There is proof of settlement of prehistoric tribes at Kodaikanal by visible artifacts such as dolmens homes of great stone slabs. After the primitive tribes of Paliyans and Pulyans in 14th century, villagers of Palani foot hills fled into Kodai hills, to escape from the oppressive rule in the plains and also from the invasion of Tippu Sultan.

The first European to visit Kodaikanal was Lt. B.S. Ward a surveyor in the year 1821. His Head Quarters was Vellagavi village. There were many American missions in South Tamil Nadu. The foreigners could not bear the oppressive heat in Tamilnadu and they faced sickness from epidemic diseases and consequential deaths. They wanted neat and healthy natural surroundings near Madurai to rest and improve their health. They were happy to find from the report of Lt. B.S. Ward about the hills with wonderful climate and easy accessibility from Madurai & Periyakulam. Many English and American missionary people visited Kodaikanal through various routes. Notable among them are J C Wroughton -Sub Collector, C R Cotton Judge and Dr. Weight. Dr.Fane built two houses in 1845 in the lake road. More houses were built by British Govt. The American Missionaries moved in and built a lot of dwellings in the southern side which is still there and now called ‘Sunny Side’ and ‘ Shelton’ . In the year 1860, the first church was built jointly by the Bishop. American Madurai Mission built the union church in 1895. From year 1860, there was all round improvement due to the visit of several dignitaries. Roman Catholics came, purchased a bungalow for Jesuit fathers, as rest house which is now called La Providence in upper shoal road. Governors of Madras Sir Charles Travelyon and Lord Napier visited in the years 1860 and 1871. One major JM Partridge of the army introduced Eucalyptus and wattle trees in the year 1867. Bier Leverage, collector of Madurai lived in Pamhar house after his retirement. Only through his tireless efforts and initiative the man-made Kodaikanal lake, the foremost attraction of the tourists was formed. He arranged boat rides in the lake. He planned and executed several approach roads to Kodaikanal. He introduced several foreign trees and vegetables such as Pine Forms and Pears. In the year 1872 Lt. Coaker cut a path along the ridge of steep south eastern side which commends a magnificant view of the plains below. The path was named after him as Coaker’s Walk.

Travel to Hills in the Past

In the very early days, most of the visitors to the hills came from Madurai. They had to walk in the steep grueling way. The popular route was from Periakulam to Kistnamma Naik Tope by road through bullock carts & Rom Tope through the hills. One has to climb 2000 metres height by foot paths. This route was called Coolie Ghat Road.Those who were not able to walk can hire dhoolies (a sort of palanquins) carried by hirers. Some went up by riding ponies. There were many risks. Some dacoits from Kalla tribes came but they soon vanished after seeing the high level of protection. Also there were interruptions by appearance of wild beasts like panthers, elephants, bisons etc. Loud noises were made to chase them away.

In the year 1875 Southern Railways extended train route from Chennai to Madurai and Tuticorin. Due to this facility many tourists from far off places visited. They alight at Kodairoad Station and travel by bullock up to Tope and then ascend the climbs.The government deputed Engineer Major Law to study and submit a plan to build a moterable road to the hills. After a long delay, the road was completed in 1914 and at last allowed for traffic in 1916. Public buses began to ply in the road from 1916.

General Information:

Area 21.45 sq.kms
Population 32,931 ( 2001Censes)
Altitude 2,133 – Metres above sea level
RainFall 165cms (average)
Climate: Salubrious, Summer Max 20C, Winter Max 17C
Average Rainfall: 175Cms, Heavy rains during Oct – Dec.Temperature Summer – 19.80°C Winter – 17.30°C
Best Season April to June, and September to October, But can be visited throughout the year. Cloth Light woollens in the evening during summer and heavy woollens during winter.
Languages Tamil and English.
State Dindugal District, Tamil Nadu State, India.
STD Code +04542. ISD Code + 91.