Kodaikanal is a city in the hills of the Dindigul district in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. Its name in the Tamil language means The Gift of the Forest, Kodaikanal is referred to as the Princess of Hill stations and has a long history as a retreat and popular tourist destination. Kodaikanal was established in 1845 as a refuge from the high temperatures, much of the local economy is based on the hospitality industry serving tourism. As of 2011, the city had a population for 36,501 and it is not known who first used this name or what they intended it to mean. The word Kodaikanal is an amalgamation of two words, kodai and kanal, the Tamil language has at least four possible interpretations of the name Kodaikanal. Kanal, in Tamil, can mean dense or closed forest, in this case, Kodai can have at least four meanings. By pronouncing Kodai with the long Tamil O and short e, Kodaikanal could mean the end of the forest which makes poetic and geographical sense — Kodaikanal is at the crown of the Palani Hills and is effectively surrounded and protected by thick forests. By pronouncing Kodai with the short Tamil O, it means creepers or vines, Kodaikanal could mean forest of creepers or the forest of vines. The forest of creepers is thought to be the English language meaning given in 1885 during the early habitation of the place and is still accepted. By pronouncing Kodai with a short Tamil O, and a long E, it might be interpreted to mean gift, rendering Kodaikanal as gift of the forest. Keeping the short Tamil O but adding a long A, Kodai could be understood as the Tamil word for umbrella, or perhaps umbrella just because of the once pristine shola, it rained so much in Kodai. Another Tamil word for creeper or vine is valli, the honey collecting daughter of the chief of the Veddas mountain tribe. The chief and his wife prayed to the Mountain God for a girl, as she was found among creeper plants, they named her Valli and she grew up as princess of the tribe in Kurinji and became the consort of lord Murugan. The romantic traditions of Murugan in Sangam literature are thus associated with the name Kodaikanal, the earliest residents of Kodaikanal were the Palaiyar tribal people. The earliest specific references to Kodaikanal and the Palani Hills are found in Tamil Sangam literature of the early Common era, modern Kodaikanal was established by American Christian missionaries and British bureaucrats in 1845, as a refuge from the high temperatures and tropical diseases of the plains. In the 20th century a few elite Indians came to realise the value of this hill station. To date no proper clean-up operation has been mounted, the issue gained prominence in early 2015 when Kodaikanal Wont, a rap music about mercury pollution in the region went viral globally getting more than a million views in 4 days. The town of Kodaikanal sits on a plateau above the escarpment of the upper Palani Hills at 2,133 metres
Panoramic view from Kodaikanal, 2008
1955 Topographic map of Kodaikanal
Agriculture and tourism are two major parts of local economy. Above, terraced farming in Kodaikanal.