Monsoon – India’s God of Life

A visually stunning and dramatic portrait of India’s mighty monsoon as it brings life — and death — to a thirsting land.

Produced by NHNZ

Monsoon – India’s god of life is a fascinating chronicle of how the wild animals of India cope with the hardship of summer and how the arrival of the monsoon transforms their lives and the land they live in.

The monsoon is a great benefactor that replenishes water and rejuvenates the land.  But sometimes it can also overwhelm with its abundance, unleashing floods that cause death and destruction.

In India’s far north east, the rare great Indian rhinoceros lives on a flood plain that swings between the extremes of too little water… and too much.  Lying to the south of the great Brahmaputra river, the rhino’s home is literally reshaped by the force of every monsoon. As the summer advances, and the waterholes shrink, the normally solitary rhinos are forced together into tiny wallows to escape the heat. The days drag on with little respite and tempers flare as the great beasts jostle for space.

When the summer monsoon finally arrives after weeks of anticipation, it makes its first landfall not in the north east, but at the tip of southern India.  In the fire-ravaged forests of south India elephants squeal and trumpet when the first thunder showers pelt down.  As the waves of dark cloud sweep further inland, they release most of their load over the rainforest-covered slopes of the Western Ghats mountains, drenching the forest floor and awakening all manner of life. Travancore tortoises emerge from hiding and the males battle it out for mating rights. Brightly coloured giant centipedes prowl the forest floor in search of food, and up in the canopy lion-tailed macaques enjoy the special fruits of the monsoon.

On the misty, windswept mountain tops, the Nilgiri tahr, a species of rare wild goat, prepare for their annual rut.  When the females come into heat they are chased relentlessly by the males, until the last female in the herd has mated.

The monsoon does not arrive everywhere in India at once. While the monsoon rains lash south-west India, north India continues to reel under a heat wave.  Temperatures in Rajasthan soar above 120 F.  The heat drives the animals to rapidly shrinking water holes.  Rhesus macaques dive headlong into the water and tigers soak in forest pools.  But not everyone can afford to play or relax. Despite the crippling heat a tigress with two large cubs is constantly on the hunt for food.  The dry, open forest makes concealment difficult and stalking almost impossible, but along the shores of an enchanting lake,  where prey animals gather to feed and drink, there is plenty of food to be had. The tigress must use all her cunning if her cubs are to survive.

Distant thunder and a smell of rain drives courting peacocks into a frenzy, and under cover of darkness, the monsoon arrives in Rajasthan.  Deep underground, a large female python sits tightly coiled around her clutch of eggs. She laid them sixty days ago to hatch with the monsoon. Now, with the arrival of the rains, her young will have no trouble fending for themselves.

In arid northern India the effects of just a few days of rain are dramatic. Almost overnight, parched brown turns to verdant green.  Marshes fill and thousands of birds arrive to breed. The most spectacular visitors, the painted storks, are extraordinarily devoted parents.  During the hot spells between rain showers they shade their chicks from the sun with their wings and ferry water in their bills from the marshes to quench their young’s thirst.

By the end of September the monsoon is in retreat.  But sometimes, its last burst can be extraordinarily vigorous. Swollen rivers rise further and breach their banks, causing untold damage.  In India’s far north east, the rising waters of the mighty Brahmaputra engulf the grasslands of Kaziranga, sending the rhinos and other animals fleeing to the hills.  Not all make it to safety in time.  Although many animals die during these deluges, the floods are essential for the well being of the grasslands. For it is the silt carried in by the flood-waters that will further enrich the soil.

When the monsoon finally retreats, its legacy lingers all over the country for a few months.  Then, as the temperature begins to rise once more, the lushness of the monsoon begins to fade.  Everywhere, the water starts drying up.  The forests wilt.  The last puddles of water evaporate, and the very life is sucked from the ground.  Once again the long wait begins for the return of India’s god of life — the monsoon.

Episodes From This Series

In the Realm of the Red Ape

52 minutes / 1998

Monsoon – India’s God of Life

1 hour / 1999

Island Magic

1 hour / 1999

Kingdoms of the Coast

1 hour / 1999

At the Edge

1 hour / 2000

A Forest for All Seasons

1 hour / 2000

Creatures of the Thaw

1 hour / 1999

Between Two Worlds

1 hour / 2000

The Arid Heart

1 hour / 2000