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Aerial view of Udhagamandalam
Location of Ooty
in Tamil Nadu and India
Coordinates 11°23′N 76°42′E / 11.38°N 76.70°E / 11.38; 76.70
Country  India
State Tamil Nadu
District(s) The Nilgiris
Population 93,921 (2001)
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)

2,486 m (8,156 ft)

Ooty About this sound pronunciation , short for Ootacamund About this sound pronunciation (officially, Udhagamandalam (Tamil: உதகமண்டலம்) sometimes abbreviated to Udhagai Tamil: உதகை), is a town, a municipality and the district capital of the Nilgiris district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

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 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.[1] 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. Another reason is that the British could not pronounce it well so it became Ootacamund from Udhagamandalam it further changed into Ooty from Ootacamund.


Front of Ootacamund Club, 1905.

The Nilgiri Hills were part of Chera Empire in ancient times. Later it fell into the hands of the 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 (Kota/Kotas, Toda, Krumba 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. It used to be a popular summer and weekend getaway for the Britishers during the colonial days. It is situated at an altitude of 2,240 meters above sea level[2]. Its stunning beauty and splendid green deep valleys made the British name it "Queen of Hills".


Panaromic view of Ooty

As of 2001 India census,[3] 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).[4]


Blackened Nilgiri tea leaves

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" and "English Fruits" grown here. 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 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 erstwhile photo film manufacturer, is the 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 also present in Ooty. 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 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.

Transport infrastructure


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 Karamadai (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 Nilagiri passenger train (NMR) on the rack section

Ooty is connected to Chennai (formerly Madras) by a nightly connecting train service. Mettupalayam provides the interchange between 'The Nilagiri 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 flights to several major Indian cities and has international flights 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.[5]


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[6] 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.

Tourist and historical landmarks

The botanical garden at Udhagamandalam
Fernhills palace
Ooty Lake
Toda Hut

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 2,240 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.

  • Ooty Botanical Gardens

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 a lush green and well maintained Botanical garden. 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. 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, fern house consists of ferns and orchids. Another major attraction is an Italian-style garden bordering a pool. The place is also an ideal location for bird watching.

  • Ooty Lake & Boat House

This is an artificial lake built by John Sullivan. It used to be much larger than its present size of 4 km2 and is 2.5 km in length, 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 rise allows visitors to enjoy the serene environs 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 and a toy train.

  • Stone House

This was the first "Pukka" house in Ooty(now called old Ooty), built by John Sullivan. It is situated inside the premises of the Government Arts College. It now houses the government office.

  • Toda Huts

There are a few number of Toda Huts up in the hills of Botanical Garden 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.

  • St. Stephen's Church

This one of the oldest churches in the town, it architecture is essentially old style with tall spires. It is located 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, partially home to a golf course.

Tourist spots around Ooty

View of Ooty from Doddabetta peak
Tea plantations near Ooty
Ketti Valley
Pykara Lake near Ooty
Pykara falls near Ooty
Pine forest on the way to Pykara falls
Elephant at Mudumalai National Park
Emerald Lake

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. Much of Ooty has already been damaged by rampant commercialisation as a result of tourism. Some of the most prominent tourist spots around Ooty are as follows:

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.

  • Tea Plantations

Tea plantations are present at a lower altitude and attract a large number of tourists by their picturuesque nature.

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.

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 known as pine forest (locally also known as pinus forest) 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 bio scape 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.

Situated at a lower altitude and easily accessible to visitors. It borders the Bandipur National Park in Karnataka. It is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.

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

  • Needle hill view point

A viewpoint 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 situated 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

  • Avalanche Lake

Adjacent to the Emerald lake, this picturesque lake is mainly situated in a reserved forest and is largely off-limits to visitors

  • Porthimund Lake

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

  • Upper Bhavani Lake

This lake is within the Mukurthi National Park and also 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

OSM map


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.[7]


  1. ^ Sir Frederick Price Ootacamund, A History (Madras: Govt. Press) 1908 pp14-15
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Census of India 2001: Data from the 2001 Census, including cities, villages and towns (Provisional)". Census Commission of India. Archived from the original on 2004-06-16. Retrieved 2008-11-01.  
  4. ^ "List of Parliamentary and Assembly Constituencies" (PDF). Tamil Nadu. Election Commission of India. Retrieved 2008-10-10.  
  5. ^ { }
  6. ^ "Modern Indian Education System".  
  7. ^ "Ban on carry bags".  

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