Recipients Kohli Memorial Gold Medals

The Kohli Memorial Gold Medal, which honours Prem Nath Kohli - an Indian Forestry Ranger turned horticulturist and conservationist (1895-1986) - is awarded to individuals and institutions who have made a significant contribution to the study, cultivation or conservation of Himalayan flora. 


A majority of recipients to-date have been locals, past and present, who live or lived in the Himalaya, which is fitting as one of the award's objectives is to bring recognition and esteem to help encourage importance to be attached to excellence in the fields of botany and horticulture in the Indian and Nepalese Himalaya.  As Kohli rightly observed, why should 'Britishers' come on short visits and then be the ones to write books or publish articles about our history, culture and plant-life, when we Indians have greater knowledge and better understand these topics.  

Too often in the past, the contributions of locals were ignored or dismissed.  Even to this day, specialist botanical tours (holidays viewing wild flowers) are organised to the Himalaya, supposedly "In the footsteps" of famous plant hunters, when locals had contributed as much, if not more, to plant exploration in these regions - or in some cases the Britishers had never even been there! 
Kohli's expertise was built upon extensive field-work and hands-on practical skills. The recipients of these Gold Medals have been awarded them as a result of spending time in the Himalaya and/ or decades cultivating Himalayan plants in their gardens.  After all, the only way to become familiar with Himalayan flora is to spend time in the Himalaya or growing it!  

Accurate assessment as to which species are "Rare and Endangered", a popular 'Conservation' theme in India, cannot accomplished without field botanists who can reliably identify plants and have undertaken thorough and extensive surveys - backed up by quality reference collections of pressed specimens in well-curated herbaria at Universities.  And the only way to learn about growing Himalayan plants is from long-term "hands-on" practical experience...... 
Unfortunately, these days, whether in Europe, North America or the Indian sub-continent, traditional botany and botanists are increasingly being replaced by laboratory-based scientists conducting high-tech research. Spending time in the high mountains is viewed as old-fashioned - not an attractive proposition for most young people.
There is an urgent need for enthusiastic young men and women in India, Nepal, or Bhutan, with a passion for plants to follow in Kohli's footsteps and spend time in their mountains.

Mrs Urvashi Suri, one of P.N.Kohli's daughters, presenting gold medal and certificate to
Professor Reshi, Head of Botany Department, Hazratbal Campus, University of Kashmir 

Faculty Members with Mrs Suri,  a graduate of the botany department's first M.Sc.
class in the early 1960s ((Photo: University of Kashmir)

Title slide of power-point presentation about his botanical travels in Kashmir during the 1980s Chris delivered to an audience of faculty members, scholars and students of the botany department

Audience for Chris' presentation 'Paradise On Earth: the beautiful flowers of Kashmir 
(PhotoS: University of Kashmir)


PREM SINGH BODH (Kulu Valley, Himachal Pradesh, India)

 Chris Chadwell presenting Prem with gold medal and certificate

Prem with family members at his home in Manali 


Thakur RUP CHAND (Lahoul, Himachal Pradesh, India)

Thakur Rup Chand with Dr Walter Koelz, University of Michigan, USA in the 1930s 

 Thakur Prem Chand a relative of Rup Chand, in Manali 


Amchi TSEWANG SMANLA (Ladakh, India)  

Amchi Tsewang Smanla

 Chris discussing plant identification with Tsewang
WALTER  KOELZ  (Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA) 

Poster advertising Chris' lecture and gold medal presentation at University of Michigan

 Title slide of Chris Chadwell's lunch-time seminar about Koelz's travels in the Himalaya,
the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor



Alastair McKelvie with his wife Frances, having been presented with gold medal and certificate after Chris' lecture to members of the Aberdeenshire Group of the Scottish Rock Garden Society
Photo: Ian Young

Title slides of Chris Chadwells's presentation honouring Alastair


OLE PER OLSEN (Nordkjosbotn, Norway)

Ole Olsen having been presented with medal and certificate after Chris' lecture to Friends of Tromso Botanical Garden in the Planetarium (Photo: Arve Elvebakk) 

 Title slide of one of the presentations Chris gave in Tromso 
MEN-TSEE-KHANG  (Dharamsala, India)

 Mrs Urvashi Suri, one of Kohli's daughters, presenting medal and certificate to Dr Tsering Norbu, Materia Medica Dept., H.H. The Dalai Lama's Tibetan Medical & Astrological Institute)

Mrs Urvashi Suri receiving Tibetan silk scarf and gifts from the Institute

Title slide of one of the lectures Chris delivered to staff and pupils of the Institute 

Extracts from Men-Tsee-Khang Newsletter about Chris' lectures
WANGYEL and RINCHEN  GIALTSEN (Lahoul, Himachal Pradesh)

Wangyel, Rup Chand and Rinchen Gialtsen

Sonam Pawnspa, Wangyel's grandson - who owns a hotel in Manali, accepted the posthumous award

Wangyel and Rinchen Gialtsen's Gold Medal Certificate



Chris presenting Ghulam with laminated pictures of their travels in the Himalaya 

 Chris giving short lecture about Ghulam's contribution to his expeditions in Kashmir and Little Tibet during the 1980s, prior to presentation of the gold medal, at the Lakeside Hotel, Pokhara

Members of invited audience - Ghulam's friends in Pokhara, Nepal



NARSIM (Kailash Himalaya, Kumaon, India)

Our first posthumously award went to NARSIM, pictured above at his humble home close to Narayanswamy Ashram, Kailash Himalaya (close to the border with West Nepal).  NARSIM is pictured above beside Mrs Urvashi Suri and her son Rajiv (Raj) Suri, with Chris Chadwell behind during a visit in 2000.  NARSIM supplied P.Kohli & Co., with seed for more than 50 years - this was the first occasion that Mrs Suri, Prem Nath Kohli's daughter had met Narsim.  There were restrictions preventing foreigners (Indians) from visiting such places close to the border with Tibet (it is on an old pilgrimage route to sacred Mt. Kailash).  Narsim was a highly intelligent man, who had travelled from southern India aged 17, to help out at the Ashram.

As he had no knowledge of living relatives and there was little interest in his activities at the Ashram (there was a library, where a gold medal and mounted certificate could have been housed), nor could I find anyone in Delhi willing to arrange to hand over the medal to someone about to visit the Ashram or the priests themselves, who regularly visited India's capital, no formal presentation took place.  The purpose of a POSTHUMOUS award is to recognise and pay tribute to such Indians whose efforts often go unrecognised.  He did compile lists of species he recorded when trekking in his younger days. 


Mrs Urvashi Suri (Kashmir, India)

Mrs Suri near Naini Tal, Uttaranachal

GOLD MEDAL FOR BOTANIST ( Staff Reporter for 'The Hindu', October 12th)

"The Himalayan Plant Association today presented the Kohli Memorial Gold Medal to the proprietor of P.Kohli & Co., Urvashi Suri, recognising her significant contribution in the field of Himalayan horticulture and botany.  "This is a great day for me.  I inherited all this from my father, Prem Nath Kohli.  Unfortunately, due to militancy in the Kashmir valley, I had to leave everything and come to Delhi in 1990.  Today what I do is very little compared to what my father and I were doing to protect and cultivate flora and fauna, " said Mrs Suri.

The P.N.Kohli Memorial Lecture on 'Flowers Fit for a Maharajah', was delivered by Christopher Chadwell, freelance botanist specialising in the Himalaya.  The Medal - created this year - is in recognition of the late Prem Nath Kohli's outstanding conbtributon to the cultivation, study and conservation of the flora of Kashmir.  Mr Kohli, who worked for the Kashmir Forest Service, was a well-known environmentalist, with a keen interest in flora and fauna.  In 1932 he was honoured by the Royal Horticultural Society's Floral Committee, UK, for the seeds and bulbs he had supplied for the Royal Parks and Gardens - a request that had come from Private Secretary to King George V, Clive, Later Lord Wigram through the Maharajah of Kashmir.  He was so successful that the superintendent of the Royal Parks and Gardens, Thomas Hay, proposed a gold medal from the Royal Horticultural Society.  A small private botanic garden named the Kohli Memorial Himalayan Garden still exists in Berkshire, UK".

Mrs Suri (second from left) with the other surviving daughters of Kohli, at the 1st Kohli Commemorative Event in New Delhi, 2003 (photo: Ashwami Sharma)