The Nilgiri Hills or Nilgiri Mountains is a mountain range in southern India. Theosophical Society founder Helena Petrovna Blavatsky wrote about them in Mysterious Tribes of the Blue Hills, also known as the Magicians of the Blue Hills.
Theosophical Society connections
After the Theosophical Society moved its headquarters from Bombay to Adyar in 1882, staff members frequently spent the hottest summer months in the hills.
Major-General Henry Rhodes Morgan and his wife lived in Ootacamund, and were kind hosts to Helena Petrovna Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott during the summer of 1883. The general was president of the Todabetta Theosophical Society in Ooty. Olcott shared the Morgans' interest in agriculture and the development of new crops. HPB studied the Toda people, and later wrote about the experience.
Elizabeth Preston spent her last years in Kotagiri in the Nilgiri Hills, where she founded the Women's Cooperative, a project to assist native women. She died there on October 8, 1968.
The most prominent city in the hills is Ootacamund (Udhagamandalam), called "Ooty" by the British raj who flocked there to avoid the summer heat. It served as the summer capital of the Madras Presidency and is still a resort. In Blavatsky's day, the town could be reached by several mountain roads, but it did not have railway access until the 20th century.
For hundreds of years the hills were occupied by the Toda people, a Dravidian tribe who raised water buffalo. The population diminished dramatically until only about 2000 remain. Boris de Zirkoff collected photos of the Toda people for use in publishing Blavatsky's writings. Here are a few:
- Nilgiri Mountains in Wikipedia.
- Geoffrey Hodson letter to Richard Chesrow. January 30, 1954. Chesrow Family Collection. Records Series 25.23. Theosophical Society in America Archives.
- Greeting quoted in The Theosophist Supplement 5 no.51 (January, 1884), 19. See December 1883 PDF.