Monsoon in Sahyadri

Monsoon is the altered wind pattern associated with a varied amount of precipitation depending upon the different topographical and geographical conditions. In simple terms, Monsoon is the rainy season, the bountiful blessings on the Earth from heaven. To a poet, Monsoon is the subject of their wildest of imagination while to a common prosaic, these are the laziest days of the year. Monsoon too has its own pattern and preferences just like humans. The Sahyadri Range is one such place prefered by the Indian Monsoon. With the heavy Monsoon pouring on every part of India, I thought of writing a post on Monsoon in Sahyadri Range.

The beautiful Monsoon in Western Ghats - Malshej Ghat
The beautiful Monsoon in the Western Ghats – Malshej Ghat

The so-called Indian Monsoon or the plain old rainy season lasts from June to September. It is also called the Summer Monsoon of India or the Monsoon of South Asia. The arrival of Indian Monsoon in a beautiful process in which the moist winds glides over every part of the country region showering life on every parched soul. Thus the Indian Monsoon is called plentiful – generating food, creating prosperity and spreading happiness.

The onset of the Indian Monsoon happens from the southern tip of the country. The Monsoon winds then bifurcate into two branches: the Arabian Sea Branch and the Bay of Bengal Branch. The Arabian Sea Branch brings rain to the western parts of the country while the Bay of Bengal Branch brings rain to the Eastern and the central part of India. Both the branches merge at the northwestern part of the Gangetic plains and brings rain to all parts of the nation.

Rain soaked windscreen on the way to Jog Falls
The rain-soaked windscreen on the way to Jog Falls

The phenomenon of Monsoon in our country is controlled by the migration of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and the variation of pressure areas due to differential heating of land and sea. The Southeast trade winds in the Southern Hemisphere and the Northeast trade winds in the Northern Hemisphere meet at the ITCZ. The ITCZ moves north and south of the Equator with the change of the seasons. In summer when the sun shines directly over the Tropic of Cancer the ITCZ moves northward over the plains causing the Monsoon Trough (or the heavy rainfall region).

The paddy field with a healthy crop of the season
The paddy field with a healthy crop of the season

After the recollection of the Monsoon lesson learnt in the school, let’s get back to our topic of rain in the Sahyadri Range. The Sahyadri Range, better known as the Western Ghats is a long mountain range that runs parallel to the western coast of India. The Western Ghats has a major impact on the Indian Monsoon.

The shrouded mountain range
The shrouded mountain range

The Western Ghats obstructs the rain-bearing Monsoon winds resulting in more precipitation on the windward side than the leeward side. Depending on the rainfall pattern, there is again a variation in the climatic conditions as well as the vegetation on either side of the Western Ghats. The Western Ghats are older than the Himalayan Ranges and is listed under the UNESCO World Heritage Sites with its unique hot-spots of biodiversity with a wide variety of flora and fauna endemic to this region.

Wildflowers cover the surrounding and become the nesting ground of Baya weaver
Wildflowers cover the surrounding and become the nesting ground of Baya weaver

The Sahyadri Range runs from the Satpura Range in Gujarat to Swamithope in the southern part of Tamil Nadu. This is mostly an unbroken chain of mountains with crucial gaps of Goa Gap (between Maharashtra and Karnataka) and Palghat Gap (between Tamil Nadu and Kerala). This long chain acts as an obstruction to the eastward-moving Monsoon clouds forcing it to rise ultimately leading to the heavy downpour on the windward side (the eastern part of the mountain range). While the leeward side forms the rain shadow area receiving less rainfall.

The Western Ghats in Munnar
The Western Ghats in Munnar

The state of Maharashtra receives the maximum amount of rainfall compared to the other states. The mountain range in Maharashtra with gentle ascend and frequent passes allow evenly spread precipitation throughout the state while the state of Karnataka receives more rainfall in the western slope because of fewer gaps in the mountain range.

Malshej Ghat
Malshej Ghat

The Sahyadri Range forms the origin of many perennial river systems and all of them are rain-fed. The drainage basin of this region is mostly gentle with little erosional activity as they flow through non-alluvial hard rock-bed. Majority of the rivers originating in the Western Ghats flow eastwards draining into the Bay of Bengal with the prominent river systems being Krishna, Kauvery, Tungabhadra, Thamiraparani and Godavari. Other rain-fed seasonal to perennial streams joins these rivers making the Sahyadri Range a major watershed in the country.

Watch the clouds below you
Watch the clouds below you

Many dams have been made on the rivers, its tributaries and sub-tributaries to provide water for irrigation and generate hydroelectricity. Other than the river dams there are many rain-fed natural and artificial reservoirs on which dams are constructed. There are more than 50 dams in the Western Ghats region. The Monsoon rain also leads to the formation of many attractive waterfalls.

Again a lot of geographical Gyan, I must get back to my personal experience now. I am from the Gangetic plains and have always experienced a hot and humid monsoon. The childhood memories of paper boat racing on flooded streets with friends on the days of the sudden rainy holidays still bring a smile on my face. Jumping on the puddle of muddy water was equally enjoyable. Later as grown-up kids, we used to race our bicycles on the flooded streets from school to home.

Western Ghats in Ooty
The Western Ghats in Ooty

With our raincoats covering only our school bags, we used to happily get drenched on our way back home and get a good scolding from Ma. On sudden occasions of house arrest due to super heavy downpour, my notebooks used to get filled up with nonsensical verse watching the rain from the window. Adulthood turned this silly poet to a prosaic person. Rainy mornings were lazy, boring and disturbing as we had to navigate through the slippery, muddy and sometimes waterlogged roads to reach our office. Despite realising the necessity of rain, it was a mere menace to deal with the hot humid dull rainy days of West Bengal.

After relocating to Pune, one of the beautiful places in the vicinity of the Sahyadri Range, the rainy experience changed altogether. The floating clouds, the cool climate, the sudden lush greenery, the blowing wind automatically lifted the mood. There was no gloominess at all even in the darkest of sky pouring in its full force. Apart from the surrounding climatic influence, it was the induced behavioural effect that too played a major role in getting me back my fondness for the monsoon.

Come the Rains, and every weekend or every extended holiday gives an opportunity to drive or trek, or cycle or just visit any nearby hill, fort, dam, waterfalls or just anywhere in the Ghats. The dry summers had taken its toll drying up all the greenery and turning them dull and brown. A bout of monsoon shower or two for two to three consecutive days are enough to paint them all with a fresh coat of green. This is certainly one of the best parts of the rains in Sahyadri Range.

A fresh coat of dazzling green
A fresh coat of dazzling green

Other than the widespread greenery, there are a variety of flowers that bloom in every corner of the hills, valleys, plateaus, and everywhere. A large variety of known and unknown flowers bloom in this season making it a garden of Eden. One such place of huge fame is the Kaas Plateau in Satara district of Maharashtra (read my experience in Kaas Plateau).  Even the locality seems to cheerful this season with various wildflowers dazzling bright all around.

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The water bodies are refilled, the groundwater replenished, the parched souls content, the monsoon satisfies all. The rivers gain their youthfulness, the waterfalls turn healthy, the reservoirs get filled and there is completeness everywhere. The renowned waterfalls grow thicker and better but the Monsoon creates numerous new tall and short, thick and thin, straight or cascaded seasonal waterfalls which lures all with its enticing sight.

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Like every other Punekars (people of Pune, read my post on Pune), I too take the opportunity of the season and travel to various places to see the Sahyadri Range beautified by the Monsoon. It acts as a make-up artist, a painter, a composer who waves its magic wand to turn the beautiful Western Ghats even more appealing.

The Western Ghats have a major portion of it under the forest cover and the forest, in turn, is home to a wide range of faunal variety. It has a total of four tropical and subtropical forest ecoregions. These ecoregions are completely dependent on the Monsoon. The Monsoon supports the vegetation of the forest, the forest, in turn, provides life support to ever other organisms and humans are equally benefitted, directly or indirectly.

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This life saving or life-giving, abundant Monsoon sometimes turn into the sorrow for lives and property. Incessant heavy downpour along with unjustified human activities lead to flooding of vast areas thus bringing great damage to life and property. Diminishing forest cover, extensive real estate development, narrowing of the river mouths, shallowed river beds, the release of dam water to prevent the breach and decreased rate of groundwater absorption are the major causes of flood these days.

The Panchet lake at a distance and the high rise in front off it
The Panchet lake at a distance and the high rise in front of it
Tungabhadra Dam releasing water
Tungabhadra Dam releasing water

Floods in present days are more of a man-made flood than a weatherly phenomenon. Extremely heavy rainfall is definitely the primary reason but the human atrocities have made the situation worse. The bountiful favour from heaven turns into a disaster. Thanks to all the unthoughtful, greedy human acts that turn this blessing to a curse.

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A little more responsible behaviour and a little compassion towards nature and the environment can bring a big change. The benevolent mountain range, the rain bringing mountain range the ever-giving mountain range, the age-old mountain range plays a vital part in the Indian Monsoon. Let us save our beautiful Sahyadri Range and the numerous lives its supports and in turn secure our future with proper Monsoon every year.

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