Pradeep Chakravarthy, a Kodaikanal buff, is working on a book on Kodaikanal together with the local INTACH chapter. In it, readers are likely to find the most comprehensive narration of the life of Vere Henry Levinge, the Madras Civilian who developed the hill station.
Among the places Chakravarthy visited following the Levinge Trail is Tirukurungudi, not far from Cheranmahadevi, the Sub-Collector's headquarters where Levinge started his career. In Cheranmahadevi, there still stands a house with a plaque on its front wall that reads ‘Brig Stok, 1914.’ Brig Stoke was the Sub-Collector there in 1914, but it is not clear whether he remodelled the house or moved into an already remodelled house that had first been built by Levinge when he arrived in this sub-collectorate and found no house for him. He later gifted it to Government when he moved out. The house, Chakravarthy tells me, appears to have been not lived in for some years but seems in reasonable shape with lots of period furniture and books from 1910 onwards still in it that have not begun to deteriorate.
In Tirukurungudi, he found a massive Vaishnavite temple by the Nambiyar River to its south. The temple’s wealth of stone and wood sculpture fascinated him, but what grabbed his attention more was the marker on South Mada Street, the road between temple and river. The marker read ‘Levinge Agraharam – 1849’! Apparently the houses on this street had been regularly damaged when the river overflowed its banks, and in course of time, had vanished. Levinge had the banks rebuilt, the houses restored and the village’s Brahmin community settled in them. The marker proclaiming the agraharam’s name is at one end of the street. A similar marker is partly buried at the other end of the street and, hopefully, after Chakravarthy’s urgings, will be restored.
Ten minutes from Tirukurungudi is the village named Levingepuram. The old church that Levinge had built is no more, but a plaque saved from it survives. ‘VH – 1855’, it says and there’s a scrap of a Tamil inscription that reads ‘the very great VH Levingepuram.’
Close to Kodaikanal where Vere Levinge put down his last roots is Vellakavi, once the last stop before moving into the new settlement. There is a temple dedicated to Levinge here, and Levingedurai is still a name given to many a new-born boy. Here, as in the Cheranmahadevi area, Levinge is still not a forgotten name.
And pursuing the Levinge trail in Ireland, Chakravarthy caught up with several descendants of Levinge. They preserve a memorial tablet from St. Mary’s Church, Portnashangan, near the family seat in Knockdrin. The Church, once the Levinge family church, is now a restaurant and when it was being restored for re-use, the family saved for preservation this memorial to Vere Henry Levinge and others that remember other members of the family.
Levinge of Kodi, it would appear, has still not been confined to the pages of history books.