Ootacamund

Ootacamund

Ootacamund, India: see Udagamandalam.
Ooty , short for Ootacamund (officially, Udhagamandalam Tamil: உதகமண்டலம், sometimes abbreviated to Udhagai Tamil: உதகை), is a city, a municipality and the district capital of the Nilgiris district in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

Ootacamund is a popular hill station located in the Nilgiri Hills. The origin of the name Ootacamund is obscure, but "mund" is the Badaga word for a Toda village, and it is probably a corruption of the Badaga name for the central region of the Nilgiri Plateau. Another likely origin of the stem of the name ("Ootaca") comes from the local language Tamil where "Otta-Cal" literally means "Single Stone". This is perhaps a reference to a sacred stone revered by the local Toda people. Udhagamandalam is a more recent official Tamil name for the town. Ooty stands at an approximate height of 7,440 feet (2,268 m) above sea level.

History

The Nilgiri Hills were part of Chera Empire in ancient times. Later it fell into the hand of ganga dynasty, and then Hoysala empire under king Vishnuvardhana in the 12th century. They then became part of the Kingdom of Mysore of Tipu Sultan who later surrendered them to the British in the 18th century.

John Sullivan, the British governor of neighbouring Coimbatore province, liked the climate of this forested land, and occupied it by taking land from the native tribes (Toda, Irumba and Badaga); often buying up many square kilometres in a day for the price of a few meals.

The hills were developed rapidly under the British Raj because they were almost entirely owned by private British citizens, unlike the rest of India. Ooty served as the summer capital of the Madras Presidency, and had winding hill roads and a complicated rack railway system built by influential and enterprising British citizens with venture capital from the Madras government.

Tourism

Located in the mountainous range called the Blue Mountains or Nilgiris, Ooty draws a large number of tourists every year. The weather is quite pleasant at a mean of 15 to 20 °C (59 to 68 °F) year round, dropping to lows of 0 °C (32 °F) during winter. The hill town suffers from rampant commercialization and various other ecological and infrastructural issues.

The landscape is marked by rolling hills and plateaus covered with dense vegetation, tea gardens, and eucalyptus trees. Many portions of the hills are preserved as natural reserve forests, and special permits are needed to camp outside of campgrounds. Ooty is more of a focal point of attraction for tourists, who also undertake auto tours of the surrounding countryside.

The hilly region also houses smaller towns like Coonoor and Kotagiri. These towns are less than an hour's drive away from Ooty and enjoy the same climate, but have fewer tourists and cheaper prices.

Economy

Ooty is also a district headquarters. Though 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" which are grown here because of the cool climates. This primarily consists of potato, carrot, cabbage and cauliflower. 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 in Ooty manufacturing cheese and skimmed milk powder.

As a result of the local agricultural industry, some research institutes are based in Ooty. These include a soil conservation centre and a potato research farm. Efforts are being made to diversify the range of local crops and subsequently some Floriculture and Sericulture is being introduced in the local area, as well as the cultivation of mushrooms.

The only significant manufacturing industry is Hindustan Photo Films, the erstwhile photo film manufacturer in India. This is located on the outskirts of the town at Indu Nagar. Other manufacturing industries are located in the wider area. The most significant of these are in Ketti (manufacture of needles); Aruvankadu (manufacture of cordite) and Coonoor (manufacture of rabies vaccine).

There is some cottage industry activity in the area including chocolate, pickle manufacture and carpentry.

Though the local area is known for tea cultivation, this is neither grown nor processed in Ooty. Tea is grown at slightly lower altitude and hence Coonoor and Kotagiri are local centres of tea cultivation and processing.

Historical sites

The 22 Acre Botanical Garden was laid out in 1847 and is presently 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 that can be enjoyed by visitors. The Botanical Garden is also a heaven for bird watchers where a variety of birds, both seasonal and year-round residents, can be sighted. A flower show along with an exhibition of rare plant species is held every year in the month of May at this garden. The garden also has a 20 million year old fossilized tree.

  • Stone House

This was the first "Pukka" house in Ooty, built by John Sullivan. It is situated inside the premises of the Government Arts College.

  • Toda Huts

There are a few number of Toda Huts up in the hills of Botanical Garden's were Todas still dwell.

  • Railway Station

The railhead of the Nilgiri Mountain Railway. The station itself is part of this World Heritage Site. Ooty Railway station offers a unique glimpse of the British raj built railways.

  • Ooty Lake & Boat House

This is an artificial lake built by John Sullivan. It used to be much larger than its present size, and encompassed the present bus stand and race course as well as much of the present market. Next to the lake there is a Mini Garden with an amusement park for children and a toy train.

This former palace situated around 1 km from the Ooty bus stand can be visited for an entry fee of Rs 50. It has been converted into a Hotel.

Places of natural beauty and protected natural areas

Note: Ooty is situated in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. Many of the forested areas and water bodies are off limits to most visitors in order 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. Generally tourists are encouraged to observe any local signage and not to enter reserved forests and protected areas. Much of Ooty has already been damaged by rampant commercialisation as a result of tourism. Some steps are being introduced to limit the impact of pollution by tourists in the biosphere reserve such as making the area a plastic-free zone. This largely applies to plastic bags.

The highest point in the Nilgiri Hills, offering spectacular views over the town and district. There is road access to the summit. There is a reserved forest area around the peak.

There is a view point called "Valley View" on the main Ooty to Coonoor road.

A forested and grassy area, partially home to a golf course

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.

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 sitauted 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".

On the way to Pykara. A nearby lake bordered by pine forests.

Situated at a lower altitude and easily accessible to visitors. It borders the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka

A large protected area generally not accessible to visitors. It also contains a lake and peak of the same name.

taking a bus from ooty bus stand to thalakunda or any bus to mysore will take you to this place called pine forest. this place was featured once in the Tamil movie song "deena". its a small downhill like region where pine trees are arranged in an orderly fashion. its a very beautiful sight to look at. when we get down the trees a beautiful green lake opens up. its really a very exciting scene to look at.

usually the tourist vehicles cover pykara surely. so its not a great deal to mention here about that place. after pykara a road leads to mysore. in the way before the forest comes a small place called gudalaur. between gudalaur and pykara comes a hidden spot named needle hill view point. in midst of eculuptus forests comes this place. a walk of nearly 5min will take us to a big barren rock. its easy to climb the rock. after climbing it come to the tip of the rock. there you can see a sight that you cant see anywhere in your life. all the clouds below your feet. and villages below the clouds. this s really an exciting place to look at.

This is the primary water source for the town and is mainly in a reserved forest and is thus largely off-limits to visitors.

Near the town of the same name. There is a view point near the dam. The rest of the are is mainly in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors

Adjacent to the Emerald lake. This is mainly in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors

This is mainly in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors

Most of this is within the Mukurthi National Park (and also largely off limits to visitors)

Transport infrastructure

Road

Ooty is situated on National Highway 67. It is connected by road to travellers from the states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka via the five main accepted Nilgiri Ghat Roads. There is also a road from Karamadai (Coimbatore District) to Ooty via Kothagiri. This won't touch Connor.

Rail

Ooty is connected to Chennai (formerly Madras) 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 complete journey on these two trains takes 16 hours. This journey can be shortened considerably by avoiding the NMR and taking road transport from Ooty to the broad gauge railhead at Mettupalayam (40 km from Ooty by road), or travelling further to Coimbatore for more rail services. Coimbatore has several rail links to destinations across India. In addition to the 'Nilgiri Express', which also stops in Coimbatore, there are more trains from Coimbatore to Chennai.

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.

Air

Coimbatore Airport lies 90km south east of Ooty. It has domestic flights to several major Indian cities and is an international airport with direct services to Singapore, Sharjah and Colombo. The next nearest airport to Ooty is Calicut Airport which is at a road distance of 146 km west of Ooty.

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. The aircraft is capable of transporting five passengers along with two crew. The journey will take approximately 20 minutes and will cost 4500 Rupees per passenger for a one way flight. By surface transport, Coimbatore Airport lies 90km south east of Ooty and the journey takes approximately 3 hours.

The service has generally been well received by local hoteliers catering to up-market tourists and by the president of the Citizens Forum of Ootacamund, who has stated that "in the long run the service would play a key role in ensuring the economic wellbeing of the hill station". There is widespread criticism of the fact that the service is too expensive and out of reach for most of the local people, and will be of little benefit to most people as it will be a service to a small minority of wealthy tourists. Many have argued that the public funds ploughed into setting up the service and modernising the existing public helipad at Theetukal would have been better spent on improving surface infrastructure such as the local access roads which are in a very poor condition. However, some officials have defended the service for public benefit in the case of medical evacuation, although according to Bharat Kumar (JB Aviation): "We are ready to operate in case of medical emergency if the parties concerned are ready to pay the prescribed fare’’ , a clear indication that this is a commercial service and no humanitarian exceptions will be made.

There is also criticism of the fact that the service will not fly to the civilian Coimbatore Airport at Peelamedu but instead will fly to the Air Force Airport at Sulur which will be an added inconvenience to passengers wishing to use this as a connecting service to domestic and international flights, as it will involve an additional transfer by surface transport.

Bus

Ooty, being district capital, has the most frequent bus connections from nearby large towns in the district (such as Coonoor, Kotagiri and Gudalur). There are bus connections to most villages in the district via one of three towns. There are also frequent bus connections to the nearest mainline railheads of Mettupalayam and Coimbatore.

As Ooty is in Tamil Nadu state most direct bus connections are from towns in this state:

There are several buses from the nearest large main 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 and Sultans Battery in Kerala, as well as Gundlupet in Karnataka. The capital cities of these two states (Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram respectively) as well as Union Territory of Puducherry are also connected via direct bus links.

Education

Boarding schools have been a feature of Ooty since days of the British Raj. They are now a significant contribution to the local economy. The facilities and standards of education are considered amongst the highest of 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.

Schools

Colleges

  • C.S.I College Of Engineering, Ketti Vally
  • Government Arts and Science College
  • Emerald Heights College For Women
  • Suverna International institute for Management Studies
  • Monarch International College of Hotel Management
  • JSS College of Pharmacy
  • Swiss Merit Inn College of Hotel Management
  • Merit International Institute of Technology
  • Tribal research Centre (Part of the Tamil University)
  • Light & Life Academy

Demography

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.

Politics

Ootacamund assembly constituency is part of Nilgiris (Lok Sabha constituency).

References

External links

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