Ootacamund (officially, Udhagamandalam sometimes abbreviated to Udhagai 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 Tamilword for a Todavillage, 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 1603http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Srirangapatnam 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.
Tourist and historical landmarks
Ooty Botanical Gardens
The 22-acre (89,000m2) 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 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 lake.
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 bungalow.Located in the Ooty-Coonoor road.
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.
The Tribal Museum is part of the campus of Tribal Research Centre which is in Muthorai Palada (10km 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 10km 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 19km 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 6km 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 (14km) out of Ooty on the main Ooty to Pykara road (also known as Mysore Road). These locations are accordingly named "Sixth Mile" and "Ninth Mile".
- Kamaraj Sagar Dam (also known as Sandynalla reservoir)is located at a distance of 10km 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 Park, 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 (6,000km2 (2,300sqmi)), including all of Mudumalai National Park, is under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
- 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 visitors.
- 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.
- Upper Bhavani: This lake is in the Mukurthi National Park and largely off-limits to visitors.
Ooty is well connected by good roads. It is 535km from Chennai (via Salem,Erode), 80km from Coimbatore, 18km from Coonoor, 155km from Mysore (via Gudalur), 187km from Calicut, 290km from Bangalore, 281km from Kochi (via Coimbatore and Palakkad), 236km 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 headquarters, 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.