June 23, 2021
CSI Church, Munnar

Have you heard about the CSI Church located in the heart of Munnar town…? Have you ever visited this beauty?  This can also be described as the “Taj Mahal of Munnar”. Amazing fact about this church is first the cemetery was built and later on the church. One could see the Muthirapuzha river and the beautiful mountain ranges from there.

History of the church begins with the death of Eleanor Isabel May, the wife of Henry Mansfield Knight, a British native who was the first general manager of the Kannan Devan Tea Company. After their marriage in Britain, the newlyweds sailed to Bodinayakannur via Sri Lanka. Tea godowns and bungalows of Kannan Devan Tea Company were situated at Bodinayakannur then. The tea was shipped from Munnar to Kurangani in Tamil Nadu by using a ropeway located at Topstation via Mattupetty and then to Thoothukudi port.

Twenty-three-year-old Eleanor was much fascinated by the beauty of Munnar. The Munnar mountains often reach below zero degrees in December. Spending time on the hill near the bungalow, she lovingly said to her husband, “Henry, you must bury me here when I die” Words of the beloved did not matter as much to Henry at that time. Eleanor did not get out of bed very next day and the company doctor confirmed that Eleanor had contracted cholera for which there was no cure during that time. Without waiting for the first Christmas after the third day of marriage, Eleanor passed away. Despite her relatives’ opposition, Henry buried her beloved at the same place where she had mentioned.

Present day CSI Church in Munnar was built in April 15, 1900, on the same site of the cemetery left by Henry, years after the death of Eleanor Isabel May. Rev: E. NOEL HEDGE, Bishop of the Anglican Church, officiated at the dedication of the church and cemetery. Munnar CSI is an important cemetery in South Asia, listed in the “British International Directory of Cemeteries”. The cemetery houses the tombs of about fifty British people. Many of their relatives still visit the graves of their late descendants. On the walls are several plaques inscribed with the names of the British who passed away. Many of the building materials of this church has been brought from abroad. Eleanor sleeps in a marble tomb, which is beautifully preserved at the top of the cemetery. 

These were the words engraved on the tomb.

“ELANOR ESABEL MAY, Dearly Beloved Wife of Henry Mansfield Knight and youngest daughter of Beaufort Brabazon MD; Died 23 December 1894, aged 23 years. Lord all pitying Jesus blest grant her thine eternal rest.”

Henry Mansfield Knight was one of the pioneers in reviving the tea industry in Munnar. He loved this land of remembrance of his beloved and used to visit the tomb alone from time to time. He was head of the United Planters’ Association of Southern India (UPASI) for a long time before returning to Britain in his old age, handing over the tomb of his beloved to the church.

All tourists to Munnar need to know about the history of their immortal love, reminiscent of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, who built the Taj Mahal for his beloved. Being there at an invisible height, our beloved Eleanor waved us off …