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Shooter of 90 maneaters, legendary hunter and conservationist Jim Corbett buried his 3 Rifles and 2 pistols befor leaving India for Kenya

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I got a significant opportunity to visit the 135 year old historic house of the globally renowned hunter, conservationist, author and a lifelong bachelor Col Edward Jim Corbett in Nainital, who has to his credit killing 90 maneaters and several wild elephants in the jungles of Kumaon and Garhwal, Uttarakhand before leaving for Kenya with his sister Mary James Corbett before 1947, selling his fascinating Bangalow to the Dalmiya’s for few thousand rupees.

The magnificient bungalow known as “Gunray House” named after his father, situated in a sprawling two acre land with beautiful garden is being maintained and owned by the Dalmiya’s who very often visit and stay here. Jim Corbett stayed in this house for several years before departing for Kenya, Africa and never married during his lifetime. He gave up hunting in the later years and worked on safeguarding n protecting the tigers. He had another house in Kaladhungi, near Nainital which has been converted into a museum.

A vivacious reader and an author on wild life, particularly on various species of tigers in the Himalayas, Col Edward Jim Corbett digged a big hole and cladestinely buried his three shooting rifles and two pistols covered by mud, near his house in Nainital at an unknown destination before giving up hunting forever and leaving for Kenya.

Built in 1881, Jim stayed in the Gunray House for several years till 1947 with his mother and sister.

Gurney House was Jim and Maggie Corbett’s house in Nainital when their parent’s house had been damaged by landslides. They lived in this house for several years until they had to move to Africa to live with relatives in their old age as they had no other relatives in India.

Jim is reputed to have been a great voice on the Municipal Board of Nainital and walked 20+ miles for meetings. He loved the area very much and would be devastated by the destruction that has occurred. Indians have nothing to be proud of with what has occurred in Nainital.

Jim however was not allowed to join the Boat Club at Nainital by the Britishers, as he was merely a “domiciled European” and not of authentic British blood.

Gurney House is still owned by the Indian family who bought it from the Corbetts. They now live in Ashoka Road in Delhi but come up to the “summer house”. The male caretaker Joshi opened up the house for us and gave certain vital information about the history of the place. According to Joshi the entire furniture is in the original shape being 135 to 140 year old and every thing has been maintained and retained to give the house the archival look.

All the original artefacts, Corbett books, his drawing room furniture, steel beds, dining room table, wooden chairs, study room and the building are all in original shape and stature, immaculately clean and bearing fresh look.

The original furnishings have been retained nicely and decently maintained. There is a single black and while photograph of Jim and his dog , some of his books, fire side chairs, his bed and other odds and ends.

Thanks to the Dalmia’s for having so meticulously n immaculately maintained the entite bungalow with original artefacts and furnitures including the 135 year old books which Jim used to read.

The walls are fitted with original antelope heads and horns and elephant tusks brought by Jim from African countries. It was indeed a great pleasure and priviledge to be in the midst of the belongings and the interiors of the 135 year old original house n pose for photographs, where once lived this iconic personality, a legendary hunter, wild life conservationist, anthropologist and an author, known n remembered for his outstanding contribution for protecting the people of Uttarakhand from maneaters, conserving the forests and then saving the significant spieces of Himalayan tigers for years together.

Sunil Negi is a veteran journalist and President of Uttarakhand Journalists Forum. He majorly writes on politics, current affairs and social issues.

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  1. Niharika Ghia

    May 31, 2018 at 11:06 AM

    This is extraordinary. Such a magnificiant cottage with antiques and old wooden furniture and the dead animals preserved well on the walls. You have given a beautiful description. Sad its not in the list of tourist places. How will people know about his life completely without visiting Jim Corbetts home ? A visit to Nainital is incomplete if this beautiful home is not in the list. Thanks for the info and pictures Sunil Sir.

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Had I been the dictator, would have shot the hoarders and black marketeers said Jim in a letter to Negi

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I just came back from my 6 days’ Nainital visit, though I unambiguously know that hundreds of thousands of people visit this charming hill station every summer and is now a very common hill station from the point of view of the convenient reach for tourists from all over the country n the globe.

Due to the revolutionery technological advancements when the entire world has come closer, visiting Nainital and talking about it is nothing new as the entire country n the world knows about it, its pleasent weather, serene natural beauty, environment and its various aspects as one of the best tourist destinations and the quality education hub of the country, as well.

Though sounds strange but its true that I had visited this most enchanting and mesmerising city after several decades for the second time, first when I was studying in class 5th n am still finding it extremely charming, cold and pleasent even during the peak summers when the capital city experiences the worst unbearable temperature of 43 to 45 degree celcius unable to withstand the impact of the boiling heat.

WOW sounds unimaginable that when rest of the India boils people in Nainital shiver in cold wearing sweaters and jackets lighting bonfires, every night. Nainital is undoubtedly known for its best and enchanting lake, Naini, the serene beauty of the surrounding hills full of greenery and fresh oxygen and best schools established by the British more than two centuries old, the enchanting two hundred year old churches, the best maintained Mall road for the last two centuries, the mesmerising boating spirit of the tourists, the elegant architectural houses of the British still intact even after two centuries, the unique and splended governor’s house built on the architectural pattern of the Burkinghum Palace, England, the Gurney house of the legendary shooter, conservationist and a naturalist colonel Jim Corbett at Ayarpatta and his elegant winter house in Kaladhungi on a sprawling garden of two acres, now a museam and the most fabulous Nainital High Court, Tifin Top, Thandi Sadak, Snow View , China peak, lovers’ and Suicide point etc ? and what not.

Despite all this, visiting the 140 year old bungalows’ of Col Edward James Jim Corbett, a finest brave n ebullient shooter of his time and now museum at Ayarpatta in Nainital and at Kaladhungi, at the trisection of the roads going to Nainital, Haldwani and Delhi, was the greatest thrilling experience for me, from where I could learn so much about this legendary shooter and killer of 90 maneaters before 1947.

It was indeed a not to be forgotton riveting experience. Whatever little I could collect from there through clicking pictures, I am trying to post here. If you really go through some of the material seriously, you will find them worth reading and accquainting yourself about such an outstanding personality of his time, who saved people of the hills from maneaters and thereafter protected the tigers, the forests, the enchanting environment of the hills, the wild life and even served the poor, hapless and the needy financially and otherwise.

Born at Nainital on 25th July 1875 Jim Corbett left for Kenya in 1947 n later on breathed his last in Kenya in 1955, where he lived with his sister Maggie as a life long batchelor. His entire life, right after being born was too struggleful. Jim Corbett’s mother married for the second time and was the son of her mother’s second husband who was in British Army but later on settled in Nainital.

Jim was just six years old when his father Christopher W Corbett died. He studied up to high school. Thereafter served in Railways and many other departments including the Army first as Captain and lateron promoted as Colonel. He killed 90 man eaters in Garhwal and Kumaon divisions of then Himalayan region, within the jurisdiction of Uttar Pradesh. He purchased 40 acres of land during his lifetime for 1400 Rs and did agricultural farming. He had number of servant quarters in his Kaladhungi bungalow where he stayed during the winters with his sister Maggie and old mother. He never charged a single paisa from his tenants. He always helped the poor and hapless villagers financially and settled their disputes. Since Nainital and Kaladhungi were richly endowed with wilderness, Jim became the wonderful naturalist with tremendous love for the wild life.

A life long bachelor Jim Corbett donated his entire land to the forest division and the locals, after retirement and left for Kenya alongwith his sister where he authored number of books on his lifetime hunting and other aspects of his life.

Corbett was always concerned for the poor people of India , Haldwani, Kaladhungi and Nainital. His main concern was to improve the socio economic lot of the people, particularly the cultivators. He was a good friend of the then Divisional Forest Officer of Ram Nagar one Mr. Negi under whose jurisdiction fell Kaladhugi and Chota Haldwani then.

In one of the typed one and a half page letter written to Negi from Kenya, Jim Corbett expresses his serious concern about the food shortage in India and the subsequent apathy of the government towards the cultivators and farmers of Garhwal n Kumaon. He said that if India really want to get rid of the food insecurity, its rulers should improve the socio economic lot of the farmers who actually toil the land and produce food grains for countrymen but are themselves ridden with abject poverty .

But instead of benefitting them the hoarders and black marketeers are minting heavy profits and committing huge sin. He wrote to Negi: Had I been the dictator of the country, I would have granted complete socio economic life long security to the poor peasents and the cultivators and literally shoot the hoarders and black marketeers (who are) creating food shortage for the Indians by wrongful means and committing sins. Such was Jim’s heart for the poor and the Indians.

It’s very important to note here that though Col. Edward James Jim Corbett killed good number of maneaters to save the local populace of the himalayan villages both in Garhwal and Kumaon regions but he dedicated his entire life for preserving the tigers n its different spieces. In his opinion,” THE TIGER IS A LARGE HEARTED GENTLEMAM WITH BOUNDLESS COURAGE AND WHEN HE IS EXTERMINATED – AS EXTERMINATED HE WILL BE, UNLESS PUBLIC OPINION RALLIES TO HIS SUPPORT- INDIA WILL BE POORER BY HAVING LOST THE FINEST OF ITS FAUNA.

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