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Kaas (Kaas Plateau)

If ever you have wished to be surrounded by a bounty of colourful flowers and nothing else for quite a distance, the Kaas Plateau is where you should be. Just 25 kilometers from the bustling city lies this pristine and wonderfully unique ecosystem nestled in the Sahyadri Mountains. The metamorphosis that takes place here during the monsoon season is like witnessing Mother Nature unfolding a miracle for the world to be astounded with.

Known as the ‘Plateau of a Million Flowers’, Kaas has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the reason is quite clear - it is acknowledged as home to endemic life forms that are found nowhere else in the world! But what truly amazes, and presents a breathtakingly colourful picture, is the blossoming of thousands of flowers during the monsoon season when the plateau becomes covered with sheets and drapes of innumerable tiny flowering plants in a riot of yellows, pinks, blues, purples, and so on. The show that starts sometime late in July continues, changing dramatically, throughout August and into September.        

The making of this very special place can be traced to the time when it was part of the Deccan Plateau which had 29 volcanic lava flows across 20 crore years. With every eruption, a new layer of lava flowed from the land’s fissures and spread horizontally over the already weathered older strata. When the flow of magma finally stopped, the action of many water streams and huge rivers began, eroding the flat land mass and forming deep valleys and gorges, thereby giving it its present form. With the arrival of the southwest monsoon clouds, the region receives up to 2,500 mm of rainfall in just about three months. The water that accumulates from this catchment finds its way into the Kaas Lake, which is the source of the river Urmodi. It is due to this life-giving rain that the thin layer of red soil suddenly erupts in a profusion of flowers.     

Soon enough, the land is covered with the golden-hued Smithias and Sonkis. Not to be left behind are the carpets of pink, lavender and purple of the Balsams. Then there is the dazzling white from the blooms of Gend – Eriocaulon with their head-like flowers. In contrast is the peach of Murdania, which has spectacular sheen of gold dust on its petals. Adding to the colour purple is Seeta’s Tears or Utricularia, which have small bladders around their roots. Tiny insects, attracted to these bladders, get trapped, thus providing the plant with nitrogen and phosphorus. Taking this glamorous show forward is the universe of the ground orchids, including Habeneria digitata with its greenish-yellow flowers. Some of the other unique species found here include the Ceropegia, whose lantern-like appearance gives it its appropriate vernacular name of ‘Kandil Kharchudi’.       

However, the story of Kaas would remain incomplete without a mention of the ubiquitous Pleocaulus ritchei, known in vernacular terms as ‘Topli Karvi (basket kept upside down). This plant flowers only once in its lifetime of eight years. And yet when it blossoms, it is a sight to behold with baskets of purple flowers swaying in the breeze. And with so many plants coming to life, the landscape also buzzes with bees, butterflies, insects and frogs for whom the plants provide yet another cycle of life.

Distance from Mumbai:  279 kms