Location: 15° 7′ 44.39″ N, 76° 27′ 24.42″ E
According to the Bellary District Gazetteer (1972), Ramandroog, aka Ramagad, is a hill station on a high plateau in the Sandur Hills. It lies between 3,200 – 3,300 ft above sea level and offers beautiful views down into the Sandur Valley to the east and over the relatively flat country of western Bellary District to the west.
During Hoysala times there was a fort at the southern end of the Ramandroog plateau. This fort, called Hosamaledurga, is associated with the hero Kumara Rama (Patil 1991:179-198). It was to see the surviving walls and gateways of Hosamaledurga that I first visited Ramandroog in the company of my colleague C. S. Patil.
When we arrived at Ramandroog, one of the first things that caught my eye was an overgrown colonial period cemetery on the edge of the plateau. Subsequent research revealed that during the first half of the 1800s, the British created a small hill station and hospital at Ramandroog to serve the needs of the growing British population at Bellary.
James Morant, the Chaplain of Bellary, visited Ramandroog several times between 1851-56. He painted landscapes for relaxation and 13 of the 62 Morant watercolours and gray washes in the Western Drawings section of the British Library are of Ramandroog scenes (WD 4161, ff. 2-7, 18v-20, 25). Most of these paintings were made during monsoon and the early dry seasons of 1855-1856. Morant’s paintings include several named places (e.g., Tower Hill, Bee Flat, the Watergate, Redclyffe Rock, the Bamboo Jungle, Neills Road, Mr. Story’s house, and Captain Fredfield’s house) that can no longer be identified at Ramandroog (at least partly, I suspect, from the effects of strip mining). One painting, WD4161/20, bears the notation, “Soldier’s Graves, Ramandroog, Jan 1855”; 10 headstones are visible in the lower left of the painting. Given the composition of the scene, these graves are probably not part of the existing cemetery. Regretably, the Ramandroog villagers do not know of another British cemetery on the plateau.
Philip Meadows Taylor also stayed briefly in Ramandroog in 1859, following a visit to the Rajah of Anegundi. He left the following description in his autobiography:
From Beejanugger [Vijayanagara] I ascended the pass through the Raman Mullay Mountain by a beautiful road constructed by the Madras engineers, at an easy gradient the whole way up. I was well enough now to ride, and enjoyed the lovely scenery to the full. At the top I found a nearly level plain, and a total change of climate from India to Europe. Ramandroog is, I believe, about 4000 feet above the sea-level, and its climate is delicious throughout the year. Even during the hottest season the sea-breeze makes it way up, and there is no oppressive heat. Here there is a sanitarium, and I had sent word to the medical officer in charge that I was coming up for advice. I well remember we had to have a fire lighted that evening as it was so chilly, and that we sat over it till a late hour most thoroughly enjoying it. How I slept that night!
I know little about Ramandroog between 1860-1890, the period that brackets most of the dated graves in the cemetery. During World War I Ramandroog served as an internment camp for German civilians who were in India at the outbreak of the war. At least two German prisoners died here while in captivity. Only the German graves and those of Lance Corporal Archibald Millman and Private George Holbrook, both of the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry, can be associated definitely with this period.
According to the Bellary District Gazetteer, army units were stationed here during World War II, when another hospital was built to care for wounded soldiers. Many of the existing buildings and ruins may date to this period, but I have yet to verify this by closely examining their construction.
Ignaciappa, an eldery villager who was christened Ignacius, recalls that his grandfather, Phillip, was brought from Madras to Ramandroog by the British in the 1820s. His family made Ramandroog their home. It has been Ignaciappa’s lot in life to watch this locality change from a colonial hill station to an isolated small village. The priest from Bellary, he laments, has not come to Ramandroog for the past 20 years.
The abandoned British cemetery at Ramandroog is a desolate place. It takes a good half hour to drive the 16 km from where you leave the pavement at the town of Sandur, and you arrive at Ramandroog covered in the fine rust-colored dust with which ore trucks have painted the hillside. An active strip mine has gnawed away at the plateau up to within a meter of the southern edge of the cemetery. The tombs and graves are overgrown and the low brick wall that surrounds the cemetery is partly tumbled down.
I divided the graves into two groups, those for which I have both names and a firm identification and those for which one detail or the other is missing:
Many thanks to T. M. Manjunathiah, Josh Wright, Alex Mack, Ben Marsh, Erika Evansdotir, and Venkatesh Naik for their assistance in recording the graves, and to Ignaciappa and Timmappa for their kind hospitality at Ramandroog.
Cotton, Julian James (1905) List of Inscriptions on Tombs or Monuments in Madras Possessing Historical or Archaeological Interest. Government Press, Madras.
Government of Mysore. (1972) Mysore State Gazetteer, Bellary District. Government Press, Bangalore.
Patil, C. S. (1991) Mummadi Singa, Kampila and Kumara Rama. In Vijayanagara, Progress of Research, 1987-88, edited by D. V. Devaraj and C. S. Patil, pp. 179-198. Directorate of Archaeology & Museums, Mysore.
OIOC Shelfmark R/4/215 – UK High Commission Files: Maintenance of cemeteries, Bellary and Ramandroog, Mar 1954 – Mar 1965.
Taylor, Philip Meadows. (1986 ) The Story of My Life. Asian Educational Services, New Delhi.