite stone bungalow has not lost its luster and boasts spacious verandas and bedrooms. The roof of the bungalow is tiled but part of the ceiling is in a dilapidated condition. It’s amazing to build a bungalow as big as this on a flat hilltop over 150 years ago. It must have been a painstaking job to bring the granite stones and other building materials to the top of the hill at this time.

The bungalow had been a silent witness to all the changes that had taken place in Wayanad. The building silently watched the forest turn into tea plantations and the thatched-roof houses giving way to concrete buildings. He also saw crested SUVs replacing horses as a means of transportation in the high ranges. Before, foreigners were having fun in the bungalows and now the natives are having fun.

The Briton’s grave is not near the bungalow in a valley. You have to take a narrow path, 200 m from the main road, crossing the tea plantation and entering the forests. The path finally ends at the Englishman’s last resting place. A floor 4 m long and 4 m wide is laid in the middle of thick vegetation and a huge cross is placed in the center of the floor. On the right side of the cross the following information is engraved: ‘GEORGE BAUMBACH’, ‘DIED 10TH JUNE 1875’, ‘AGED 27’.

George Baumbach died at the age of 27 in June when the monsoon was at its peak. The cause of the young man’s death is unclear, but it is believed that Baumbach may have contracted the malaria that was rampant at the time.

The huge cross preserved above the tomb is made of stone and it is said that the cross over 6 feet long was brought from abroad because the stone with which the cross is made was not found in or around Wayanad. Efforts to locate Baumbach’s parents were unsuccessful as he could have been single and there were also no details of his ancestors. Even the history books are silent about where Baumbach is, and it could be a youngster whose life has been cut short in search of new shores.

Rumors were circulating that Baumbach’s body was buried with gold and gems. According to local residents, some people tried to open the tomb, but no one knows who did it and if they pulled anything valuable from the tomb, which forms the border between the forests of Puthumala and the plantations of tea.

The purpose of Baumbach’s visit to Wayanad is unclear, but since he was buried in the tea plantation, it can be inferred that he came to this mountainous region to establish a tea plantation.

No one knows how Baumbach died in Wayanad or why he was buried in Wayanad. Not everyone knows where the cross was brought or how it was brought to the high mountains of Wayanad either. But one thing that is certain. Baumbach had an excellent connection with tea plantations and the wilderness.

About Walter Bartholomew

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