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KOTAGIRI - The Place Where Blue Mountains Turn Green
|Elevation||1,793 m (5,883 ft)|
|• Official||Badaga, Tamil|
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
Kotagiri is a panchayat town in The Nilgiris District in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Kotagiri is situated at an elevation of around 1793m above sea level and is one of the three popular hill stations located in the Nilgiris. This picturesque hill station is bounded by verdant green tea estates and offers a number of trekking options.
This old hill station has been developed around innumerable knolls and valleys. The Doddabetta Range is 22 km away. Catherine Falls, Elk Falls and Rangaswami Pillar are the major attractions near Kotagiri and you can trek to these places. Kodanad View Point offers a spectacular view of the gentle sloping hills and blue hills. There is another jungle trekking trail that leads you to a small stream of water.
The three popular trekking trails are Kotagiri - Kodanad; Kotagiri - St. Catherine Falls and Kotagiri - Longwood Shola. The Kotagiri - Kodanad trail leads you through splendid views of lush-green tea estates and the magnificent Moyar River. One has to cross through meadows to reach Kodanad.
Kotagiri is located at  It has an average elevation of 1793 metres (5882 ft)..
As of 2001[update] India census, Kotagiri had a population of 29,184. Males constitute 49% of the population and females 51%. Kotagiri has an average literacy rate of 77%, higher than the national average of 59.5%: male literacy is 84%, and female literacy is 70%. In Kotagiri, 9% of the population is under 6 years of age. Baduga (a dialect of Kannada ), Tamil and Kannada are widely spoken.
Kotagiri, although having no written history of the pre-British period, has been around for a very long time. The area just below Coonoor and the slopes of the Nilgiri hills has been the traditional home of the "kota" tribes. The name ‘Kota-giri’ itself means ‘mountain of the kotas’. While the todas are the traditional agriculturists of the Nilgiris, the Kotas are the traditional artisans and are experts in the art of pottery and terracotta baking. The ‘Kota’ tribe is known for their reclusiveness and their reluctance to meet or mix with any outsider. They currently number just around a 1000 members, and are fast declining.
Kotagiri was known in the past as “Kota-Keri” or “Kota-gherry” the street of Kotas”. In fact, there was a Kota settlement there and it was only in 1911 when the lands occupied were acquired by government for sanitary improvement purposes and the Kota settlement had to be shifted, to 'Aggal' hamlet, 2 km. away from Kotagiri. The temple of the Kotas dedicated to the deity 'Kamataraya' still remains there and has been renovated. The Kotas worship at this temple every month and the annual festival which takes place on the “Arudra Dharshan” day at this temple is of great importance to all the Kotas of the district.
After the forgotten expedition made by Keys and McMohan to the Nilgiris, two civil servants of the Madras Government, J.C. Whish and N.W. Kindersley, made a journey to the hills in 1819. The exact reason for their trip remains unknown, but it possibly could have been in pursuit of smugglers. They went through pass in the hills (now the DENAD village of Kil Kotagiri), and as reported back to their superiors, had “discovered a tableland possessing a European climate”. They called the tableland ‘Kotercherry’.
Soon after, the Collector of Coimbatore, John Sullivan, himself journeyed into the hills and built himself a home in Kotagiri. He was the first European resident of the Nilgiri hills. On his suggestion, the Madras Government opened a ‘sanatorium’ in Ooty and started the practice of moving the whole government to the hills during summer. With the town becoming their personal health resort, several Englishmen followed and settled here. The environment could have been to them reminiscent of the hills and dales of old England which they had left behind for service to the King/Queen.
Nevertheless, Kotagiri remained the first choice for homesick Englishmen wanting to settle in the hills. The area was of a pleasant climate of neither extreme unlike Ooty and Coonoor, which were damper and colder. The climate was for them, ‘like home’. The plateau also had more of a warm wind than rain through the year. John Sullivan was followed by others including numerous elite like the Marquis of Dalhousie, and by the 1830s, there were some twenty bungalows built around here. They had the best of both worlds, living in Madras (now Chennai) during the winter and shifting to Kotagiri during the oppressive summers.
Kotagiri lost its importance when the new ghat road was built from Mettupalayam at the foothills to Coonoor. Until then the only way to get to Ooty was the horse trail that led through Kotagiri. This trail was built in 1821 by Evan McPherson and was the only way up till around 1870 when a proper road was built.
In May 1893, the small, quiet Kotagiri became base for a Christian Bishop's son R.T.H. Griffith, as he set about translating the sacred Ved into English. Ralph Thomas Hotchkin Griffith (1826-1906) was elected to the vacant Sanskrit Scholarship on Nov 24, 1849. He also produced translations of other Sanskrit literature, including a verse version of the Ramayana and the Kumara Sambhava of Kalidasa. He held the position of principal at the Benares College in India.
His translation of the Rigveda follows the text of Max Müller's six-volume Sanskrit edition. His readings generally follow the work of the great scholar Sayana who was Prime Minister at the court of the King of Vijaynagar - in what is now the District of Bellary in the Indian state of Karnataka - in the fourteenth century.
Kotagiri today is one of the smaller towns in the Nilgiri hills and is relatively unknown to outsiders. Kotagiri however has many firsts to its name. It has the distinction of being the first area in the Nilgiris to be discovered and settled by the British Government, and was the first choice destination for several Madras Government servants to use as a summer retreat before it sank into anonymity when the other two towns of Ooty and Coonoor took over in terms of popularity.
It is also the headquarters of the Nilgiris Adivasi Welfare Association (NAWA). NAWA does some wonderful work in the area helping local tribespeople otherwise known as adivasis. It is also the first place where cash crops like tea, coffee and other spices were planted and made available to market.
It is also the place for tourists to visit sightseeing places like Kodanad View Point, St. Catherine waterfalls, Lord Rangaswamy Peak, Thengumarahada, Lord Rangaswamy Pillar and Kootada.
The Plantation Story
The first coffee estate was planted by M.D. Cockburn in 1843, in Kanhutty. Regular planting took off soon after and several plantations were opened. But planting seems to have been around for years before that. Several small attempts were made around the area, with Pope and Magrath opening in Kotagiri, M.D. Cockburn on the Kotagiri ghat, his son George Cockburn in Kotagiri, and Bannerman and Haldwell in Totapolliam.
The first tea plantation however owes its existence to a lady, the daughter of M.D. Cockburn, who opened an estate in 1863, followed by Kodanad. Tea soon took over, and coffee growing was given up. There was a steady growth of tea planting. By the end of the 19th century, it was in around 3,000 acres (12 km2), and today it is almost 30,000 acres (120 km2).
Kotagiri has seen the growth of many hi tech cut flower farms in the past three years. Many enterprising farmers have put up climate controlling greenhouses in which high value flowers are grown, carnations, liliums and gerbera thrive in this environ.
Places of interest
Kodanad View Point is accessible by road, 16 km (9.9 mi) from Kotagiri or about 30 minutes by vehicle. It provides a splendid view of the great Mysore Plateau to one side and the picturesque 50-acre (200,000 m2) farming cooperative called Thengumarahada, which seems like a green mosaic amidst the shrubland, lazily meandering through this little village is the Moyar river.
John Sullivan's Bungalow, also known as the Pethakal Bungalow, that he built during his stay, has just been renovated and is open to the public. The Nilgiris Documentation Centre and the Nilgiris Museum is housed in the bungalow. Village walks, tastes of the local cuisine and folk life etc. are some of the activities that are organized here. It is located in Kannerimukku, about 2 km from the town. Naragiri is a small village near here, which abounds in tea plantations and has beautiful views of the valleys and the mountains. About 6 km from Kannerimukku is the village of Kookalthorai in the plateau with scenic views.
Located within Kotagiri town, Longwood forest, a pristine tropical evergreen forest is a secluded refuge for those seeking peace and quiet, it is home to the flying fox (a large arboreal squirrel) that is rarely seen, there is also a resident family of about 20 bison which can be seen grazing in the evenings just outside the forest on Milidhane road.
The Nehru park in the town is a complex which houses a temple of the Kotas, the Gandhi Maidanam which is the public playground, a Congregation centre and the Flood shelter which is used in normal times for indoor games. A private park about 3 km from the town on Coonoor road, specialises in roses and is a must see from march to June.
Other places of interest are the St.Catherine waterfalls near Aravenu, the Uyilatty falls (also known as Elk falls), 8 km from Kotagiri town and the 1,785 m (5,856 ft) high Rangaswamy Peak. It is a biconical peak and is the most sacred hill on the plateau, being the Holy deity of the Nilgiris people. This shrine is visited by thousands of pilgrims from the Kongu region and other places yearly. According to Hindu Legend, Lord Rangaswamy used to live at Karamadai in Coimbatore district on the plains but quarrelled with his wife and came to live alone here. Two-foot prints on the rock not far from Arakadu village below the peak are stated to be the proof for this.
St. Catherine Falls (Geddhehaada Halla) is an 8 km trail. St. Catherine Falls is a two step waterfalls that plummets down from a height of 250 ft (76 m). The Longwood Shola Forest is 3 km away from Kotagiri and the wild terrain offers an amazing trekking experience. Tourists require prior permission from the District Forest Officer (DFO) for taking the trekking route to explore Milidhane that leads you to the Shola Forest.
On the north west of Rangaswamy Peak beyond "Denad village", is found the Rangaswamy Pillar, which is an extraordinary isolated rocky pillar rising in solitary grandeur to a height of some 400 feet (120 m) narrowly and has sheer sides, which are quite unclimbable. Kil-Kotagiri, Sholurmattam, Karagodumattam, Kadasholai are the places en route to Rangaswamy Peak.
Kotagiri abounds in big European style bungalows built by the British and most of them retain their Englishness, are still very habitable and have been converted into upmarket homestays. New constructions too are aplenty but at the cost of aesthetics.
There are numerous tea factories producing the famous Nilgiri tea. The famous Nilgiri thailam (Eucalyptus oil) is distilled in small shacks in a rudimentary manner.
Kotagiri also has some gold deposits, which were mined to levels possible during the days of the British rule. Presently research is going on to determine if it would be possible to extract more gold from the mines.
There is also some considerable bauxite in the area. The Nehru Park is located in Kotagiri town. Kodanad View Point is a popular location near Kotagiri for scenic views of the surrounding valleys and the plains. The picturesque Thengumarahada village beside the Moyar river, the Bhavani Sagar reservoir and the Deccan Plateau are visible from here.
Kodanad View Point: This view point offers a panoramic view of the distant plateaus, tea estates, Thengumarahada village, Kil-Kotagiri region peaks, the Moyar river and more. Kodanad View Point is situated 18 km from Kotagiri.
Kil-Kotagiri: A small town situated 13 km north east of Kotagiri.
Rangaswamy Peak : Located at a distance of 12 km from Kil-Kotagiri, the highly captivating Rangaswamy peak is revered by the Irulas tribes and sacred place for Thousand of families in and around porangadu seemai (kotagiri region),Located at the altitude of 1800M Above MSL. It is the most sacred hill on the plateau. Visited by devotees during the summer month and pray Lord Rangaswamy. According to Hindu Legend Lord Rangaswamy used to live at Karamadai in Coimbatore district on the plains but quarrelled with his wife, came to live alone here. Two-foot prints on the rock not far from Arakadu village below the peak are stated to be the proof for this.
Rangaswamy Pillar: Situated 4 km from Kil-Kotagiri is another sacred pillar that is worshipped. It is an extraordinary isolated rocky pillar rising in solitary grandeur to a height of some 400 feet (120 m) and has sheer narrow sides which are quite unclimbable.
Thengumarahada: "The paddy bowl of the Nilgiris", is situated in Kotagiri taluk, on the plains and could be reached via the Bhavani Sagar reservoir.
Ooty: Ooty is called the Scotland of the East and is a popular tourist destination in southern India. This scenic town houses the exquisite Botanical Gardens which were established in 1847. There is a beautiful Rose Garden atop a hill, and the placid Ooty Lake is another major attraction of the hill town. Ooty is also the base town for many trekking expeditions, including the Dodda Betta peak.
Coonoor: This second largest hill station in the Nilgiris is situated at an altitude of 1839 m. It is surrounded by tea plantations. The popular activity is bird watching and the place is a visual treat for bird spotters. The botanical garden called the Sims Park is the main attraction. The park plays host to a thousand varieties of trees, plants and flowers and there is also a small lake. The Dolphins Nose is a view point near here. The famous Pasteur Institute is also located in Coonoor.
Droog Fort: Droog fort is located near Coonoor. To visit this fort, tourists have to do some physical exercise, as the path is a good trekking trail, but it is worth the effort. This fort is located at a height of around 6,000 ft (1,800 m) above the surface. It is said that this fort was used by the great Tippu Sultan for his outpost.
Elk Falls: This is a tourist attraction to visit in Kotagiri. This place is very well known for the amazing waterfalls and the beautiful European house built during the days of the British colonial rule.
Kotagiri boasts of many residential and non-residential schools providing good education:
- St. Jude's Public School & Junior College
- Kotagiri Public School (CBSE)
- Viswa Santhi Vidyalaya Matric School
- Riverside Public School
- St. Marys Home School
- Pandiaraj Matric Higher Secondary School
- Green Valley Matric School
- St. Antony's Middle School
- C.S.I Higher Secondary School
- St. Mary's Girls Higher Secondary School
- Government (Boys) Higher Secondary School
- Alpha GK School
The colleges in Kotagiri are listed below:
- KAYPEEYES College of Arts and Science
- District Institute of Education and Training
- NPA Centenary Polytechnic College:
- House of joy Vocational Training Centre for the Blind
Kotagiri is linked by road to Mettupalayam. The road which continues on to Ooty (27 km from Kotagiri to Ooty) is one of the Nilgiri Ghat Roads and is now one of the five access routes for the entire district. Coonoor is 23 km from Kotagiri and connected by a road that branches off the Ooty road.
Buses to Kotagairi are available from Mettupalayam near Coimbatore in the foothills and also from Ooty and other places.
Kotagiri is well-connected with all the major cities of Tamil Nadu by road. There are regular bus services from Ooty, Mettupalayam and Coonoor. The nearest railhead is in Coonoor. The nearest airport is in Coimbatore International Airport (65 km) which is well-linked to cities like to all the major cities in India and to Gulf and middleast countries.
- Falling Rain Genomics, Inc - Kotagiri
- "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.
- Planting in Nilgiris, 1966 (NPA souvenir)
- "NPA, Kotagiri". Retrieved 2011-01-12.
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