Religion in Ooty was based primarily on the beliefs of the indigenous Tribes that once dominated this region; a part of it that has managed to survived through the past years and exists even today.
Today, religion in Ooty witnesses a harmonious blend of the historical expressions and modern intervention that has broadened the minds of the people of Ooty who have learned to welcome and accept this change in their surroundings. The diversity of their culture, tradition and religious beliefs has come into existence owing to the original inhabitants and varied society settlements of different cultural backgrounds that have made Ooty their home thus defining the secularism of Ooty.
Historically, Ooty religion was dominated by the beliefs and customs of the Toda tribes who co-existed with other Tribal communities for decades in this Hilly region. The Todas believe that their Goddess Teikirshy and her blood brother first created the sacred buffalo and then the first Toda adult male after which the first Toda adult female was created from the right rib of the first Toda male; a story similar to that of Adam and Eve from the Holy Bible – Book of Genesis.
Therefore, the Toda religion in Ooty was considered somewhat reserved when compared to other religions that existed during that phase of time. They were prohibited from walking across any bridges, and hence had to cross rivers on foot through shallow parts of the river or swim across to either banks of the river. The Toda Temples were also constructed in a peculiar circular hollow shaped that were lined with stones, the appearance and construction based on the same principles as the Toda huts.
The Todas vote their Head Priest known as the 'Holy Milkman', a common practice amongst the Todas of Southern India. This holy milkman is the head of the Holy Dairy and is subjected to a hoard of tiresome and distressing limitations and restrictions during his entire duration of administration that can last for numerous years as long as he can hold his Office.
The Toda Holy Milkman must remain domicile at the sacred dairy and can never visit his home or any village. He must live a life of celibacy and forgo his married life completely. Even an ordinary layman is forbidden from touching the Holy Priest and the Holy Dairy as it would desecrate his sacredness due to which he would have to forfeit his role and office. Mondays and Thursdays are the only two days in a week, when a layman can approach the priest and on other days they would have to stand at a distance of approx. a quarter of a mile away and shout out their messages individually across the intermediate spaces to reach the Holy priest.
Furthermost, the holy priest is not allowed to cut his hair or pare his nails while still in Office and he can never cross a river over a bridge, but would have to cross through approved paths of the shallow water of the river by wading. He is also prohibited to attend any funeral or death ceremony of a member of his clan and in case needed, he would have to step down from his High Priest position and will be considered as a mere common man.
All these aspects of the Religion in Ooty during the old days only appears to constitute of very heavy restraints that were imposed on the common man and especially for someone elected to earn the status of the High Priest and life simply seemed to revolve around the stringent rules, customs and beliefs of the Toda community.
Religion in Ooty is noted to date back to the ancient period like most of the religions in India which is marked by diversity and harmonious co-existence. The religion in Ooty constitute of Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism, Islam and other smaller religious sects with Hinduism as the dominating religion in India which is further sub-divided into various smaller Hindu religious sects.
Religion in Ooty is considered to be more inclined towards the Dravidian aspect of Hinduism and the Toda language was also influenced from the Dravidian dialect. The Toda language has no script as such and was aurally and verbally passed on to people from generation to generation. The Tribal people of Ooty are also seen to regularly worship different nature Gods like Dharma Sastha, Mariamman and Naga Devta including several guardian Gods too.
Religion in Ooty also constitute of Christianity wherein Roman Catholics dominate South India that constitute to less than 2% of the total population of India followed by Islam and Jainism besides Hinduism. The religious diversity of Ooty is seen to peacefully co-exist together and hence displays picture perfect frame of fraternity and brotherhood.
Owing to the existence of varied religions in Ooty, this hill station is dotted with a number of Churches, Temples, Mosques and Mutts scattered around the region that mostly remain crowded during festivals or otherwise.
These Religious Places in Ooty are a must visit for tourists who wish to contemplate, meditate, view, experience and get an insight into the well synchronized and harmonious blend of all religions residing peacefully in a small quaint hill station of South India that redefines the essence of secularism in India.