Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Ooty, summer retreat of the British and colonial heritage

Ooty, Nilagiri hills, Tamil Nadu, India.welcomenri.com

The famous summer hill station Ooty in the Nilagiri hills of Tamil Nadu is endowed with  immense nature's beauty  - terraced tea gardens, undulating, lush green  slopes and congenial climate. Since the colonial time, it  has become a very important tourist destination for the people  across India, particularly S. India. The colonial imprint of excellent English architecture and heritage is very much frozen in some of the historical buildings and places  left behind by the white settlers. First discovered by John Sullivan of British East India company, during the early British period in 1800s only the British owned the properties there both small and big in the form of tea estates, etc. Later Indian royal families had begun to buy the British holdings. The palaces and buildings here silently reverberate  the grandeur and majesty of the British Raj days  when these were the places of fun and frolics and  celebrations of social gatherings and small private parties.

Since India became a free country in August 1947, the general public and the Indian elite have made a beeline to the cool areas of Coonoor and Ooty to free themselves from hot, muggy plains, taking refuge in the laps of  cool mountains.


Ooty has some of the finest Palaces and Monumental Mansions that once belonged to the British and later Indian elite, comprising mostly Maharajahs and small rulers.


Night time view of Adam's fountain.en.wikipedia.org

01. Adam’s Fountain in Ooty  was erected in 1886 as  an exclusive  Memorial for the Governor of Ooty after his untimely demise in Ooty. The construction cost  was Rs. 13,000.00 and Rs. 14,000.00, raised by public subscriptions. The fountain was shifted to present location in 1898 by the Municipality. 

Jodhpur Maharajah's palace Arranmore in Ooty.www.ootyonline.in

02. The attractive Annandale Palace, that features meticulously tended beautiful  lawns and gardens gracing the site and enhancing the beauty, was once the residence of the Maharaja of Jodhpur where he, his royal family and other royalties resided during the pleasant summer months. Government House (1880) in Udhagamandalam (Ooty) can be accessed through the Botanical Garden that has an array of fascinating species of flora in the foot of Dodabetta Hills. A half-timbered Arts and Crafts lodge is at the entrance to the estate. The house, built for the Duke of Buckingham, is in  Italianate style retaining the European architectural style.  

Raj Bhavan Udhagamandalam Main Building.www.tnrajbhavan.gov.in

03. The Ooty Raj Bhavan was constructed by the Duke of Buckingham in 1877 under his supervision when he was the Governor of Madras. It is located  on the Dodabetta Ridge of the Western Slopes on the outskirts of Ooty and is very close to the Ooty Botanical Gardens.  During the Raj, it was the summer residence of Governors of Madras Presidency. When the British higher-ups periodically visited this cool place under various pretexts, they enjoyed their stay here. The present Governors of Tamil Nadu in the past few decades have been using the Raj Bhavan  in Ooty as their summer  retreat in the months of April, May and June. The Raj Bhavan in Ooty has an exterior in cream shade of color and overlooks the scenic Botanical Gardens.

Raj Bhavan is a historical building that still retains the old charm and the British heritage comprising a large ballroom, a later addition built by Sir Arthur Havelock in 1900. The present area of Raj Bhavan is 86.72 acres (350,900 m2). It has a large Banqueting Hall, ball room, Drawing and Reception rooms, besides 17 Guest rooms and office rooms. The built up area is about 30,000 sq. ft. The elevation of Raj Bhavan is 2,303 meters above mean-sea level and enjoys a warm, temperate climate. 


Historical St Stephen's church Udangamandalam or Ooty. www.hellotravel.com
St. Stephen's Church,Ooty, Tamil Nadu, India..www.tripadvisor.in

 04. Stephen Rumbold Lushington, the then Governor of Madras, laid the foundation for the church on 23 April, 1829 to coincide with the birthday of King George IV. The St Stephen`s Church was built in 1830. Designed by Captain John James Underwood of  Madras Regiment.and it was consecrated by the Bishop of Calcutta on November 5 1830. The Church is built in Gothic style and has a low tower and crenelated parapets in cream stucco. The teak timbers were taken from Tipu Sultan`s Palace at Srirangapatnam (Lai Bagli) and reused in the construction of the church. Founder of Nilagiri hills and Ooty John Sullivan's wife's and daughter's funerals were held in 1841 at the St. Stephen's church and the graves can be seen even today.

The Nilagiri library,Ooty.www.ootyonline.in 
Astoria Residency: The Nilgiri Library - .www.tripadvisor.in

05. The Nilagiri library built in Gothic architecture style is yet another historical building built in 1855 prior to take over of East India company by the Crown. It was designed by Robert Fellows Chisholm and has a lofty Reading room lit by the light streaming in through five arched windows. There is also a tall Gothic window at the far end. The facade is made of red bricks with stucco dressings. This library was founded to cater to the European readers. The library activities came into being in 1859. It has a vast collection of 25,000 books and promotes  reading habits among the people.


Ooty lake, Nilagiri. redscarabtravelandmedia.wordpress.com

06. The big lake in Ooty was the brain-child of Sullivan whose  primary idea  was to  irrigate far off fields in Salem and Erode under his administrative jurisdiction and it was incorporated in the 1950s when the Bhavani Sagar dam was built. Ooty lake stretches over an area of 65 acres and there is  a boating house that offers boating facilities to tourists. The lake built in 1824 was formed by damming the down stream flowing waters. Proliferating weeds (water hyacinth) in the lake is a major problem, not tackled successfully. Highly polluted, the lake water is unfit for human as well as animal consumption. The state government has a plan to clean the lake soon.

Breeks Memorial Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary school. 
 myindiantravel.blogspot.com

07. The Breeks Memorial  School, the foundation of which was was laid in 1872,  was completed in 1874  and it was established in memory of  Mr. J. W. Breeks, the first commissioner of Nilagiri in 1872. The school  follows  the Anglo Indian syllabus up to secondary school. Higher secondary school follows the state board. The heritage building has  cloister vault roof, decorative gable, doors and windows, bringing out the European style of architecture.


Portrait of Breeks,  Breeks Memorial School. en.wikipedia.org
Tit-Bits:


01. There are several Monumental mansions that have been transformed today as Hotels or Government Colleges including the residence of the Maharajah of Hyderabad called ‘The Cedars’ or ‘Baroda Palace’ situated in Ooty and Elk Hill House which was built by George Norton atop Elk Hill.

02. The first of the Madras governors to take a break in Ooty was Sir Thomas Munro, who in 1826, arrived there long after summer, in fact in September.
 03. Ooty  became  the summer headquarters of the British residency from 1861 onward.

04. Lord Elphinstone, Governor  of Madras went one step further  and in 1840 made it a practice  to move the  government office from Madras to Ooty during the Summer.  However, such a move was not encouraged till the time of Duke of Buckingham who allowed the Governors to have summer residence in Ooty.

Ref: 

http://www.thehindu.com/thehindu/mp/2005/05/02/stories/2005050200230200.htm https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ooty