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OOTY

Udhagamandalam sometimes abbreviated Udhagai and better known as Ooty is a town, a municipality, and the district capital of the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu. It is located 80 km north of Coimbatore. It is a popular hill station located in the Nilgiri Hills. Originally occupied by the Todas, the area came under the rule of the East India Company at the end of the 18th century. Today, the town's economy is based on tourism and agriculture, along with manufacture of medicines and photographic film. The town is connected to the rest of India by road and rail, and its historic sites and natural beauty attract tourists. As of 2011, the town had a population of 88,430.

Ooty is situated deep within the Nilgiri hills (which can be literally translated as The Blue Mountains). It is unknown whether this name arises from the blue smoky haze given off by the eucalyptus trees that cover the area or from the kurunji flower, which blooms every twelve years giving the slopes a bluish tinge. Nilgiris in general was ruled by Ganga kings and later by Hoysala kings, particularly Vishnuvardhana who captured Wynad and Nilgiri area during the 11th century. Tippu Sultan was the first to extend his border by constructing a hideout cave like structure.

It was originally a tribal land and was occupied by the Todas along with other tribes who coexisted through specialisation and trade. The major tribes of Nilgiri area are Todas, Kotas, Badagas and Alu Kurumbas, who settled in and around Ooty. The first reference of Todas in Nilgiri is found in a record dated 1117 A.D. Toda people are known for raising water buffaloes and Badaga people for their farming activities. Frederick Price in his book Ootacamund, A History states that the area called 'Old Ooty' was originally occupied by the Todas. The Todas then handed over that part of the town to John Sullivan, the then Governor of Coimbatore. Sullivan later developed the town and encouraged the establishment of tea, chinchona, and teak trees. Like many of the settlers, Sullivan was highly impressed by the way the tribes cooperated, and sought to maintain this balance. He later campaigned tirelessly to ensure land rights and cultural recognition for these tribes and was financially and socially punished for this by the British Government.

The Nilgiri territory came into possession of East India Company as part of the ceded lands, held by Tipu Sultan, by the treaty of Srirangapatnam in 1799. Rev. Jacome Forico, a priest, was the first European who visited Nilgiris in 1603 and released his notes about the place and the people of Nilgiris. In 1812 surveyor William Keys and Macmohan visited the top of the plateau. In 1818, Wish and Kindersley, Assistant and Second Assistant to Collector of Coimbatore visited this spot and submitted their experience report to the Collector of Coimbatore John Sullivan. John Sullivan with his party proceeded to Nilgiri Mountain and camped at Dimbhatti, just north of Kotagiri in January 1819 and was enthralled by the beauty of the place. He wrote to Thomas Munro - " ... it resembles Switzerland, more than any country of Europe... the hills beautifully wooded and fine strong spring with running water in every valley" Again in May 1819, Sullivan came to the Hill of Ooty and began the construction of his bungalow at Dimbhatti (near Kotagiri), the first European dwelling on the hills. John Sullivan laid the path from Sirumugai (near-Mattupalayam) to Dimbhatti in 1819 and the work was completed in May 1823. The route up to Coonoor was laid in 1830-32. Ooty served as the summer capital of the Madras Presidency and other small kingdoms, much visited by British during the colonial days, and as today, a popular summer and weekend resort. Soldiers were also sent here and to nearby Wellington (the home of the Madras regiment to this day) to recuperate. Its stunning beauty and splendid green deep valleys inspired the British to name it Queen of Hill Stations.

From May to October each year during the hot season, the Madras Government and its officials, the Governor, and his family, went to the Government House in the Nilgiri Hills. One governor, Sir Arthur Lawley (1906-1911), was an accomplished horseman, a quality admired by the Indian princes of the Madras Presidency. He enjoyed hunting with the Ooty hounds and was frequently joined by close friends like the Maharajah of Mysore. "Hunting, which had been the passion of his youth in England, probably appealed to him more than any other form of recreation, and he was a fine shot with a rifle and brought home many of the trophies - tiger, panther and bison - for which the Southern Indian jungles are well renowned." The Governor's Residence, Government House, was the focus of activity and there was a splendid Club House with a fine golf course, polo, swimming and tennis. Snooker is said to have originated on the billiard tables of the Ootacamund Club, invented by an army officer - Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain. There was also a cricket ground with regular matches played between teams from the Army, the Indian Civil Service and the business sector. Visiting teams would come from various parts of India as well as from the island of Ceylon. There were riding stables and kennels at Ooty and the Ootacamund Hounds hunted across the surrounding countryside and the open grasslands of the Wenlock Downs, named after Sir Arthur Lawley's brother Beilby Lawley, 3rd Baron Wenlock. There were Point to Point Races and Gymkhanas, and horse riding was a very popular pastime. The maharajas, the business fraternity and the senior civil servants had summer cottages at Ooty. There were churches like St Stephen's and St Thomas's and traditional inns. It was in many ways a re-creation of Old England. When the Governor was in residence the Union Jack flew over Government House and a six gun salute would announce his arrival and departure. The misty blue haze of the Nilgiri Hills, and the fragrant mountain rains were a welcome change from the sultry heat of Madras.

Ooty is reached via winding hill roads or a complicated rack railway system, known as the Nilgiri Mountain Railway, built in 1908 by impassioned and enterprising British citizens with venture capital from the Madras government. In 1882, a Swiss engineer named Arthur Riggenbach came to the Nilgiri Hills on an invitation from Government of India and he submitted detailed estimates for a line costing 132,000. A local company named "The Nilgiri Rigi Railway Co. Ltd." was formed, and the Government offered it free land. This company insisted on a guaranteed return of 4%, which was not acceptable, and the proposed railway, once again, had to be shelved. In 1885, another Nilgiri Railway Company was formed and, in 1886, planning work commenced, using the Abt system with two adjacent toothed rails in the centre of the one metre gauge track. The work on the line commenced in August 1891 when Sir Arthur Lawley's brother, Beilby Lawley, 3rd Baron Wenlock, the then Governor of Madras, turned the first turf to begin construction. The Mettupalayam-Coonoor section of the track was opened for traffic on 15 June 1899. In January 1903, the Indian Government purchased the line, and took over the construction of the new extension from Coonoor to Ooty. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway was operated by the former Madras Railway Company until 31 December 1907 on the behalf of the Government. In January 1908, the railway line was handed over to South Indian Railways. Construction continued. The line from Coonoor to Fernhill was completed on 15 September 1908 and reached Ooty, one month later. On October 15, Sir Arthur Lawley, Governor of Madras, officiated at the opening ceremony of the new railway to Ootacamund.

Government Rose Garden
The Government rose garden (formerly known as the Jayalalithaa Rose Garden, Centerary Rose Park and Nootrandu Roja Poonga) is the largest rose garden in India. It is situated on the slopes of the Elk Hill in Vijayanagaram of Ooty town in Tamil Nadu, at an altitude of 2200 meters. Today this garden has one of the largest collection of roses in the country with more than 20,000 varieties of roses of 2,800 cultivars. The collection include Hybrid Tea Roses, Miniature Roses, Polyanthas, Papagena, Floribunda, Ramblers, Yakimour and roses of unusual colours like black and green.

Ooty Botanical Gardens
The 22-acre (89,000 m2) Ooty Botanical Gardens was laid out in 1847 and is maintained by the Government of Tamil Nadu. The Botanical Garden is lush, green, and well-maintained. A flower show along with an exhibition of rare plant species is held every May. The Gardens have around a thousand species, both exotic and indigenous, of plants, shrubs, ferns, trees, herbal and bonsai plants. The garden has a 20-million-year-old fossilized tree.

Ooty Lake
Ooty lake covers an area of 65 acres. The Boat house established alongside the lake, which offers boating facilities to tourists, is a major tourist attraction in Ooty. It was constructed in 1824 by John Sullivan, the first collector of Ooty. The lake was formed by damming the mountain streams flowing down Ooty valley. The lake is set among groves of Eucalyptus trees with a railway line running along one bank. During summer season in May, boat races and boat pageantry are organised for two days at the lake.

Stone House
Stone House is the first bungalow constructed in Ooty. It was built by John Sullivan and was called as Kal Bangala by the tribals (Kal means stone in local tribal language). John Sullivan started building Stonehouse in 1822, acquiring land from the Todas at one rupee an acre. Today, it is the official residence for the principal of the Government Arts College, Ooty.

Toda huts
There are a few Toda huts on the hills above Botanical Garden, where Todas still dwell. There are other Toda settlements in the area, notably Kandal Mund near Old Ooty. Although many Toda have abandoned their traditional distinctive huts for concrete houses, a movement is now afoot to build tradition barrel-vaulted huts and during the last decade forty new huts have been built and many Toda sacred dairies renovated.

Ooty Mountain Railway
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway was built by the British in 1908, and was initially operated by the Madras Railway Company. The railway still relies on its fleet of steam locomotives. NMR comes under the jurisdiction of the newly formed Salem Division. In July 2005, UNESCO added the Nilgiri Mountain Railway as an extension to the World Heritage Site of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the site then became known as "Mountain Railways of India." after it satisfied the necessary criteria, thus forcing abandonment of the modernisation plans. For the past several years diesel locomotives have taken over from steam on the section between Coonoor and Udhagamandalam. Local people and tourists have led a demand for steam locos to once again haul this section.

St. Stephen's Church
St. Stephen's Church is located on the road to Mysore in Ooty, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. It is one of the oldest churches in the Nilgiris district. The church dates back to the 19th century. Stephen Rumbold Lushington, the then Governor of Madras, who keenly felt the need for a cathedral exclusively for the British, in Ooty, laid the foundation for the church on 23 April 1829, to coincide with the birthday of King George IV. St. Stephen's Church was consecrated by John Matthias Turner, Bishop of Calcutta, on 5 November 1830. It was thrown open to public communion on Easter Sunday 3 April 1831. It came under the Church of South India in 1947. The architect in charge was John James Underwood, Captain, Madras Regiment.

Wax World, Ooty
A wax museum that houses life-size look-alike wax statues of personalities of Indian history, culture and heritage housed in a 142-year-old bungalow. Located in the Ooty-Coonoor road.

Tribal Museum
The Tribal Museum is part of the campus of Tribal Research Centre which is in Muthorai Palada (10 km from Ooty town). It is home to rare artifacts and photographs of tribal groups of Tamil Nadu as well as Andaman and Nicobar Islands and anthropological and archaeological primitive human culture and heritage. The Tribal Museum also displays houses belongs to Toda, Kota, Paniya, Kurumba and Kanikarans.

Deer Park
Deer Park is located on the edge of Ooty Lake. It is considered as one of the high altitude zoo in India aside from the zoo in Nainital, Uttarakhand. This park was formed to house a number of species of deers and animals for travelers to view.

KSTDC Ooty Tour Package

► KSTDC One Day Ooty Local Sightseeing Package

Distance from Ooty, Tamil Nadu to Ernakulam, Kerala is 264.7 km and takes around 5 h 40 min via NH67 and NH47.