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 environment attracts tourists and it is a popular summer destination. As of 2011, the town had a population of 88,430.
The origin of the name Udagamandalam is obscure. The first known written mention of the place is given as Wotokymund in a letter of March 1821 to the Madras Gazette from an unknown correspondent. In early times it was called OttakalMandu. "Mund" is the Anglicised form of the Toda word for a village 'Mandu'. The first part of the name is probably a corruption of the local name for the central region of the Nilgiri Plateau.
The stem of the name (Ootaca) comes from the local language in which 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 rules to Udagamandalam from Ootacamund, and later was shortened to Ooty.
Ooty is situated in the Nilgiri hills. The name meaning blue mountains in Tamil 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 mountains and green valleys, Ooty became known as the Queen of Hill Stations.
Udagamandalam was originally a tribal land occupied by the Toda along with other hill tribes who coexisted through specialisation and trade. The major tribes of Nilgiris area are the Toda, Baduga, Kota, Irula and Kurumba. The old Tamil work Silappadikaram states that the Chera king Senguttuvan, who ruled during the 2nd century CE, on his way to the Himalayas in the north, stayed in the Nilgiris and witnessed the dance of the Kannadigas.
The Toda in the Nilgiris are first referenced in a record belonging to Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana and his general Punisa, dated 1117 CE. The Toda people were known for raising water buffalo. The Tamil and Badaga people known for farming activities. Nilgiris was ruled by various dynasties like Satavahanas, Cheras, Gangas, Kadambas, Rashtrakutas, Cholas, Hoysalas, the Vijayanagara empire and the Rajas of Ummattur (on behalf of Wodeyars of Mysuru). Tipu Sultan captured Nilgiris in the eighteenth century and extended the border by constructing a hideout cave like structure. The Nilgiris came into possession of British East India Company as part of the ceded lands, held by Tipu Sultan, by the treaty of Srirangapatnam in 1799.
In 1818, J. C. Whish and N. W. Kindersley, assistants to John Sullivan, then Collector of Coimbatore, visited Ooty and submitted a report to him. Sullivan camped at Dimbhatti, 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." The Toda ceded that part of the town to Sullivan and in May 1819, he began to build his bungalow at Dimbhatti. He also started work on a road from Sirumugai to Dimbhatti that year. The road was completed in May 1823, and extended up to Coonoor by 1830-32.
Ooty served as the summer capital of the Madras Presidency; it was visited by British officials during the colonial days as a popular summer resort. Soldiers were sent to nearby Wellington to recuperate. Wellington is the home of the Madras Regiment of the Indian Army. After Independence, it developed into a popular hill resort.
Ooty features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb) under Köppen climate classification. Despite its location in the tropics, in contrast with most of South India, Ooty generally features mild conditions throughout the year. However, night time in the months of January and February is typically cold. 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 °C (63–68 °F) and average low temperatures between approximately 5–12 °C (41–54 °F).
The highest temperature ever recorded in Ooty was 25 °C (77 °F), which by South Asian standards is uncharacteristically low for an all-time record high temperature. The rainy season in Ooty is generally cool and windy with high humidity. The wind chill may fall to as low as 5 °C (41 °F) during the day time. Wind is always high throughout the year. The lowest temperature was −2 °C (28 °F). The city sees on average about 125 cm (49 in) of precipitation annually, with a marked drier season from December through March.
According to 2011 census, Udagamandalam had a population of 88,430 with a sex-ratio of 1,053 females for every 1,000 males, much above the national average of 929. A total of 7,781 were under the age of six, constituting 3,915 males and 3,866 females. Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes accounted for 28.98% and .3% of the population respectively. The average literacy of the city in 2011 was 90.2%, compared to the national average of 72.99%. The city had a total of 23,235 households. There were a total of 35,981 workers, comprising 636 cultivators, 5,194 main agricultural labourers, 292 in house hold industries, 26,411 other workers, 3,448 marginal workers, 65 marginal cultivators, 828 marginal agricultural labourers, 56 marginal workers in household industries and 2,499 other marginal workers. As per the religious census of 2011, Udagamandalam had 64.36% Hindus, 21.25% Christians, 13.37% Muslims, 0.03% Sikhs, 0.3% Buddhists, 0.4% Jains, 0.28% following other religions and 0.02% following no religion or did not indicate any religious preference.
Tamil is the official language of Udagamandalam. Languages native to the Nilgiris including Badaga, Paniya and Kurumba are also spoken by the tribes. Due to its proximity to the neighbouring states of Karnataka and Kerala and being a tourist destination, English, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu are also spoken and understood to an extent. As per 2001 census, the population of Ooty mother tongue wise is as follows, Tamil is widely spoken by 16,077 followed by Kannada spoken by 15,404, Malayalam by 6,128 and.
Ooty is the district headquarters of the Nilgiris district. The Ootacamund assembly constituency is part of the 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, including 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. Dairy farming has long been present in the area and there is a cooperative dairy 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 centre, 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 mushrooms.
Hindustan Photo Films manufactures photo films in Ooty. 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. Home-made chocolates are popular among the tourists and the locals. The local area is known for tea cultivation and is economically grown in Ooty, Coonoor, Kotagiri and across Nilgiris district. The elevation is about 1,800 m (6,000 ft) above the sea level. Soil conditions, elevation and climatic conditions gives flavors to the tea grown here.
Ooty is well connected to the road network. It is 306 km from Bengaluru (Via Mysore and Bandipur) 558 km (347 mi) from Chennai (via Salem, Erode, and Coimbatore), 86 km (53 mi) from Coimbatore and 158 km (98 mi) from Mysore, 246kms from Kannur, 180kms from Calicut and nearly 100kms from Wayanad. Ooty is situated on NH 181 and is connected by road via the five main accepted Nilgiri Ghat Roads. Bus services operated by TNSTC, (Karnataka) and KSRTC, (Kerala) connect major towns in the state, nearby towns in the district such as Coonoor, Kotagiri, and Gudalur and nearby Cities to Mysore,Kannur,Wayanad and Calicut.
Udhagamandalam railway station is connected with Mettupalayam by NMR metre gauge service. In 1882, a Swiss engineer named Arthur Riggenbach came to the Nilgiri Hills on an invitation from Government of India and he submitted an estimate for a line costing GB£132,000. The Nilgiri Railway Company was formed in 1885 and planning work commenced in 1886. The work on the line commenced in August 1891 and 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 extension from Coonoor to Ooty.
The Nilgiri Mountain Railway was operated by the Madras Railway until 31 December 1907 on the behalf of the Government. In January 1908, the railway line was handed over to South Indian Railway. The line from Coonoor to Ooty was completed in 1908. On 15 October, Arthur Lawley, Governor of Madras opened the new railway to traffic. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway (NMR) is one of the oldest mountain railways in India and was declared by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in July 2005. It is the only rack railway in India, and uses the Abt system.
The nearest airport is Coimbatore, around 96 km (60 mi) away and Major International Airport is Bengaluru (Kempegowda International Airport 273 km away). Ooty has three helipads, one at Theettukal and two at Kodanad. The Theettukal helipad was approved by Airports Authority of India for defence and VIP services. Pawan Hans was supposed to start its service with Bell 407, but being present amidst farmland, dislocation of the farm animals there has put the operations on hold for commercial activities.
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 the neighbouring countries.
Snooker is said to have originated on the billiard tables of the Ootacamund Club, invented by an army officer 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 Beilby Lawley, 3rd Baron Wenlock. Horse races are held at Ooty Racecourse.
Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was filmed 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, Kalhatty in the mountain ranges of Nilgiris is a site for hang gliding. Kalhatty has a launch area that can be reached by a jeep. 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 England cricket captain Colin Cowdrey was born in 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. It is situated at an altitude of 2,240 metres (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. 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.Lakes and dams
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.Reserve forests
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 Udagamandalam. Local people and tourists have led a demand for steam locos to once again haul this section.Historical buildings
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.
In 1882 the rules and game of snooker were first drafted and codified in the "Ooty Club". The club still houses the billiards table that was used.