Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Rivers

Life Sustaining Waters

The heavy seasonal rainfall from the South West Monsoon has sustained a large number of rivers flowing either to the east or to the west of the Western Ghats range which is the main watershed of the peninsular India.
The Western Ghats are remarkable for being the headwaters of all the major and many smaller rivers of the peninsula. The principal rivers originate and flow eastward, journeying across the peninsula for hundreds of kilometers to pour their waters finally into the Bay of Bengal. On the western face of the Sahyadri scarp, numerous indentations have been made by a large number of short, perennial, torrential west flowing rivers which traverse the short distance through the narrow west coastal plains before discharging into the Arabian Sea through narrow inlets and creeks. Several of these streams form remarkable waterfalls.

The duration of the wet season varies from about three months in the north to over nine months in the south. The rainfall ranges from 2,000 to 7,500 mm per annum in some places on the western, windward side but rapidly decreases on the eastern, leeward side to about <>

The source of Hiranyakeshi river - Amboli Ghat - Pic by Mohan Pai
The three major rivers that originate in the Western Ghats and flow to the east and traverse a great distances right across the peninsula are:-
1. The Godavari 2. The Krishna 3. The Kaveri
They are all mature, that is, they are so ancient that they have reached the base level of their erosion. Their valleys are wide and shallow, and they flow through flatlying alluvial tracts through which they meander at a sluggish rate, or through uplands and plateaus where their velocities are greater and into which they occasionally cut narrow defiles and gorges.

Vivid Rock formation - Sintheri Rocks, kaseri River, Uttara Kannada - Pic by Mohan Pai

There are other smaller streams that also originate in the Western Ghats and flow east to join the Bay of Bengal. These are Tambraparni (arises in the Agasthyamalai Hills) and Vaigai (originates in the Varushanad Hills).
River Sharavathy - tailrace

The Godavari
The Godavari arises in the Tryambak plateau near Nasik about 80 km from the shores of the Arabian Sea at an elevation of 1,067 m it meanders south-eastwards through fairly steep banks of lavas, and then, from its confluence with the Manjra through gneisses and Gondwana sediments until it arrives at its delta, traversing over 1,465 km it flows through Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
It reaches Bay of Bengal through an extensive delta beyond Rajamundri in Andhra Pradesh where it divides into branches - western branch is called ���Vashistha Godavari��� and the eastern branch is called ���Gautami Godavari���. It projects about 35 km into the sea with a front of 120 km with many distributaries. Its northern part is made up of low-lying marshes extending into a 15 km long spit forming the Kakinada Bay.
Its main tributaries in the upper reaches, the Purna and Manjra, flow roughly parallel to the Godavari before draining into it. The Godavari has many tributaries such as the Purna, Manjra, the Pranhita (Penganga - Wardha), Indravati, the Sabari, Darna, Kadwa, Mula, Karanji, Madhurnala, Devanala, Hebbala. etc.

The Krishna

The Krishna is the second largest river in the peninsular India. It begins at an altitude of 1,360 m near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra 64 km away from the Arabian Sea.
It is augmented by several tributaries along its 1,400 km course, until it reaches Machilipatnam on the east coast of Andhra Pradesh. The delta area of the Krishna begins from Vijayawada and occupies an area of about 4,600 sq. km, and also extends about 35 km into the sea with a shoreline of about 120 km it has been progressing gradually to south due to vast amount of sediments brought and spread by the river and its distributaries.

Several rivulets and rivers arising in the Western Ghats go to form its tributaries - the Koyna, Varna, Panchganga, Doodhganga, Bhima, Musi, Paleru, Maneru, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha and Tungabhadra.
The Kaveri
The Kaveri is the third major river of the peninsula. It originates near Talakaveri at a height of 1,340 m in the Brahmagiri range of Kodagu district in Karnataka at the very edge of the Sahyadri range overlooking the Arabian Sea. As peninsular rivers go, this is a comparatively small river only about 800 km long.

Talakaveri, the source of river Kaveri, Kodagu - Pic by Mohan Pai
It flows mainly through the Dharwarian crystalline rocks during its passage through the Eastern Ghats and the Tamil Nadu uplands where its gradient is quite gentle. The river cuts across the strike of the country rocks and appears to be an ancient river whose meandering course has been superimposed on a topography which has become youthful as a result of recent uplift.
A dam has been constructed near Mysore - Krishnaraj Sagar where it meets Hemavati and Laxmantirtha rivers. After 25 km from Srirangapatna, Kabini and Suvarnavati rivers meet with it. The river creates waterfalls at Sivanasamudram (101 m high) and then enters a long picturesque gorge.
River Kaveri at Srirangapatna - Pic by Mohan Pai

On the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu it meets with Simsa and Akrawati rivers. In Tamil Nadu it flows in easterly direction but from Hogenkal waterfall, it flows in south direction. It cuts through the Eastern Ghats and emerges from the hills at the Stanley Reservoir formed by the Mettur Dam. At 45 km from Mettur it meets its main tributary - the Bhavani and when it enters Tiruchirapalli district it meets with Noyil and Amravati.
Here it is the widest of whole of its path and hence called ���Akhand Kaveri���. After Tiruchirapalli it divides into two branches. The delta starts from below the island of Srirangam in the river, where it issues its largest deltaic channel, the Coleroon and joins the Bay of Bengal at Poompuhar. The southern branch is called Kaveri and joins the Bay of Bengal at Tranquebar.
The Kaveri delta is quadrilateral in shape covering about 8,000 sq. km area; it consists of several terraces which indicate that it was subject to uplift and erosion at various periods of its formation. It has an almost straight front of about 130 km along the Bay of Bengal and on the south it takes an almost right angle turn towards the west at point Calimere from where it faces the Palk Bay for another 60 km.
The major tributaries of the Kaveri which arise in the Western Ghats are : The Hemavathi, Harangi, Kabini, Lakshmantirtha, Moyar and Bhavani.
The river Tambraparni originates on the eastern slopes of the Western Ghats near Agasthyamalai in Tirunelveli district at an altitude of 2,000 m.
The Tambraparni basin is situated between latitudes 8021��� and 9013 ���N. Vanatheertham waterfalls (40 m) is located close to the origin of the main river. Among the many tributaries which join it are: Peyar, Ullar, Karaiar, Pambar, Servalar, Manimuthar, Gadana, Pachaiyar and Chittar. The river Tambraparni after the confluence of Chittar, travels another 53 km and enters the Gulf of Mannar near Palayakayal.

The river Vaigai arises in the Varushanad Hills of the Western Ghats and initially flows north-east through Kambam and Varashunad valleys and then flows eastward into the Vaigai Reservoir at Narasingapuram. Near Sholavandan it bends south east, passing Madurai town on its course to its mouth on the Palk Strait which separates the south-east coast of India from Sri Lanka. The total length of the river is 250 km.
The West-flowing rivers
The western side of the Sahyadris is characterised by a very large number of short perennial/non-perennial torrential west-flowing rivers.
From Gujarat to Kerala these short, swift west-flowing rivers plunge over the precipitous escarpments to discharge their waters into the Arabian Sea. As they plunge towards the coastal strip they often pass through deep gorges creating spectacular waterfalls, some with a drop of over 200 m when the rivers encounter geological faults.
Magod Falls - River Bedthi plunges in two steps -Uttara Kannada - Pic by Mohan Pai

Among them may be mentioned the Bedthi Falls (137 m) also known as Magod Falls, Jog Falls (253 m), Chalakudi Falls (56 m) and several falls ranging in height from 20 to 300 m on the Anaimalai - Palni - Elaimalai hill chain.
The west side rivers which flow into the Arabian Sea do not form deltas, but only estuaries, which are channels where the fresh water of the rivers mix with the tidal sea waters. The possible reason why deltas are not formed is that they flow through hard rocks and therefore unable to form distributaries through the coast. The coast had been advancing seawards during historical times in these parts as is proved by the fact that Surat - now an inland town - was a port on the sea only a few centuries ago.
The west side streams are too numerous to be listed. Kerala alone has 44 west-flowing streams.

Periyar River, Kerala - Pic by Mohan Pai
The main west-flowing rivers of the Western Ghats are listed below :
Gujarat : Purna, Auranga, Par
Maharashtra : Surya, Vaitarna, Damanganga, Ulhas,
Savitri, Vashisthi, Gad, Kajavi, Kodavali
Goa : Mandovi(Mahadayi), Zuari, Tiracol, Chapora, Talpona
Karnataka : Kali, Gangavali (Bedthi), Aganashini, Sharavathy, Kollur-Chakra-Gangoli, Sita, Mulki, Gurupur, Netravathi
Kerala : Chaliar, Bharatpuzha, Periyar, Pamba

Ecological Past

The Early Human Settlements

Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic times

The earliest human settlement in the Western Ghats have been traced back to the Palaeolithic or the Old Stone Age period - over 10,000 years BC.
Stone tools were discovered from the river valleys of Bharatpuzha (Palghat district), Beypur (Malappuram district) and Netravathi basin (Dakshina Kannada district).
Palaeolithic artifacts have been found at Kibbanahalli (Mysore district), Lingadahalli and Kadur (Chickmagalur district) and Honnalli (Shimoga district).
Tribal Woman, Wayanad, Kerala

Mesolithic or the Middle Stone Age (10,000 - 3,000BC) witnessed
the transition of hunter-gatherers into food growers. Many Mesolithic sites have been discovered from Mandovi river in Goa to Kerala. They are located at Karwar and Ankola (Uttara Kannada district), Netravathi valley (Dakshina Kannada district) Nirmalagiri (Kannur district), Chevayur (Kozikode district) and Tenmalai (Kollam district). Charcoal found from the trenches in Tenamalai, indicates that the people could have burned forests.
The Deccan Plateau during the Neolithic or the New Stone Age (3,000-1,000 BC), was practising primitive agriculture and pastoralism. In Hallur (Dharwar district) close to the Western Ghats, cattle, sheep and goats were domesticated (1500 BC) and millet and horse gram were cultivated 300 years later.
The Jorwe people of Inamgaon - in the western Deccan Maharashtra, had irrigated rice during 1400-700 BC. The Jorwes brought marine fish and shells from the Konkan coast, 200 km to the west, which shows that the Neolithic people had some knowledge of the Western Ghats and the coast.
Many Neolithic sites have been found in the Western Ghats at Tambdi Surla (Goa), Anmod (Uttara Kannada district), Agumbe (Shimoga district), the hill slopes of Sita river (Karkala) and many others in Kerala. The Nilaskal site in Agumbe, being close to the sources of west coast rivers Sharavathy, Chakra and Haladi, was strategic to Neolithic people giving them an easy access to the coast.
Neolithic people with their stone axes descended from the Western Ghats of Dakshina Kannada to the coast in the last part of second millennium BC and resorted to cultivation, probably by slash and burn method. Hill cultivation (presumably shifting) in South India is probably older than the spread of iron tools, about 3,000 years ago.
During the Megalithic period (1000-0 BC) iron implements were widely used. Iron implements date back to 1500 BC in Hallur. The west coast of south India was intensely settled during this period and the Megalithic period witnessed intensification of forest clearance by agri-pastoralists. Many excavated burial chambers in laterite plains have been found in Malabar, Dakshina Kannada and also in Siddapur.(Source : Subhash Chandran, 1997)
The Nilgiris were colonised by the Todas, as early as 200 BC.
Vedic Civilisation

Vedic civilisation was largely confined to one of the most fertile tracts of the northwest part of India that includes the present day states of Punjab, Rajasthan and north Gujarat.
Drained by seven rivers (Sapta Sindhu), this region was referred to as the cradle of Indian civilisation. This ancient civilisation of India appears to have had an extended period of development from 5,000 BC to 2,000 BC when a great period of drought seems to have put an end to it. Because of the drought, the Vedic people migrated eastwards and occupied the Gangetic valley region forming parts of the present day Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. Many enterprising people migrated southward both by land and sea and colonised the west coast around Ratnagiri, Goa, coastal Karnataka and Kerala.
These people are even today called Saraswats and Goud Saraswats, a name reminiscent of their original homeland on the banks of the Vedic river Saraswati in north-west India.
Harappan migration ?

According to some historians the Indus civilisation did not perish suddenly. The later Harappan Phase survived in Saurashtra, Gujarat and north Maharashtra up to 1,200 BC.
The biodiversity rich forests, the abundant water resources, the productive estuaries and the sea, could have attracted the drought stricken Neolithic and Megalithic agri-pastorals from the Deccan, as well as the Harappans.
Sacred Forests
Forest clearance was inevitable for farming and yet, there was an overwhelming belief in the sacredness of the woods. Secondary species and heavily savannized tracts were interspersed with lofty evergreen patches, the menasukans or pepper forests, where the people tended to the wild pepper. The relics of such kans occur to this day in Uttara Kannada and Shimoga. They were important tracts of pre-colonial forest conservation in the Western Ghats. Myriad relics of such groves, exist even today all over the Western Ghats. They may be called Devrai in Maharashtra, Devarkadu in Kodagu and Kavu in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, these forests in pre-colonial landscape, served many functions like the conservation of biodiversity and watershed, moderation of climate and promoted varied wildlife.
A Sacred Forest in Goa
Hunting was subjected to many community regulations. The sacred forests ranged in size from a few hectares to few hundred hectares. The kans of Sorab taluk in Shimoga district, for instance, covered about 13,000 hectares or 10% of Sorab’s area.
Colonial Era

The British occupation of the Western Ghats, from the early 19th century altered forestry operation and traditional forest management gave way to state forestry. The forest working plans for the evergreen belt of the southern Western Ghats concentrated on the extraction of commercial deciduous timber like teak. As large areas of teak were harvested, adequate regeneration did not follow and the rising demand for teak and its depletion in nature compelled the foresters to launch massive vegetational changes in favour of teak monoculture.
The British began large scale forest exploitation and wholesale vegetational changes and transformation into commercial plantations of coffee, tea, wattle and eucalyptus.
Such commercialisation of the high altitude areas such as the Nilgiri plateau, Southern Tamil Nadu and the High Ranges in Kerala marginalised the small tribal groups engaged in hunting, gathering and shifting cultivation.

The state policies favoured the new immigrants who controlled natural resources, and extracted and traded them in the markets. The spurt in commercialisation of natural resources and commodity production also attracted an exodus of migrant labourers with overall serious ecological consequences on the region. The destruction of the forest cover of the Western Ghats has been the result of a nexus between unregulated exploitation by commercial interests, beginning with ship building, railways and the hydel projects in British times and going on to mining, plywood and polyfibre industries after Independence and equally indisciplined harvests by the progressively impoverished rural masses.

From the Edict of Shivaji
“The Armada of our kingdom requires durable hardwood for their hulls decks and masts.
Teak and other appropriate trees of our forests may be felled for this purpose after applying to His Majesty and obtaining the royal permission. If, any more be required, they may be purchased from neighbouring kingdoms.
The Mango and Jackfruit trees of our kingdom also provide suitable timber for naval purposes. But they should not be touched, for it is not as if these trees can be grown in a year or two. People plant them and bestow upon them long years of care, as they would on their own children.

If such trees were to be felled, would not the people be inconsolable? An edifice built upon anyone’s sorrow soon collapses, taking down with it the architect too. In fact the ruler has to bear the guilt of tyranny. Also absence of such trees causes irreparable damage. Hence under no circumstances are such degradations to be allowed.

Perchance, if a very old tree has ceased to bear fruits, then it may be taken with the consent of the owner after persuasion and payment of compensation. Coercion shall not, under any circumstances, be pardoned”.
- Courtesy WWF - INDIA, Newsletter- April 1997


An Area Under Constant Threat

The term biodiversity encompasses the variety of all life on the Earth. It is identified as the variability among living organisms and the ecological complexes of which they are part, including diversity within and between species and ecosystems.

Biodiversity manifests itself at three levels:
1. Species diversity which refers to the numbers and kinds of living organisms.
2. Genetic diversity which refers to the genetic variation within a population of species.
3. Ecosystem diversity which is the variety of habitats, biological communities and ecological process that occur in the biosphere.

Brahmagiri Forest, Coorg - Pic by Mohan Pai

Biological diversity affects us all. It has direct consumptive value in food, agriculture, medicine, industry. It also has aesthetic and recreational value. Biodiversity maintains ecological balance and continues evolutionary process. The indirect ecosystem services provided through biodiversity are photosynthesis, pollination, transpiration, chemical recycling, nutrient cycling, soil maintenance, climate regulation, air, water system management, waste treatment and pest control.

Biodiversity is not distributed equally among the world's 170 countries. A very small number of countries, lying wholly or partly within tropics, contain a high percentage of the world's species. These countries are known as megabiodiversity countries. Twelve countries have been identified as megabiodiversity countries. These are : India, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Mexico, Madagaskar, Zaire, Australia, China, Indonesia and Malaysia. Together, these countries contain as much as 60 to 70 percent of the world's species.
Tea Gardens of Munnar - Pic by Mohan Pai

India is one of the 12 megabiodiversity centres of the world. The country is divided into 10 biogeographic regions: Trans Himalayas, Himalayas, Indian desert, Semi-arid zone, Western Ghats, Deccan peninsula, Gangetic plains, North-East India, islands and coasts.

Fisher Women of Devbagh

In India we have 320 million hectares of land and 200 million hectares of exclusive economic zone in the sea, within which are distributed some 1,20,000 known and perhaps 4,00,000 as yet undescribed species of microbes, plants and animals.
Biogeographically, the hill chain of the Western Ghats constitutes the Malabar province of the Oriental realm running parallel to the west coast of India. Rising up from a relatively narrow strip of coast at its western borders, the hills reach up to a height of 2,695 m before they merge to the east with Deccan plateau at an altitude of 500-600 m. The average width of the mountain range is about 100 km. This bioregion is highly species rich and is under constant threat due to human pressure.
The rain forests of the Western Ghats are unique vegetation forma-tions as they exist in an environment where there is considerable seasonality in distribution of the rainfall. These forests are found in the areas where the rainfall is distributed from 4 to 10 months, as a consequence, there are 2 to 8 dry months in a year. Of this, most of the precipitation takes place during a 3 month period of June to August.

The orographic effect of these mountain ranges brings in considerable variation in precipitation. The total rainfall along the coast is in the region of 3,000 mm and it touches its maximum around 7,500 mm per annum in certain places on top of these ranges and there is abrupt fall in the rain on leeward side. The high altitudinal zone also gives rise to a kind of forest which has primarily Lauraceous vegetation.

The tropical rain forests of the Western Ghats have considerable diversity in vegetation types both with respect to their altitudinal locations and also because of edaphic and altitudinal variations. There is a school of thought that the parent rocks in these areas have given rise to such good soils which are rich in nutrients and have a very high moisture holding capacity which has given rise to these rainforests.

Global Biodiversity Hotspots in India

Hotspots are areas that are extremely rich in species, have high endemism and are under constant threat due to human pressure. Among the 18 Hotspots of the world, two have been identified in India; the Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats. These are particularly rich in floral wealth and endemism, not only in flowering plants but also in reptiles, amphibians, swallow-tailed butterflies and some mammals.

Of India���s 15,000 plant species with 5,000 endemics (33%), there are 4,050 plants with 1,600 endemics (40%) in a 17,000 sq. km strip of forest along the seaward side of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Forest tracts up to 500 m in elevation, comprising one fifth of the entire forest expanse are mostly evergreen, while those in the 500-1500 m range are semi-evergreen. There are two major centres of diversity, the Agasthyamalai Hills and the Silent Valley/New Amarambalam Reserve basin. (Source : Teri, New Delhi)

Flora and Fauna
The area has an estimated 3,00,000 hectare (37%) under forest cover and is characterised by a rich diversity of flora and fauna.
* The region has about 4,500 species of flowering plants. Of these about 1,700 are endemic to the Western Ghats. Nearly a third are rare or threatened and several are believed to be extinct.
* Amphibians: Over 117 species belonging to 21 genera are recorded in the forests and coastal areas of this region, of which 76% are endemic to the region.
* Invertebrates: A large variety of insects including some of the spectacular butterflies and moths occur in the dense evergreen highland and lowland forests. It is estimated that India has over 1,400 species of which the Western Ghats harbour nearly 320 species including 37 endemics and 23 others shared with Sri Lanka. The area is host to a large variety of fresh water mollusca, some of which are specific to the region.

* Fish: The fish fauna of both fresh water montane and lowland river streams and water bodies as well as coastal lagoons and backwaters are very many and varied in this region. There is large commercial coastal fishery of finish and shell fish in this region.

* Reptiles: Dense forests of the region are the home of the King Cobra and Rock Python apart from other smaller reptiles. Many species of tortoises including the endemic cane turtle, and terrapin are also found in the Western Ghats. The marsh crocodile or mugger was once widely distributed in swamps and larger water bodies of the forested areas.

* Birds : About 508 species of birds occur in the Western Ghats (590 if sub-species are included). Among these about 16 species are endemic. Many endemic birds are exclusive to evergreen and Shola forests.


* Mammals: The forests of the area have large herbivores such as gaur, spotted deer, sambar, barking deer, elephant, etc. Carnivores are represented by tiger, leopard, jungle cat, leopard cat, fishing cat, Malabar civet, brown palm civet, small Indian civet, two species of mongoose and wild dog.
Several genera of mammals are endemic and representatives include slender lorris, the Lion-tailed macaque, 2 species of mongoose, 2 species of civet, Nilgiri langur, Nilgiri tahr, grizzled giant squirrel and the rusty spotted cat.

Biosphere Reserves in the Western Ghats.

The concept of a biosphere reserve emerged from the Man and Biosphere programme sponsored by the UNESCO during the early seventies. Prior to this, conservation efforts had a tendency to focus on a few animals like the tiger, while ignoring the overall diversity of living organisms. They also did not successfully reconcile the need for development with conservation. The Biosphere Reserve is an attempt to rectify these lacunae and make conservation more meaningful given the socio-economic realities of the region.

Lion-tailed Macaque

Biosphere Reserve is an international designation term made by the UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large areas of terrestrial or coastal/marine ecosystems or a combination thereof.
The network includes significant examples of biomes throughout the world. The Biosphere Reserve finally aims at conserving and use of resources for the well-being of people locally, nationally and internationally. So far about 360 Biosphere Reserves have been established in about 90 countries.
In 1978, an advisory group of the Indian National Man and Biosphere programme identified 12 sites ranging from Nanda Devi in the Himalayas to the Gulf of Mannar in the Bay of Bengal, representing the diverse biogeographic provinces in the country. Of this the project proposal for the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve was first prepared in 1980, but it took six years for the reserve to be officially established.

Covering an area of 5,500 sq. km in the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the Nilgiri Biosphere reserve has been designed to encompass extremities of habitat. From 100m above MSL in the Nilambur plains, it goes up the vertical slopes of New Amarambalam to the rugged heights of Makurti peak (2,554 m) and drops in the east to 250 m in the Coimbatore plains. The western slopes get over 5,000 mm of precipitation annually while the sheltered eastern valleys receive less than 500 mm. Corresponding to their altitudinal and climatic gradients, the natural vegetation changes from tropical wet evergreen forest along the western slopes to montane stunted Shola forest amidst the grassy down on the upper plateau and on the east, progressively drier deciduous forests ending in thorny scrub. This setting is home for a variety of animals - the Lion-tailed macaque in the evergreen forests, the Nilgiri tahr in the grassy downs, the black buck in the dry scrub and the tiger and the elephant throughout the region.

Paniya Tribal Woman, Wyanad, Kerala - Pic by Mohan Pai

To the north, the Biosphere Reserve begins in the Nagarhole National Park of Karnataka and the adjoining Wayanad sanctuary of Kerala. The moist deciduous forests and teak plantations of Nagarhole harbours abundant population of gaur, spotted deer, sambar and wild pig which support a sizeable number of carnivores such as tiger and leopard. Nagarhole is perhaps the best place in south India for sighting these large cats. The forest cover along the Kabini river has been reduced due to the construction of an irrigation dam. It was along the banks of this river that elephants were regularly captured for nearly a century by the Khedda method until 1971. Even today an evening ride on coracle along the riverbanks during the dry months may be rewarded with the sight of over a hundred elephants.

South of the Kabini, the dry deciduous forests of the Bandipur National Park were declared as a Project Tiger area in 1973. Contiguous with Bandipur lie Madumalai sanctuary of Tamil Nadu and portion of the Wayanad sanctuary in Kerala. The natural vegetation of this tract is moist deciduous forest. The fauna is similar to that of Nagarhole with elephants in large numbers.

East of Madumalai, the vegetation over the Sigur plateau and the Moyar river valley lying in the rain shadow of the Nilgiri massif, becomes drier. Thorny plants such as Acacia dominate. In addition to the fauna of the deciduous forests, striped hyena, jackal and four-horned antelope are seen here. The black buck has disappeared from the Sigur plateau but a viable population of 300 to 500 is still found in the Moyar valley. They can be easily seen in the evening along the foreshore of the Bhavani reservoir.The Moyar valley is the junction of two great hill chains of the peninsular India - The Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats. A portion of Talamalai-Satyamangalam plateau has been included in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve as representative of the Eastern Ghats.

Over the eastern slopes of the Nilgiris, the forest cover extends southwards as a narrow belt into Balampatty and Siruvani hills. The Siruvani reservoir on the Kerala side provides water to Coimbatore city. A good stretch of evergreen vegetation covers the higher reaches of Siruvani hills. Adjoining these hills to the north-west, the Attappady valley is mostly under cultivation. The large tribal population here has been practising shifting cultivation for a long time. As a result, the forest covers over the surrounding hills have largely degraded. A well preserved stretch of evergreen forest with Dipterocarpus, Mesua and Palaquium is seen west of the Attappady Reserve, extending into the Silent Valley, New Amarambalam and through a narrow corridor into Nilambur.
The endangered Lion-tailed macaque of the Silent Valley fame is highly adapted to such evergreen habitats. The controversy regarding the proposed dam across Kanthipuzha in the Silent Valley was laid to rest with the entire area being declared as a National Park in 1986. But the Government of Kerala has proposed Pathrakkadavu Hydro Electric Project in the Kunthi river, once again threatening the Silent Valley.

Tribal Hut, Wyanad, Kerala - Pic by Mohan Pai

Perhaps the largest pristine evergreen forest in peninsular India is the New Amarambalam Reserve, which has escaped the axe simply because its steep terrain is inaccessible. This is home to Chalamekans, the only genuine hunter-gatherers in the peninsula. The upper Nilgiri plateau has been altered by human activities into one vast stretch of cultivated land and settlements around Udhagamandalam (Ooty).
Both slopes and valleys here grow tea, coffee, cinchona, fruits and vegetables such as potato. Extensive plantation of Blue gum (Eucalyptus), Wattle (Acacia) and Pine have also been raised. These have resulted in enormous loss of top soil. To tap the potential for generating hydro-electric power, a series of dams have been constructed across the Bhavani river and its tributaries.
A major portion of the upper plateau has been excluded from the Biospere Reserve. Only the western and the southern ridges, which retain some natural Shola and grass land vegetation along with monoculture plantations have been included. A sanctuary has been declared to protect the Nilgiri tahr.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Shivaji's Forts


Geography has always played a decisive role in the history of a region. The geographical character and features dominated by the Sahyadri range prevented any real subjugation by alien powers of the Indian subcontinent south of the Tapti river, in the sense that northern India was; the geopolitical influence of these mountain ranges and their rugged and difficult terrain was immense.

The Deccan plateau is a landscape characterised by flat top summits, terraced flanks and precipitous slopes. These flat topped natural scarps rising above lower slopes which were then thickly wooded and surrounded by broken and uneven terrain were difficult to ascend. In many of these hills a sheer precipice of black basalt over 500 to 600 ft high ran almost all around making them natural strongholds.

The word ‘Fort’ originates from the French word ‘Fortis’ meaning strength. Even in Indian languages, they are called ‘Durg’ which is derived from the Sanskrit Word ‘Durgamam’ meaning inaccessible.

Bahamanis of Gulbarga who ruled for about 200 years were some of the first fort builders in the Sahyadris. Amongst local families Silahars of Panhala and Bhojraja in particular built many southern forts - Vishalgad, Vasota, Ragnya, Bhudargad and others. The Bahamani rule disintegrated by the middle of the 16th century and for a number of years chaos and anarchy prevailed. Out of this troubled times rose Shivaji who during his comparatively short span of life dominated the entire landscape of the northern Sahyadris and established his kingdom encompassing the entire mountainous region.

There are over 300 forts spread all over the northern Sahyadris from Salher in the north to the fort of Terekhol on the border of Goa. The forts and pinnacles of the northern Sahyadris are the sentinels that have witnessed a turbulent past and present us with a rich, romantic diversity of site, function, history, architectural style and cultural heritage. Here every peak seems to possess a fort and reverberate with its past of valour, daring, treachery and fluctuating fortunes.

Chhatrapati Shivaji - a painting

From 1294 AD the region was ruled by a succession of Mohammedan dynasties. This difficult terrain of the Sahyadris suited very well for Shivaji’s guerilla techniques, and enabled him to outsmart the mighty Generals of Aurangazeb and Bijapur. The ramparts and bastions of these forts depict the drama of the Sahyadris as well as Shivaji’s skills in harnessing these natural forces for his cause. He fought the might of the Mogul Empire in the north and that of Bijapur kingdom in the south and finally achieved a stunning victory and became the founder of the Maratha Empire. Shivaji himself in a letter to the Mogul Officials (Kutute Shivaji - copy of the manuscript is in the State Archives, Mumbai) brings out the importance of the rugged terrain and the fact that it is a difficult region for the Moguls to conquer.

The letter is reproduced below:
“Far-sighted men know that during the last three years, famous Generals and experienced officials have been coming from the Emperor to this region. The Emperor had ordered them to capture my forts and territory. In their despatches to the Emperor they write that the territory and the forts would be captured soon. Even if imagination were a horse it would be impossible for it to move in these parts. It is extremely difficult for this region to be conquered. They do not know this. They are not ashamed of sending false reports to the Emperor. My country does not consist of places like Kalyani and Bidar, which are situated in plains and could be captured by assaults. It is full of hill ranges. There are sixty forts in this region. Some of them are situated on the sea coast. Afzal Khan came with a strong army, but he was rendered helpless and destroyed.“After Afzal Khan’s death, the Amir-ul-umara, Shaista Khan, marched into my land, full of high hills and deep gorges. For three years he exerted himself to the utmost. He wrote to the Emperor that he would conquer my territory in a short time. The end of such a false attitude was only to be expected. He was disgraced and had to go away.
“It is my duty to guard my homeland. To maintain your prestige you send false reports to the Emperor. But I am blessed with divine favour. An invader of these lands, whosoever he may be, has never succeeded.”

Shivaji was a fort builder par excellence. It is said that he conquered 130 forts, built 111 and at the time of his death in 1680 possessed some 240 forts.
Among the many forts associated with Shivaji’s exploits the following are some of the prominent forts:

Shivneri :

This was a Nizam Shahi fort situated about 3 km from Junnar in the Malsej Ghat region. This is the birth place of Shivaji - he was born on February 19,1630 (some sources give the year of his birth as 1627).

Torna & Rajgad :

Both these forts are situated in the Bhuleshwar range. Torna was Shivaji’s first conquest in 1646 when he was only 16 years of age. Around the same year he also captured the fort of Morumbdev (later called Rajgad), 40 km southwest of Pune which served as the capital of Shivaji for 25 years before he moved it to Raigad.

Raigad :

Raigad stands separated by a ravine from the main range, to the west of the point where the Bhuleshwar range starts. It was here that Shivaji was crowned as king on June 6, 1674. It was a safe residence as the natural defences offered by way of ramparts and bastions were further strengthened by vertical scarps.
It commanded an excellent view and it enabled Shivaji to easily control Javli-Mahad area, right up to the sea. Raigad was the capital of the Maratha empire and he died in this fort on April 4, 1680.

Simhagad :

This fort called Kondana was Shivaji’s biggest achievement in his early career, which he captured by peaceful means in 1647 which later came to be known as Simhagad. Simhagad is located in the Bhuleshwar range, 26 km south of Pune. It was later surrendered to the Moguls and again recaptured in 1670 after a bitter struggle. The assault was led by the valiant Maratha warrior Tanaji Malusare. The fort was stoutly defended by Udai Bhan, the Rajput commandant of the Moguls. Both the leaders fought a duel which resulted in their death. The loss of brave Tanaji saddened Shivaji and he is said to have cried in anguish “I have won a fort but lost the lion”.

Purandhar :

Purandhar fort, at the end of the range which runs southeast from Simhagad is a strong fort that witnessed many a great battles in the Maratha history. The veteran general Jai Singh was sent by the Mogul emperor Aurangzeb to recapture the forts and territory occupied by Shivaji and leaving him no alternative but to surrender to the Moguls. Having arrived in Pune, Jai Singh marched towards the fort of Purandhar and the siege of Purandhar began on 30 March, 1665. There were fierce attacks by the Moguls and equally fierce defence put up by the Marathas. Although the Moguls were poised to capture Purandhar, but at the express request of Shivaji, the fort was allowed to be surrendered and the garrison permitted to evacuate the stronghold. There were 7,000, men and women, in the fort of Purandhar; of these, 4,000 were fighting men defending the fort. The siege of Purandhar is one of the most memorable sieges in Indian history.

Pratapgad :

The hill station of Mahabaleshwar marks the start of the Shambhu-Mahadeo range of the Koyna region. On the west of the ridge is located the historically important fort of Pratapgad (1,438 m). This fort is one of Shivaji’s most brilliant defense structures built by him in 1656 with some clever manipulation of the terrain.


Militarily it was an important fort as it controlled the Ambavani and Pir passes and was one of the strongest forts due to its vertical scarps. This grim fortress with its towers and battlements surrounded by high, basalt walls pierced with loopholes from whichonce sprouted Jingals - muskets fixed on swivel - still stands as an impregnable monument. The fort was once the scene of a dramatic act of double treachery. Shivaji met his opponent, Afzal Khan, the powerful Bijapur General, in a supposedly unarmed truce. They both embraced each other in a show of cordiality. Afzal Khan whipped out a hidden dagger and stabbed the foe, but the wily Maratha had taken the wise precaution of wearing a shirt of mail and concealed in his left hand a set of imitation tiger claws. He killed Afzal Khan with this weapon. A small monument and tower marks the scene of this vicious encounter at Pratapgad.

Panhala & Vishalgad:

Panhala range branches off from the main Sahyadris south of Warna valley. The range starts with the fort of Vishalgad, which is a historic fort captured by Shivaji in 1659 and is well protected by scarps, walls and bastions.
The range then goes eastwards to Panhala fort, which was captured by Shivaji in November 1659. Both Vishalgad and Panhala have been witness to deeds of valour and epic defense.
Since March 1660 Shivaji had been pinned down at Panhala for over four months in a tight siege by Siddi Jauhar of Bijapur. Shivaji decided to escape and taking advantage of the rainy season and dark nights, on 13th July 1660, slipped out of Panhala and made straight for the fort of Vishalgad, 64 km away. Shivaji’s outnumbered bodyguards were overtaken by the Bijapur forces at Pawan Khind (Ghod Khind) some eight miles short of safe Maratha territory. The epic defense of his Mavle escort enabled Shivaji to avoid capture but at the cost of his valiant leiutenant Baji Prabu’s life.

Memorial to Baji Prabhu at Panhala fort

Shivaji once again attacked Panhala and recaptured it in 1673. South of the Panhala range in the Amboli region has the southern most forts of Bhudargad, Pargad and Rangnya which was captured by Shivaji in 1657.

Salher & Mulher :

These two forts in the Selbari range running west to east dominate the landscape south of Mosam river. Salher is the highest hill fort (above 5,000 ft) in the Sahyadris and marked the northern most point of Shivaji’s kingdom which he laid siege to it and captured in 1671. Mulher is an ancient fort built in the 14th century and is also known as Mayurgad. The famous battle of Salher took place in early 1672. The Moguls had laid siege to the fort of Salher. Its capture had become a point of prestige for the Moguls. But Shivaji was determined to force the Moguls to raise the siege. In the ensuing battle Maratha forces defeated the Mogul forces led by their General Bahadur Khan and the entire equipment and booty was captured by the Marathas.
Apart from Salher and Mulher, this range of hills had nearly ten forts - Chandwad, Indrani, Kanchan Manchan, Dhodap, Ahivant, Achalagiri, Hanumantgad, Markand and Saptashringi.

Mulher Fort

Tryambak Range :

Harihar fort (1,120 m) is in the Tryambak range north of Igatpuri and is built on a triangular rock. Kalsubai, the highest peak of the northern Sahyadris at 1,646 m lies in this range branching off in the easterly direction. The range has the highest and difficult hill forts of Kulang, Alang and Madangad. Further northeast is the Patta fort (1,370 m) and on the main crest of the Sahyadris running southeast is Ratangad (1,296 m).

Budhargad near Kolhapur

The Sea-Forts :

There are a number of sea forts situated along the long Konkan coast which played an important role in the history of the Sahyadris. As the Konkan coast came increasingly under his possession, Shivaji started building a number of coastal fortresses in order to strengthen his modest navy and keep in check the Siddis of Janjira, the Portugese and other powers. He laid the foundation of the fort of Sindhudurg near Malvan on December 5, 1664 which became his naval base. He also built several other sea-forts such asPadmadurg, Vijaydurg, Jaigad and Devgad. Coastal Fort at Ratnagiri

Murud-Janjira fort which is situated 2 km into the sea from Murud, was constructed in the 11th century and was considered impregnable and witnessed many a battles. It was occupied by the Siddis during Shivaji’s time and even Shivaji was unable to effectively blockade this formidable fort.

End of an Era

After the last Maratha war and signing the treaty of 1818, the British controlled most of the Northern Sahyadri region and started establishing the British rule. Most of the forts were systematically dismantled by them for political reasons. They dynamited rocky stairs, fort walls, ramparts and approach routes to many impregnable forts to make them unusable. The damage done by these charges can be seen even today.
The techniques of war had also undergone a sea-change. The development of long range powerful artillery warfare effectively put an end to the value of these forts as defense strongholds and they did not play any further role in the history of the region.

Geopolitical Profile

Girdling Six States

The Western Ghats range extends from river Tapti in Maharashtra in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, approximately 1,600 km in length and passes through six states of the Indian Union covering an area of about 1,59,000 sq. kms. The states girdled by the Sahyadri range are : 1. Gujarat 2. Maharashtra 3. Goa 4. Karnataka 5. Kerala 6. Tamil Nadu
Area & Talukas of the Western Ghats Region as per Hill Area Development Programme (Planning Commission - 2001):
Area Coverage:

1. Maharashtra : 58,400 Sq. km 2. Karnataka 44,300 Sq. km.

3. Tamil Nadu 28,200 Sq. km. 4. Kerala 28,100 Sq. km. 5. Goa 1,073 Sq. km.

Total 1,60,000 Sq. km.


The great river Tapti, flowing in a deep trench from the east cuts through Surat and the eastern country is mountainous. This is the northern extension of the Western Ghats and further south, the Ghats are forested and the small district of the Dangs is in this area.


The west flowing rivers which originate in the Western Ghats are: Purna, Auranga and Par.
Three districts of Gujarat are in the Western Ghats ecoregion : 1. The Dangs 2. Surat 3. Valsad


The Western Ghats range begins at the Kundaibari Pass (2106N���74011���E) in Dhule district of Maharashtra and runs almost continuously 720 km north-south, the foothills reaching to within 6.4 km of the Arabian Sea. Elevations increase northward to the peaks of Kalsubai (1,646 m) and Salher (1,567 m).
There are a few passes through which roads and railroads link the coast with the interior. The eastern slopes of the ghat descend gently into the Deccan Plateau and are sculptured by the wide, mature valleys of the Krishna, Bhima and Godavari rivers.

Malsej Ghat
To the west is the narrow Konkan coastal lowland, which reaches its widest extent near Mumbai. Numerous minor hills of the Ghat range dominate the relief.
Two major east-flowing rivers originate in the Western Ghats section of Maharashtra - the Godavari arising in Nasik district and the Krishna which begins at an altitude of 1,360 m near Mahabaleshwar.
There are many small, swift west-flowing rivers, most of them less than 80 km long. They are : Ulhas, Surya, Vaitarana, Damanagang, Tansa, Vashist, Savitri and Shastri.
Twelve districts of Maharashtra are in the Western Ghats ecoregion: 1. Nasik 2. Thane 3. Dhule 4. Nandurbar 5. Pune 6.Sindhudurg 7. Raigad 8. Satara 9. Ratnagiri 10. Sangli 11.Kolhapur 12. Ahmednagar*

Sahyadris at Mahabaleshwar
Goa is the smallest state in the Western Ghats region with a coast-line of just about 100 km which extends 64 km inland and is dominated by the Ghats on its eastern part which rise to 1,034 m (3,392 ft) at Sonsagar.

Low-elevation Sahyadris at Goa
The hills give way in the west to an undulating area dissected by rivers and the coastal plain itself consists of beaches fringed with coconut palms. Goa���s two largest west flowing rivers are Mandovi and Zuari.
There are several minor streams which are : The Tiracol, Chapora, Sal, Galgibag and Talpona. The whole of Goa is included in the Western Ghats ecoregion.


Karnataka is situated on a tableland where the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats converge into B R Hills and the Nilgiri Hills complex.
Although the Ghats run parallel to the coast for a length of about 267 km, the width of the coastal lowland varies.

The Ghats dip into the sea and form islands at Karwar

It is about 80 km wide near Mangalore but practically non-existent in the north near Karwar where the range dips into the sea with peaks emerging as picturesque islands. A series of cross-sections drawn from west to east across the Ghats, generally exhibit, a narrow coastal plain followed to the east by small and short plateaus at different altitudes, then suddenly rising up to great heights. Then follows the east and east-north sloping plateau.
Among the tallest peaks are Mulainagiri (1,923 m), Bababudan or Chandradrona Parvata (1,894 m) and the Kudremukh (1,892 m) all in Chickamagalur district and Tadianamol Betta (1,745 m) and the Pushpagiri (1,713 m) in Kodagu district. There are a dozen peaks which rise above the heights of 1,500 m.
Bedthi River Valley, Uttara Kannada
The coastal region consists of two broad physical units - the plains and the Ghats. The coastal plains represent a narrow stretch of esturine and marine landscape. The abrupt rise at the eastern flanks forms the Ghats. The northern part of the Ghats are of lower elevation (450-600 m) as compared to the southern parts (900-1500 m).

The major east-flowing river is Kaveri with the east-flowing tributaries which include Hemavati, Laxmantirtha, Kabini and Suvarnavati. The swift west-flowing streams are : Kali, Gangavali (Bedthi), Aganashini, Sharavathy, Kollur-Chakra-Gangoli, Sita, Mulki, Gurupur and Netravathi.

Eleven districts of Karnataka are in the Western Ghats ecoregion :1. Belgaum 2. Uttara Kannada 3. Shimoga 4. Udupi 5. Dakshina Kannada 6. Chickmagalur 7. Hassan 8. Kodagu 9. Chamrajnagar 10. Mysore 11. Dharwad*


Kerala is a narrow strip of land on the south west coast of the Indian subcontinent bounded by the Western Ghats on the east.

Mattupetty Dam, Kerala
There are three geographical regions:
1.The Highlands consisting of a number of peaks with heights varying from an average height of 900 m to well over 1,800 m. Anaimudi peak - 2,695 m (8,842 ft), the highest point of peninsular India, crowns the Western Ghats.
2. The Midlands made up of hills and valleys.
3. The lowlands or the coastal areas which are made up of the river deltas, backwaters and the Arabian Sea.
Over forty four rivers cut across Kerala; it is said to be land of rivers and backwaters. These rivers are quite small and more or less filled by the monsoon water. Among the rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea, the more important are the Bharatpuzha, Chalakudi, Periyar and Pamba.

All the fourteen districts of Kerala are included in the Western Ghats ecoregion : 1. Kasargod 2. Kannur 3. Kozhikode 4. Malappuram 5. Wayanad 6. Palghat 7. Thrissur 8. Ernakulam 9. Pathanamthitta 10. Idukki 11. Kottayam 12. Allapuza 13. Kollam 14. Thiruvananthpuram.
Tamil Nadu
The Western Ghats, after a run of 1,600 km through six states of the Indian union, end in Tamil Nadu just 20 km short of Kanyakumari. The Eastern and the Western Ghats meet in Tamil Nadu and run along the whole length of the western boundary of the state at a distance of 80 to 160 km from the Arabian Sea.
The Ghats are a steep rugged mass with an average height of 1,220 m rising to 2,637 m at the highest point - Dodabetta near Ooty. The Nilgiris and Anaimalai are the group of hills with the maximum height followed by the Palnis. The Palghat gap and Shencottah gap are the only two breaks into the long chain of ghats that border Tamil Nadu.

Tea Gardens in the Nilgiris
The main rivers which arise in the Western Ghats and flow east in Tamil Nadu are the Kaveri, Tambraparni and Vaigai.
Nine districts of Tamil Nadu are covered in the Western Ghats ecoregion :
1. Nilgiris 2. Coimbatore. 3. Theni 4. Dindigul 5. Virudunagar 6. Tirunelveli 7. Erode* 8. Madurai* 9. Kanyakumari
* The report of the Working Group on Hill Area Development Programme for the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002-2007), Govt. Of India, Planning Commission, June, 2001 considers Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), Dharwad (Karnataka), Erode and Madurai (Tamil Nadu) as districts of the Western Ghats region.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008



The Great Escarpment

Hanuman & Shiva Shrines at Kundaibari Pass - the Western Ghats begin here.

The Western Ghats form an almost unbroken rampart on the fringe of western peninsula parallel to the west coast for about 1600 km and often hardly 40 km from the Arabian Sea.

They start immediately south of the Tapti river, the northern most point being the Kundaibari pass (21006���N, 74011���E) near Brahmavel in Dhule district of Maharashtra ending near Kanya-kumari (80���N) barely 20 km from the sea in Tamil Nadu. They cover an area of approximately 1,59,000 sq. km with an average elevation of 900-1500 m. ASL, obstructing the monsoon winds from the south west and the orographic effect is considerable. Although the average heights of the Ghats is less than1500 m. ASL, in the southern reaches it rises 2000 m and to exceptionally higher peaks of 2,500 m and above.
Along its entire length, the Western Ghats range has only one total discontinuity, the Palghat Gap in Kerala where for more than 30 km there is a gap which has a floor height of less than 100 m ASL. This discontinuity is perhaps of tectonic origin through which a river may have flowed in ancient times. The peninsular plateau is highest in the south and west and slopes eastward, the eastern edge forming the broken up Eastern Ghats. The Eastern and the Western Ghats meet along the Moyar Gorge with the Billigirirangana Hills along the north-eastern side and the the Nilgiris in the south-west.
Based on the topography and geology, the Western Ghat region is divided into three distinct subregions:

Northern Western Ghats (Tapti river to Goa)

This region consists of the most homogeneous part of the Western Ghats, hugging the coast for almost 600 km. It corresponds to the western edge of the vast plateau formed by massive horizontal outflow of volcanic lava which cooled to form dark grey basalt.
The layer of lava often interlaced with non-volcanic debris - View from Arthur���s Seat, Mahabaleshwar

The scarp of the Ghats in this region presents a magnificent profile of over 1,000 m of successive volcanic layers, which on erosion have produced a typical trappean landscape, forming a formidable well-dissected wall looking over the narrow west coast plains, buton the eastern side descending in steps one below the other. It is in this region that the full significance of the term ���ghats��� (steps of a stair-case) becomes clear. The layers of lava are quite often interlaced with non-volcanic debris. Sometimes these form intertrappean deposits holding plant and animal fossils. The elevation is generally between 700 and 1,000 m, but some of the pinnacles attain greater heights; the tallest are the Kalsubai (1,646 m) near Igatpuri, Salher (1,567 m) 90 km north of Nasik and the famous Mahabaleshwar (1,438 m).

Mangi & Tungi - The Twin Peaks in the Selbari Range

The escarpment is not a simple erosional feature; some geologists believe that it marks the location of a broad zone of en echelon deep-seated faults. Landsat imagery shows a large density of faults striking NW-SW along the trend of this escarpment roughly parallel to the coast, in which 33 hot springs have been noted and which have been interpreted as indicative of a fault.

Terraced flanks - the ���Ghats or steps���, Maharashtra

The coastal zone here called Konkan, is a narrow strip about 50-60 km wide. It is made up of a series of more or less high hills, some of them like Matheran (700 m) almost reaching the height of the plateau and bears testimony of regressive erosion.

Central Western Ghats (Goa to Nilgiris)
The basaltic outpourings cease to the north of Goa. The Middle Western Ghats run from a little south of 160N latitude up to Nilgiri Hills. Towards the south, the Ghats consist of complex formation of pre-cambrian rocks. In the central Western Ghats, the rocks are predominantly of Dharwar system (among the oldest in India) and Peninsular gneisses.
The Western scarp is considerably dissected by headward erosion of the west flowing streams. The elevation generally range between 600 to 1000 m up to 13030���N. The Ghats lose their graded appearance and form a steep barrier whose height becomes more irregular. They rise suddenly at Kodachadri (1343 m)and fall to about 600 m at Agumbe.
The ���Iron mountains���- Kudremukh range

From Kudremukh (1,892 m) up to Palghat Gap, the edge of the plateau is very often higher than 1,000 m. and the peaks become more numerous and higher - Pushpagiri (1,713 m) in the North Kodagu, Tadianamol Betta (1,745 m), Banasuram (2,060 m), Vavul Mala (2,339 m) at the edge of the Wayanad plateau.

Towards 11030���N, the Western Ghats composed of hard Charnokites, rise abruptly in the Nilgiri horst where they join the Eastern Ghats. The Nilgiri mountains constitute an elevated plateau dominated by two of its highest peaks, the Dodabetta (2,637 m) and Makurti (2,554 m) overlooking Palghat Gap from a height of more than 2,000 m.

On the Mysore plateau, whose average elevation range from 700 to 900 m we find reliefs formed by tectonic events such as spectacular horseshoe of the Bababudan hills which extends from Hebbe through Kemmanagundi and Attigudi to Mulainagiri (1,923 m) which is the highest peak in Karnataka.
Brahmagiris near Iruppu, Kodagu

The other tallest peak is Bababudangiri (Chandradrona Parvata 1,894 m). The width of the coastal zone is also more variable here than in Maharashtra. It is about 40 km wide at the latitude of Goa and then suddenly narrows near Karwar where the Ghats dip into the sea with peaks emerging as picturesque islands.
The Ghats dip into the sea near Karwar

This advance of the relief is carved by deep valleys of the Kalinadi, Gangavali and Sharavathy. The last drops from a height of 250 m creating the famous Jog falls.
To the south of 140 N, the coastal zone now called South Kanara, widens once more to about 80 km. The coastal region after Kodagu known as Malabar is not more than 30 km wide up to the latitude of Kozikode. From here it widens out to about 60 km till the Palghat Gap. The coastal hills in the entire region, particularly to the north of Mangalore are mostly tabular relief hardened by iron oxides. These reliefs are practically bare and present a characteristic landscape.

Charmadi Ghats, Karnataka
Southern Western Ghats (South of the Palghat Gap)

The Western Ghats are separated from the main Sahyadri Range by the Palghat Gap which is about 30 km wide and they appear abruptly as the Anaimalai-Palni block whose high plateau attain a height of 2,695 m in the Anaimudi peak, the highest point in south India. The Nelliampathis

This block is a composite range ismade up of the Nelliampathy plateau (drained by Chalakudi) to the west, the Anaimalai plateau (largely converted into tea plantations and distinctly elevated to the east) in the centre and the Palni horst overlooking the peneplain of Tamil Nadu from a height of almost 2,000 m.
Anaimudi - the highest peak in the south 2,695 m(8,843 ft). Bill Aitken called it ���Black Moby Dick��� - the Great Whale

To the south of this west-east oriented block, the Ghats display further changes. Here they form an elevated plateau slanting towards the west - the Periyar plateau, thus named after its most important river. The eastern part of this plateau forms Elamalai range, better known as Cardamom Hills because of its plantations. This central range attains its peak at Devar Malai (1,922 m) and terminates in the east by sheer cliff 1,000 m high. From this, the SW-NE oriented Varushanad massif is detached and continued by the Andipathi, which together with Palni hills embraces the Kambam Valley.

South of Devar Malai, at about 90N, the Ghats are once again interrupted by narrow Shencottah Pass (alt. 160 m). From here they continue as a narrow ridge with steep slopes to the west as well as to the east, until about 20 km before Kanyakumari. This last bit is very rugged and its highest peak is the Agasthyamalai (1,869 m). Three regions may be distinguished here; Agasthyamalai proper, Mahendragiri to the south and the Tirunelveli hills on the eastern slopes. The coastal zone (30-50 km wide) constituting Travancore is made up of convex shape hills with rounded summits. Here we do not find the tabular reliefs of South Kanara and Konkan since their formation at this latitude is probably more difficult due to short, dry season.

The vegetation types are characterised by low level tropical evergreens turn to Shola grasslands on the cool wind swept slopes of the higher ranges. Primary or secondary moist deciduous forests cover the lower western hills. Moist deciduous forests are also common on the eastern slopes in the rain shadow area. Dry deciduous and even scrub vegetation characterises the eastern slopes where the humidity is low and the winds are high.

The Imperial Gazetteer of India - 1907 gives a very vivid description of the region which is reproduced below:

Western Ghats - a range of mountains about 1,000 miles(1,600 km) in length, forming the western boundary of the Deccan and the watershed between rivers of peninsular India. The Sanskrit name is ���Sahyadri���.

The range, which will be treated here with reference to its course through Bombay, Mysore and Coorg and Madras, may be said to begin at the Kundaibari pass in the south western corner of the Khandesh district of Bombay Presidency, though the hills that run eastward from the pass to Chimtana and overlook the lower Tapti valley, belong to the same system. From Kundaibari (21006���N, 740 11���E) the chain runs southward with an average elevation which seldom exceeds 4,000 ft., in a line roughly parallel with the coast, from which its distance varies from 20 to 65 miles. For about 100 miles up to a point near Trimbak, its direction is somewhat west of south; and it is flanked on the west by the thickly wooded and unhealthy tableland of Peint, Mokhada and Jawhar (1500 ft) which forms a steep barrier between the Konkan lowlands and the plateau of the Deccan (about 2000 ft). South of Trimbak the scarp of the western face is more abrupt; and for 40 miles, as far as the Malsej pass, the trend is south-by-east changing to south-by-west from Malsej to Khandala and Vagjai (60 miles), and again to south by east from here until the chain passes out of the Bombay Presidency into Mysore near Gersoppa ( 14010���N, 74050���E).

On the eastern side the Ghats throw out many spurs or lateral ranges that run from west to east, and divide from one another the valleys of the Godavari, Bhima and Kistna river systems. The chief of these cross ranges are Satmalas, between the Tapti and Godavari valleys; the two ranges that break off from the main chain near Harishchandragarh and run south eastwards into the Nizam���s Dominions, enclosing the triangular plateau on which Ahamad-nagar stands, and which is the watershed between the Godavari and the Bhima; and the Mahadeo range, that runs eastward and southward from Kamalgarh and passes into the barren uplands of Atpadi and Jath, forming the watershed between the Bhima and the Kistna systems. North of the latitude of Goa the Bombay part of therange consists of Eocene trap and basalt, often capped with laterite, while farther south are found such older rocks as gneiss and transitional sandstones.
The flat-topped hills, often crowned with bare wall like masses of basalt, or laterite are clothed on their lower slopes with jungles of teak and bamboo in the north; with jambul (eugenia jambolana), ain (Terminalia tomentosa) and nana (Lagerstroemia parviflora) in the centre; and with teak, blackwood, and bamboo in the south.
On the main range and its spurs stand a hundred forts, many of which are famous in Maratha history. From north to south, the most notable points in the range are the Kundaibari pass a very ancient trade route between Broach and the Deccan; the twin forts of Salher and Mulher guarding the Babhulna pass; Trimbak at the source of holy river Godavari; the Thal pass by which the Bombay-Agra road and the northern branch of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway ascends the Ghats; the Pimpri pass, a very old trade route south between Nasik and Kalyan or Sopara, guarded by the twin forts of Alang and Kulang; Kalsubai (5427 ft), the highest peak in the range; Harishchandragarh (4691 ft); the Nana pass, a very old route between Junnar and Konkan; Shivner, the fort of Junnar; Bhimashankar, at the source of the Bhima; Chakan, an old Musalman stronghold; the Bhor or Khandala pass, by which the Bombay-Poona road and the southern branch of the Great Indian Peninsula Railway enters the Deccan, and on or near which are the caves of Kondane, Karli, Bhadja and Bedsa; the caves of Nasdur and Karsambla below the forts of Sinhagarh and Purandhar in the spurs south of Poona; the forts of Raigarh in the Konkan and of Pratapgarh between the new Fitzgerald ghat road and the old Par pass; the hill station of Mahabaleshwar (4717 ft) at the source of the Kistna; the fort and town of Satara; the Kumbharli pass leading to the old towns of Patan and Karad; the Amba pass, through which runs the road from Ratnagiri to Kolhapur; the forts of Vishalgarh and Panhala; the Phonda pass, through which runs the road from Deogarh to Nipani; the Amboli and the Ram pass, through which run two made roads from Vengurla to Belgaum; Castle Rock, below which passes the Railway from Marmagao to Dharwar; The Arabail pass on the road from Karwar to Dharwar; the Devimane pass on the road from Kumta to Hubli, and the Gersoppa Falls on the river Sharavati.

On leaving the Bombay Presidency, the Western Ghats bound the State of Mysore on the west, separating it from the Madras district of South Kanara, and run from Chandragutti (2,794 ft) in the north-west to Pushpagiri on the Subramanya hill (5,626 ft) in the north Coorg and continue through Coorg into Madras.

In the west of the Sagar taluk, from Govardhangiri to Devakonda, they approach within ten miles of the coast. From there they trend south-eastwards, culminating in Kudremukh (6,215 ft) in the southwest of Kadur district, which marks the watershed between Kistna and Cauvery systems. They then bend east and south to Coorg, receding to 45 miles from the sea. Here to numerous chains and groups of lofty hills branch off from the Ghats eastwards, forming the complex series of mountain heights south of Nagar in the west of Kadur district. Gneiss and hornblende schists are the prevailing rocks in this section, capped in many places by laterite, with some bosses of granite. The summits of the hills are mostly bare, but the sides are clothed with magnificent evergreen forests. Ghat roads to the coast have been made through the following passes: Gersoppa, Kollur, Hosangadi, and Agumbe in Shimoga district; Bundh in Kadur district, Manjarabad and Bisale in Hassan district.

In the Madras Presidency, the Western Ghats continue in the same general direction, running southwards at a distance of from 50 to 100 miles from the sea until they terminate at Cape Comorin, the southern most extremity of India. Soon after emerging from Coorg they are joined by the range of the Eastern Ghats, which sweeps down from the other side of the peninsula; and at the point of junction they rise up into the high plateau of the Nilgiris, on which stand the hill stations of Ootacamund (7,000 ft), the summer capital of the Madras Government, Coonoor, Wellington, and Kotagiri and whose loftiest peaks are Dodabetta (8,760 ft) and Makurti (over 8,000 ft).
Immediately south of this plateau the range, which now runs between the districts of Malabar and Coimbatore, is interrupted by the remarkable Palghat Gap, the only break in the whole of its length. This is about 16 miles wide, and is scarcely more than 1,000 ft above the level of the sea. The Madras Railway runs through it, and it thus forms the chief line of communication between the two sides of this part of the peninsula.

South of this gap the Ghats rise abruptly again to even more than their former height. At this point they are known by the local name Anaimalais, or ���elephant hills���, and the minor ranges they here throw off to the west and east are called respectively the Nelliam-pathis and the Palni Hills. On the latter is situated the sanatorium of Kodaikanal. Thereafter, as they run down to Cape Comorin between the Madras Presidency and the native state of Travancore, they resume their former name.

North of the Nilgiri plateau the eastern flank of the range merges somewhat gradually into the high plateau of Mysore but its western slopes rise suddenly and boldly from the low coast south of the Palghat Gap both the eastern and western slopes are steep and rugged . The range here consists throughout of gneisses of various kinds, flanked in Malabar by picturesque terraces of laterite which shelve gradually down towards the coast. In elevation it varies from 3,000 to 8,000 ft above the sea, and the Anaimudi peak (8,839 ft) in Travancore is the highest point in the range and in southern India. The scenery of the Western Ghats is always picturesque and frequently magnificent, the heavy evergreen forest with which the slopes are often covered aiding greatly to their beauty. Large games of all sorts abounds, from elephants, bisons and tigers to the Nilgiri ibex, which is found nowhere else in India.

Before the days of roads and railways the Ghats rendered communication between the west and east coasts of the Madras Presidency a matter of great difficulty; and the result has been that the people of the strip land which lies between them and the sea differ widely in appearance, language, customs, and laws of inheritance from those in the eastern part of the Presidency. On the range itself, moreover, are found several primitive tribes, among whom may be mentioned the well known Todas of the Nilgiris, the Kurumbas of the same plateau, and the Kadars of Anaimalais. Communications across this part of the range have, however, been greatly improved of late years. Besides the Madras Railway already referred to, the line from Tinnevelly to Quilon now links up the two opposite shores of the peninsula, and the range is also traversed by numerous ghat roads. The most important of these latter are the Charmadi ghat from Mangalore in South Kanara to Mudgiri in Mysore; The Sampaji ghat between Mangalore and Mercara, the capital of Coorg; the roads from Cannanore and Tellichery, which lead to the Mysore plateau through the Perumbadi and Peria passes; and the two routes from Calicut to the Niligiri plateau up the Karkur and Vayittiri-Gudalur ghats.


Name of the peak & location Height(m) (ft)

1. Anaimudi 2,695 (m) 8,839(ft) Anaimalai Hills, Kerala
2. Dodabetta 2,637 (m) 8,649 (ft) Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu
3. Makurti 2,554 (m) 8,377 (ft) Nilgiri Hills, Tamil Nadu
4. Vembadi Shola 2,506 (m) 8,220 (ft) Kodaikanal Hills, Tamil Nadu
5. Vahul Mala (Camel���s Hump) 2,339 (m) 7,672 (ft) Southern Sahyadris, Kerala
6. Banasuram 2,060 (m) 6,757 (ft) Southern Sahyadris, Kerala
7. Kottai Malai 2,019 (m) 6,622 (ft) Varushanad Hills, Keral-Tamil Nadu
8. Mulainagiri 1,923 (m) 6,307 (ft) Bababudan Hills, Karnataka 9. Devar Malai 1,922 (m) 6,304 (ft) Kerala
10. Badabudangir (Chandradrona Parvata) 1,894 (m) 6,212 (ft) Karnataka
11. Kudremukh 1,892 (m) 6,206 (ft) Central Sahyadris, Karnataka
12. Agasthyamalai 1,869 (m) 6,130 (ft) Kerala-Tamil Nadu
13. Tadianamol Betta 1,745 (m) 5,724 (ft) Kodagu, Karnataka
14. Pushpagiri 1,713 (m) 5,619 (ft) Kodagu, Karnataka
15. Mahendra Giri 1,654 (m) 5,425 (ft) Kerala-Tamil Nadu
16. Kalsubai 1,646 (m) 5,399 (ft) Northern Sahyadris, Maharashtra
17. Salher 1,567 (m) 5,140 (ft) Northern Sahyadris, Maharashtra
18. Ballalrayan Durga 1,504 (m) 4,933 (ft) Central Sahyadris, Karnataka 19. Gopalaswamy Betta 1,454 (m) 4,769 (ft) Karnataka - Tamil Nadu
20. Pratapgad 1,438 (m) 4,717 (ft) Central Sahyadris, Maharashtra
21. Kodachadri 1,343 (m) 4,405 (ft) Karnataka
22. Andipatti Hills 1,301 (m) 4,267 (ft)Tamil Nadu
23. Sadura Giri 1,271 (m) 4,169 (ft) Varushanad Hills, Tamil Nadu

The Spiritual Mystique


Ishwara Shrine atop Mulainagiri, the highest peak in Karnataka

There are a number of references to the Sahyadris in the ancient epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata as well as in some of the Puranas. In Ramayana they are described as ���majestic, great mountain with its many brightly coloured peaks, its brightly flowering woods, and forest tracts of sandalwood���. Both Ramyana and Mahabharata belong to the post Vedic period.
However, the Rig Veda, the most ancient text available, does not feature this mountain range as possibly during that time the peninsular part of India was a dense forest and remained largely inaccessible and unknown to the Vedic people.

Madhukeshwara Temple, Banvasi, Karnataka

Kishkindha Kanda and Yuddha Kanda in Ramayana and Ashvamedha Parva and Udyog Parva in Mahabharata have references to the majestic and lofty mountain ranges on the west coast. There are two names that feature for the Western Ghats - Sahya and Malaya. The name Sahya was probably applied to the northern segment of the mountain range in Maharashtra and Karnataka, and Malaya to the southern segment in Kerala and Tamil Nadu.

The Legend of Parashurama

The legend of Parashurama is a popular story in the Hindu Mythology with different regional versions. According to one version, Parashurama, the axe-wielding avatar of Vishnu is the son of Sage Jamadagni and Renuka. Jamadagni is killed by despotic Kshatriyas because he refuses to part with ���Kamadhenu���, his wish-fullfilling divine cow. In revenge, Parashurama traverses the earth twenty-one times and wipes out all the Kshatriyas.
Parashurama, struck by remorse tried to expiate his sins by performing yagnyas during which he gifted away all his lands to the Brahmins with no land left even to build a hermitage for himself. Varuna, God of the seas came to his aid and offered him to gain from the sea as much land he could span in one throw of his axe. Parashurama stood at Pethe Parashuram (near Chiplun, Maharashtra) and threw his axe as far as Kanyakumari. The sea retreated and the coastal tracts of Konkan, Kanara and Kerala were thus generated.
Parashurama populated his new lands with Brahmins as well as new plants such as the coconut, the banana and the jackfruit which now thrive throughout the region.

This legend is probably based on the lowering of sea level which resulted in the emergence of the coastal strip which is now referred to as Konkan and Malabar. There are very few shrines to Lord Parashurama - apart from Pethe Parashuram in Konkan, there is one shrine in Goa at Painguinim and two in Kerala at Payanur and Thiruvallom.

From the earliest times, the mountains have been considered the abode of Gods and revered and worshipped. There are hundreds of shrines and temples built atop the hills and innumerable caves and monuments dedicated to the divine all over the Western Ghats. Skanda Purana has a whole section called Sahyadri Kanda that provides description of over a hundred Tirthas (holy places in the vicinity of rivers) and eighty Kshetras (places of pilgrimage) in the Sahyadri range.

Vidyashankara Temple, Shringeri, Karnataka

The Tirtha phenomenon is a unique by-product of Indian culture. Rivers, mountains, shrines and holy spots on the banks of rivers have been sanctified by tradition and association and visit to these places has been considered for centuries as a paramount duty of a Hindu.

Some of the important tirthas are located at the source of different rivers. Tryambakeshwar is located at the source of Godavari near Nasik and contains one of the twelve ancient and sacred Jyotirlingas in India.
The legend of sage Gautama who resided near Tryambak on the Brahmagiri hill is narrated in Brahmapurana and Naradapurana. Ramayana features Panchavati on the banks of Godavari near Nasik where Shri Rama stayed along with Sita and Lakshaman.

Bhimashankar Temple, Maharashtra

River Bhima rises 40 km north of Khandala and at the source of this river is situated another of the twelve famous Jyotirlingas of Bhimashankar. Bhima is referred to in the Mahabharata, Matsya Purana, Brahma Purana and Vamana Purana. Most of the famous Ashta Vinayaka temples of Maharashtra are located in the Sahyadris - Lenyadri, Siddhatek, Pali, Theur, Morgaon, etc.
River Krishna rises near Mahabaleshwar along with four other rivers - Vena, Kakudmati, Savitri and Gayatri. The Shiva (Mahabaleshwara) temple is about 5 kms from the main bazar of Mahabaleshwar hill station. There are legends associated with this spot in Mahabaleshwar Mahatmya.

Pandharpur situated 40 miles west of Sholapur on the banks of river Bhima also known as Chandra-bhaga is the foremost pilgrimage centre of Maharashtra that houses the famous shrine of Vithoba.
Alandi is situated on the banks of Indrayani river 12 miles north of Pune and has the Samadhi and shrine of the famous Maharashtra saint Jnaneshwar. On the mountain at Jejuri, high up the Karha valley is the temple of Khandoba.
Kolhapur is situated near the banks of river Panchaganga and is known for the ancient temple of Goddess Mahalakshmi.

Mahalakshmi Temple, Kolhapur

Goa has many ancient Hindu temples spread over at the foot of the Sahyadris. South of Goa there is Sringeri on the left bank of river Tungabhadra where Sri Shankaracharya established his chief monastery.

Saptakoteshwar Temple, Narve, Goa

Baba Budan or Dattatreya Pitha, a laterite cave, considered holy by both Muslims and Hindus is in the Bababudan range. The legend says that the Muslim saint Baba Budan came and settled down here and brought coffee seeds with him from Persia. This was the beginning of coffee crop in India. Close to Chickamagalur, on the tallest peak in the Western Ghats of Karnataka - Mulaianagiri (1,923 m.) is a beautiful Shiva shrine.

Nageshwar Temple, Saputara, Gujarat

At the foothill of the Western Ghats at Belur and Halebid near Hassan are the Temples of Channakeshava and Hoysaleshwara with finely executed carved sculptures. These were built during the 12th century and are the finest examples of Hoysala architecture.
North of Udupi, near the base of the Kodachadri hills is the famous temple of Goddess Mookambika at Kollur. Udupi in Dakshina Kannada is famous for Krishna temple founded by Sri Madhavacharya, the great Dvaita philosopher and teacher. Kukke Subramanya temple at the base of the Kumara Parvata is in Dakshina Kannada.

Mukambika Temple, Kollur, Karnatak
River Kaveri rises on the Brahmagiri hill in Kodagu (12035��� N and 75031��� E) its source is a small pond and there is a shrine to Goddess Kaveri. The place is known as Talakaveri. There are several legends about Kaveri which are mainly recorded in the Agneya and Skanda Puranas.
Kukke Subramanya Temple, Karnataka

Sabrimala the famous abode of Lord Ayyappa is situated in thick forested area of the Western Ghats in the upper region of river Pamba in Kerala. The legend says that it was here that lord Rama while searching for Sita met Sabari, an ardent devotee and blessed her. The famous ancient temple of Lord Krishna is situated in Guruvayur, about 30 km from Trichur.
Kaladi, eight miles east of Alwaye, on the banks of river Periyar is the birth place of Jagatguru Sri Shankaracharya.

River Tambraparni arises in the Agasthyamalai hills. After a few kms from its source downstream, it reaches the Papanasam tirtha which is considered a very sacred place. The importance of the tirtha is described in the Shiva Purana and in the Kurma Purana and it is also mentioned in the Mahabharata and Ramayana. There is a temple of Subramanya at Palni hills on a rocky hill about 450 ft high.

Carved figurine, Belur Temple
Buddhist Caves in the Western Ghats

The most famous Buddhist monument in the Sahyadris are the Buddhist caves at Ajanta and Ellora near Aurangabad in Maharashtra.
The 34 caves at Ellora and 29 caves at Ajanta remained shrouded in obscurity till one John Smith, a British Army officer, accidentally stumbled upon them while hunting tigers in 1819. These caves were built as secluded retreats for the Buddhist monks around 2nd century B.C.

Ajanta Fresco

The Kailasa temple in Cave 16 at Ellora is an architectural marvel, the entire structure having been carved out of a monolith, the process having taken over a century to finish. The gateway, pavilion, assembly hall sanctum and tower, all hewn out of a single rock. What is amazing about it, is the fact that unlike other temple structures which are built base upward, the architect involved here, started carving from the very top and the sides. Gigantic though, it remains one of the most delicate and intricate ancient works of art.
Junnar, where the hill fort of Shivneri is situated was an old Buddhist centre and it still has several cells and chapels and believed to be as old as 3rd century B.C.

The other important Buddhist caves are at the Bhore or Khandala pass at Karla, Bhaje and Bedse. The Buddhist cave at Karla is considered to be the largest and the most complete Chaitya cave in India and is also the best preserved. The caves of Bhaje and Bedse are also nearby and are believed to be as old as 2nd century B.C.

The Gandhar-Pali caves are located near Mahad junction on Mumbai-Goa highway in the Sahyadris. There are 28 caves in all which date back to the 2nd or 3rd century A.D. Chaityas, Viharas, wall sculptures, images of Buddha can be seen in these caves.

���Golden Buddha���, Namdroling Monastery, Bylakuppe, Kodagu

Jain Pilgrimage Centres

Ellora : Of the 34 caves that are carved, 5 of the caves to the north are Jain caves.
Shravanabelagola : This famous Jain pilgrimage centre is located 51 km south east of Hassan. The Gomateshwara statue 58 ft high is carved out of a mountain and said to be one of the tallest monolithic sculptures. It was carved out in 981 A.D. and consecrated in 983 A.D. There are several Jain bastis and monasteries in Shravanabelagola. There are 14 shrines on Chandragiri hill and Chandragupta Maurya, the Mauryan Emperor after renouncing his kingdom settled on this hill, along with his Guru Bhagwan Bhadra Bahu Swami. The great emperor is buried here.

Gomateshwara, Shravanbelagola

Karkala : Is another Jain pilgrimage centre in the Western Ghats. From the centre of the town rises 300 ft high Gomata Betta, crowned with 41.5 ft monolith of Bahubali. The statue was consecrated in 1,432 A.D.
Moodabidri : The Savira Khamba Basadi is the most well-known of the 18 Jain Temples here. There is also the 17th century Chowta Palace, the intricately carved residence of the Jain Royal family.
Kumbhojgiri : This centre is 35 km away from Kolhapur. There are around 24 temples dedicated to Jain Tirthankars within the complex, sacred to both Digambara and Swetambara sects.

Christian Pilgrimage Centres

St. Thomas, the apostle is believed to have travelled by the spice route on a boat and landed in Muziris (Cranganore) in 52 A.D. He converted India���s first Chiristians and built a church at Palayur. The Palayur is the oldest of the seven-and-half churches founded by St. Thomas, and is the oldest church in India.
Malayattoor, on the banks of the Periyar is a popular pilgrim centre for the Christians of Kerala as they believe that it was blessed by the presence of St. Thomas the apostle. About 10 kms from Vagamon is Kurusimala, a pilgrim centre for Christians, that recreates Christ���s final journey - the Way of the Cross - in a series of picture tableaux.

'Bom Jesus', Old Goa

Old Goa is famous for the Shrine of St. Franacis Xavier "Bom Jesus" where his entombed body has been kept.

Aurangazeb���s Tomb

North-East of Mumbai in the Western Ghats is a small hill station of Khuldabad, site of the tombs of Aurangzeb, last of the great Mogul Emperors and his son Azam Sham.
Aurangzeb chose Rauza on Khuldabad���s outskirts as his resting place where he wanted to be buried. Aurangzeb chose this simple town for the most feared of the Mogul emperors saved money for this simple structure through the sale of skullcaps that he stitched and copies of the Koran he personally wrote.