The city that is Coimbatore
Coimbatore has a rich and glorious past. Read on know more about the city's enterprising founding fathers and its people
It is said that change is the only constant. Change is inevitable when the world evolves towards a different age and when the requirements of the times and people change.
Take our own Coimbatore. What was once a quiet city with a serene feel is now a bustling wannabe metropolis.
If something has not changed, it is the level of enterprise of the locals.
Will it not be interesting to know where we have come from? The British were meticulous in their documentation. And so, we have today a wealth of information on our `British' past.
The British acquired Coimbatore in 1799. But, it took 66 long years (1865) for it to be made capital of the district comprising the taluks of Bhavani, Coimbatore, Dharapuram, Erode, Karur, Kollegal, Palladam, Pollachi, Sathyamangalam and Udamalpet. A year later, it was made a municipality.
Even then, Coimbatore was known as a rapidly growing place and ranked tenth among the towns in the Madras Province.
The 1901 census put the population of the city at 53,080. The British termed it one of the most desirable towns to live in the Presidency and described it thus: "Situated 1,300 feet above the sea, in a picturesque position at the mouth of the Bolampatti valley, with the masses of the Nilgiris and the Anaimalais rising into view on either side, its light annual rainfall of 22 inches and its moderate mean temperature render it at once healthy and pleasant. But, snipe had to be worn in the winter."
It is to Coimbatore's credit that it has lived up to the expectation till date.
The river Noyyal passed through the centre of Coimbatore, which was well known for its tanks. However, the region was even then termed as water scarce and special mention has been made of the ability of the people to dig wells to depth. Probably why the region now has a high density of borewells!
The town was also renowned as a centre of industry and education in the district.
The cotton textile heritage in Coimbatore dates back to Roman times; but the modern machinery seem to have made their entry in the early 1900s. A British record of 1908 which states, "It contains a steam cotton press; a cotton-spinning mill, which has 20000 spindles, employs nearly 1,000 hands daily, and turns out some 850 tons of yarn; ... "
The maximum number of educated people in the district also seem to have lived in Coimbatore taluk. This past fact might have been the foundation for the IT companies of today descending to our city. The two institutes of higher education at that time were the Coimbatore and St. Michael's Colleges. The Coimbatore College was established in 1903-4 and had an average attendance of 525 boys, of whom 67 were reading in the F.A. classes. St. Michael's College was started as a small school in 1860 by the French Roman Catholic Mission and was affiliated to the University in 1891. Here, the average attendance in 1903-4 was 440, and there were 39 boys in the F.A. classes.
The town was also well connected by rail and road. The Madras and the South Indian Railways passed through the town and Podanur. Hindu chuttrams (sic) were located close to the railway station and Brahmin and other Caste hotels dotted the town. The city was also home to several clubs, the most popular being the European Club (now called the Coimbatore Club).
The city's medical facilities were good even then, with many hospitals and dispensaries treating people.
The development of Coimbatore, slated to become a Metropolis in the near future, is thanks to the groundwork by the city's forefathers.
All talk about the Information Technology boom in the city might be better understood with a historical perspective.
The Coimbatore of 1908 and 2005 are not very different. It is best we understand the past before we work towards the future.
(Starting this fortnight, heritage enthusiast Shankar Vanavarayar will write on Coimbatore. Write in your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org with `Heritage' in the subject line.)
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