Udhagamandalam abbreviated as Udhagai and Ooty listen is a town and municipality in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is located 80 km north of Coimbatore and is the capital of the Nilgiris district. It is a popular hill stationlocated in the Nilgiri Hills. Originally occupied by the Toda, the area came under the rule of the East India Company at the end of the 18th century. The economy is based on tourism and agriculture, along with the manufacture of medicines and photographic film. The town is connected by the Nilgiri ghat roads and Nilgiri Mountain Railway. Its natural beauty attracts tourists and it is a popular summer destination. As of 2011, the town had a population of 88,430. Ooty is situated in the Nilgiri hills. The name meaning blue mountains in Tamil, Kannada and Badaga and most other Indian languages might have arisen 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 and gives the slopes a bluish tinge. Because of the beautiful mountains and green valleys, Ooty became known as the Queen of Hill Stations.
Places of interest
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. It is situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters (7,350 feet) above sea level.
Gardens and Parks
The Government rose garden (formerly Centenary Rose Park) 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.
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 fossilised tree. 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 deer and animals for travellers to view.
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.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 and passes through hilly tract, generally keeping to North and turns to West after reaching the Plateau’s edge. 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. A boat house by the Pykara falls and dam is added attractions to the tourists. 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. Parsons Valley Reservoir 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, Avalanche Lake and Porthimund Lake are other lakes in the region.
Doddabetta 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 surrounded by dense Sholas. Pine forests situated between Ooty and Thalakunda is a small downhill region where pine trees are arranged in an orderly fashion. Wenlock Downs is a grassland area typical of the original bioscape of the Nilgiris with gently undulating hills. Mudumalai National Park and tiger reserve lies on the north western side of the Nilgiri Hills. 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. Mukurthi National Park 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 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.
Tribal huts and museum
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.
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 artefacts 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 belonging to Toda, Kota, Paniya, Kurumba and Kanikarans.
Nilgiri 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.
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 Stone House 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
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.