The NILGIRIS

The Nilgiri hills have a history going back a good many centuries. It is not known why they were called the Blue Mountains. Several sources cite the reason as the smoky haze enveloping the area, while other sources say it is because of the kurunji flower, which blooms every twelve years giving the slopes a bluish tinge.

It was originally tribal land and was occupied by the Todas around what is now the Ooty area, and by the Kotas around what is now the Kotagiri (Kothar Keri) area. The Badagas appeared here much later from the Mysore Plateau, the unconfirmed date being 1550. Although the Nilgiri hills are mentioned in the Ramayana of Valmiki (estimated by Western scholars to have been recorded in the second century BCE), they remained all but undiscovered by Europeans until 1602. This was when the first European set foot into the jungles. A Portuguese priest going by the name of Ferreiri resolved to explore the hills and succeeded. He came upon a community of people calling themselves the “Toda.” This priest seems to have been the only European to have explored this area. The Europeans in India more or less seem to have ignored the ghats for some two hundred or more years.

It was only around the beginning of the 1800s that the English unsuccessfully considered surveying this area. Around 1810 or so the East India Company decided to delve into the jungles here. An Englishman Francis Buchanan made a failed expedition. John Sullivan who was then the Collector of Coimbatore, just south of the Nilgiris, sent two surveyors to make a comprehensive study of the hills. They went as far as the lower level of Ooty, but failed to see the complete valley. The two men were Keys and Macmohan (their first names seem to be lost to the annals of history) and their mission was significant because they were the first Englishmen to set foot in the Nilgiri hills which soon led to the complete opening up of the area.

The original discovery however, is attributed to J.C. Whish and N.W. Kindersley, working for the Madras Civil Service, who made a journey in 1819 and who reported back to their superiors that they had discovered “the existence of a tableland possessing a European climate.”

The first European resident of the hills was John Sullivan, the Collector of Coimbatore, who went up the same year and built himself a home. He also reported to the Madras Government the appropriateness of the climate; Europeans soon started settling down here or using the valley for summer stays. The complete valley became a summer resort. Later on the practice of moving the government to the hills during summer months also started. By the end of the 19th century, the Nilgiri hills were completely accessible with the laying of roads and the railway line.

Country
: India
State
: Tamil Nadu
District
Subdistrict(s)
: UdhagamandalamCoonoor, Kundah, Kotagiri, Gudalur, Pandalur
Headquarters
: Udhagamandalam
Largest city
: Udhagamandalam
Legislature
: (seats) elected (3)
Population
: 762141[1] (2001[update])
Official languages
: Tamil
Climate :
Precipitation
: 3,520.8 mm (138.6 in)
Temperature
: -6 °C (21 °F)
Summer
: 6 °C (43 °F)
Winter
: -12 °C (10 °F)

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