Ooty (ஊட்டி)


Udhagamandalam (Tamil: உதகமண்டலம்) sometimes
abbreviated to Udhagai Tamil: உதகை or
Ooty  is a town, a municipality and the
district capital of the Nilgiris district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Ootacamund 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, with manufacturing of medicines and photographic film also
present. The town is connected to the rest of India by road and rail, and its
historic sites and natural beauty attract tourists
The origin of the name Udhagamandalam is obscure. The first
mention of the place occurs in a letter of March 1821 to the Madras Gazette by
an unknown correspondent as Wotokymund. In early times it was called
OttaikalMandu “mund” is the Tamil word for a Toda village, and the
first part is probably a corruption of the local name for the central region of
the Nilgiri Plateau. Another likely origin of the stem of the name (Ootaca)
comes from the local language where Otha-Cal literally means Single Stone. This
is perhaps a reference to a sacred stone revered by the local Toda people. The
name probably changed under British rule from Udhagamandalam to Ootacamund,
later shortened to Ooty.
 Ooty, which is deep within the Nilgiri hills, is also known
as The Blue Mountains. It is unknown whether this name comes from the blue
smoky haze given off by the eucalyptus trees that cover the area, or because of
the kurunji flower, which blooms every twelve years giving the slopes a bluish
tinge. Unlike any other region in the country, no historical proof is found to
state that Ooty was a part of any kingdoms or empires. 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.
Frederick price in his book Ootacamund, A History states that the area which is
now called as the ‘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. He 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. Again in May 1819 he 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 1829 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.
It 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.
Ooty features a subtropical highland climate under Köppen’s
climate classification. Despite its location in the tropics, in stark contrast
with most of South India, Ooty generally features pleasantly mild conditions
throughout the year. However, nighttime in the months of January and February
is typically chilly. Generally, the town appears to be eternally stuck in the
spring season. Temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the year; with
average high temperatures ranging from about 17-20 degrees Celsius and average
low temperatures between approximately 5-12 degrees Celsius. The highest
temperature ever recorded in Ooty is 25 degrees Celsius, which by South Asian
standards is uncharacteristically low for an all-time record high temperature.
The lowest temperature was being -2 degree Celsius. The city sees on average
about 1250 mm of precipitation annually, with a marked drier season from
December through March.
As of 2001 India census, Udhagamandalam had a population of
93,921. Males constitute 50% of the population and females 50% (sex ratio of
1:1). Udhagamandalam has an average literacy rate of 80%, higher than the
national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 84%, and female literacy is 75%. In
Udhagamandalam, 9% of the population is under 6 years of age. Tamil is the
lingua franca of Udhagamandalam. Languages native to the Nilgiris like Paniya
are also spoken by the tribes. Due to its proximity to the neighbouring states
and it being a popular tourist spot, English, Hindi, Kannada and Malayalam are
also spoken and understood to an extent.
Governance and politics
Ooty is the district headquarters of the Nilgiris district.Ootacamund
assembly constituency is part of Nilgiris (Lok Sabha constituency).
Contrary to the thought that much of the local economy is
now dominated by tourism, Ooty is still a supply base and market town for the
surrounding area which is still largely dependent on agriculture, notably the
cultivation of “English Vegetables” and “English Fruits”
grown locally. This primarily consists of potato, carrot, cabbage and
cauliflower and the fruits being peaches, plums, pears and strawberries.There
is a daily wholesale auction of these products at the Ooty Municipal Market,
which is one of the largest retail markets in India. Dairy farming has long
been present in the area and there is a cooperative dairy in Ooty manufacturing
cheese and skimmed milk powder. As a result of the local agricultural industry,
certain research institutes are based in Ooty. These include a soil
conservation center, livestock farm and a potato research farm. Efforts are
being made to diversify the range of local crops with Floriculture and
Sericulture being introduced in the local area, as well as the cultivation of
Hindustan Photo Films, the film manufacturer, is also a
major industry in Ooty. This is located on the outskirts of the town at Indu
Nagar. Human Biologicals Institute, which manufactures Human Rabies Vaccine is
present in Ooty near Pudumand. Other manufacturing industries are located in
the outskirts of Ooty. The most significant of these are in Ketti (manufacture
of needles); Aruvankadu (manufacture of cordite) and Coonoor (manufacture of
rabies vaccine). Cottage industries in the area including chocolate, pickle
manufacture and carpentry. Homemade chocolates are popular among the tourists
and the locals.
Though the local area is known for tea cultivation, this
crop is no longer grown nor processed in Ooty. Tea is more economically grown
at slightly lower altitude and hence Coonoor and Kotagiri are local centres of
tea cultivation and processing.

Transport infrastructure

Ooty is well connected by good roads. It is 535 km from
Chennai (via Salem,Erode), 80 km from Coimbatore, 18 km from Coonoor, 155 km
from Mysore (via Gudalur), 187 km from Calicut, 290 km from Bangalore, 281 km
from Kochi (via Coimbatore and Palakkad), 236 km from Kodaikanal (via
Coimbatore and Palani). Ooty is situated on National Highway 67. It is
connected by road to travelers from the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and
Karnataka via the five main accepted Nilgiri Ghat Roads. There is also a road
from Mettupalayam(Coimbatore) to Ooty via Kotagiri. This road does not pass
through Coonoor.
Ooty, being the district capital, has frequent bus
connections from nearby towns in the district such as Coonoor, Kotagiri and
Gudalur. There are bus connections to most villages in the district via one of
these three towns. There are also frequent bus connections to the nearby
mainline railway stations of Mettupalayam and Coimbatore. The town also has
direct bus services to various cities and towns of Tamil Nadu, namely
Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode, Salem, Sathyamangalam, Karur, Dindigul, Chennai,
Thiruchirapalli, Madurai, Thanjavur and Kanyakumari. There are several bus
services to and from the nearby cities of Mysore and Kozhikode (in the two
bordering states). Direct buses can be boarded for Ooty from many other parts
of Karnataka and Kerala, including local connections to Palghat, Nilambur and
Sulthan Bathery in Kerala, as well as Gundlupet in Karnataka. The capital
cities of these two states (Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram respectively) as
well as Pondicherry are also connected via direct bus links.
 Ooty is connected by a nightly connecting train service. The
railway station for Ooty is Udhagamandalam Railway Station. Mettupalayam
provides the interchange between ‘The Nilgiri Passenger’ NMR metre gauge
service and the Nilgiri Express broad gauge service. The Nilgiri Mountain
Railway (NMR) is one of the oldest mountain railways in India. The NMR was
declared by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in July 2005. This connects
Ootacamund with the town of Mettupalayam, at the foothills of the Nilgiri
Mountains. It is the only rack railway in India, and uses the Abt system.
Ooty does not have a civilian airport and is not connected
by air. The nearest airport is Coimbatore International Airport. Steps are
being undertaken to start a helicopter shuttle service from the nearest airport
to Ooty for fixed wing aircraft which is in Coimbatore. It will initially be
serviced by a Bell 407 marketed and run by J.B.Aviation with the aircraft
leased from the air service provider Pawan Hans.
Boarding schools have been a feature of Ooty since the days
of the British Raj. They offer a significant contribution to the local economy.
The facilities and standards of education are considered amongst the highest in
India and so these schools are popular amongst the elite of India and some of
its neighbouring countries. Several of these now also operate as day schools,
including Hebron School, Ooty and Good Shepherd International School.
Tourist and historical landmarks

Located in the Blue Mountains of the Western Ghats, Ooty
draws a large number of tourists every year. Lofty mountains, great lakes,
dense forests, sprawling grasslands, miles of tea gardens and eucalyptus trees
greet the visitors en route to Ooty. The hill station itself is a land of
picturesque picnic spots. It used to be popular summer and weekend getaway for
the British during the colonial days, later it was made into a summer
administrative town. It is situated at an altitude of 2,286 meters above sea
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, India  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 line running along one bank. During summer
season in May, boat races and boat pageantry are organised for two days at the
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 Tamil). 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 April 23, 1829, to coincide with the birthday of King George IV. St.
Stephen’s Church was consecrated by John Matthias Turner, Bishop of Calcutta,
on November 5, 1830. It was thrown open to public communion on Easter Sunday
April 3, 1831. It came under the Church of South India in 1947.The architect
incharge 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
Ooty Golf Course
Ooty Golf Course is located in Ooty town.The golf course is
set at an altitude of 7600 feet.It is owned by the Gymkhana club in Ooty. The
course extends over 193.56 acres and comprises 18 holes.
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 Kanikaran.
Tourist spots around Ooty
Ooty is situated in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Many of
the forested areas and water bodies are off-limits to most visitors to protect
this fragile ecosystem. Some areas of the Biosphere Reserve have been earmarked
for tourism development, and steps are being undertaken to open these areas to
visitors whilst conserving the area. Much of Ooty has already been damaged by
rampant commercialization as a result of tourism. Some of the most prominent
tourist spots around Ooty are as follows:
    Doddabetta Peak:
It is the highest peak (2,623 m) in the Nilgiris, about 10 km from Ooty. It
lies at the junction of the Western and Eastern Ghats and offers beautiful
vistas of the Nilgiri Hill ranges. It is surrounded by dense sholas. One can
have a panoramic view of the landscape through the TTDC telescope. TTDC
restaurant caters the needs of tourists.
    Pykara is a river
located 19 km from Ooty. The Pykara is considered very sacred by the Todas.The
Pykara river rises at Mukurthi peak. It passes through hilly tract, generally
keeping to North and turns to West after reaching the Plateau’s edge. The river
has a dam and power plant. The river flows through a series of cascades; and
the last two falls of 55 meters and 61 meters are known as Pykara falls.The
falls are approximately 6 km from the bridge on the main road. There is a
forest rest House at Pykara. A boat house by the Pykara falls and Dam is added
attractions to the tourists.Pykara boasts of well protected fenced Sholas, Toda
settlements, undistributed grassy meadows and also a good wildlife habitat. The
Pykara Dam, Pykara falls and the reservoir attracts many tourists.Being one of
the oldest plants in south India, the Pykara station still functions,
generating about 60 megawatts. The first unit of 6.65 MW was commissioned in
October 1932.
    Pine forest:
Situated between Ooty and Thalakunda, this tourist destination was once
featured in a song sequence in the Tamil movie “Dheena”. It is a
small downhill region where pine trees are arranged in an orderly fashion.
    Wenlock Downs:
This is a grassland area typical of the original bioscape of the Nilgiris. It
has gently undulating hills and is often compared with areas in the British
isles such as the Yorkshire Dales. This is a popular film shooting area,
particularly two areas situated approximately six and nine miles (14 km) out of
Ooty on the main Ooty to Pykara road (also known as Mysore Road). These
locations are accordingly named “Sixth Mile” and “Ninth
    Kamaraj Sagar Dam
(also known as Sandynalla reservoir)is located at a distance of 10 km from the
Ooty bus stand.It is a picnic spot and a film shooting spot on the slopes of
the Wenlock Downs.The various tourist activities the dam include fishing and
studying nature and environment.
    Mudumalai National
, now also declared a Tiger Reserve, lies on the northwestern side of the
Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains), in Nilgiri District.Mudumalai, which means
‘first hills’, is one of the first wildlife sanctuaries established in India.The
sanctuary is divided into 5 ranges – Masinagudi, Thepakadu, Mudumalai, Kargudi
and Nellakota. Here one can often spot herds of endangered Indian elephants,
vulnerable Gaur, and Chital. The sanctuary is a haven for Bengal Tigers and
Indian Leopards and other threatened species.There are at least 266 species of
birds in the sanctuary, including critically endangered species like the Indian
White-rumped Vulture and the long-billed vulture.The Western Ghats, Nilgiri
Sub-Cluster (6,000 km2 (2,300 sq mi)), including all of Mudumalai National
Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection
as a World Heritage Site.
    Mukurthi National
is a 78.46 km² protected area located in the south-eastern corner of the
Nilgiris Plateau west of Ooty. The park was created to protect its Keystone
species, the Nilgiri Tahr.The park is a part of Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve,
India’s first International Biosphere Reserve. The Western Ghats, Nilgiri
Sub-Cluster (6,000+ km²), including all of Mukurthi National Park, is under
consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World
Heritage Site.
    Needle hill
is situated between Coodalore and Pykara.
    Parsons Valley
: This is the primary water source for the town and is mainly in a
reserved forest and is thus largely off-limits to visitors.
    Emerald Lake: This
lake is near the town of the same name. There is a viewpoint near the dam. The
rest of the area is mainly in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to
    Avalanche Lake:
Adjacent to Emerald Lake, this picturesque lake is mainly situated in a
reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors
    Porthimund Lake:
This is mostly in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors.
Shooting of the blockbuster Tamil movie Roja was done here.
A lot of action have been carried out in the past few years
to maintain the precarious ecosystem that is present in this part of the
region. Plastic carry bags have been banned for years now. Residents as well as
shopkeepers prefer to use only recycled paper or cloth bags for normal use.
Adventure sports in Ooty
The diverse landscape of Ooty offers an opportunity to
explore number of adventure sports and recreational activities, including hang
gliding. Located around 20 km from Ooty, Kalahatty in the mountain ranges of
Nilgiris is a world-class site for hang gliding. This adventure sport involves
hanging suspended by a harness from a large type of kite that is known as hang
glider. Kalahatty has a launch area that can be reached by a jeep. From March to
May, hang gliding training courses are organised in Ooty.
Image gallery coming soon*

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Jeffry is a Mechanical Engineer by education and an aspiring writer and blogger. After working hard for around 12 hours a day on his core job, he spends his remaining time in blogging and reading articles online. And he loves to make poor jokes, so be prepared.

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