It was a mass convergence of people on the first Independence Day observance in the tea town of Munnar in Idukki district on August 15, 1947. Though very little records are available about the observance, a photograph taken by an unknown photographer, said to be of Tamil origin at Munnar, speaks volumes on how it was observed there.
The black and white photograph was with Royal Studio which stooped functioning some years back and before the predecessors of the unknown photographer closed the studio, it was given to another photographer who was keen to keep the photograph.
The Independence Day observance was not a small function in Munnar as it was participated by hundreds of people sans religious or language barriers. The organisers, the then leaders and nationalists held the meeting at Munnar as it was more apt for it to be as a tea town which owes its present legacy thanks to the British planners. Moreover, Munnar was one of the earliest developed towns with many workers from Tamil Nadu and Kerala came there as supporters of the developing tea town.
“One may not have vivid memories of the first Independence Day observance, however, it is a clear evidence that how the tea town received the message of Indian Independence,'' says Selvaraj, a settler keen on history and a former employee of the Kanan Deven Tea Company Ltd, which is the present stakeholder of the tea estate of the British planters. It is also evident that most of the leading figures, who organised the meeting and rally might have been from outside Munnar, a reason why it is difficult to get details of it,'' he said.
Munnar is one of the few towns which still keeps vintage photograph of its history beginning from the British Raj, which was instrumental in introducing photography in Munnar where many photographers survived on imaging the imprints of their life. Photographs from 1900 onwards are with the history lovers and photographers of the present generation. “One reason for keeping the photographs are because of its economic value as the present generation of the British era planters who visit Munnar are keen to collect details of their old generation. Copies of many of the photographs taken by the yesteryear photographers that include various kinds of British celebrations, introduction of first motorbike, first Albion lorry in 1910, Kundaly Valley light railway, 1911 and flood carnage, 1962 are in some homes in Btitain,'' he said.
However, this photograph stands different as it expresses the solidarity and mass turnout to see how the independence message was received by a small village of estate of planters and estate workers, which was little known then as a major tourism destination.