Among the snow-capped mountains in the Himalayan ranges lies ancient and unspoilt glaciers with crystal clear blue lakes dotting the beautiful landscape. These form the source of numerous rivers which gush through the deep mountain ravines. This northern zone experiences a cold climate throughout the year puncuated with snow and rain fall .
In sheer contrast to the above climatic zone is the primitive tropical forests of the Western Ghats and the north eastern hills bordering Myanmar which remain wet and warm all around the year. The Deccan plateau consists of dry tropical forests which experiences only seasonal rainfall. The Thar desert on the western side bordering Pakistan experiences extreme temparatures with very little unpredictable rainfall.
Amidst all the different types of climatic zones in India, the Himalayan range acts as a meteorological barrier for the entire country shielding it from the icy cold winds of Central Asia. Then we have the southern seas working in tandem with the Himalayan range making the entire country experience the joy of moonsoon rains.
India has 3 major seasons: summer, winter and moonsoon. Summer months are generally hot and humid in most parts of India. Summer is usually experienced between the months of March to May. Winter months are pleasantly cool for most parts of India but severe in the northern plains and the areas around the Himlayan range. Winter usually falls between the months of mid November to early March. India experiences two moonsoon spells, the south-west moonsoon from June to September and the north-west moonsoon from October to early December.
The average temperatures in the major cities of India are as depicted by the table below.
City Jan - Mar Apr - Jun Jul - Sep Oct - Dec
Mumbai 19 - 23 C (Min)
29 - 31 C (Max) 25 - 27 C (Min)
32 - 33 C (Max) 25 - 26 C (Min)
30 - 32 C (Max) 21 - 25 C (Min)
31 - 32 C (Max)
Calcutta 14 - 22 C (Min)
27 - 34 C (Max) 25 - 27 C (Min)
34 - 36 C (Max) 26 - 27 C (Min)
32 - 33 C (Max) 14 - 24 C (Min)
27 - 32 C (Max)
Madras 20 - 24 C (Min)
29 - 33 C (Max) 26 - 28 C (Min)
35 - 37 C (Max) 25 - 26 C (Min)
34 - 35 C (Max) 21 - 25 C (Min)
28 - 34 C (Max)
New Delhi 7 - 15 C (Min)
21 - 30 C (Max) 21 - 29 C (Min)
36 - 41 C (Max) 25 - 27 C (Min)
34 - 35 C (Max) 8 - 19 C (Min)
23 - 33 C (Max)
India is so vast that the climatic conditions in the far north have little relation to that of the extreme south. While the heat is building up to breaking point on the plains, the people of Ladakh will still be waiting for the snow to melt on the high passes.
Basically, India has a three-season year - the hot, the wet and the cool. The best time to visit is during the winter (November through February), except for the northern Himalayan regions where late spring and summer (April through August) is the best time. See the climate charts in this section.
India being a vast country, the climatic conditions vary from place to place. It is generally very hot (Upto 42 Degrees Celsius) in summers (April to August) and very cold (upto 2 Degrees Celsius) in the winters (November to February) in Delhi. In Bombay, the temperature stays normally around 20 - 30 Degrees Celsius, but it stays humid all year around. Madras, being in the southern part of India is very hot in summers and comfortable in winters, with high humidity levels. Calcutta again is humid, being next to the sea shore, with the temperature straying between 18 Degrees (winters) to 37 Degrees Celsius (summers).
The heat starts to build up on the northern plains of India from around February, and by April or May it becomes unbearable. In central India, temperatures of 45 C and above are common place - in the summer of 1994, Delhi had temperatures approaching 50C! It's dry and dusty and everything is seen through a haze. Later in May, the first signs of the monsoon are seen - high humidity, short rainstorms, violent electrical storms, and dust storms that turn day into night. The hot and humid weather towards the end of the hot season is like a hammer blow; you feel listless and tired and tempers are short. The hot season is the time to leave the plains and retreat to the hills. Kashmir and the Kullu Valley come into their own, and the Himalayan hill stations and states such as Sikkim are at their best. The hill stations further south - Mt Abu in Rajasthan,
English Hindi Period
Spring Vasanta mid-March to mid-May
The Hot Orishma mid-May to mid-July
The Wet Varsha early-July to mid-September
Autumn Sharada mid-September to mid-November
Winter Hemanta mid-November to md-January
The Cool Shishira mid-January to mid-March
Matheran in Maharashtra, Ooty and Kodai- kanal in Tamil Nadu - are generally not high enough to be really cool but they arc better than being at sea level. By early June, the snow on the passes into Ladakh melts and the roads reopen. This is (he best trekking season in northern India.
When the monsoon finally arrives, it doesn't just suddenly appear one day. After a period of advance warning, the rain comes in stead- ily, starting around 1 June in the extreme south and sweeping north to cover the whole country by early July. The monsoon doesn't really cool things off; at first you simply trade the hot, dry, dusty weather for hot, humid, muddy conditions. Even so, it's a great relief, not least for farmers who now have the busiest time of year ahead of them as they prepare their fields for planting. It doesn't rain solidly all day during the monsoon, but it certainly rains every day; the water tends to come down in buckets for a while and then the sun comes out and it's quite pleasant. The usual monsoon comes from the south- west, but the south-eastern coast is affected
by the short and surprisingly wet north-east monsoon, which brings rain from mid- October to the end of December. Some places are at their best during the monsoon - like Rajasthan, which has many palaces built on lakes. The monsoon is also a good time to trek in the north-west Indian Himalayan regions, unlike in Nepal where the trekking season commences when the monsoon finishes. Although the monsoon brings life to India, it also brings its share of death. Almost every year there are destructive floods and thousands of people are made homeless. Rivers rise and sweep away road and railway lines and many flight schedules are disrupted, making travel more difficult during the monsoon.
Finally, around October, the monsoon ends, and this is probably the best time of year in India. Everything is still green and lush but you don't get rained on daily. The tempera- tures are delightful, not too hot and not too cool. The air is clear in the Himalaya, and the mountains are clearly visible, at least early in the day. As the cool rolls on, Delhi and other northern cities become quite crisp at night in December and January. It becomes downright cold in the far north, but snow brings India's small skiing industry into action so a few places, such as the Kullu Valley, have a winter season too. In the far south, where it never gets cool, the temperatures become comfortably warm rather than hot. Then, around February, the temperatures start to climb again, and before you know it you're back in the hot weather.