THE PHYSICAL SETTING of the Kolhapur district can be best appreciated in the background of its geology relief and drainage. The details of the geology of the district appear elsewhere. It may be noted, in general, that over a major portion of the district the Deccan ' trap' influences the landscape; only in the southern extremities the rocks of the Dharwar and Lower Kaladgi series introduce a change in the topography. The district, on the whole, is a part of the Deccan table-land with an average height of 1800 ft. above sea level, with the Sahyadrian Scarp forming the most prominent feature along its western administrative boundary. From the gently uneven and mature looking crest-line of the Sahyadries, the Kolhapur portion of the plateau is marked by several hill ranges which emerge from the main range and develop an eastward or north-eastward trend. Some of them extend up to 30 miles while others terminate after a short stretch. But all these ranges have that characteristic ' Lava' topography consisting of flat tops and steep escarpments on flanks which carry several terraces or ' steps'. The ranges rise to about 1,000 to 1,500 ft. above the valley floors. A long period of erosion on the horizontally laid lava flows explains their general appearance. Water action has carved out river valleys and their tributary valleys leaving the harder material as residual hill ranges. From a fairly broad base, these hills rise in a series of terraces, which are not unlike a flight of steps, culminating in a summit level that is noted for its remarkably flat table-lands separated by low saddles. A laterite capping marks many of these plateau tops, and altogether, this step-like mature landscape has earned the Swedish name ' trape ' topography. Such landscape features can be seen in the main Sahyadrian range lying in this district, in the Vishalgad-Panhala range, in the Phonda-Sangaon, and the Kagal, Bhudargad and Ajra ranges. Only in the environs of Ajra does this landscape change to some extent due to the change in the underlying rock.

The drainage pattern of the Kolhapur district has three important aspects. The Sahyadris form the main water-divide separating the eastern drainage from that flowing in the west to the Arabian Sea. Secondly, the western flowing streams are ungraded and run down the Sahyadrian scarp face with a tremendous velocity, with the result that the scarp face presents a highly eroded appearance when seen from the Konkan side. At the base of the scarp, that is in the Konkan proper, these parallel flowing streams lose their force, deposit the debris brought from the main range, and develop a sluggish and meandering course to the Arabian Sea, but it is to be noted that only their upper most reaches lie within the administrative boundaries of this district. The drainage pattern of the plateau Kolhapur differs a good deal in several respects from that of the Konkan streams. It is, first of all, well developed, and geared to the base level of the Krishna which has mastered all the river courses of the district. The rivers occupy wider valleys; there is a good tributary development, though in some cases the head-waters have been ' captured' by the fast flowing streams of the main range draining the region to the Konkan lowlands. Thus, from north to south, the district is drained by the Varna, Panchaganga, Dudhganga, Vedaganga and Hiranyakeshi. The Varna has a long course, but a much restricted basin. The Panchaganga, on the other hand, commands a large drainage area through its main tributaries, the Kasari, Kumbhi, Tulsi and Bhogavati. The southern rivers, the Dudhaganga with its main tributaries, the Vedaganga and the Hiranyakeshi have long courses but smaller and independent valleys. There is also an interesting contrast in the direction of flow of these plateau rivers of the district. The Varna flows from the north-west to south-east, the Panchaganga from due west to east, while the southern rivers flow from south-west to north-east. This is most probably due to the geological structure underlying and the denudation sequence of the Krishna river which controls in a large manner the flow and erosive capacity of these rivers. There are also some similarities between these rivers. They share a common monsoonal flood regime; they develop the highly significant flood plains and flood terraces which, locally known as Malai, are highly prized for soil fertility. The physical setting of the small valleys that the rivers occupy is suitable for constructing weirs, locally known as bandharas, which facilitate good irrigation. Except in the Lower Panchaganga these bandharas are quite common. Under the influence of new economic forces, most of the river valleys which formerly produced good meadow grass, have now been turned to the cultivation of rice, and more recently to sugarcane, an important crop which influences practically every aspect of rural economy. The final common feature shared by these rivers is the control exercised by the Krishna river as a master stream. The Krishna from its confluence with the Varna forms the eastern boundary of the Kolhapur district down-stream for about forty miles. It has a well entrenched meandering course through a black soil plain, and is joined by the Panchaganga near Narsobawadi and by the Dudhaganga near Yedur which is a little outside the district boundary. The southern most river, Hiranyakeshi, empties its waters in the Ghataprabha which in its turn is a tributary of the Krishna, near Ingli outside the limits of this district.

The district is bounded by South Satara on the north, Ratnagiri on the west, and Belgaum on the south and the east. From a geographical point of view the Varna in the north forms a common boundary between it and South Satara; in the north-east the rivers Krishna and Dudhaganga run between it and Belgaum; and in the west the Sahyadrian water-shed largely separates it from Ratnagiri.


Sayadrian Scarp and the Crest.

THE SAHYADRIAN CREST proper is not a crest in the normally understood sense of being a continuous hill chain. It is broken in several places by stream erosion on both the flanks. The water-shed which divides the eastern drainage from the western is marked by a succession of hill top features separated by low saddles. In height, the crest-line prosper varies from 3,300 feet to as low as 2,000 feet above sea level. To the west, in Konkan, this crest-line offers a greatly eroded scarp face marked below it by exposures, of basaltic bands. In many places rapid erosion by the Konkan streams has literally pushed back the crest-line features into the plateau. This tremendous erosive action has well caused a general recession of the main water-shed towards the east and has left the remnants of original scarps in the shape of highly dissected hills at the base of the Sahyadries in the Konkan. The Sahyadrian crest line owing to the formation of several isolated basaltic table-lands has been a region of fortified towns which have played a significant role in the Maratha history. In the north stands Vishalgad (3,362 feet); in the middle is Bavada; in the southern area lies Bhudargad. An interesting feature of this crest-line region is the existence of truncated valleys of the plateau streams. The upper reaches of such valleys have been captured by Konkan streams so that these appear as well marked gaps in the Sahyadrian rampart. From the climatic point of view, too, it is possible that these gaps mean a better south-westerly monsoonal rainfall in the plateau valleys. From the human point of view their importance is no less. In the Maratha history, these gaps had a tactical importance. Even in the present times, the routes from the plateau to Konkan run through these gaps.

Eastern Ranges.

From this highly dissected backbone several ranges extend towards the east. The northern-most is the Vishalgad-Panhala range. Emanating from a 3,362 feet peak the range maintains a fairly uniform level at a height of over 3,000 feet upto a distance of about 30 miles and extends for another 20 miles at a lower level, almost abutting the Krishna basin in the east. The summit levels of this range are remarkably flat upto Panhala and Jyotiba, and even further east its flat tops, though in a shrunken form, continue to be an interesting feature in the landscape. The flanks of the Panhala range show intense gully erosion and development of minor ranges north and south, as for example, those near Manjra and Borivade. Another interesting feature is the development of structural terraces on platforms on both the flanks. A further feature of especial interest is the existence of many gaps and saddles along the range which, as could be expected, are traversed by-well constructed roads. The very summits, too, are not without their human significance. Panhala was chosen as a defensive point since the days of the Adilshahi rulers, now in its modern setting it is a popular hill station. Jyotiba, almost at the same level, is a well-known centre of pilgrimage. Other parts of this range are given to rough grazing and hay-making. Steeper slopes are marked with a fairly good forest cover in the west but this increasingly deteriorates into poor scrub and grass towards the drier east. Structural terraces on both the sides form belts of fairly well developed agriculture supporting a large number of villages.

Central Ranges.

In the central portions of the district the hill ranges exhibit a similar form and also possess almost the same height. These differ from the Panhala range in two important respects. First, they have a south-west and north-east trend, and secondly, they extend only to about a length of 15 miles. Such is the hill range separating the Kumbhi river from the Dhamani; the Pal Donger (also known as Tumzai range locally) which terminates in the shape of a prong near Sangrul; and the small hill range which separates the Tulsi from the Bhogavati. South of the Bhogavati lies the Phonda Sangaon range which extends from the Sahyadrian Crest line northeastwards to a stretch of 35 miles right upto a point near Sangaon village, and a branch of it extends right upto the town of Kolhapur. In general appearance this range has features identical to those of the Panhala except that the summit plateaus are not so uniform in development. The range has undergone a greater erosion and bears consequentially a more denuded appearance that is so clearly visible in a succession of saddles.

Southern Ranges.

The southern hill ranges of the Kolhapur district maintain the same trend and the landscape; thus for instance is the Kagal range and the Bhudargad range proper. In the southern extremity of the district, in the Gadhinglaj taluka, the topography gets much more varied-numerous minor hill ranges separated by small valleys-but inspite of this small-scale variation in landscape, it has the same importance from the human point of view as the hill ranges of the north. Its major plateau tops like the Samangad Fort were well-known defensive points in the Maratha days. The other flat tops at lower levels are generally given to grazing and slopes to forests; scarps are bare rock surfaces; lower terraces favour cultivation and human settlement.



The Varna takes its source waters in Prachitgad area of the Satara district and after a well entrenched course it collects the waters of an important southern tributary-the Kadvi which takes its source waters near Ambaghat. This river takes two tributaries, the Shali and the Ambardi. The Varna has a fairly south-eastern trend in the upper reaches and after a stretch of about 50 miles its meets the Krishna at Haripur about one mile south-west of Sangli. From the economic point of view the Varna has a fertile agricultural basin especially in its lower reaches. In the fair seasons the Varna and its chief feeder Kadvi, are fordable; but during rains boats ply at some places on the Varna. In the lower Varna the economic development is seriously handicapped by soil erosion. For a fairly long stretch the river acts as a boundary between this district and the South Satara.


The Panchaganga is formed, as has been noted already, by four streams, the Kasari, the Kumbhi, the Tulsi and the Bhogawati. Local tradition believes in an underground stream Saraswati which together with the other four streams make the Panchaganga.

(i) The Kasari.-The Kasari is an important stream. It rises near the village of Gajapur and flows south-east upto Dhangarwadi for about ten miles and then eastwards for a stretch of another twenty-five miles. The stream is wide and receives its source waters from a fairly large triangular area lying between watersheds of the Vishalgad range in the north and the Waghajai in the south. Just above Bhogaon the river receives another important southern tributary called Mangari; below Bhogaon it develops into a wide alluvial plain in which the river has developed meanders.

(ii) The Kumbhi.-The Kumbhi rises near Bavda and flows north-eastwards for about fifteen miles upto Kirwai. From thence it flows eastwards and receives an important tributary Dhamani, near Chaugalewadi. It then develops wide basin underlain by alluvium. North-east of Sangrul it has a sharp bend eastwards after which it meets the river Bhogawati near Bahireshwar.

(iii) The Tulsi.-The Tulsi rises about five miles east of the Kumbhi and flows parallel to the north-east and effects a junction with the Bhogavati at Bid. Its lower reach is marked by a wide stretch of alluvium.

(iv) The Bhogawati.-This is the chief of the four streams and takes its rise in the Sahyadris, a few miles from the Phonda Pass and after a northerly course of about 25 miles is joined by the Tulsi near the historical village of Bid. The source waters of the Bhogavati river have now been impounded to form the Radhanagari Tank for the purposes of both irrigation and hydro-electricity. Unlike the northern tributary streams of the Panchaganga river the Bhogavati has a wide alluvial floor particularly below Phejivade. Below this village the river develops considerable meanders and a fairly entrenched course in its middle reaches. In the lower reaches the valley floor widens to a still larger extent. After its junction with the Tulsi and the Kumbhi the valley floor is four to five miles wide. Here it is bordered by low residual hills and joined by several small tributary streams. About four miles north-west of the Kolhapur city, the Bhogavati effects with the Kasari its junction at Prayag.

The Prayag confluence marks the beginning of the Panchaganga river proper which after receiving the waters of the four tributaries continues in a larger pattern the flow of waters received from above. North of Kolhapur it has a wide alluvial plain. After developing this plain the river resumes its course eastwards. From Shiroli to its junction with the Krishna near Narsobawadi it has an extensive alluvial floor bordered by the large worn out stumps of the Alta portion of the Panhala in the north and the Hupari part of the Phonda Sangaon range in the south. A characteristic feature of this basin is the contrast between the rounded worn out features locally known as Mals and the generally entrenched nature of all the streams. A further noteworthy aspect is the deeply incised course of the Panchaganga itself. From Mangaon, the river flows in a deep bed that is well below 40 feet from the surrounding plain. Further downstream it develops an incised meander-core which includes the Narsobawadi area.


The south-western region of the Kolhapur district is princi- pally drained by the Dudhaganga and her important tributary the Vedaganga. Rising in the main Sahyadris, the Dudhaganga traces a north-easterly course. It develops a widening alluvial basin enclosed by the Phonda range on the left and by the Kagal range on its right. After receiving numerous tributary streams which may be more properly called gullies (excepting the Waki river in its upper reach), the river takes a sweeping curve due east below the village Belawale; near Shidhanerli which is about six miles west of the Poona-Bangalore trunk road, the river starts its well incised course; from here it acts for about 10 to 12 miles as a boundary between this district and Belgaum, and flows beyond the Kolhapur limits for about 25 miles to join the Krishna at Yedur. Throughout the course of this river, there is a visible contrast between its well worked agricultural flanks and rising hill sides overlooking them. In the wetter west, the hill slopes carry a good, though declining, vegetation cover of a scrub type; eastwards, the drier climate produces a grassland ('the mals') landscape. The alluvial floor on the other hand is given to rich meadow grass, and now-a-days increasingly to rice and sugarcane.

The Vedaganga.-This tributary takes its rise in the Sahyadrian main range where the Bhudargad range begins its north-eastern trend. In its upper reaches, the river has a narrow valley and a meandering course. Just about the middle of this portion, the Bhudargad fort (3,206 ft.) dominates the entire landscape. Further downstream the valley opens out, near Murgud, and takes a more easterly course up to Mhakwe. At Kurli, it is joined by the Kapshi stream. From this point onwards the river enters the administrative area of the Belgaum district and joins the Dudhaganga near Bhoj.


A part of the river runs through Kolhapur district, but its headwaters proper lie well outside this district. The valley is much narrower than that of the Vedaganga and is flanked on both sides by fairly high elevations, many reaching over 3,000 ft. above sea level of the Bhudargad and the Ajra ranges. The hill slopes have a forest cover, while the lower belts support some cultivation mainly of rice. Near Ajra, the river receives a major stream and after a heavily, meandering course via Mahagaon and Gadhinglaj, the river passes out of this district just a little upstream of Sankeshwar, and finally after a course of 20 miles, joins the Ghataprabha near Ingli.


Though the Krishna controls the drainage regime of the Kolhapur rivers, its influence is more indirect than direct. Directly, it is mostly limited to its banks of which the left bank for a stretch of about forty miles lies in this district. From its junction with the Varna where the Kolhapur boundary continues from the Varna side, the river flows through a rich black soil plain. The nature of the relief and the river regime have produced three tracts of contrast. Near the watercourse proper are the terraced banks, (the malais), which favour a variety of cultivation. Outside this strip, there is a wide stretch of flood plain, much gullied, yet agriculturally valuable for Jowar, Cotton and other dry crops; outside the flood plain limits the land merges, sometimes gradually and sometimes abruptly, into the dry and barren areas (the mals) given only to poor cultivation and rough grazing. Downstream near Udgaon the river is crossed by the Miraj-Kolhapur railway line and also by a road which links up Kolhapur with Miraj and Sangli. Below Udgaon the river takes a wide semi-circular sweep till it is joined by the Panchaganga near Narsobawadi. Below this traditionally sacred confluence, the river continues its entrenched and meandering course, and is in the process of straightening it from Alas to a point near Chandur, but in this reach the Kolhapur limits touch the river only a few points.