History of Ooty, The Nilgiris
History of Nilgiris
The history of Nilgiris dates back to eleventh and twelfth century. The Nilgiris was first mentioned in Silapathikaram. The Nilgiris was part of the Kingdoms ruled by most of the rulers of South India viz. the Cheras, the Cholas, the Pandiyas, the Rashtrakutas, the Ganges, the Pallavas, Kadambas and the Hoysalas. The illustrious king of Hoysalas Vishnuvardhana (A.D. 1111-1141) had conquered Nilgiris and turned the Nila mountains into a city.
The Nilgiris was part of the Vijayanagar Kingdom from 1336 to 1565. After its fall in 1565 the rulers of Mysore gained control over the Nilgiris. Later it came under the rule of Hyder Ali and Tipu Sultan (1760 to 1799). The Nilgiris was ceded to the East India Company in 1799 by a Treaty of Srirangapattanam. However this beautiful mountainous region was unknown to British until 1818.
It was John Sullivan, an Englishman and Collector of Coimbatore, who was destined to have greater cultural impact on the Nilgiri hills than any other single person, Indian or European. He had a strong love of Nature and propensity for Agriculture and Gardening. He was the first European official to build a house and settle there.
British Rule and John Sullivan’s contribution to the city
The Nilgiri Mountains came to be administered by the ‘East India Company’, under the treaty of Srirangapatnam in 1799. In the year 1818 Wish and Kindersley, Assistant and Second Assistant to the then collector of Coimbatore, visited the areas and submitted the reports of their visit. Later the collector, John Sullivan himself visited the spot and was captivated by the beauty of these hills and compared it to Switzerland. In 1822, Sullivan accquired a portion of Toda land and constructed his bugalow, which now stands here as an important tourist spot, called the ‘Stone House’. It was the first European House in Ooty. He founded Ooty, by placing it in the world maps.
John Suvillian's significant additions to present day Ooty cannot be overlooked. He was not the first to visit Nilgiris, but was the first person to recognize the serenity and potentiality of these beautiful hills. He came to the wooded land in 1819 and constructed the roads from Sirumugai near Mettupalayam to Dimbhatti in Kotagiri. Further the routes to Conoor also were laid and completed in 1832 helping develop the connectivity of the place. The location turned into a well-liked summer retreat for British officers.
The pivotal Ooty Lake is a construction of Sullivan. The lake was formed damming the small streams around the place for irrigation purposes. Now the Lake still survives as the most popular tourist attraction of Ooty. Sullivan also introduced better agricultural practices in the surrounding areas and among the locals. He also introduced teak and chinchona tree plantations that are still an inevitable part of Ooty’s agricultural economy. He introduced tea and many European varieties of wheat and barley, hence changing the social and economical face of Ooty.
Slowly the city was uplifted to have a semblance to Old England. Club Houses, Riding stables , kennels, churches and summer cottages of civil servants and Maharajas came to Ooty, completely revamping the way the city looked. The year 1891 saw the commencement of construction of Nilgiri Railways. The Conoor-Frenhill Railway was complete by 1907 under South Indian Railways that purchased the line and assumed the charge of construction.
He introduced a number of old varieties of plants from Europe and South Africa which form part of the Nilgiris flora today. He is responsible for developing the Nilgiris and Udhagamandalm in particular.
The Ootacamund is well brought out by Lord Lytton, Governor General of India who visited the hills in September 1877. He loved the rainy and muddy road in Ootacamund.
Although there are no known records of the place coming under any kingdom, probably because of the tremendous forest cover that spreads across the entire region making it totally inaccessible to any outsider, there are traces of cave hideout build by king of Mysore Tipu Sultan in the region. This suggests that the kingdom of Mysore had probably extended its boundary to cover Ooty and the surrounding areas as well and used this place as a possible hideout, in case they were outrun by enemies. The impenetrable Western Ghats have a major role to play in the place remaining undiscovered for a long time in history.
The forests fabled for the different variety of flora and fauna made it absolutely impossible for anyone to travel through them in the past. All this changed when the British came and started their development activities and thus gave us this wonderful place to visit and enjoy.
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