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Today, 28-6-2014 is the 43rd Death Anniversary of Ari Gowda
28-6-2014 is the 43rd Death Anniversary of Ari Gowda
Rao Bahadur H.B.Ari Gowder, the first Badaga graduate, first Badaga M.L.C & M.L.A for a long time who had brought many reforms in/to Badaga Community including ‘prohibition’ (no alcohol – kudi) to Nilgiris in British days itself. Ari Gowder lead the Indian contigent (yes, “INDIAN CONTIGENT) to World Scouts Jumboree held in Europe in the 1930s.
Ari Gowder was associated with the Nilgiri Mountain Railways, now an UN Heritage, right from the time this great and beautiful track was established in early 1900s till his death in 1971. In fact his father Rao Bahadur H.J.Bellie Gowder was contracted by the British to lay the mountain railway from Mettupalayam to Ooty. Also, probably, Bellie Gowder and Ari Gowder are the only father -son duo who were conferred with Rao Bahadur title in India, though Ari Gowder hardly used the title being a great nationalist.
‘He was not associated with any political party but was a true representative of the people, a powerful orator and welfare minded social reformer’ – says A.Kari Gowder [“Prongadu Seeme Welfare Association “] in his booklet published in May 2006.
He was the President of the Nilgiris District board in 1930s and 1940s and carried out a lot of welfare measures for the upliftment of the residents of the hill district, mainly tribals in those days. To remember his contribution to the society, the bridge connecting Tamil Nadu [then Madras] state and Karnataka [then Mysore] state, built in 1936, is named ARI GOWDER bridge.
Ari Gowder was listed as one of the famous leaders of South East Asia – Who’s who in India, Burma & Ceylon. Who’s Who Publishers. 1940. p. 681.
Ari Gowder was President of the Backward Classes League and leaned towards the Justice Party
The chances of anyone travelling down Ariya Gowda Road in West Mambalam, and stopping to wonder about the identity of the man who gave the thoroughfare its name, are slim.
For when you are on Ariya Gowda Road, you are focused on getting out of the road alive, given its traffic.
He was not Ariya Gowda. He was HB Ari Gowder, a great visionary and leader of the Badaga community of the Nilgiris. And his life, as gleaned from various sources, including a 1935 Who’s Who and the internet, makes for interesting reading. Rao Bahadur Hubbathalai J Bellie Gowder, made his fortune in laying the tracks of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, which was completed in 1908.
His wealth made him a leading member of his community, and his clansmen came to him for advice on several issues. Bellie Gowder founded a free school in his native village, Hubbathalai, an institution that still functions. He passed away in 1935. Bellie Gowder’s son, Ari, was born in 1893. His father ensured that he was educated in the modern sense and he graduated from Madras Christian College.
Though he was to consider himself a contractor and a planter, it was in politics and social uplift that Ari Gowder was to make a mark. In 1923, he became the first Badaga to be elected to the Madras Legislative Council of which he was a member until 1934. In the 1940s, he was elected to the Madras Legislative Assembly.
When the Rajaji government introduced Prohibition in 1937, he led the challenge of enforcing it in the Nilgiris, of which area he was also the first non-official to become District Board President. Ari Gowder was also active in the Scouts Movement. Another contribution of his was the establishment of the Nilgiris Cooperative Marketing Society, which eliminated the stranglehold middlemen had over the simple mountain people.
He was also a Director of the Badaga Land Mortgage Bank. While the sympathies of most of his community lay with the Congress, Ari Gowder, given that he was President of the Backward Classes League, leaned more towards the Justice Party, which was active till the 1930s. That probably explains the road in Mambalam being named after him.
Neighbouring Theyagaroya Nagar or T Nagar, developed in the 1920s when the Justice Party was in power and most of the roads, parks and streets there are named after its leaders.
Legend also has it that a large chunk of land adjoining the Mambalam Railway Station was his, which he donated for developmental work. Like his father, Ari Gowder too received the title of Rao Bahadur from the British Government, in 1943.
In 1946, Ari Gowder was defeated in the Assembly elections. But in 1952 he contested successfully as an independent. He was to remain an independent for the rest of his career.
He passed away in 1971. How did Ari Gowder Road morph into Ariya Gowda Road? And should it not be just Ari Road?
When ‘Poompaavai‘, a writer who has published novels in Tamil, sent me an email mentioning that she has high regards for the Baduga people and their culture; and that she was writing a ‘a romantic fiction, accompanied with the back drop of Badaga culture and traditions‘. And hoped that ‘the love and respect she has for Badagas to be reflected in her book in a positive way‘, I was curious.
By the way, if I am not mistaken, Sahitya Akademi Award winner Mrs.Rajam Krishnan’s Tamil novel – குறிஞ்சித் தேன் KURINJI THEN was the first one to be based on Badaga people.
To my pleasant surprise she suggested that I write a ‘Forward -அணிந்துரை ‘ and sent me a pre- release/proof copy of the novel called “ABHARANJI – a love story that touches the heart – அபரஞ்சி [இதயத்தை வருடும் காதல் கதை] “
Since, unfortunately, many articles on Badagas do not portray their customs and culture in a positive way, I was a little apprehensive. Though not, through and through, about Badagas, Poompaavai’s novel reflects many aspects of Badaga life in a nice and positive way.
And in my ‘forward’ I wrote,
‘தமிழ்நாட்டின் கோடை வாசஸ்தலமான நீலகிரி மலைகளின் மடியில், இயற்கையின் எழிலில் ஆயிரம் ஆயிரம் ஆண்டுகளாக தங்கள் பாரம்பரைத்தையும், பண்பாடுகளையும் பாதுகாத்து, கலாச்சாரத்தையும் கட்டுப்பாடுகளையும் காப்பாற்றி வரும் ஓர் பழங்குடி, படகர் சமுதாயம். விருந்தோம்பலுக்கு பெயர் பெற்ற இவர்கள், எளிமையில் இனிமை காண்பவர்கள்.
தங்கள் வாழ்க்கை முறை அழிந்து போய்விட கூடாது என்பதற்காக மற்ற சாதிகளோடு கல்யாணம் செய்ய தயங்கும் சமுதாயம்.
நீலகிரி மலைகளை தாண்டி படகர் இன மக்களை பற்றி அதிகம் தெரிவதில்லை. தெரிந்தவையும் அறைகுறையே. படகர் இன மக்களின் அரிய சில சம்பிராயங்களை, வாழ்க்கைமுறைகளை பற்றி வெளி உலகத்திற்கு அழகாக படம் பிடித்து காட்டுகின்றார் ‘பூம்பாவை’ தான் நாவலின் மூலம்’.
Dharmalingam Venugopal [Nilgiri Documentation Centre] needs no introduction. His commitment to uphold the importance of heritage and history of our district,The Nilgiris, is well known [The Nilgiri Documentation Centre at Kannerimukku is an example]. His concern about the environmental degradation of ‘Nakku Betta’ [the Badaga name for the Nilgiris]is well known and has pushed him to organise a meeting on the World Environment Day, 5-6-2014. Here is a summary of what transpired at the meeting in his own words. All of us should join hands with DV and make the Nilgiris what it is meant to be. A nature’s gift to mankind – Wg Cdr JP
The Nilgiri Blueprint initiative of the Nilgiri Documentation Centre got off to a promising start on World Environment Day with bold, innovative and time bound proposals. Given the economic, ecological and heritage significance of the Nilgiris, a comprehensive Master Plan with a horizon of five to ten years should be prepared with a Negative List of activities harmful to the already fragile hill district. This means the district should be declared as
Environmentally Sensitive Zone by the Ministry of Environment and Forests as in the case of other hill stations such as Mount Abu, Pachmarhi and Mahabaleshwer Panchgani.
Given the antiquity, continuity and variety of plant, animal and human life, the entire Nilgiris should be declared a Heritage Hill District. This is possible under Section 37 of Biological Diversity Act, 2002 (BDA) under which the State Government in consultation with local bodies may notify in the official gazette, areas of biodiversity importance as Biodiversity Heritage Sites (BHS). The State Government in consultation with the Central Government can also frame rules for the management and conservation of BHS.
The unabated construction boom by promoters from the plains without regard to the environmental norms should be put an end to before the damage becomes irreversible. If a total ban may not be feasible, a moratorium can be considered for about five years on all commercial and residential constructions with due exceptions given to local needs. This is bound to cool the current construction boom and provide time for instituting mitigative and adaptive measures in the future. Given the high degree of use of fertilizers and pesticides in the current farming practices, people should incentivized to move towards organic farming which is suitable to the hills.
Given the unparalleled tourist inflow into the Nilgiris round the year and the possibility of the inflow increasing in the future, a massive solid waste management plan is imperative for district. Land must be acquired at any cost for the purpose. Degraded forest land can also be considered. A Tourism Betterment Levy can be collected from visitors at the point of stay or entry into public places like the Garden or the Lake to partly meet the cost of waste management.
The towns of Ooty, Coonoor, Gudalur and Kotagiri are no more hill stations but Mountain Cities with heavy vehicular traffic. Infrastructures in the form of flyovers, over bridges and tunnels are imminent requirements.
Given that the Nilgiris attracts various classes of tourists including from abroad, tourism promotion should also be intellectually and aesthetically entertaining. Events like Book Fairs, Art, Literary and Heritage shows should be promoted. Colonial history of the district can be showcased profitably. The educational and service institutions must be involved in this. The priorities of the Hill Area Development Programme should be suitably reoriented to suit the emerging priorities of the district.
Further suggestions and discussions are welcome to the newly created website firstname.lastname@example.org
We have heard and hung our heads in shame about the brutal gang rape and murder of two cousins in Baduan, UP recently. Two young girls, had gone to the near by fields to relieve themselves in the night, about 9 p.m. when they were abducted, gang raped, murdered and then their bodies hung from a tree.
Like in so many villages in our country, there are no toilets which can afford safety and ‘dignity’, especially to young women. Open defecation is a huge problem.
Our villages [hattis] are no exception. The normal way of saying, Kaaduga hoittu banne [I will go to the fields for defecation]. Though, kaadu means forest in Badaga, it is used to indicate about clearing the bowels –passing/discharging/excreting faeces – when used as ‘Kaaduga Hoppadhu’ – literally meaning, ‘going to the forest/fields’].
We spent so much money in building temples and celebrating ‘temple festivals’ and do nothesitate to divide families/hattis and even go to the extent of killings. But,alas, do not care about the sanitation facilities.
‘Toilets first, temples later’ must be the mantra.
No society can claim to be forward looking unless every individual, [particularly girls and women], has accessibility to toilet facilities. We must ensure that every Badaga house has a toilet. The government has schemes and offers subsidies for building toilets.
Will public minded organisations like Nelikolu Trust or Badaga Mahajana Sanga take initiate on this ‘vital’ issue?
Open defecation is an OPEN SHAME. Time we put an end to this ‘curse’