Deserts in India

  • Post last modified:29 January 2023
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Natural resources don’t only include the lush green forests and deep blue oceans, but also the barren deserts, which in recent years is beginning to emerge as favoured destinations to many in the world. Contrary to what many believe, deserts are not devoid of life, but offer some of the most beautiful landscapes on earth.

Deserts in India

The Cold Mountain Desert of the Trans-Himalayas

The mighty Himalayas, is home to some of the starkest, most stunning landscapes made by the bare brown mountains, which receive abundant sunlight and snow, but no rain. In the lap of Himalayas lie the cold deserts of India. These are arid areas not affected by the Indian monsoons because they lie in the rain-shadow of the Himalayan mountain systems.

They include Ladakh, Lahaul, Kinnaur, Spiti, Bharmour and some areas of northern states of Uttarakhand and Sikkim. Almost no vegetation can survive on such rough terrain, making the slightest hint of greenery or colour a treat for the eyes. The flora and fauna is unique to the area. Major animal include yaks, dwarf cows, and goats. In winter, when temperatures dip below -30 degrees Celsius and the valley practically shuts off from the rest of India.

The White Salt Desert of Great Rann of Kutch

The Rann (Hindi word for desert) was originally part of the Arabian Sea, until a geological rising of the seabed disconnected it from the sea, forming a vast lake whose lower reaches gradually dried up, leaving a salty marshland. The Rann of Kutch is a seasonally marshy saline clay desert located in the Thar Desert bio-geographic province in the state of Gujarat.

The desert gets submerged under water during the monsoon season, which makes it a breeding ground for flamingoes, the India wild ass and several other exotic birds & wildlife. The Rann is also famous for the Indian Wild Ass sanctuary, the Little Rann of Kutch, where the last of three species of Asiatic Wild Ass (Equus hemionus khur or khar), the only ones in Asia, still exists along with wolves, foxes, jackals, chinkara gazelles, nilgai antelope and blackbucks. The Rann of Kutch is also the only place in Pakistan and India which plays host to migrating flamingoes. There are 13 species of lark in the Rann of Kutch.

The Sandy Desert of Rajasthan

The Thar Desert or the Great Indian Desert is in Rajasthan, which spreads for more than 200,000 sq. km. It lies mostly in Rajasthan and extends into the southern portion of Haryana and Punjab and into northern Gujarat. The Thar Desert is bounded on the northwest by the Sutlej River, on the east by the Aravalli Range, on the south by the salt marsh known as the Rann of Kutch (parts of which are sometimes included in the Thar), and on the west by the Indus River.

There are three principal landforms in the desert region — the predominantly sand covered Thar, the plains with hills including the central dune free country and the semi-arid area surrounding the Aravalli range. It is characterized by massive rolling sand dunes, excessive heat (50 degrees centigrade in May and June, with sand temperatures rising to 70 degrees), dust storms and dust-raising winds, often blowing winds with speeds of 140-150 Km/hr.

The Desert National Park, Jaisalmer, spread over an area of 3162 km², is an excellent example of the ecosystem of the Thar Desert. Great Indian Bustard, Blackbuck, chinkara, desert fox, Bengal fox, wolf, desert cat etc. can be seen here. Tal Chhapar Sanctuary is a very small sanctuary in Churu District, 210 km from Jaipur, in the Shekhawati region. This sanctuary is home to a large population of graceful Blackbuck. The Jalore Wildlife Sanctuary in Jalore district (130 km from Jodhpur) is another small sanctuary that is privately owned where a sizeable population of rare and endangered wildlife is present including the Wildcat.

Golden City – Jaisalmer

Also known as The Golden city of Rajasthan for the forts and palaces in the deserts, the city is located at a distance of 575 Kilometers to the west from the state capital Jaipur. The city lies in the heart of the Thar Desert (Great Indian Desert) and has a population of about 78,000. The city is popular for shopping of Shawls, carpets and jewellery. Popular attractions in the city include Jaisalmer Fort, Sonar Quila, Nathmal Ji Ki Haveli, Salim Singh Ki Haveli, Patwon-Ji-Ki-Haveli, Jain temples dedicated to the 16thTirthankara, Shantinath, and 23rd Tirthankara, Parshva, desert camps on Thar sand dunes near the Khuri village etc.

The annual Jaisalmer desert festival held annually in the month of February showcase Jaisalmer culture through traditional folk dance performance like Ghair, Ghoomar, and Terahtal. Popular camel race and dance performances in open-air against the backdrop of the vast Thar Desert and the magnificent Jaisalmer Fort becomes the favourite of tourists visiting the destination.

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