Kangana seeks memorial for Himachal’s apple pioneer Stokes

American missionary Samuel Evan Stokes not only fought for India’s freedom but also introduced a viable apple variety that propelled HP to becoming a formidable fruit economy
Kangana Ranaut (HT File Photo)
Kangana Ranaut (HT File Photo)
Updated on Jul 24, 2021 12:54 AM IST
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Actor Kangana Ranaut has urged the Himachal Pradesh government to build a memorial dedicated to Samuel Evan Stokes, later known as Satyanand Stokes, the American missionary who pioneered apple-growing in the state.

Today, Himachal Pradesh’s fruit economy is pegged at 6,000 crore. But it all started with Stokes introducing viable apple cultivation at Barubagh in Kotgarh in 1916. The Delicious variety of apples are now grown in parts of Kullu, Shimla, Mandi, Sirmaur, Kinnaur, Lahaul and Spiti and Chamba districts.

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“Stokes was not an Indian, but he fought for the country’s freedom and faced sedition charges from the British government. He was from a wealthy American Quaker family, he learnt Sanskrit, became a Hindu, set up a school and introduced apples to Himachal Pradesh,” Kangana, who is from the state, posted on her Instagram account. “Most Himachali farmers now earn from apple orchards but not many know about Stokes. I request chief minister Jai Ram Thakur to name one major landmark after Shri Samuel Stokes. We do this favour on ourselves as he followed Hinduism all his life and pitra puja (gratitude for ancestors) is of supreme importance in our culture and we must pay our respects to this being whose actions, hard work and foresight are giving employment to lakhs of people till today.”

From leprosy mission to growing apples

Stokes had arrived in Shimla in 1904 to join a leprosy mission. In 1905, when an earthquake ravaged Kangra and killed more than 20,000 people, he walked from village to village, helping the affected. In 1912, he visited Kotgarh and settled down there, marrying a local Christian girl, Agnes. Later, he entered Arya Samaj and changed his name to Satyanand.

Inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, he joined the Congress and fought for India’s independence.

Stokes wasn’t the first to introduce apple to the state, but it was his contribution that went a long way in transforming the apple economy. Captain RC Scot of the British army was the first to bring the fruit to the Kullu valley in 1870, but his variety was not viable economically. Stokes’ red, delicious variety was from Louisiana in the US. He made his apple orchard in 1919 on his Thanedhar estate and taught the techniques to locals.

Samuel Evan Stokes with his daughter and wife. (HT Archives)
Samuel Evan Stokes with his daughter and wife. (HT Archives)

Apple transforming HP’s economy

Apple is the most important fruit crop of Himachal Pradesh, which constitutes about 49% of the total area under fruit crops and about 79% of the total fruit production. The area under apple has increased from 400 hectares in 1950-61 and 1,12,634 hectares in 2017-18.

The area under temperate fruits other than apple has increased from 900 hectares in 1960-61 to 28,369 hectares in 2017-18. The apple economy alone is pegged at 2,900 crore.

As many as 450 cultivars (plants propagated through stem cuttings, not via seeds) of apple collected from all over the world, a majority from the United States, Italy, China and New Zealand are grown in seven districts of the state, namely Shimla, Kullu, Sirmaur, Chamba, Mandi, Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Gaurav Bisht heads Hindustan Times’ Himachal bureau. He covers politics in the hill state and other issues concerning the masses.

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