1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ghats

GHATS, or Ghauts (literally “the Landing Stairs” from the sea, or “Passes”), two ranges of mountains extending along the eastern and western shores of the Indian peninsula. The word properly applies to the passes through the mountains, but from an early date was transferred by Europeans to the mountains themselves.

The Eastern Ghats run in fragmentary spurs and ranges down the Madras coast. They begin in the Orissa district of Balasore, pass southwards through Cuttack and Puri, enter the Madras presidency in Ganjam, and sweep southwards through the districts of Vizagapatam, Godavari, Nellore, Chingleput, South Arcot, Trichinopoly and Tinnevelly. They run at a distance of 50 to 150 m. from the coast, except in Ganjam and Vizagapatam, where in places they almost abut on the Bay of Bengal. Their geological formation is granite, with gneiss and mica slate, with clay slate, hornblende and primitive limestone overlying. The average elevation is about 1500 ft., but several hills in Ganjam are between 4000 and 5000 ft. high. For the most part there is a broad expanse of low land between their base and the sea, and their line is pierced by the Godavari, Kistna and Cauvery rivers.

The Western Ghats (Sahyadri in Sanskrit) start from the south of the Tapti valley, and run south through the districts of Khandesh, Nasik, Thana, Satara, Ratnagiri, Kanara and Malabar, and the states of Cochin and Travancore, meeting the Eastern Ghats at an angle near Cape Comorin. The range of the Western Ghats extends uninterruptedly, with the exception of a gap or valley 25 m. across, known as the Palghat gap, through which runs the principal railway of the south of India. The length of the range is 800 m. from the Tapti to the Palghat gap, and south of this about 200 m. to the extreme south of the peninsula. In many parts there is only a narrow strip of coast between the hills and the sea; at one point they rise in magnificent precipices and headlands out of the ocean. The average elevation is 3000 ft., precipitous on the western side facing the sea, but with a more gradual slope on the east to the plains below. The highest peaks in the northern section are Kalsubai, 5427 ft.; Harischandragarh, 4691 ft.; and Mahabaleshwar, where is the summer capital of the government of Bombay, 4700 ft. South of Mahabaleshwar the elevation diminishes, but again increases, and attains its maximum towards Coorg, where the highest peaks vary from 5500 to 7000 ft., and where the main range joins the interior Nilgiri hills. South of the Palghat gap, the peaks of the Western Ghats rise as high as 8000 ft. The geological formation is trap in the northern and gneiss in the southern section.