Satyanand Stokes: an American in khadi who started the apple revolution in Himachal Pradesh

White Apples?

apple revolution in Himachal Pradesh

When was the last time you thought about Himachal and did not, instantaneously, think
about the hills. You just cannot un-forget those beautiful mountains, snow, weather, just anything.
Talking about Himachal, one cannot just for-see the capital Shimla. And then if we talk about Shimla, of course one cannot just forget about apples.
But as true as a fact can be, it will be a matter of surprise for you guys to know that apples are not native of Himachal. In fact, not even India!😯

Pre 1945 era

apple revolution in Himachal Pradesh

Yes, this fruit was nowhere to be seen if you were to stand up on hill and squeeze your eyes as hard as you could if you lived in 1900s.
Just as cricket, apple is one thing we Indians owe to the “firangs”. Yes, you heard it right.
Yes, you read it right. Or to be more accurate and specific by an American🇺🇸.

The interesting tale

apple revolution in Himachal Pradesh

Now, how did it all happen is a story of great interest. It all began in 1904 when Samuel Evan Stokes set his foot on the Indian soil. Just a 22 year old lad had left his family back home and planned to settle in Subathu to work with leprosy patients. Quite impressive.
Of course, his family opposed but then it wouldn’t be a great story if he had went back home. Right?

Just for the record, you guys will be delighted to know that Mr. Stokes was the sole American who participated in the India’s freedom fight against the British. Stokes was also the only American to be ever imprisoned by the British. He even converted to Hinduism and changed his name to Satyanand Stokes.
Ok, so moving back to the story, this young lad decided to settle in Kotgarh, Himachal and married a local Christian girl,  Benjamin Agnes, in 1912. They had seven children.
Soon his interest grew in the surrounding lands and somehow the apples caught his eye. Taking the “apple of his eye” to some literal levels.

At that time India was still importing apples from Japan. Although, the first apple batch was introduced in 1850, but they weren’t much of a hit owing to their sour taste.

Another interesting tale

A local rumour is doing rounds in Himachali households, that Stokes had actually brought the seeds hidden inside a pen from America. Of course, this version is much more interesting to think off but not much proof for this exists.

apple revolution in Himachal Pradesh
The more valid version to the story says that in 1915 he travelled to America and
brought a batch of red apples. Soon his mum gifted him another saplings batch of golden apples. Which he planted around 1916 and worked upon for some years.

1926- the year of apples

The actual commercialization did not start until 1926. Now this became a rage and the locals started their cultivation too. And this process went on repeat and resulted in what we know today as the famous Shimla orchards.

apple revolution in Himachal Pradesh

So Shimla wouldn’t have been Shimla had there not been Britishers in India?

This article was written by very talented Shubhy Thakur, who hails from Solan. She is a full time Programmer Analyst & a part time freelance writer. To follow her on Instagram click here

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