Udhagamandalam (also Ootacamund (About this sound listen (help·info)); உதகமண்டலம்) and abbreviated as Udhagai and Ooty (About this sound listen (help·info); உதகை ) 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 station located 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.[4] As of 2011, the town had a population of 88,430.

Etymology

The origin of the name Udhagamandalam 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.[5] In early times it was called OttakalMandu. “Mund” is the Anglicised form of the Toda word for a village ‘Mandu’.[6] The first part of the name is probably a corruption of the local name for the central region of the Nilgiri Plateau.[7]

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 rule from Udhagamandalam to Ootacamund, and later was shortened to Ooty.[8]

Ooty is situated in the Nilgiri hills. The name meaning blue mountains in Tamil, Malayalam, 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.[5][9] Because of the beautiful mountains and green valleys, Ooty became known as the Queen of Hill Stations.[10]

History

Ooty in 1911

Ooty, India (c. 2011)
Udhagamandalam 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, Kota, Irula and Kurumba.[11] 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.[12][13]

The Toda in the Nilgiris are first referenced in a record belonging to Hoysala king Vishnuvardhana and his general Punisa, dated 1117 CE.[9] The Toda people were known for raising water buffalo. The Tamil and Badaga people known for farming activities.[10] 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).[9][13][14][15][16] Tipu Sultan captured Nilgiris in the eighteenth century and extended the border by constructing a hideout cave like structure.[10] 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.”[17] 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.[5]

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.[18][19] After Independence, it developed into a popular hill resort.

Climate

Boat House in Ooty Lake, Ooty – Tamil Nadu.
Ooty features a subtropical highland climate (Cwb) under Köppen climate classification.[20] Despite its location in the tropics, in stark contrast with most of South India, Ooty generally features pleasantly 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 very 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).[21] The city sees on average about 125 cm (49 in) of precipitation annually, with a marked drier season from December through March.