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Walking in the garden of the gods

Every monsoon, the 18-sq-km Kaas plateau breaks into a breathtaking array of flowers. The best part: It’s just six hours from Mumbai.

mumbai Updated: May 27, 2012 01:49 IST
Akul Tripathi
Akul Tripathi
Hindustan Times

Every monsoon, the 18-sq-km Kaas plateau breaks into a breathtaking array of flowers. The best part: It’s just six hours from Mumbai.

A sweltering open-air sauna, bang in the middle of a huge dust bowl — that’s the best description of the Deccan Plateau in summer. Except for the occasional scrawny tree clawing life from its thin layer of topsoil, most of this central Indian plateau region eerily resembles a desert.

Yet with the first drops of rain, life crawls out of the rocks and fine red lateritic soil, shaking off the dust to paint the earth green. Almost overnight, the Deccan is transformed into a lush paradise covered in a picturesque fog.

Drive through the green and, 26 km from the concrete jungle of Satara, is a flat expanse with a road running through it — the topmost plateau in the Yavateshwar hill range.

This is the Kaas plateau, where the palette goes far beyond green, commanding an entire box of crayons to create an 18-sq-km meadow of flowers so spectacular, it looks like a garden of the Gods.

The festival of colour at Kaas begins in June and lasts until October, peaking in August and September. These are the monsoon months, so the plateau is shrouded in a thick mist, with a chill wind blowing across it.

In mid-June, the annual flower burst starts with the blossoming of ground orchids or habenaria. Soon after come the pink blossoms of the Aponogeton Satarensis — named to acknowledge the fact that it is found only in this region. These are replaced, within a fortnight, by the bright yellow sonaki blossoms of the sunflower family and the yellow smithia flowers with red eyes, also called Mickey Mouse flowers because the blossoms looks like the cartoon character’s face.

Over subsequent weeks, the plateau sees bursts of the blue Seeta’s Tears or utricularia flower, red balsam or Impatiens, and the exquisitely delicate ivory genda or eriocaulons.

White lotuses float in the plateau’s many ponds.

And once every seven years there is the special treat of the purple-blue and pink karvi blossoms.

Over 1,500 types of plants have been recorded here, including a number of endangered varieties. Many are endemic to this region.

But there is no one time where Kaas displays all her charms. She must be pursued persistently for those who seek to know all her moods and colours.

Unfortunately, she is not as aloof as such a beauty should be.

Concerned citizens are now trying to have the plateau listed as a biodiversity hotspot to ensure that it is protected, as Uttarakhand’s Valley of Flowers now is. That high-altitude Eden is remote and difficult to reach, leaving its raw beauty intact.

Kaas, unfortunately, is all too easily accessible. Every monsoon, you see tourists stomping about, grumbling about the size of the blossoms.

For those seeking size, a cautionary note: This is not a tulip show. It is Nature on extravagant display. So please, tread carefully or not at all.

First Published: May 27, 2012 01:48 IST