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Monsoons: The Backbone of India

The term Monsoon refers to the big seasonal winds in the region of South and South East Asia that blow from the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea bringing heavy rainfall.

More than fifty percent of the Indian population depends on agriculture. Fifty percent of the water for agriculture comes from rain. Monsoons therefore play an important role in the lives of Indians.

The Monsoon Winds

The monsoon winds are really like a large-scale sea and land breeze. When the oceans are cooler than the scorching inlands, cool winds move towards the land, carrying rain. Similarly, in winter when the land cools faster than the oceans, the winds reverse.

Monsoons transform the landscape of a region by converting it from a semi desert into a lush green land. 

dry land before rains
Land Before Monsoon Rains

 

Land After Monsoon Rains
Land After Monsoon Rains

Summer Monsoon- Southwest

In summer, the Indian subcontinent heats up more than the oceans and seas around. This leads to the formation of low pressure areas, especially over the Thar Desert and its adjoining regions. The southwest summer monsoons carrying rain rushes from the Indian Ocean towards this low pressure area. The Himalayas stop the winds from moving beyond. Instead, the moisture laden southwest winds rise up the mountains, cool and bring rain.


In summer, moist winds move towards the North

Winter Monsoon- Northeast

During the winter, the direction of the winds reverses. The subcontinent cools down faster than the surrounding water, resulting in low pressure over the warmer waters. The drier, colder and heavier air of the continent blows offshore resulting in the dry monsoon season.

   
In winter, the drier colder air from the North moves towards the ocean.

Many parts of southern India receive lots of rain from the northeast monsoon. Though the main season of rainfall in interior Karnataka, Kerala and Lakshadweep is the southwest monsoon season, rainfall continues until December. Tamil Nadu, in particular, gets nearly half its annual rain during the winter monsoon.

Rainmaking Prayers and Rituals

In various rural parts of India, farmers perform prayers and various other rituals to ensure that the rains are on time and in right quantities.

man offering prayers in the river
Courtesy: Shutterstock
Indra and Varuna are two Hindu gods worshipped in India for rains

India’s Rain, Tibet’s Plight

The Himalayas stop the moisture laden air from moving forward. This is why the Tibetan Plateau on the other side of the mountains (on the leeward side) barely gets any rain and has an arid climate. The Himalayas and connecting ranges also contribute to the arid climate of the Mongolian Gobi desert.

himalayas
Courtesy: Shutterstock

Crops that are grown during the monsoons:

KHARIF: Sown in early July with the first rains and reaped in October. 
Examples: bajra, jowar, maize, gram (black and green), sugarcane, peanut, sunflower and soyabean.

RABI: Sown in mid-November and reaped in early April.
Examples: wheat, peas, mustard, linseed and barley.

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