It is the only village office in Kerala that keeps a gun. The history of the gun kept at the Vandanmedu village office in Idukki dates back to 1932.
It was a time when cardamom grown under the 'Pakuthi katcheri' (village offices) in Vandanmedu, Udumbanchola and Poopara provided the highest income to the exchequer of the erstwhile Travancore. Guns were were kept under the custody of the 'Ameendar' (officer).
The tax collected had to be shifted to the treasury at Devikulam and a man carrying the gun moved on a horse in front of the officer carrying the money through an old forest route to Devikulam. The gun was provided to keep the officer and the money safe from thugs while the tax collected was taken to the treasury.
T. Rajesh, who worked at the village office till 2010 and was instrumental in documenting the old files and history of the village office, told The Hindu on Sunday that there was a marking of U.K. on brass in the single barrel gun. It was imported from United Kingdom and the cardamom superintendent was also in charge of the forest then.
The ‘Kanniyelam’ (indigenous cardamom variety) was mainly grown in the forest and tribal people were employed to harvest it, he said adding that the spice was exported from Alappuzha, then called Alleppey. The fact that the best quality cardamom is still called ‘Alleppey Gold’ shows the importance of the cardamom grown in Idukki in the global market.
The gun provided to the other two 'pakuthi kacheris' were surrendered when the country got Independence. However, the then village officer at Vandanmedu then renewed the licence for the gun and it is a main antique connected to the history of the village office now, Mr. Rajesh said. The gun is kept under the custody of the village officer.
Horse shed too
The remains of the horse shed is still there close to the village office.
The village office has files on the life and cardamom cultivation in Vandanmedu in days of yore, which is still the main centre for cardamom cultivation.
There was also a box for keeping the money collected as taxes, he said. The money collected was moved to Devikulam on an old Anchal Route via Mali, Cumbom Mettu, Thinkalkadu and Udumbanchola, he said.
The gun was a pointer to the importance of cardamom and the evolution of Pakuthi katcheri to the present village office there, he added. An official of the Revenue department said that cardamom cultivation was still the main income provider to the local people under the Vandanmedu village office.