India is one of the most diverse countries in the world. From languages to culture, India has a rich heritage and eventful ancient history. India’s diversity is also visible in its terrain. From mighty snow-clad Himalayas to dense rainforests, it has almost every geopgraphical system. India’s tourism showcases diversity of this great country to the world. Of late, there has been a surge in tourism to offbeat locations which are not just historical wonders but are some of the rarest geological formations that can be seen on Earth.
As India exhibits various geological wonders that have been formed over the ages and is now attracting tourists with their interesting geological features. Geological Survey of India (GSI), the country’s premier geological organisation, has enlisted some interesting locales as India’s National Geological Monuments. GSI is trying to provide these locatons their due place in India’s tourist map so that it becomes truly enriched by the inclusion of these geological monuments. This initiavtive by GSI will also provide visitors in the country and abroad to get an insight into the real geological past of India. How the Indian subcontinent was formed, the orogeny and the palaeoenvironment together with the exotic collection of India’s paleo – flora and fauna.
Here are some of the stunning locations enlisted by the GSI as India’s National Geological Monuments:
Columnar Basaltic Lava, Coconut Island (St. Mary’s Islands) in Karnataka’s Udupi District
India’s southewestern coastal state Karnataka has some great geological locations including the country’s highest waterfall but nothing comes close to the Columnar Basaltic Lava in Coconut Island or St. Mary’s Islands in Udupi District. The Columnar Basaltic Lava formation displays a majestic array of lava columns which are multi-faced and were developed in the basalts of Deccan Trap. These marvellous lava structures are know as Columnar Joints in geological terminology and look like stunning handiwork of the nature. The Basaltic Lava’s columns form a geometrical pattern of rock mosaic which resembles work of some expert sculptor.
The Deccan Trap was formed due to outpouring of hot molten basaltic lava. This event, in the western part of India, took place during the Cretaceous’ Eocene time which was about 60 million years ago. It can now be seen as flat topped hills and step like terraces.
St. Mary’s Islands, are a tiny group of 4 beautiful and picturesque islands near Malpe which is a small hamlet situated about 6 km west of Udupi. The Udupi town is close to Mangalore, about 60 km west north west. Mangalore airport is the closest airport and Udupi is also linked to Mumbai, Goa and Thiruvananthapuram via the West Coast Railways or Konkan Railways. There are heritage tour packages available for visitors.
Lonar Lake, Buldana District, Maharashtra
During the Cretaceous age, a large meteorite collided with Indian peninsula and its impact created a circular crater on Deccan Basaltic rocks. This crater is now a lake called Lonar lake in Maharashtra’s Buldana District. When a meteorite wandering in space enters Earth’s atmosphere, surviving the heat of ionosphere, the hypervelocity of this large object impacts Earth creating craters. There are around 130 terrestrial craters which are recognised. There size ranges up to several hundred kilometres in diameter. Maharashtra’s Lonar Crater has an average diameter of 1,710 meter. The average rim height of this crater is about 40 meter its depth is 230-245 meter. The circular depression has a saline water lake in its central portion. The crater is located just south west of Lonar town. This town is linked to Mehkar and Buldana by road. Lonar is located 90 km South East of Buldana. The nearest railway station is at Parbhani which is 100 km South South East of Lonar.
Lonar crater lake is located inside a forest which is a notified wildlife sanctuary and part of the Melghat tiger Reserve. The forest is home to monkeys, wild boar, leopards and migratory birds. Tourists generally take an early morning trek to the lake and see some beautiful birds. The trek to Lonar crater and back takes around four hours and guides are easily available. On the way, one sees scenic views and waterfalls. The region around the lake is cool but area is known for its cold winters and hot summers.
Himachal’s Siwalik Fossil Park, Saketi, Sirmur District
Himachal Pradesh is one of the most naturally gifted states in India. It also houses Siwalik Fossil Park, Saketi in Sirmur District. The park has rich collection of vertebrate fossils from Siwaliks which are 2.5 million year old. Situated in Sirmaur’s Markanda Valley, it covers an area of around 1.5 sq. km at Saketi. The park was built to stop indiscriminate destruction of fossil bones in the area.
Some of these fossils found in the region are in possession of the London’s British Museum, New York’s American Museum of Natural History, and Kolkata’s Indian Museum and elsewhere. The fossil park has life-size fibre glass models of six of the prehistoric animals which lived in the region around 1 to 1.5 million year ago.
The animal models include a giant land tortoise, gharial, large tusked elephant, sabre-toothed tiger, four horned giraffe and hipopolamid. The park also has a field museum which contains a large and rare collection of vertebrate fossils found in the Siwalik hills in Saketi and adjacent areas. This site was developed to showcase the Plio-Pleistocene period.
The park is on Kala Amb-Bikramabad road, around five km northeast of Kala Amb and 22 km South West of Nahan, the district headquarter of Himachal’s Sirmur district. The fossil park is a must visit for students, children and paleontologists alike.