Chasing the Indian Monsoon
The Indian monsoon expected to hit landfall in the southern state of Kerala on June 1 every year!
Every year in May, monsoon watching in India begins in earnest. June 1 is the “ideal” date that the southwest Indian monsoon is expected to hit the coast of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in south India. If you search for “Indian monsoon 2020” you will find lots of blogs, articles, and predictions about the monsoon — and this year (2020), the experts are saying it will be a normal monsoon season.
I have long wanted to be in Kerala when the monsoon hits landfall, and chase the Indian monsoon across the country (as journalist Alexander Frater once did, see below). This is a long held dream of mine. The longer I spend in India, the more I understand why Indians are so besotted with the monsoon — it’s a relief from the scorching heat of May! Of course, this year I cannot travel … but hopefully one day …
[NOTE: Originally published on May 28, 2012 and updated on May 28, 2020.]
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How to track the Indian monsoon
Monsoon watching is part hobby and part science in India, and lots of people and organizations get in on the act. It starts in March, with pre-monsoon tracking and predictions. The southwest monsoon hits the tip of India in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu and the the coast of Kerala first, and travels in a north and north-easterly direction, sweeping across the subcontinent. In the last 10 years, the earliest arrival was on May 23, 2009 and the most delayed was June 8, 2016.
- India Meteorological Department (called Masaum becomes that’s Hindi for weather). This site tracks the monsoon in real time, and compares it to normal or average rainfall.
- Skymet weather updates
- And you can use apps to track the monsoon, and the weather in general, such as The Weather Network and AccuWeather.
Best places to experience the Indian monsoon
- Kerala. My choice for best place to be when the Indian monsoon hits is Kerala! Kerala is one of the first places the Indian monsoon hits landfall, and the lush state becomes drenched with moisture and fecundity. It’s a long-standing tradition that monsoon in Kerala is an ideal time for Ayurvedic treatment (called panchakarma). Trivandrum, Varkala, and Kovalam would be ideal areas to stay for monsoon.
- Goa. Goa is another great place to enjoy the Indian monsoon. Many of the beach shacks and huts close for the season, but the bigger resorts and hotels stay open. There is nothing to do but relax, lie back, read a book and do what Goa does best: chill!
- Rajasthan. The Indian monsoon eventually reaches the state of Rajasthan, sometime in July or so, and if it gets a good one, the lakes in Udaipur, Bundi, and Jaisalmer fill up and shimmer in the ferocious desert heat. It’s not for everyone as the state gets so hot — one of the hottest places on earth in summer — but for extreme weather watchers and romantics, it could be lovely.
- Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand. It’s a long trip, and a long hike, to the remote and offbeat Valley of Flowers in the northern state of Uttarakhand, but in late summer when it bursts into a carpet of flowers, this once-secret valley becomes a paradise on earth.
- Meghalaya. This destination is for SERIOUS rain lovers only. Cherrapunji in Meghalaya, in Northeast India, is the wettest place on earth. The Indian monsoon sweeps up to the northeastern states, and the clouds have to disburse all of their rain water in order to rise above the Himalayan mountains.
More reading on Breathedreamgo about beautiful Kerala
- Best places to visit in Kerala
- CGH Earth: The best Kerala hotels and resorts
- Kerala is India’s soft landing
Monsoon seems to be a magical time in India, when the cooling rains bring delight and fecundity to the land. The Indian monsoon is both a weather phenomenon and a cultural one, too. It is celebrated throughout Indian culture — and in films like the exuberant Monsoon Wedding, one of my all-time favourite movies. It’s directed by Mira Nair and with fabulous music by my friend Mychael Danna.
Monsoon Wedding is about a middle class family in Delhi preparing for their daughter’s wedding — amidst personal drama and simmering family tension. It all explodes in a frenzy of magic and celebration on the day of the wedding, which coincides with the arrival of the Indian monsoon in Delhi. A subplot about the romance between the wedding planner and a house servant named Alice is one of the most tender love stories — and enacted completely in silence — that I have ever watched. The scene when he presents Alice with a heart made of marigolds unleashes floods of tears every time I see it. The emotion-tinged, melodic soundtrack music also helps to uplift this scene into one of the most transcendent love scenes ever. Note, this was Randeep Hooda’s first movie.
Monsoon Wedding trailer
Chasing India’s Monsoon
When I was first planning to travel to India, back in 2005, I watched a lot of documentaries. My favourite was called Chasing India’s Monsoon (based on a book called Chasing The Monsoon), and my favourite scene showed award-winning British travel journalist / narrator Alexander Frater sitting in a cafe on the coast of Kerala, near Trivandrum, with a bunch of locals waiting for the annual Indian monsoon to make landfall. As they were embroiled in a heated discussion about when the monsoon would arrive, it started raining outside — but only Frater noticed.
Watching the documentary Chasing India’s Monsoon was what really got me intrigued about the Indian monsoon. I found the documentary riveting, and I was captivated by Frater’s casual, yet sensitive and insightful style. I tracked down and ordered the book he wrote, Chasing The Monsoon — the book that inspired the BBC to make the documentary.
Chasing The Monsoon follows Frater’s real life story as the son and grandson of two weather watchers, and how he made the pilgrimage to the wettest place on earth, Cherrapunji in northeast India, on behalf of his grandfather who always wanted to go there, but never did. It is both a deeply personal quest story (Frater was recovering from a potentially fatal illness) and also a cultural travelogue that follows the Indian monsoon as it sweeps across the subcontinent.
Buy the book: Chasing the Monsoon.
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