Archive for June 2014
The northern portion of the Western Ghats have a unique volcanic geology that makes them quite different from the southern ranges. The Sahyadris include the ranges extending from the Goa-Karnataka-Maharashtra tri-junction to their northern most point at the Tapti River (in Gujarat). The term “Sahyadri” is also widely used to describe the whole Western Ghats chain but geographically and geologically it is a segment of the larger heterogeneous assemblage called the Western Ghats.
My personal interest in the Western Ghats was nurtured in the southern-most ranges and it took me several years to finally spend time in the hills and mountains that gave the Western Ghats their name. It is in the Sahyadris that dramatic traps, (i.e. ghats or steps) fall from the Deccan Plateau to the lower Konkan plains that border the Arabian Sea. This is an area with a fascinating geological history associated with the period of volcanism that created the Deccan Plateau and may be associated with the extinction of the dinosaurs (see links below).
During the three years that my wife and I were working at the Mahindra United World College of India I had a chance to get to know parts of the Sahyadris intimately. In 2002 when we started work the college was still relatively new and there was limited knowledge on campus about the hiking/outdoors opportunities in the area. Over my three years there I recruited a diverse collection of students, teachers and friends and set out to learn as much as possible about the landscape, ecology and culture of the Sahyadris. We used Harish Kapadia’s Trek the Sahyadris as a bible and followed it to as many of the nearby locations as we could.
We first focused on the great and lesser-known Maratha forts(Tikona, Lohgad, Torna, Rajgad, Rajmachi, Harishchandragad, Ratangad etc.). Notable peaks near the campus were climbed, explored and camped on. Towards the end of my stay we started to explore the numerous Buddhist rock cut caves that the area is blessed with. I was a keen bird watcher but it was the Sahyadris where I was inspired to study and photograph the snakes and amphibians that we encountered (mostly on our campus, an din our home during the monsoon). Interactions with notable Pune naturalists like Ashok Captain, Vivek Gaur Broome, Ashish Kothari, Sunita Rao, Pankaj Sekhsaria, Reiner Hoerig, Erach Bharucha and others helped further my interest in the area. Through a fortuitous meeting with the state minister of education I was able to get a full set of Survey of India 1:50,000 and 1:25,000 maps of our Sahyadris area stretching from Nashik down to Mahabaleshwar for the college. As I had in the other areas of the Western Ghats, I worked to document the landscapes with medium format cameras, shooting mainly in black & white (see the High Range Photography album “Sahyadris“). I also shot color slide film (not scanned yet) and color print film on a small Olympus stylus. It’s these snapshots, originally scanned in Pune, that accompany this article.
The landscape of the Sahyadris is something special to behold and it changes dramatically between the dry, scorched months of the Indian summer (March-June) to the lush, verdant months of the monsoon (June-October). During my three years I worked hard to understand the nuances of the landscape and the monsoon’s impact on it. By my final year I was able to plan several trips that provided ideal lighting conditions to do justice to the landscapes.
The NASA/USGS Landsat program has given me a chance to rediscover the Sahyadris through their amazing archive of multi-spectral imagery that is now publicly available. The escarpment of the ghats was always impressive and something I tried to find the right light to do justice to. However, seen from air or space the Sahyadris are something else. The series of maps in this post are taken from a pass of Landsat on February 23rd 2014. A few days later I was in the area participating in a conference in Mumbai and I happened the tiles in Earth Explorer when I was looked to better reconnect with the Sahyadris after a 10-year gap. The tiles have taken a good deal of processing using ArcMap to get them into their current view. I have added place names of some of the notable places that we took MUWCI hikes to. There are quite a few other points (such as the Buddhist caves, Koyna Sanctuary etc.) that didn’t make it onto these versions of the maps. Nevertheless, they should be of interest to my former students, colleagues and other fascinated by the Sahyadris.
Kapadia, Harish. Trek the Sahyadris, 5th Edition. New Delhi: Indus Publishing Co. 2003. Print. Web Site.
Lockwood, Ian. “Sahyadris.” High Range Photography. 2005. Digital album on Web.
Lockwood, Ian. “Traversing the Sahyadris.” Sanctuary Asia. June 2005. Print (PDF).
Sheth, Hetu. “The Deccan: Beyond the Plumes Hypothesis.” Mantle Plumes. August 2006. Web.