Land of Gujarat
Gujarat is situated on the west coast of India. It is bounded in the west by the Arabian sea, in the north-west by Pakistan, in the north by Rajasthan, in the east by Madhya Pradesh and in the south and south-east by Maharashtra. The state of Gujarat occupies the northern extremity of the western sea-board of India. It has the longest coast line of 1290 kms. The state comprises of three geographical regions.
The peninsula, traditionally known as Saurashtra, is essentially a hilly tract sprinkled with low mountains. Kutch on the north-east is barren and rocky and contains the famous Rann (desert) of Kutch, the big Rann in the north and the little Rann in the east. The mainland extending from the Rann of Kutch and the Aravalli Hills to the river Damanganga is on the whole a level plain of alluvial soil.
Climate of Gujarat
The climate of Gujarat is moist in the southern districts and dry in the northern region. The Arabian sea and the Gulf of Cambay reduce the temperature and makes the climate more pleasant. The year can be divided into four seasons which are the winter season from November to February, the summer season from March to May, the south-west monsoon season from June to September and the intervening month of October.
The average rainfall in Gujarat varies from 33 to 152 cms. The southern region of the state has an average rainfall ranging from 76 to 152 cms, Dang district have the highest average of about 190 cms. The northern district have a rainfall ranging from 51 to 102 cms. The rainfall in the southern highlands of Saurashtra and the Gulf of Cambay is approximately 63 cms while the other parts of Saurashtra have a rainfall less than 63 cms.
The semi-desert area of Kutch has a very low average rainfall. Certain areas in Ahmedabad, Mehsana, Banaskantha, Panchmahal, Surendranagar, Jamnagar and Kutch districts receives very less or no rains. As the Tropic of Cancer passes through the northern border of Gujarat, the state has an intensely hot or cold climate. But the Arabian sea and the Gulf of Cambay in the west and the forest covered hills in the east soften the rigors of climatic extremes.
Rivers in Gujarat
The Banas in the north, originating in the Siranva hill in Sirohi in Rajasthan, flows by the foothills of Abu and disappears in the desert. The Saraswati takes its birth at Koteshvar near Ambaji, flows by Siddhpur and Patan and merges into the desert. The Sabarmati, one of the biggest rivers of north Gujarat, originates from the Dhebar lake in Rajasthan and flows towards the Gulf of Cambay.
The Hathmati, Vatrak, Mazam, Meshvo, Shedhi, Khari and the other rivulets also join it. The three virgin rivers of the north and the Sabarmati with its tributaries are the daughters of the Aravalli ranges, while the Mahi and Narmada with their families originate from Madhya Pradesh. The Narmada, one of the biggest and holiest river along with the only tributary, Karjan, meets the sea, about 16 kms. from Broach.
The Tapi takes its birth in the Satpura ranges near Betwa and enters Gujarat at Kakarapar. It flows around Surat and Rander and falls into the sea. The Mindhola, Purna, Ambika, Vanki, Auranga, Vapi, Par, Kolak and Damanganga are the rivers of south Gujarat, which originates in the Sahyadri. Most of the rivers of Saurashtra and Kutch dries up in the summer.
The rivers which originate in the central Saurashtra in the Chotila range flow to the south into the desert of Kutch. Only the Aji, Machhu and Brahmani are northward flowing rivers. The rivers originating in the Girnar and Gir namely, the Ojhat, Kamb, Surekh, Somal, Sangwada, Hirani, Kapila and Saraswati flow into the sea.
The Saraswati and Vastu are sacred rivers. Though Kutch has many rivers, they are small and do not have much water. The Khari flowing by Bhuj meets the desert and Magh and Tara empty their waters in the Gulf of Cambay. The Rudramata has been bunded for irrigation, providing the only irrigation project in Kutch.
Mountains in Gujarat
Gujarat’s mountains are rich in scenic beauty and have been closely associated with religious and historical aspects of the people. The northern and eastern borders are made up of mountains which are the tails or offshoots of outside ranges like the Aravallis, Vindhyas, Satpuras and Sahyadris. Saurashtra contains two parallel ranges, one stretching from east to west and the other from north-east to south-west.
The tracts of saline land of Kutch have three mountain ranges. The Aravalli which is the most ancient mountain range in Gujarat lies largely in Rajasthan and enters Gujarat at Abu and zigzagging up to the Pavagadh merges into the Vindhyas. The Taranga lies on the line from Mehsana to Visnagar. The Arasur branch of the Aravalli goes in the direction of Danta, Khedbrahma, Idar and Shamlaji and joins the Vindhyas.
The Satpura tail lies between the Narmada and Tapi with Rajpipla hills. The ranges of the Sahyadri lie across the Tapi with the highest rainfall and the densest forest in the state. The Saler Muler and the Parner form part of the Sahyadri range. The rocky region of Saurashtra has only two regular mountain ranges, the northern one having about a 357 metre peak in the Panchal region.
The Girnar which is the highest mountain in the state (1,145 metres) forms a part of the range south of the Bardo and is about 160 km in length. The highest peak is named after Guru Dattatreya. Garakhnath, Amba Mata, Kalika Mata are the names of the other peaks of Girnar. The small hill beside the Girnar, called the Jamial Shah Pir is a Muslim holy place.
The Shatrunjaya hill near Palitana is one of the five sacred hills of Jains. The hills of Talaja, Lor and Sana are known for their Buddhist caves. Kutch is a saline tract with three mountain ranges. The hills of Kutch are devoid of plant life. Among the three main ranges in Kutch, the northern one goes by Pachham, Khadir and Pranjal. The Kala Parvat forming a part of the ranges lies between Kutch and Sind. The southern range begins at Madh and goes up to Roha.
Fauna in Gujarat
Gujarat is very rich in animal life. The forest areas of the Gir in Saurashtra, Panchmahals and Dangs have herds of gazelles, black buck and spotted deer. The Asiatic lion is now localised in the Gir forest, which has also smaller mammals including langurs and blue bulls. Gujarat having an extensive coastline, perennial rivers and lakes and ponds are rich in a variety of fish. Besides Asiatic lion, tiger, panther, cheetah, wolf, jackal, fox, Civet, greyish langur, rabbit and porcupine are also found in the forest areas of the state.
The wild ass is a distinctive species found only in Gujarat, in the Rann of Kutch. The thick forests of Dang, which receive maximum rains and have abundant greenery, are the home of beautiful birds such as Trogon, hornbills, barbets, babblers, racket-tailed drongos and minivets. The Saras, pea-fowls, red-wattle lapwings, parakeets, babblers and mynas are mostly found in the plains.
The extensive coastal regions of the state give shelter to various birds like plovers, stints, sand pipers, curlews, lesser flamingoes, terns and gulls. During the winter, flocks of migratory birds came to Gujarat from faraway countries, like the pied-crested cuckoo, rosy pelicans, white storks, Brahmany duck, demoiselle cranes, common cranes, ducks, coots, snipes, moorhens, curlews and stints. During monsoons, the great and the little Rann of Kutch, serve as breeding ground for flamingoes, pelicans and avocets. While drier areas of Kutch and north Gujarat serve as haunt to grey partridges, larks, white-ear bulbuls, finch larks and sand-grouses.
Forests in Gujarat
The essential criteria for the growth of forests are suitable conditions of temperature and a heavy rainfall. In Gujarat, high rugged areas receive a higher rainfall than the plains. The rainfall in the state increases from the plains to the mountains and from north to south. The forests are therefore concentrated in the hilly parts of the state in the south-east and in the hills of Saurashtra. The hills of Kutch are bare because of low rainfall and the absence of any orographic features.
South, south-east and east Gujarat are the only areas which have a considerable forest cover. Gujarat has about 19.66 lakh hectares of land under forest. A large part of the forest cover which is economically exploitable is distributed in the districts of Dang, Panchmahal, Broach, Surat, Bulsar, Junagadh, Sabarkantha and Banaskantha. The south and south-eastern parts of the state support the growth of tropical deciduous forest typified by teak, Shorea Robusta for which the district of Bulsar is well known. Moist Deciduous Forests occur in Dang and parts of Vyara in Surat division.
These forests are not evergreen and shed their leaves during March and April. Dry deciduous forests with teak occur in north-east Gujarat, particularly in Sabarkantha district. The thorny forests which occur either in Kutch or north Saurashtra and Banaskantha district are characterized by Acacia Arabica, Acacia Leucophloea, Capparis Ophylla, Zizyphus Mauratiana etc. There are large stands of bamboo in South Gujarat than in the North.