Ootacamund is a popular hill station located in the Nilgiri Hills. Udhagamandalam is the official Tamil name for the town. Ooty stands at an approximate height of 7,500 feet (2, 286 m) above sea level.
The origin of the name Udhagamandalam is obscure. 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.
Front of Ootacamund Club, 1905.
Ooty is deep within the Nilgiri hills, also known as The Blue Mountains. It is unknown whether this name comes from the blue smoky haze given off by the eucalyputus 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. Badagas are known for farming crops and the Todas for raising water buffalo. 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 Mr 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 hills were developed rapidly under the British Raj because they were almost entirely owned by private British citizens. Unlike the rest of India, the British came to Ooty town to settle, and stayed for generations. 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.
It is reached via winding hill roads or a complicated rack railway system built in 1908 by impassioned and enterprising British citizens with venture capital from the Madras government.
Much of Ooty is at the altitude of 2,286 meters above sea level. Its stunning beauty and splendid green deep valleys inspired the British to name it "Queen of Hill Stations".
[hide]Climate data for Udagamandalam
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 24
Average high °C (°F) 20
Average low °C (°F) 5
Record low °C (°F) -2
Precipitation mm (inches) 20
Panoramic view of Ooty
As of 2001 India census, Udhagamandalam had a population of 93,921. Males constitute 50% of the population and females 50%. 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 Badaga and Paniya are also spoken by their respective 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).
Blackened Nilgiri tea leaves
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 mushrooms.
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.
Over the past 30 years, there has been considerable growth in tourist numbers, especially from within India. Sadly construction to meet this demand has led to over development, and one has to stay in the hillsides or a little out of town to appreciate the natural beauty of the valley.
 Transport infrastructure
Ooty is well connected by good roads. It is 535 km from Chennai (via Salem), 86 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 District) 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 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 Puducherry (Pondicherry) are also connected via direct bus links.
The Nilgiri passenger train (NMR) on the rack section
Ooty is connected by a nightly connecting train service. 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 at Coimbatore which has domestic and international flights to several major Indian cities Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calicut, Chennai, Kolkata, Cochin, Hyderabad, Jammu, Pune , New Delhi, Kuala Lumpur, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Colombo, Dubai, Kuwait, Muscat, Doha and Muscat.
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 rule. 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.
Boarding schools operating near Ooty include:
* Laidlaw Memorial School,Ketti
* St.Judes Public School,Kotagiri
* St.Josephs Higher Secondary School,Coonoor
* The Lawrence School, Lovedale
* The Hebron School
* Woodside School, Ooty|Woodside School
* Good Shepherd International School, Ooty
See also: List of colleges in Ooty
 Tourist and historical landmarks in Ooty
The botanical garden at Udhagamandalam
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 level. In recent years, the hill town has suffered from rampant commercialization and various other ecological and infrastructural issues. Ooty is more of a focal point of attraction for tourists, who also undertake auto tours of the surrounding countryside.
Some of the important tourist/historical landmarks of Ooty are as listed below.
 Government Rose Garden
The Government Rose Garden (formerly known as the Centerary Rose Park) is situated in Vijayanagaram of Ooty town, on the slopes of the Elk Hill. Today this garden has the largest collection of roses in the country like Hybrid Tea Roses, miniature rose, Floribunda, Ramblers, roses of unusual colours like black and green are some of the more than 17,000 varieties of roses that are planted in the park. The rose varieties planted in this park were assembled from different sources. The 'Nila Maadam' is located in a spot from where viewers can see the entire rose garden.
 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 original purpose of the Botanical Gardens was purely academic: to promote and study the various flora in and around Nilgiris. Now, it is open to the public as a park. 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 garden has a 20-million-year-old fossilized tree. One can find a diverse variety of flora, ranging from rare trees (like the cork tree, the paper bark tree, and the monkey puzzle tree), flowering bushes and plants, ferns and orchids. Another major attraction is an Italian-style garden bordering a pool. The place is an ideal location for bird watching.
 Ooty Lake
Ooty Lake is an artificial lake built by John Sullivan. It used to be much larger than its present size of 4 km2. It is 2.5 km long and encompassed the present bus stand and race course as well as much of the present market. Boating is the major attraction at the lake. The boat ride allows visitors to enjoy the serene environment at a laid-back pace. The lake is bound by grooves of eucalyptus trees which augment the scenic beauty of the area. Next to the lake there is a Mini Garden with an amusement park for children.
 Stone House
Stone House was the first properly built house in Ooty (at the area called old Ooty), built by John Sullivan. It is inside the premises of the Government Arts College. It now houses government offices.
 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.
 Ooty Mountain Railway
The railhead of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. The station is part of the World Heritage Site. Ooty Railway station offers a unique glimpse of the British raj built railways. The Nilgiri Mountain Railway is one of the oldest mountain railways in India. Under consideration in 1845, the line was finally opened by the British in 1908 and was initially operated by the Madras Railway Company. The railway is one of the few in the world that is dependent on steam locomotives.
 St. Stephen's Church
St. Stephen's Church one of the oldest churches in the town and is a local landmark. Its architecture is essentially early Fothic revival with stained glass typical of the era. It differs from British churches of the same time as it has simplifed buttresses and a stucco exterior. The churchyard is full of colonial headstones, and it remains an active place of worship. It is near the District Court house building.
 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.
 Ooty Golf Links
A forested and grassy area, mainly home to the Ooty Golf Course.
 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 Tamilnadu 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
View of Ooty from Doddabetta peak
Tea plantations near Ooty
Pykara Lake near Ooty
Pykara falls near Ooty
Pine forest on the way to Pykara falls
Pine forest in fog
Elephant at Mudumalai National Park
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.
* Tea plantations: Tea plantations are at a lower altitude and attract a large number of tourists by their picturesque nature.
* Ketti Valley: This valley is referred to as the 'Switzerland of Southern India' due to the year-round pleasant climatic conditions. There is a view point called Valley View on the main Ooty to Coonoor road. It is also home to CSI College of Engineering, the only engineering college in the district.
* Pykara Lake Boat House and Pykara Falls: This is the most accessible of all the nearby lakes. A boathouse and picnic area has been developed to provide access to this area. Most of the remainder of the lake is within a reserved forest and off-limits to visitors.
* Pine forest: Situated between Ooty and Thalakunda, this tourist destination was once featured in the Tamil movie song "Deena". 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 Mile".
* Kamraj Sagar Lake: This lake is situated on the way to Pykara lake.
* Mudumalai National Park: Situated at a lower altitude and easily accessible, it borders the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka. It is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.
* Mukurthi National Park: A large protected area generally not accessible to visitors. It contains a lake and peak of the same name.
* Needle hill viewpoint is situated between Gudalaur and Pykara.
* Parsons Valley Reservoir: 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 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 here.
* Upper Bhavani Lake: This lake is in the Mukurthi National Park and largely off-limits to visitors.
 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.
 OSM map of Ooty
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. But still proper actions are not performed to maintain Nilgiris a plastic Free zone