History of district:
The Nilgiris, because of its natural charm and pleasant climate, was a place of Special attraction for the Europeans. In 1818, Mr. Whish and Kindersley, who were assistants to the Collector of Coimbatore, discovered the place Kotagiri near Rengaswamy peak. John Sullivan, the then Collector of Coimbatore was greatly interested in this part of the country. He established his residence there and reported to the Board of Revenue on 31st July 1819.
The Name ‘Nilgiris’ means Blue hills (Neelam - Blue and giri - Hill or Mountain) the first mention of this name has been found in the Silappadikaram. There is a belief that the people living in the plains at the foot of the hills, should have given the name, the Nilgiris, in view of the violet blossoms of ‘kurinji’ flower enveloping the hill ranges periodically. The earliest reference to the political history of the Nilgiris, according to W.Francis relates to the Ganga Dynasty of Mysore.
Immediately after the Nilgiris was ceded to the British in 1789, it became a part of Coimbatore district. In August 1868 the Nilgiris was separated from the Coimbatore District. James Wilkinson Breeks took over the administration of the Nilgiris as its Commissioner. In February 1882, the Nilgiris was made a district and a Collector was appointed in the place of the Commissioner. On 1st February 1882, Richard Wellesley Barlow who was the then Commissioner became the First Collector of Nilgiris.
Main occupation of the district:
The Nilgiris District is basically a horticulture district, and its economy depends largely upon the success or failure of crops like potato, cabbage, carrot, tea, coffee, spices and fruits. The main cultivation is plantation crops, viz., tea and coffee, but with some cardamom, pepper and rubber too. Tea grows at elevations of 1,000 to over 2,500 meters. The area also produces Eucalyptus oil and temperate-zone vegetables. Potato and other vegetables are raised throughout Udhagamandalam and Coonoor Taluks. Paddy, ginger, pepper and rubber are grown in Gudalur and Pandalur Taluks. Paddy is also grown in the Thengumarahada area in Kotagiri Taluk. Besides these crops, millets, wheat, fruit and vegetables, etc., are also found throughout the district. There are no irrigation schemes here. The crops are mainly rain-fed. Check dams have been constructed wherever possible to exploit natural springs.
Road: The Nagapattinam - Gudalur National Highway passes through this district. The Nilgiri Ghat Roads link Nilgiris with nearby cities in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka. All the taluks are connected with major roads. Ooty bus stand serves as the central bus stand for the district along with Municipal Bus Stand, Coonoor (built in 1960). Several crucial Ghat roads were cut in the 19th century. The village roads are maintained by the Panchayat Union.
Train: The Nilgiri Mountain Railway from Mettupalayam to Udhagamandalam via Coonoor, is a great tourist attraction. It was used in the film A Passage to India as the railway to the caves. It is a Swiss-designed rack railway as far as Coonoor, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It services many of the more heavily populated areas of the district including Coonoor, Wellington, Aruvankadu, Ketti, Lovedale and Ooty.
Tourism is an important source of revenue for the Nilgiris. The district is home to several beautiful hill stations popular with tourists who flock to them during summer. These include Udhagamandalam (district headquarters), Coonoor, Gudalur and Kotagiri. The Nilgiri Mountain Train, popularly known as the Toy Train, attracts tourists as the journey offers spectacular, breathtaking views of the hills and forests. Mudumalai National Park is popular with wildlife enthusiasts, campers and backpackers, though one must always be alert to the wild animals there. The annual flower show organized by the Government of Tamil Nadu at the Botanical Garden in Ooty is a much-awaited event every year, known for its grand display of roses. Nilgiris is renowned for its eucalyptus oil and tea, and also produces bauxite. Some tourists are attracted to study the lifestyles of the various tribes living here or to visit the sprawling tea and vegetable plantations. Other popular tourist destinations in the district are Pykara Waterfalls and the Ooty Lake, Avalanche and Doddabetta peak.