Maharashtra is located in the north centre of Peninsular India. It links the north to the south and the plains of India to the southern peninsula. The state is bound on west by Arabian Sea, on north-west by Gujarat, on north by Madhya Pradesh, on southeast by Andhra Pradesh and on south by Karnataka and Goa. It is the third largest state in terms of area in the country. Dominant physical trait of the state is its plateau character.
Physical divisions of the State comprise of three parts based on its physical features, viz, Maharashtra Plateau, the Sahyadri Range and the Konkan Coastal Strip as explained below.
Maharashtra Plateau: The major physical characteristics of the state include many small plateaux and river valleys. In the north the plateau is flanked by Satpuda ranges, which run in the East-West direction in Maharashtra. The river Narmada flows along the north boundary of Maharashtra, and other major rivers like Krishna, Godavari, Bhima, Penganga-Wardha, and Tapi-Purna have carved the plateau in alternating broad river valleys and intervening highlands.
The Sahyadri Range: The Western Ghats of Maharashtra known as the ‘Sahyadri’ mountain ranges have an average elevation of 1000-1200 m above the MSL. The Sahyadri hills run parallel to the seacoast, with many offshoots branching eastwards from the main ranges (Satmala, Ajanta, Harishchandra, Balaghat and Mahadeo). The special features are the hills of Trimbakeshwar, Matheran and the Mahableshwar plateau. Its highest peak is Kalsubai at an altitude of 1650 m. Most of the rivers in Maharashtra originate in the Sahyadri and then divide to join the eastward and westward flowing rivers. These ranges are also characterised by a number of ghats, the important ones being Thal, Bor, Kumbharli, Amba, Phonda and Amboli.
The Konkan Coastal Strip: The narrow strip of coastal land between the Sahyadri and the Arabian Sea is called the Konkan coastal strip. It is barely 50 km in width; it is wider in the north and narrows down in the south. River creeks and branches of the Sahyadri, which reach right up to the coast, dissect this coastline. The important creeks in Konkan are Terekhol, Vijaydurg, Rajapuri, Raigad, Dabhol, Daramthar, Thane and Vasai. The rivers of Konkan rise from the cliffs of Sahyadri and have a short swift flow into the Arabian Sea. Some important rivers are Ulhas, Savitri, Vashishthi and Shastri.
Maharashtra receives its rainfall mainly from south-west monsoon. The rainfall in state varies considerably. There is heavy rainfall in the coastal region, scanty rains in rain shadow areas in the central part and moderate rains in eastern parts of the state.
Geology of Maharashtra
The entire area of the State forms a part of the “Peninsular Shield”, which is composed of rocks commencing from the most ancient rocks of diverse origin, which have undergone considerable metamorphism. Over these ancient rocks of Precambrian era lie a few basins of Proterozoic era and of permo carboniferous periods which are covered by extensive sheets of horizontally bedded lava flows comprising the Deccan trap. More than 80% area of the State is covered by these Deccan trap, which have concealed geologically older formations. The most important economic minerals such as coal, iron ore, manganese ore, limestone, etc. are found in the geologically older formations
Structurally, the entire area of the state forms a part of the “Peninsular Shield” of India which represents a fairly stable block of earth crust that has remained unaffected by, mountain building movements, since the advent of the Palaeozoic era. Some of the subsequent movements in the crust have been of the nature of normal and block faulting which have laid down certain portions bounded by tensional cracks of faults giving rise to basins in which sedimentary beds of the Gondwana age have been deposited. Particularly in the Vidarbha region giving rise to the the important limestone as Penganga beds and coalfields of the Pench-Kanhan valley, the Umred – Bander field the Wardha valley and Vidarbha valley. It is generally accepted that the Western coast has been formed as a result of the faulting.
Soil of Maharashtra:
The soil status of Maharashtra is residual, derived from the underlying basalts. In the semidry plateau, the regur (black-cotton soil) is clayey, rich in iron and moisture-retentive, though poor in nitrogen and organic matter. When re-deposited along the river valleys, the kali soils are deeper and heavier, better suited for Rabi crops. Farther away, with a better mixture of lime, the morand soils form the ideal Kharif zone. The higher plateau areas have pather soils, which contain more gravel.
In the rainy Konkan, and the Sahyadri Range, the same basalts give rise to the brick-red laterites, which are productive under a forest-cover, but readily stripped into a sterile varkas when devoid of vegetative cover. By and large, the soils of Maharashtra are shallow and of somewhat poor quality. The soil and vegetation of Maharashtra are related to the climate and the geology.
The soil in the Deccan plateau is made up of black basalt soil. This type of soil is rich in humus. The soil is commonly known as the black cotton soil because it is best suited for the cultivation of cotton. The volcanic action which had taken place in the Deccan region has given rise to the soil texture and composition. These igneous rocks break down into the black soil which is very fertile.
The Wardha – Waliganga river valley has old crystalline rocks and saline soils which make the soil infertile. This type of soil has a natural resistance to wind and water erosion because it is rich in iron and granular in structure. A very important advantage of this type of soil is that it can retain moisture. This makes the soil very reactive to irrigation
Climate of Maharashtra:
The climate of the State is tropical. The Western Ghats hill ranges run north to south separating the coastal districts of Thane, Mumbai, Raigarh, Ratnagiri and Sindhudurg from rest of the State. The average height of these ranges is about 1000 mm form an important climatic divide. The coastal areas receive very high monsoon rains while to the east of the Ghats rainfall drops drastically within short distance from the Ghats. Towards further east, the rainfall once again gradually increases.
Maharastra has got variable climate from continental to typical maritime depending upon the location and physiography. The coastal districts of Konkan experience heavy rains but mild winter. The weather, however, is mostly humid throughout the year. The maximum and minimum temperature varies between 27°C and 40°C & 14°C and 27°C respectively.
The State experiences extremes of rainfall ranging from 6000 mm over the Ghats to less than 500 mm in Madhya Maharashtra. The Konkan sub-division comprising of coastal districts and Western Ghats receive the heaviest rains, the Ghats receive more than 6000 mm and the plains 2500 mm.
Rainfall decreases rapidly towards eastern slopes and plateau areas where it is minimum (less than 500 mm). It again increases towards east i.e in the direction of Marathwada and Vidarbha and attains a second maximum of 1500 mm in the eastern parts of Vidarbha. Thus, the Madhya Maharashtra sub-division is the region of the lowest rainfall in the State.
The State receives its rainfall chiefly during the south west monsoon season (June to September) while Konkan receives almost 94% of the annual rainfall during the monsoon season, The other sub-divisions namely Mahdya Maharashtra, Marathwada and Vidarbha receive 83%, 83% and 87% respectively during this season.