Photo: Ooty at it’s Best

Ooty is situated deep within the Nilgiri hills (which can be literally translated as The Blue Mountains). It is unknown whether this name arises 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 giving the slopes a bluish tinge. Nilgiris in general was ruled by Ganga kings and later by Hoysala kings, particularly Vishnuvardhana who captured Wynad and Nilgiri area during the 11th century. 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. The major tribes of Nilgiri area are Todas, Kotas, Badagas and Alu Kurumbas, who settled in and around Ooty. The first reference of Todas in Nilgiri is found in a record dated 1117 A.D. Toda people are known for raising water buffaloes and Badaga people for their farming activities. Frederick Price in his book Ootacamund, A History states that the area called ‘Old Ooty’ was originally occupied by the Todas. The Todas then handed over that part of the town to John Sullivan, the then Governor of Coimbatore. Sullivan 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.

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