Geographical Outline

The Western Ghats may be divided into three major regions.

Surat to Goa

The most homogeneous aspect of the Ghats is to be found in this region hugging the coast for almost 600 km. It is all in this that the full significance of the term 'Ghats' (steps of a stair case) dawn on us. The edge of the plateau which forms a water reservoir, is cut up by a number of rivers that drain the heavy monsoon by rains by means of steep slopes towards the sea such as the Kalinadi, or on to the Maharashtra Plateau towards the east such as the Krishna, Bhima and Godavari. Its elevations generally between 700 and 1000m. However, we find here some higher peaks like Kalsubai(1646m) and the famous Mahabaleshwar(1438m), on whose slopes some of rare patches of semi evergreen forests are still be found.

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

Goa to Nilgiri mountains

The ballistic outpouring cease to the north Goa. They are continued towards the south by complex formations of pre-Cambrian rocks. The Ghats lose their graded appearance and form a steep barrier whose height becomes more irregular.They are between 700 and 1000 m upto 14 degree N, rise suddenly at Kadachadri*1343m) and fall to abut 600m at Agumbe. From Kudremukh (1892m) uptothe Palghat Gap the edge of the plateau is very often higher than 1000m and the peaks become more numerous and higher too-Pushpagiri (1713m) in north Coorg, Tadiannamal Betta(1745m), Banasuram(2060m) VuvulaMala (2339m) at the edge of the Wayanad Plateau.

Towards the 11 degree 30 N, the Western Ghats rise abruptly in the Nilgiri horst where they join the Eastern Ghats . The Nilgiri mountains constitute an elevated plateau attaining a maximum height of 2637m at Dodda Betta and overlooking the Palghat Gap from a height of more than 2000m.On the Mysore Plateau, whose average elevations ranges from 700m to 900m, we find relief's formed by tectonic events such as the spectacular horseshoe of the Bababudan hills whose peak measures 1928m.

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 almost meet the sea . This advance of the relief's is carved by deep valleys of the kalinadi, Gangavali and Sharavathi . The last drops from a height of about 250 m creating the famous Jog falls.To the south 140 N, the coastal zone . Now called South Kanara, widens once more to about 60 Km till the Palghat Gap. The coastal hills in the entire region, particularly bare and present a characteristic landscape.

South of Palghat Gap

The Western Ghats are interrupted by the Palghat Gap which is about 30 Km wide they reappear abruptly as the Anaimalai-Palni block whose high plateau attain a height of 2695m in the Anaimudi Peak the highest point in South India. This block is a composite range made up of the Nelliampathi Plateau (drained by he Chalakudi) to the west, the Anaimalai plateau(largely covered into tea plantations and distinctively elevated to the east) in centre and the Palni horst overlooking the pediplain of Tamilnadu from a height of almost 2200m.

To the south of this west-east oriented block, the Ghats display further changes. Here they form an elevated plateau staining towards the west-the periyar plateau, thus named after its most important river. The eastern part of this plateau forms the Elamalai range, better known as the Cardamom Hills because of its plantations . This central range attains its peak at DevarMalai (1922m) and terminates in the east by a sheer cliff about 1000m high. From this, the SW-NE oriented Varshanad massif is detached and continued by the Andhipathi, which together with the Palni Hills embraces the Kamban valley.

South of Devar Malai, at about 9 Degrees N, the Ghats are once again interrupted by the narrow Shencottah Pass(alt .160m). 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 Cape Comorin(Kanniya Kumari).

This last bit is very rugged and its highest peak is Agastyamalai (1869m). Three regions may be distinguished here:Agastyamalai proper, Mahendragiri to the south and Tirunelveli hills on the eastern slopes.

The coastal zone (30-50Km wide) constituting Travencore is made up of convex shaped hills with rounded summits. Here we do not find the tabular releifs of South Kanara and Konkan since their formation at this latitude is probably more difficult due to short dry seasons.