A Visit to Ooty Government Botanical Garden

Entrance of ooty botanical garden

ooty gardens

There was a light drizzle when we visited the Ooty Government  Botanical Garden on a Sunday morning in August. The weather forecast was for rain with a chance of thunder-showers. The light rain did not deter visitors to this most popular garden; most of them carried umbrellas or wore hooded jerkins and rain coats.

Ooty Botanical garden is one of the most beautiful places in the hill-station. It belongs to the colonial era, an expression of the traditional love of gardens of the British. The initial layout of the Ooty Botanical gardens was prepared by the Marquis of Tweedale in the late 1940s with the prime purpose of growing vegetables and supplying them to European residents at an affordable rate. In 1847 funds were raised to transform the venue into a horticultural society and public garden. The garden was designed by William Graham McIvor, a professional gardener from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew, England. McIvor arrived in Ooty in 1848 and it took ten years for the garden to be completed.

The gardens are laid out on the slopes of Doddabetta and the entrance is at the bottom of the hill, so you have to climb your way up to tour the ascending gardens. It is landscape gardening at its most alluring, the layered beauty of the bright green lawns, the flower beds, and shrubbery in a series of terraces against a backdrop of thick woods and some of the tallest trees making it a magical place.

Spread over 22 hectares it has several sections.There is a Lower garden, a New garden, the Italian garden, a conservatory built in 1912 and many nurseries.

 

Beautiful lawns -Ooty botanical gardens
Beautiful lawns -Ooty botanical gardens

India map Ooty bot.garden

The map of India is a carpet-bed design made with bedding plants of different colors. It shows all the states clearly and is a major landmark in the garden. Opposite the India Map is another main attraction of the garden, a fossil tree trunk from the National fossil Park at Tiruvakkarai in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu which is more than 20 million years old. It is a great favorite with tourists.

Fossilized tree trunk- link to the past
Fossilized tree trunk- link to the past
bot. garden ooty 1
A private residence inside the botanical garden, Ooty

garden design ooty (2)

Ooty botanical garden
Ooty botanical garden
ooty (5)
Layered terraces and lawns in the Botanical garden, Ooty
ooty (3)
An archway in the Botanical garden of Raj Bhavan, Ooty
Carpet-bed garden design,Ooty
Carpet-bed garden design,Ooty

ooty gardens

Paved pathways lead up to the many levels of the garden. I had fond memories of the Toda mund at the very top of the garden from an earlier visit many years ago. And so we climbed higher and higher enjoying the breathtaking views of the gardens, stopping to rest and to take pictures, inhaling the eucalyptus scented air. At one place the air was heavily scented from the magnolia blossoms on a row of magnolia trees. It was a very pleasant walk.

ooty bot. garden

ooty (4)
Massive! A giant tree in the Botanical garden,Ooty

Toda Mund

At the very top of the hill slopes the paved pathways and landscaped gardens end and we followed a mud path that went up through the woods of towering pine and eucalyptus trees. This path takes you to the Toda mund which is a settlement of the Todas, the indigenous tribe of the Nilgiris. On reaching the grassy meadow of Toda mund, I was heartened to see that nothing had changed. At the far end of the beautiful meadow is the Toda temple which you can see from outside. It is built in a circular pit, a curved structure made of grass, bamboo and cane and stone,and has a tiny entrance. The front wall is decorated with symbols – of the sun, moon and the sacred buffalo.

There was a herd of sacred buffaloes under the shady trees at the top of the meadow. One or two stood up on our arrival, to inspect intruders like ourselves, and then went back to chewing cud. It is beautiful up at the Toda Mund. Traditional Toda dwellings are gone and the Todas live in modern houses. But the temple remains symbolic of a people who zealously follow their unique culture. Behind the temple the hills rise up, terraced farms forming layers of green on the hill-sides.

Toda Mund,Ooty
Toda Mund,Ooty
Toda temple ooty
Toda temple Ooty
Toda temple ooty 1
Toda temple,Ooty

On the walk back to the Botanic gardens we took a different path, as the mud path was wet and slippery, stopping to chat and ask directions from the garden workers.

ooty (2)
Beauty of fallen tree trunks on sloping lawns- Ooty
Canons and viewing places
Canons and viewing places

 

ooty bot gardens

It was noon when we left the gardens. There is a Tibetan market just opposite the main entrance that sold knitwear. Here we were directed to a Momo restaurant further down the road where they serve Tibetan cuisine. Piping hot bowls of veg.Thukpa and hot momos were just right for a rainy day!

Other posts on Ooty:

OOTY – A Weekend in August

Stone House Museum – Ooty

Rose Garden Ooty-For All Lovers of Roses

 

 

 

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Rose Garden Ooty-For All Lovers of Roses

hillside landscaping

Situated on the slopes of Elk Hill, Rose Garden, Ooty is one of the largest rose gardens in India and its collection of roses among the largest in the world. April – May is the best time to visit the gardens for spectacular displays of roses.

According to the Tamil Nadu Horticultural department, “Centenary Rose Park, Udhagamandalam owes its genesis to the Centenary Flower Festival. It covers an area of 4.00 Ha comprising of five terraces. The Rose Garden is situated in the lower slopes of the Elk Hill in Vijayanagaram Farm on the North Western side facing the Udhagamandalam Town. 

The Rose varieties planted in this Garden were assembled from different sources i.e., Bangalore, Chandigarh, Kodaikanal, Yercaud besides Nilgiris and more than 25,000 Rose plants of 3800 varieties have been planted. The collection includes Floribundas, Polyanthes, Miniatures, Hybrid Teas and Creepers. Gradually, it is proposed to increase the number of varieties to 50000 by introducing new varieties from different Centers in India and abroad. The Garden includes major attractions such as Arches, Bowers, Tunnels, Umbrellas, Green Houses, and Fountains and ‘Nila Maadam’ stone lanterns, rockeries, etc.”

divine beauty of rose buds

ooty rose

The workers in the garden warned us that the flowers were few in this rainy season (August) and that season time was April –May. There were 4000 varieties of roses spread over five sloping terraces.

rose garden ooty 3

shades of red

roses

The garden has beautiful walkways and landscaped terraces on the sloping hillside and it takes an hour or two to see everything..well, almost everything!!..It’s so big. Situated on the hill slopes, it offers lovely views of Ooty. A great place to visit!

pink rose dm

rose garden ooty (2)

cen. rose garden

rose garden

 

kids at play

 

 

lanscaping

 

Stone House Museum – Ooty

Stone house Government museum, Ooty
Stone house Government museum, Ooty

The Government Museum housed in Stone House, Ooty is a small museum and one of two state-run museums in Ooty. It has a delightful collection of stuffed animals and birds, mounted hunting trophies along with regular exhibits of ancient coins, metalware, rock samples, wood carvings, to name a few. It also showcases artefacts of the tribal communities of the Nilgiris, the Todas, Badagas,Kurumba and Irula tribes with separate sections devoted to each tribe.

The models of Toda hut and temple are interesting with diagrams of the architecture used in building them. This museum has to be seen at a leisurely pace to fully appreciate the exhibits on display. There are some rare and unusual exhibits like bamboo manuscripts which are manuscripts made on bamboo strips, and colorful puppets made from leather and used in traditional shadow play(Bommalaatam, Nizhalaatam).

Wood Sculptures
Wood Sculptures
Mounted Trophies,Stone house, Ooty
Mounted Trophies,Stone house,Ooty
Stufffed animals and birds
Stufffed animals and birds
Stuffed fowl
Stuffed Fowl

Megalithic burial urns

Bamboo Manuscripts
Bamboo Manuscripts
Miniature model of a Toda hut
Miniature model of a Toda hut
Miniature of Toda temple and hut
Miniature of Toda temple and hut
Palm-leaf Manusripts
Palm-leaf Manusripts
Leather puppets of Tamilnadu
Leather puppets of Tamilnadu

There is a copper embossed plate with intricate details depicting Sethu Bandanam, an important occurance described in detail by Sage Valmiki in the Ramayana involving the building of a bridge across the sea by the Vanara Sena to reach Lanka and rescue Sita.

Sethubandana - embossed copper plate
Sethubandana – embossed copper plate
Sethubandana - embossed copper plate
Sethubandana – embossed copper plate

Considering the fact that the Ramayana is a documentation by Sage Valmiki on events that happened a million years ago and the Sethu Bhandanam event described in it has been corroborated by NASA’s  satellite picture of the bridge beneath the sea, the importance of artefacts such as this copper plate is momentous. The exact period of the copper plate is not known. Parts of it are damaged but the sheer beauty of the embossed plate and the etching of myriad details is fascinating. These are details described by Sage Valmiki in  the Yudha Kaanda of the Ramayana.

Sethu bandhanam in epics 2.1. Valmiki10 describes the construction of ‘Sethu’, which was built in a record time of 5 days under the leadership of Nala, the son of Viswakarma, in his Ramayana in 25 verses. Rama asks Nala to construct a dam on the sea to Srilanka, as advised by Samudraraja. Nala agrees and Vanaras who looked like high mountains went in all directions and brought mountain like rocks and stones. They brought trees, either cut or uprooted. The vanara sena uprooted rocks which resembled huge elephants, using machines and brought them to the seashore with the help of carrier vehicles. “The dam constructed by Nala who was as skilled and talented as his illustrious father, looked like milky way” says Valmiki. The joyous roar raised by the vanaras on completion of the dam silenced even the deadliest noise of the mighty ocean.11 92

Source: https://www.slideshare.net/kalyan97/annexures

Stone House

Stone House - Ooty
Stone House – Ooty

While the museum, though small is very interesting, Stone House itself is filled with history. Its history is intrinsically connected with the history of Ooty. It was the home that John Sullivan built for himself and his family in 1822, the first European dwelling to be built in Ooty.

John Sullivan

John Sullivan
Picture of John Sullivan in Stone House, Ooty

John Sullivan, the Collector of Coimbatore set out to explore the Nilgiris in 1819 after obtaining an order charging him to investigate the “origin of the fabulous tales that are circulated concerning the Blue Mountains to verify their authenticity and to send a report to the authorities”.

He first reached Kotagiri where a small British settlement was established. Ooty was still ‘undiscovered’. In April 1822  Sullivan arrived in Ootakamund, bought land from the Todas at ‘roughly a rupee an acre’ and started work on his Stone House so called because it was built entirely of stone, which he completed the following year. It was called Kal Bangala by the tribals, kal being the tamil word for stone.

In a letter he wrote to Thomas Munro,the Governor of Madras, he says, ….this is the finest country ever…it resembles I suppose Switzerland more than any other part of Europe…the hills beautifully wooded and fine strong spring with running water in every valley.

Sullivan established the hill station of Ootacamund, the first hill station of India. Convalescent British soldiers were sent here to recuperate and it became a home away from home of the British community residing in  India.He also created Ooty lake by damming a stream to meet the water requirements of the new town. 

Most important is the fact that John Sullivan was a progressive and liberal person who insisted that the Todas be given freedom to manage their own affairs. He was called ‘a friend of the natives’.

Sullivan was instrumental in cultivation of fruits, vegetables, barley and tea in the hills. The Ooty we see today is a legacy of this enterprising Englishman. 

Stone House with its small rooms and bay windows has stood the test of time, a beautiful legacy of British architecture and  British colonial India.

External links

http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mag/2005/01/16/stories/2005011600580100.htm

http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mag/2002/03/17/stories/2002031700210800.htm

OOTY – A Weekend in August

There was a long holiday for Vinayaka Chaturthi in the last week of August and a visit to Ooty was planned rather suddenly. We were on our way by three in the afternoon on Friday, 25th August, had reached Mettupalayam in the foothills by six or seven and arrived in Ooty by nine p.m. slowed down a bit by all the vehicles on the winding mountain road..all holiday makers like ourselves. It looked as if everyone had the same brainwave that we had.. namely a holiday in Ooty!!It was after dark that we negotiated the mountain road and passed many mountain villages. What made the journey memorable was that the villages were decked with festive lights and we passed many colorful Ganesha pandals. We passed many village temples as well which were open at that late hour and could see people going home from the temples. It was Vinayaka chaturthi after all… and I remember thinking how nice that we were travelling on this special day and could see all the happy scenes.

Ooty is one of the most popular hill stations of India. Much has been written about this beautiful town in the Blue mountains – The Nilgiris. This post and the next few ones are my memories of a wonderful holiday and I hope you enjoy reading about them.

Doddabetta

On Saturday morning after breakfast,the first place of visit was Doddabetta, the highest peak in the Nilgiris at 2636 MSL(  8,650 ft.),8km from Ooty. The flat summit has a reserve forest area around it and is accessible by road. This is a most popular tourist destination in Ooty.

The spectacular views of Ooty from the observation tower are out of this world and on clear days many important places near Ooty  can be seen. The place has a cafeteria for snacks and tea. It’s a lovely place where everyone tends to linger, to enjoy the 360 degree views, the strong winds,the mists and the August drizzles and to take pictures.

Doddabetta, ooty

Doddabetta 1
View from the Observation Tower in Doddabetta, Ooty
Doddabetta 4
The Telescope and observation tower, Doddabetta, Ooty
Doddabetta 3
Doddabetta. Ooty
Doddabetta 5
Doddabetta, Ooty
Doddabetta 6
A Time for fun…in Doddabetta Ooty

Benchmark Tea Factory, Tea Museum, Chocolate Factory

On the way back from Doddabetta peak we were given discount coupons to be used in Benchmark Tea factory and Museum. So our next stop was Benchmark Tea factory which was located about 4km from Doddabetta. Tourists are given a guided tour of the factory where you can read about the history of tea and other interesting information in the beautifully illustrated pictures around the museum. You can see the tea leaves being dried and processed. You can sample nine different varieties of tea free of cost. Chocolate is made here and visitors can taste a free sample. You can buy varieties of tea and chocolates and eucalyptus oil at the retail counters in the premises.

The next place we visited was the Government museum which is the subject of my next post.

Late afternoon we went to the beautiful Ooty lake and went boating. Then it started to rain! And then one of the pedals on the pedal boat came off and back we came to the boathouse. While TTDC did ask us to take another boat we had had enough boating for the day. 

These are some pictures on the history of tea taken inside the Benchmark Tea museum.

benchmark -Ooty

Emperor Shen Nung (2)

benchmark 5

benchmark 4

 

 

 

benchmark 9

 

benchmark 11

benchmark 12

Bm tea factory

benchmark 2

benchmark 13

View from the Benchmark tea factory
A view from Benchmark Tea Museum

 

 

Kolli Hills – Pristine and Pure

KOLLI HILLS

Kolli Hills is a beautiful mountain range located in Namakkal district of Tamil Nadu in South India. Its altitude ranges from 1000 to 1300 meters above mean sea level and enjoys a pleasant, healthful climate round the year. The hills are spread over an area of 440 sq. kilometers. When viewed from National Highway 44 on the Rasipuram-Namakkal stretch, it appears as a flat-topped mountain range.

Remote, untouched by commercialization and retaining its historical charm Kolli Malai as it is called locally seems frozen in time.

History

  • Kolli Malai is said to be the exquisite Madhuvanam (the forest of honey) zealously maintained by vaanara king Sugreeva that is mentioned in the Sundara kandam of the Ramayana. The Madhuvanam was a protected grove where there was plenty of honey. Even today, this is a land of tropical fruits, honey and medicinal herbs just as it would have been in the Ramayana period.
  • It was a land favoured by siddars, the ancient medicine men of Tamil Nadu.

Kolli hills in the songs of the bards

In a distant past dating more than 2000 years ago, there lived wandering bards who travelled across ancient Tamil Nadu and were much respected by kings. They had the freedom to visit any kingdom and write songs on all they saw and observed. Tamil Sangam literature hence comes across as a treatise of gross truth told in a style that is at once blunt and poetical. The Kolli hills have been eulogized and glorified by many of these poets. It has a rich history as the kingdom of Mazhavar and Chera kings, It was a coveted kingdom and wars were fought and kings died trying to defend the kingdom.

Kolli hills are mentioned in these books of sangam literature:

  1. Purananooru
  2. Agananooru
  3. Natrinai
  4. Kurunthogai
  5. Pathitrupathu

Beautiful And Magical                  

Named after Kolli Paavai, the maiden goddess who guards these hills, Kolli hills still casts its spell on visitors. Much of the area is relatively unexplored and inaccessible, Myths abound and stories are told that are bizarre and spooky. Yes, it is true that a Kolli hills has a reputation. It is the favored destination of astrologers and practitioners of witchcraft and tantric practices. Scattered over the hills are small shrines where the priests will promise to remove all obstacles in your life and solve all your problems for a fee!

But there is much in the Kolli hills that is sacred and beautiful. The people who live here are tribals and are called as Malayalees – people of the mountains. They are a hard-working self- sufficient community with a unique culture that is their own. Aadi Padhinettu in July is the most important festival in the Kolli hills when people from the 16 naadus and from other places come together for week long celebrations.

A Holiday in Kolli Hills

Kolli hills is the place to go for a quiet peaceful holiday sans crowds of tourists.

On visiting the hills you realize that you have just stepped into an amazing world and first visits are always memorable. This is hill country like no other. Thick forests are interspersed with pastoral landscapes, and cosy mountain villages. The altitude and the rivers Aiyaru and Varattaru flowing across the hills, massive jackfruit trees everywhere you go, terraced fields, yes, Kolli hills is beautiful.

How to reach

Kolli hills is accessible from Salem (64 kms) and from Namakkal(24 kms) both major cities on National Highway 44(NH44). Buses ply from Salem, Namakkal and Rasipuram to important villages in the Kolli hills. It is a better idea to rent a car because many of the places to visit in the hills are not on the regular bus routes.

Hill road - Kolli malai

The drive to the hills is lovely, the roads are good. If you are travelling from Salem it is a  11/2 hour drive through a very scenic route.

Route from Salem

Take the NH 44 from Salem. Near Rasipuram, turn left onto the Rasipuram bye-pass which will take you to State Highway SH 95. Turn right on to SH 95 and drive through beautiful farming villages along the Kolli range. Turn left once more at Kaalappa-naickenpatti to go to the kolli foothills village of Karavalli. The 28 kms Ghat Road begins at Karavalli. and the most amazing drive up the mountains with  stunning views and 70 sharp hair-pin bends, a real challenge for drivers and biking enthusiasts. Enjoy the paintings of the Sendhamangalam Highways department along the way depicting stories of famous kings of ancient Tamil Nadu.

A hair pin bend in Kolli hills
A hair-pin bend in the Kolli Hills

Kolli Hills

Solakadu is your first stop and also one of the highest points in the hills. Stop for a steaming cup of the locally grown Arapalli coffee. The tribal shandy is right by the roadside and is a must visit place for buying exotic fruits and spices and other mountain produce. Just opposite the shandy, within the premises of the Highways Bungalow is a viewpoint with breathtaking views.

At Solakadu you can choose the places you want to visit from the prominently placed signpost. There are a lot of places to visit in the Kolli hills.

A word of caution – Once you exit Solakadu, there are very few signposts along the way so ask the locals for directions when in doubt to avoid going around in circles! Many roads seem the same on the hills and can get quite confusing.

Where to stay

There are very few resorts in the Kolli hills. The oldest is the Nallathambi resort. You can book cottages of the Kolli malai Panchayat in advance. These are located in Semmedu. Another place to stay is the youth hostel near the Arapaleeswarar temple.Alternately, you can stay in Salem or Namakkal and visit the hills.

Bring packed meals and snacks when you come because there are very few good hotels or eateries. If you plan to stay longer than a day the best thing would be to ask the locals to prepare food for you.

Gently Down The Lake In Yercaud

Dappled sunlight by the lake
Dappled sunlight by the lake, Yercaud

6th April 2017

Which Tamil Nadu hill-station gets its name from the lake at the centre of town? Yercaud, of course! This little hill town was called Eri-Kadu because of the forests around the lake. Eri-lake and kadu-forest. We locals still say Yerkadu when we speak of this laid- back hill town near Salem.

Yercaud Lake (2)

  • The lake is the first sight that greets you once you have negotiated 20 hair-pin bends on the lovely drive on the oh-so-beautiful hill roads and enter the hill town.
  • Once you have arrived in Yercaud, the lakeside is a good place to spend time.
  • Go boating on the lake, relax on the lawns by the lakeside, enjoy the cool breeze and the beautiful scenery, and try out the tasty street food in the many eateries near the boat-house.
  • TTDC run boat-house opens at  nine in the morning and closes at five- thirty in the evening. It is the most popular place for tourists coming to Yercaud and can be quite crowded in summer.
  • You have a choice of pedal-boats, motor- boats and row-boats.
Boat-house, Yercaud
Boat-house, Yercaud

Boat-house, Yercaud

Safety Rules for boating enthusiasts outside the boat-house in Yercaud
Safety Rules for boating enthusiasts outside the boat-house in Yercaud

Yercaud lake is the only natural lake where you can go boating among all the lakes found in hill-stations in Tamil Nadu.

Dappled sunlight by the lake in Yercaud
Morning sunlight brightens up a placid lake scene in Yercaud

Gently down the lake!

A word of caution- the lake is really deep, so just sit back in your boat and enjoy yourself (let life pass by, literally)!

The row- boats come with the mandatory boatman which is good from the safety perspective. Personally I prefer the row- boat even if there is some waiting for the allotted boat. There is something very therapeutic about the splash of oars striking water, trailing your hand in the cool lake , taking in the panoramic views as the boat moves down the lake and a chat with a friendly boatman!

Late in the evening, when the boat-house has closed and the crowds have left, take a walk on the road by the lake. It’s very peaceful and across the lake, big stars hang low in the black sky over the dark silhouette of a hill. See the stars reflected in the mirror-like water. Feel the cool pure mountain-air, breathe deeply and watch your cares fall away.

The healing beauty of nature is part of the magic that is Yercaud.

RED BERRIES, POINSETTIAS AND more…

20th December,2016

Making B(m)erry!

Nature’s palette this December in Yercaud is light and dark shades of green and vivid splashes of red and orange.

This is a busy time in the coffee plantations in Yercaud. The coffee plants are full of red berries. Plantation workers pick the ripe berries by hand leaving the green unripe ones on the plants.

Ruby red coffee berries
Ruby red coffee berries

afternoon-sun-on-coffee-berries-yercaud

The coffee berries are a beautiful shade of red and shine like rubies amidst the shiny dark green leaves of the coffee plant. Myself, I love coffee and can’t do without my morning cuppa and another in the evening. Filter coffee is always a treat, and Kumbakonam degree kaapi makes one drool. But it all starts here in the hills from the coffee berries that ripen in December. In Salem, we are proud of our very own Narasu’s coffee..who can forget the famous ad?!!

coffee-berries-ripen-on-bushes-in-yercaud

Marigolds and red coffee berries add beauty to the fencing
Marigolds and red coffee berries add beauty to the fencing

Plantation yards are a hive of activity, as the picked berries are weighed, the seeds separated from the berries in machines and then sun-dried. For many days, as the berries ripen slowly on the plants this process continues. From berry to brew is a lengthy process which starts with the picking.

Workers in a plantation,Yercaud
Workers in a plantation,Yercaud
Weighing the berries, a December plantation scene, Yercaud
Weighing the berries, a December plantation scene, Yercaud
Weighing the coffee berries in Yercaud
Weighing the coffee berries in Yercaud

a-coffee-plantationyercaud

coffee-seeds-are-sun-dried-in-a-platation-yard-yercaud
Coffee seed are sun-dried in heaps on a row

busy-scene-on-a-platation-yercaud

Christmas Cheer

Elsewhere in the hills, bright red Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) bring Christmas cheer.

poinsettia

Cheery reds of Poinsettias in winter
Cheery reds of Poinsettias in winter
Red Poinsettias brighten up a grey cement wall
Red Poinsettias brighten up a grey cement wall

The little ‘crown of thorns’ plants are not to be outdone. They are full of little red flowers making lovely thorny borders on roadsides and estates.

Crown of thorns flowers
Crown of thorns flowers

a-border-of-crown-of-thorns-by-the-roadsideyercaud

A Merry Christmas to all my readers!