THANE, THE NORTHERN-MOST DISTRICT OF KONKAN, LIES ADJOINING the Arabian sea in the north-west of Maharashtra State. It extends between 18°42′ and 20°20′ north latitude and 72°45′ and 73°45′ east longitude. Its northern limits adjoin the Union territories of Dadra, Nagar Haveli and the State of Gujarat while the districts of Nasik and Ahmadnagar are to its east, Pune to the south-east. Kolaba to the south and Greater Bombay to the south-west.
Geographically, forming part of the Konkan lowlands, it comprises the wide amphitheatre like basin of the Ulhas and the more hilly Vaitama Valley together with plateaus tirfing the Sahyadrian scarp.
The district covers an area of 9,553.0 square kilometres : it had, according to the 1971 census figures, a population of 22,81,664. Though it covers only three per cent of the surface area of Maharashtra, its population accounts for 4.52 per cent of the State population. This population of the district is distributed among twenty-four towns and 1,588 inhabited villages.
Administrative evolution: The territory now comprising Thane district was, in 1817, a part of North Konkan district, with its headquarters in Thane. Since then. it has undergone considerable changes in its bounding limits. In 1830. the North Konkan district was expanded by adding parts of Sonth Konkan district and in 1833 was re-named Thane District. In 1853, the three sub-divisions of Pen, Rohe and Mahad together with Underi and Revdandgm agencies of Kolaba were formed into the sub-collectorate of Kolaba, under Thane, and ultimately were separated to becozge an independent district in 1869. In 1866, the administrative sub-divisions of Thane were re-organised and re-named : Sanjan was named as Dahanu. Kolvan as Shahapur, and Nasrapur as Karjat. Wade Pete was raised to the level of a taluka. Uran Mahal separated from Salsette in 1861 Was placed under Panvel. Panvel, together with its mahals of Uran and Karanja, was transferred to Kolaba district in 1883 and Karjat was also transferred in 1891. A new mahal with Bandra as headquarters was created in 1917 and in 1920 Salsette was divided into two talukas — north Salsette and South Salsette. South Salsette consisting of eighty-four villages was separated froth: Thane District and included in the newly created Bombay Suburban district. North Salsette was made a mahal under Kalyan taluka in 1923 and re-named as Thane in 1926. Kelve-Mahim was re-named as Palau. Thirty-three villages of the Bombay Suburban district were transferred to Thane district in 1945 and fourteen of them were re-transferred to the Bombay Suburban district in 1946 when the Aarey Milk Colony was constituted. In 1949, Jawhar State was merged with Thane district and made into a separate taluka. As many as twenty-seven villages and eight towns from Borivali taluka and one town and one village from Thane taluka were transferred to the Bombay Suburban district in 1956 when the limits of Greater Bombay were extended northwards in Salsette. In 1960, following the bifurcation of the bilingual Bombay State, forty-seven villages, and three towns in the taluka of Umbargaon were transferred to Surat district in Gujarat and its remaining twenty-seven villages were first included in Dahanu and later in 1961 made into a separate mahal, Talasari. In 1969, the taluka of Kalyan was divided into two — Kalyan & Ulhasnagar.
Present administrative set-up : For administrative purposes, the present district is divided into twelve talukas and one mahal. The area number of inhabited villages and towns and the population are shown in the table No. 1 as per 1971 census.
Boundaries : The administrative boundaries of the district have undergone considerable changes due to frequent revision, for a variety of regions, such as the split-up of the original North Konkan district, reorganisation following the creation of Maharashtra and the more recent expansion of the limits of Bombay City. As a result, the boundaries of the district both in the north and the south reflect administrative convenience rather than distinct geographical features. However, to the east, the scarp face of the Sahyadri constitutes a well-demarcated. boundary.
Starting from the Arabian sea-shore to the north of the village Jhari in Talasari mahal, the boundary runs eastwards and northwards in general, keeping the Bulsar district of Gujarat to its north till reaching past the village of Upalat in the bills, where after the boundary turns initially south till reaching past the hill-fort of Gambhirgad at an Elevation of 995 metres and then east along the southern limits of Nagar Haveli till reaching the village of Bopdari in Mokhada taluka. Then, for a short distance of two kilometres. the boundary runs north, keeping Gujarat to its north, till descending to the bed of the Vag river. Thereafter, the boundary runs south, along the stream course upstream, separating initially the State of Gujarat and subsequently the district of Nasik. To the south-east of the village Vangani in Mokhada taluka, the boundary turns east, up along a source stream of the Vag, and follows it till reaching the village Dandwal and the Gonda Ghat in the Sahyadri, where after the boundary roughly follows the crest of the scarp edge of the Ghats. The boundary then runs, following the main ridge and descending here and there to the passes across the ridge, the widest and the best used of them being the Thal Ghat, across a deep gorge, in which the Vaitarna winds its way through. The boundary, so far running southwards, gradually turns south-east, past Thal Ghat, till reaching a point where the Kalsubai range branches off to the east from the main ridge, dose to the peak of Kulang on the tri-junction between Thane, Nasik and Ahmadnagar districts. The boundary continues with the same trend for another sixty kilometres alongwith the boundary of Ahmadnagar district till reaching the peak of Harishchandragad and the Malsej ghat to its south. Thereafter, the boundary turns south along the scarp crest at an elevation of 1,250 metres keeping the district of Pune to, its east. Here, along the boundary, lie many Maratha fortifications on the crest level plateaus, picturesquely overlooking the Konkan lowlands like Machhindragad, Gorakhgad and Sidgad Just south of Sidgad, the boundary descends the scarp edge into the Konkan lowland, and cuts across the rolling country westwards in general till reaching the stream course of the river Ulhas; in this section, the boundary keeps Kolaba district to its south. For a short distance, the boundary follows the Ulhas upstream, once again runts west, cutting the Bombay-Pune railway, south of Vangani’ railway station. It then ascends the Matheran ridge, and follows its crestline north-westward from Chanderi fort, till reaching Malanggad, to once again descend to the low-lying Panvel flats. Here, the boundary runs west, crosses the Bombay-tune road south of Dahisar village, ascends a coastal hill ridge, follows it south till reaching the village Shahabad on Panvel creek, emptying into the Thane creek. Then, the boundary runs along the Thane creek, jumps across it, south of Thane City, running west, separating the district from the Mulund ward of Greater Bombay. A few villages in the north-east of Salsette island to the north of the central hills lie within this district. The boundary runs Westwards across the hills, descends to the lowland, north of Borivali, crosses the Bombay-Baroda-Delhi railway, south of Mira road station and continues west till reaching the Arabian sea, south of Uran village.
Relief features: From the steep scarps of the Sahyadri in the-east, the land of the district falls through a succession of plateaus in the north and centre of the district to the Ulhas valley in the south centre. These lowlands are separated from the coastal fiats by a fairly well-defined narrow ridge of hills that runs north-south to the east of the Thane creek, maintaining a remarkable parallelism to the shores at a distance of about six to ten kilometres from the shores. A number of isolated hills and spurs dot the entire district area, so much so that the district as a whole in its aspects is hilly.
The Sahyadri: The western steep slope of the Sahyadri, falling from the crestal plateaus and high peaks, as well as the foot-hills lie within the limits of the district. In the northern sections, to the north of the Nana ghat through which the Kalyan-Junnar road runs, the Sahyadri has a north northwest-south by south-east trend, but south of it, the Sahyadri swerves sharply to the west to develop a northeast-southwest trend till the southern limits of the district. These local trends stand in sharp contrast to the regional north-south trend of the Sahyadri and is due to recession of the scarp eastwards under the active headward erosion of the swollen monsoon torrents, Kalu, Bhatsai and their source tributaries.
Passes : From the northern limits, adjoining the Gujarat border, till reaching the Thal Ghat, the Sahyadri is subdued in relief, and nowhere, elevations exceed 600 metres. There is no well-marked physical barrier between Nasik and Mokhada taluka of this district and a number of ghat passes have been traditionally used as routes between villages in the plateau and this district. Opposite Mokhada are the two hills — Vatvad and Basged — that form the west end of the Anjaneri and Tryambak ranges (of Nasik District) ; these spurs running east-west form the water-shed between the Vaitarna and Damanganga drainages. North of Basgad is the Amboli pass leading to Tryambak from Mokhada and further north is the Gonda ghat, through which the Mokhada-Peint road runs. About three to five kilometres east of Amboli ghat are two more passes — the Chandryachimet and the Humbachimet. Still further south is the wide Shirghat used by the khodala-Tryambak road to gain a fairly easy access to the Desh through relatively gentle gradients. Then, the line is broken by the deep gorge-like valley of the Vaitarna behind which rises the prominent peak of the Vavihir. South of the Vaitarna valley and to the north of the Thal ghat stands the fort of Balvantgad. South of the Thal ghat (through which the Bombay-Bhusaval railway and the Bombay-Agra road run), at an elevation of 550 to 600 metres, the Sahyadri throws at intervals, narrow rugged spurs far across the Konkan plain and stretches in an irregular line, as a mighty wall, its sheer plain cliffs facing this district broken by narrow horizontal belts of grass and forest and its crests rising in places in isolated peaks and rocky bluffs. From Kasara, at the foot of the Thal pass, the large flat-topped range to south-east is vaghacha pathar or the tiger’s terrace. The pointed funnel-shaped peak on its shoulder is Kalsubai (in Nasik district) and the less pointed peaks to the south of the Thal ghat along the district boundary are Alang and Kulang. several passes through which foot-paths and mule-paths run lead to these hills. The first is the Pimpri pass, a little to the north of the vaghacha pathar leading to the Kalsubai, Alang, Kulang and a lesser peak, the Bhavani. Further south is the great mass of Ajaparvat ; from here, the Sahyadri runs south-eastwards to terminate in the Harishchandragad peak and the Malsej pass. From Malsej, the Sahyadri turns west as far as Nana pass which is close to the south of the hill-fort of Bahirgad and north of the hill-fort of Jivdhan. From the Nana pass, the main range runs south for about eight kilometres reaching the village of Palu. Close-by lie the difficult passes of Don and Tringadhara. The Sahyadri now runs a little south of west leading to three conical hills, the Machhindragad, Gorakhnath and Neminath. The central peak of Gorakhnath is fortified and Machbindragad is quite inaccessible. Further south are the Avapa pass and Sidpd, a fortified peak on a high plateau on the south-eastern limits of the district. Close to it runs a path leading to the peak of Bhimashankar in Pune district. Further south, the Sahyadri runs into districts of Kolaba and Pune.
Off-shoots : A number of spurs shoot off from the Sahyadri westwards into Thane lowlands and plateau. Most of them are narrow, rarely more than two kilometres wide, with steep slopes on either side and often rising to considerable levels, rather abruptly, above the floor level of the plateau. Many of them carry on their crests, small plateaus, often forest-clad and of difficult access. This type of a hill range country, with intervening deep gorges of stream valleys, is at its best seen in the central parts of Wade and Jawhar talukas ; it presents a memorable picturesque landscape ,clothed in green soon after the monsoon.
Besides the main range and the western spurs of the Sahyadris, a number of hills and isolated peaks dot the whole countryside. The long axes of most of these ranges run north-south ; they appear to be the erosional remnants of dyke ridges which have withstood the denudational processes that have planed the rest of the region. None of these outlying spurs and ranges rise higher than the main Sahyadri. The loftiest are the Takmak (609 metres), the Tungar (662 metres), and the Kamandurg (652 metres) in the east, Gambhirpd (995 metres) in the north and Bawa Malang (791 metres) in the south. Most of the heights of these spurs were formerly fortified and some of them were celebrated places of strength but the fortifications are now in utter ruins though they still add to the picturesque and historic interest of the hill
Coastal range :Themost rugged terrain of the district is a belt about 15.25 kilometres broad that runs parallel to the coast at a distance of 15-20 kilometres from the shore. In the south of these tracts are the hillsof Salsette island that form the core and rise to the highest elevation of 462 metres at Kanheri and Avaghad and further north in Kamandurg and Tungar hills of Bassein.(Bassein is now known as Vasai.) North of Tungar is a duster of hills of which Baronda, Jivda and Nilemore are the most marked peaks and on an offshoot of Takmak range to the east of Tense are two heights known as Kaland Dhamni. To the north-east across the Tense rises the steep peak of Takmak with its two fine basaltic horns.
Parallel to this western coastal range that, runs . from Kanheri to Takmak, about fifteen kilometres further east, runs another line of hills front Bhivandi, north-west almost right up to the Manor on the Vaitarna and is breached into two by the Tansa river. In this line. about twelve kilometres north of Bhivandi rising gently from the west is the hill. of Dyahiri (525 metres) and across a saddle-back ridge lies the old Maratha fort of Gotara (584 metres) on a peak that falls sharply to the Tama river, just above Vajrabai. Across the Tansa, about fifteen kilometres further, the Keltan hill is separated by a narrow valley from Takmak. This range ending in Jagmandi peak and running south to north together forms a bather turning the Vaitarna many kilometres north of its course. To the west, between the railway line and the Surya river, the unbroken chain of hills whose chief peak isKaldurg, stretches about twenty-five kilometres parallel to the coast carrying on its top throehill-forts: Tandulwadi at the extreme south, Kaldurg opposite to Palghar railway station and Asava near Boisar. In the south-west of the Palghar taluka is the Pophli hill. The coastal range continues north into Dahanu taluka as far north as Vasa ; here the highest peak is Barad. This range slopes relatively gently on the west face but falls sharply to the east with steep slopes and sheer rocky cliffs.North of Varoli, there are only a few hills of moderate heights, the chief of them being Indragad in the extreme north, Near Mokhada and Jawhar there are few hills of considerable size of which the Mahalaxmi and Gambhirgad are the highest
Interior hills : Further inland to the north-east of Manor is the semi-circular hill of Pole with its peaks of Adkilla and Asheri. About thirteen kilometres south of Manor, across the Vaitarna from Keltan and Takmak stands the solitary fortified hill of Kohoj rising abruptly from the plains and visible over considerable distances from all around.
Between this rugged terrain and the Sahyadri in the east, the country is comparatively level, broken by few bills. Of these, the western-most hill in the southern parts of Wada is Davja with its two spurs. Smaller bills in Wads are Kapri in the east, Indagaon hills in the north-west, and the Ikna and Domkavla hills in the south-east border. About seven kilometres north-east of Shahapur (Asangaon station) the long flat-topped mass of Mahan (849 metres) rises like a great block of masonry. The sides of the hills are richly wooded but the laterite-capped top has only a poor stunted vegetation mostly of hirda (Terminalia chebula). North of this. Bhopatgad is crowned with a fort which overlooks Kurlod on the north of the Pinjal river and rises about 170 metres above the general level of the neighbouring high country. From the east, the ascent is about 170 metres from the West ; it is about 500 metres for its slopes form the face of the Mokhada tableland.
The southern hills: In the south, the country is far from level. On the west, the Parsik range runs from Panvel creek northwards and ends abruptly with a cliff face overlooking the Ulhas near Mumbra. Its highest elevation is Dophora peak (405 metres). The curved range of Chanderi stretches from the long level back ‘of Matheran, west to the quaintly cut peaks of Tavli and Bava. Malang (791 metres) along the southern limits of the district. About twenty kilometres to the north-east, near Badlapur is the Muldongri hills with a temple of Khandoba at its top.
The plateaus: Between the coastal range, the hills and Sahyadri scarp the whole country is a succession of plateaus descending from the Sahyadri, step by step, and separated from the next lower down with a well-defined scarp face. In the north-east at an elevation of about 300-400 metres is the Jawhar-Mokhada plateau that descends down further west to the Wade plateau at an elevation of about 150-300 metres. The Wada plateau is separated from the coastal lowlands of Palghar and Dahanu by the double range of hills that runs about 15-25 kilometres from the coast, enclosing within it the Surya and the Vaitarna valleys. South-east of the Wada plateau is the Shahapur upland at an average elevation of 300 metres which in the west falls to the Bhivandi lowland and in the south to the narrowly entrenched Bhatsai-Kalu valleys. In the south-east of the district is the Murbad plateau at an elevation of less than 100 metres.
The plateau country locally is dotted with low mounds and ledges-that are best seen along the railway line from Kalyan to Kasara.
The coast : To the west, the district of Thane has a fair coastline, about 100 kilometres long. The coast naturally falls into two sections, to the north and to the south of the Vaitarna estuary. To the south, the great gulf that runs from the north of Kolaba to Bassein, must in recent time have stretched far further inland than it now stretches. Idrisi’s description of Thane (1153 A. D.) that it stands on a great gulf where vessels anchor and from which they set sail. may have been adequately deep when the sea filled the marsh through which the Thane creek now runs towards Bhivandi and Kalyan and where the wide tracts are now half dry. As late as the beginning of the 19th century. Salsette comprised a number of islands : Salsette proper with its bill core, Trombay, the islands of Juhu, Versova. Uttan: Dongri and Rai Murdha. Bombay was a group of seven islets ; and the villages around Bassein-Sopara nearby as far as within three to five kilometres of the Vaitarna estuary formed the islands of Bassein. The backwater that separated this strip of coast from the mainland opened south-westward into the Bassein creek forming the Sopari creek on which stood the celebrated fort of Sopara of Ptolemy. The appearance of the ground here leaves little doubt that in-between the Vaitarna and Ulhas mouths, islands were formed once by the branches of the Bassein creek that ran up to Bhivandi. In the south, the Thane creek was once a broad belt of sea with a number of islands like the Gharapuri, Butcher island and Karanja. dotting it. Many of these islands have now become a continuous mass of land extending as peninsulas from the mainland. On the whole, the coast here presents the, appearance of considerable submergence. However, geologically the coast is not without its variety. The present coast from Bandra to Dahanu is a constant alternation of bays and rocky headlands with sand spits, dunes and bars in protected reaches behind headlands. Along the coast, in the neighbourhood of Manori and further north, as far as Dahanu, raised beaches made of littoral concrete have been recognised, running north-south close to the present shores and not very high above the present sea-level. On the other hand remnants of a submerged ‘khair’ forest have been traced on the Thane creek side of Salsette and Bombay harbour while carrying out the dredging , operations for developing Bombay harbour and completing new docks during the end of the last century.
North of the Vaitarna estuary, the shores are flat, with long sandy beaches and spits running into muddy shallows ; the creeks and streams are at best small inlets divided by wide wastes of salt marshes, tracts of slightly rising ground in-between covered by palms, fruit orchards and casuarina. This landscape stretches to the foot of the hills that lie a few kilometres away and rise abruptly to sufficiently high elevations to mask off the flatness of the low ground. All along the coast, the dreary salt marshes are being steadily reclaimed as salt pans and rice flats.
Islands : There are a number of islands along the sea-margin of the district. The most important of these is the group of Bombay islands, overlooking Uran and Panvel of Kolaba district on the mainland. Bombay is reached through the larger island of Salsette which is separated from the mainland by the Ulhas estuary and the Thane creek but is connected over reclaimed land with the City. The Bombay harbour bay has a few rocky islands of which the most significant are Karanja, Gharapuri better known as Elephanta and the Butcher island. In the Bassein taluka, at the entrance to the Vaitarna estuary lies the island of the Arnala containing a well-preserved fort called Sindhudurg with Muslim remains and an old temple inside.
Rivers : The rivers of the district mainly belong to two river streams of the North Konkan, namely the Ulhas and the Vaitarna, both draining the rainy western slopes of the Sahyadri that lie between the Bhor and the Thal Ghats. There is much sameness in their courses. Dashing over the black scarps of the Sahyadri, their Waters gather in the woods at the base of cliffs and along rocky deep cut channels force a passage from among the hills. In the plains, except where they have to find their way round some range of hills, their courses lie westward between steep banks from ten to thirty feet high over rocky beds crossed at intervals by lines of trap dykes. During the rains they are heavily flooded but in the fair season the channels of most of them are chains of pools divided by walls of rock. After they meet the tide from twelve to fifty kilometres from the sea, they wind among low mangrove-covered salt marshes along channels of mud with occasional bands of rock in many places, bare at low tide and at high water navigable for country-craft of five to fifty tons.
The Vaitarna: The Vaitarna, the largest of Konkan rivers, rises in the Tryambak hills in the Nasik district, opposite the source of the Godavari, and enters Thane at Vihigaon near Kasara, after passing through a deep gorge while descending from the plateau top to the Konkan lowland. For about forty kilometres the Vaitama flows west through a deep defile among high hills. From Kalambhai at the eastern. border of Vada, the river flows for about thirty kilometres west across a more or less level country, till near the ancient settlement of Gorha, the great spurs of the Great Takmak range drives its course north-west for about sixteen kilometres till it flows past the settlement of Manor. Within three kilometres of Manor, the stream meets the tidal wave and is navigable for small crafts. Near Manor, the river after skirting the northern spur from Takmak, flows initially south-west for about ten kilometres and then to the south for twenty kilometres before sharply turning to the right, and for the last twelve kilometres flow west to enter the sea through a wide estuary off Arnala. In the last stretch of thirty kilometres the Vaitarna passes through a country of great beauty in-between two ranges and has a fine broad river which in many places has a good depth of water and a fairly flat-bottomed valley with meander terraces on either side.
The sacredness of its source so close to the holy Godavari, the importance of its valley as one of the earliest trade-routes between the east and the central Deccan and the beauty of the lower reaches of the river valley brought to the banks of the Vaitarna some of the earliest Aryan settlers. It is mentioned in the Mahabharata as one of the four sacred streams and Ptolemy had the impression that the Vaitarna and Godavari were one and the same river.
The Vaitarna is 154 kilometres long and has a drainage area that practically covers the entire northern sections of the district. It has a number of tributaries, the most important of which are the Pinjal, the Surya and the Tense.
Pinjal : The Pinjal rises near Nasher in Mokhada and falls into the Vaitarna at Alman in Vada taluka. About fifteen kilometres north-east of Alman, it is joined from the left by the Lohani river that rises in the Shirghat section of the Sahyadri.
About twenty kilometres west of this confluence near Karajgaon and three kilometres upstream of Manor, the Daherja River joins the Vaitarna, after winding its course over a distance of forty kilometres in a rolling plateau. Its source lies to the south-west of Jawhar in low hills.
Surya: The Surya, rising near Bapgaon, flows southwards and west till it is joined on its right bank by the Susan river, rising near Gambhirgad and flowing south. The combined flow rims south between the two coastal ranges till the Surya falls into the Vaitarna near Khamloli about twelve kilometres south-west of Manor.
Tansa: The Tansa is the only left bank tributary of the Vaitarna, rising near Khardi railway station and having a westerly flow ; it joins the Vaitarna to the south of the Takmak hills just before the latter enters the sea. The bed of this river has a number of hot water springs especially around Akloli, Ganeshpuri and Vajrabai. The river is tidal for many miles. In its upper reaches, the river has been dammed to develop a water reservoir, the Tansa lake, to supply the city of Bombay with drinking water.
The Ulhas: The Ulhas rises to the north of Tungarli near Lonavala, has initially a southerly flow and then west for a short distance before it descends the scarp slopes of the Sahyadri near Bhor ghat through a succession of two leaps of water-falls each about 80-90 metres in height. Then for a short distance of about ten kilometres it flows north through a deep, narrow gorge that is picturesque and extremely well wooded with sheer cliff walls that in many sections fall through a height of 300 metres. The river flows past the celebrated caves of Kondane and emerges out into the plains just east of Palasdhari railway station. Then it has a gentle northerly flow and enters this district in the southern border near Vangani railway station. In this district, the river has a northerly course skirting the Matheran ridge initially through Ulhasnagar taluka until near Kalyan it is joined by the combined flow of the Kalu and the Bhatsai and the river turns west to enter through a gap to the north of Parsik range into the Thane creek. Here, the bulk of the flow turns north to the north of Salsette island and gradually broadens into an estuary about three kilometres wide where it falls into the sea at Bassein. In this section, between Bassein and Thane, the river flows through a highly varied bill and forest country and is known as the Bassein creek. Ptolemy knew this river as the Binda river, probably for the name Bhivandi.
The river has many tributaries, the two most important of them being the Kalu and the Bhatsai. It has practically no tributary joining it on the left bank, as it skirts the edge of the Matheran range over most of its course
The Kalu : The Kalu has a westerly course of about eighty kilometres after having its rise in the Sahyadri near Malsejghat. For the bulk of its course, it winds and turns sharply through bends often at right angles in a plateau country probably due to the control by joints in the basalts. Mostly, the river valley is entrenched in-between deep banks. The river is joined by the Bhatsai before it falls into tithes just below the railway bridge near Shahad railway station.
The Bhatsai : The Bhatsai rises in the Thal ghat section of the Sahyadri, close to the township of Igatpuri and has a southerly flow initially for about ten kilometres before it turns south-west in-between hills. Near Shahapur, the valley suddenly opens out. It joins the Kalu south-west of Titwala railway station. It has important tributaries, the Kasari on the left bank rising in the hills near Kasara, and the Kumbhari on the right bank rising in the Vada uplands.
The Kamvadi rising in the uplands north of Bhiwandi flows south to join the Ulhas just before the latter turns north to enter the Thane creek and the estuary. The Barvi is another tributary of the Ulhas within the district draining the Murbad plateau westwards and joining it near Badlapur, the Murbadi is its tributary.
Of the less important streams in the district, mention can be made of the Varoli rising in the interior in the Dahanu taluka and flowing north-west for about forty kilometres to join the sea in Bulsar district.
Creeks : All along the coast are found many small creeks, in which tidal waters flood upstream and inundate much low ground ; human interference in many cases has helped in converting them into mud flats. Of these, mention can be made of the Bhiwandi, Chinchani, and Dahanu creeks. The Sopara creek in the bygone days was an important artery of sea-traffic bringing Arab dhows and Greek sailing vessels to the now forgotten Sopara, that was a celebrated port. The Thane creek isnot a creek in the true sense, but a depression engulfed by the sea. Its shallowest point is just south of Thane where a ridge of rocks affords the foundation for the railway bridge.
Lakes : The district has no natural lakes, but a number of artificial lakes have been constructed during the last few decades mainly to supply water to the city of Bombay. The Vaitarna lake on the river Vaitarna has been formed behind a huge dam and feeds the city with drinking water. Another huge lake is the Tense lake across the Tense river formed in the hills north of Bhiwandi. A lake reservoir is now being developed in the upper Bhatsai, north of Shahapur. Small lakes also exist near Thane, Kalyan, Bhiwandi and Vada.
Hot springs : Many mineral water springs are known to occur within the district, particularly in the stream-beds of the Tense, the Varoli, the Surya and the Vaitarna. In the Bassein taluka, near the villages Akloli, Growshpuri, Nimbavli and Vajrabai are found several hot springs in the bed of the river Tense. The temperature of water ranges between 42°C. and 55°C. and bubbles of gas with strong sulphur smell rise from these waters. The waters are mildly saline, containing mainly sodium, calcium, chlorides and sulphates. Three Vada villages have also hot springs, near the confluence of the Pinjal with the Vaitarna about two kilometres from Pimples.
Regional Units : From the foregoing review of the physical features and drainage, it is amply evident that the relief of Thane district shows an immense variety. The district area forming part of the Deccan Trap country, west of the Sahyadri, the main basic lava flows, horizontal and undisturbed, have given rise to a succession of broad plateau levels, descending from the scarp of the Sahyadri one below the other. Numerous dyke intrusions, within the lava flows, on differential erosion stand out, often over long distances, as ridges, most of them running north-south, parallel to the coast, but in cases east-west as in Vada and Shahapur. These ridges rising by even slopes from the plateau floor have sharp crest lines unlike the flat, mesa-topped ridge, developed by the basic lava flows. Magma differentiations, mostly of acidic types, and breccia cones along the coast have added variety through the numerous low hillocks and the craggy skyline profile. Faulting, perhaps, along a north-south line is responsible for the depression filled in by the Thane creek in the south. and the lower Vaitama. Surya valleys further north.
The Vaitarna and the Ulhas drainages due to the huge run-off following the heavy downpours of the monsoon on the western scarpslopes of the Sahyadri turn into swift torrents carrying enormous amounts of silts and alluvium to the sea. The entire Ulhas basin, focussing on Kalyan from the north, east and south through the valleys of the Bhatsai. Kalu and upper Ulhas, forms a huge fan-shaped basin, pushing the Sahyadrian scarp eastwards. Below Kalyan, the Ulhas valley is a vast alluvial fiat, inundated over considerable distances during high tides. The Ulhas basin thus offers a sharp contrast to the Vaitarna valley that is deeply entrenched in a plateau and hill country.
To this huge variety of topography, further colour is added by a variegated human response. The hilly forested interior, particularly in the north, is still the home of tribals, mostly Thakurs, Varlis, Katkaris and Kolis. In the uplands occupied by these people, forests dominate the economy, but locally the valley bottoms, with pockets of rich soils, produce quality rice. In contrast, the coastal lowlands produce a rich variety of farm produce — rice, hay and fodder, vegetables, flowers and fruits — apart from accounting for a huge haul of sea-fish, all of which enter the extensive urban market of Bombay city. The Ulhas valley as a whole, and the lower valley, or what is known as the Kalyan basin, in particular forms the natural route way through which is streamlined the bulk of traffic emanating from and converging into the city. The physical proximity and contiguity as well as excellent accessibility have rendered the economy of the Ulhas valley almost entirely subsidiary to the city.
Thus, physical variety reinforced by a heterogeneity of human imprints has evolved contrasting regional landscapes within the district. Traditionally, two regions have been recognised, the junglepatti, the forest-clad, hilly tribal interior; and the bandarpatti or the coastal lowlands with a prosperous rice-coconut-cum-fish culture. Recent and current variations in responses, however, necessitate a further division as follows :—
(i) The Sahyadrian region, entirely a forest country.
(ii) The Plateau country, with forested uplands and tilled valley pockets :
(1) Jawhar-Mokhada plateau.
(2) Vada plateau,
(3) Shahapur plateau,
(4) Murbad plateau
(iii) The coastal lowlands of the bandarpatti, a belt of market gardening, hay and dairy zone.
(iv) The lower Ulhas valley, comprising the lowlands of Bhiwandi, Kalyan, Ulhasnagar and Thane with a predominantly urban population, and an economy oriented towards the city of Bombay.
The Sahyadrian region : All along the eastern bothers of the district, the towering scarps of the Sahyadri stretch, rising abruptly from the plateau level at an elevation of 300 metres through sheer cliff walls, across a narrow strip of land, barely five kilometres wide. The crest-line distinctly visible from Konkan below carries many peaks and fortresses. The landscape quickly changes, rising rapidly in elevation, and is an alternation of desolate black and bleak cliffs with well-wooded slopes. The terrain is rugged and uneven, with many source streams flowing in deep ravines, separated from each other by shoulders and spurs that carry grass covered level ledges on their tops.
The region receives during the monsoon season a rainfall exceeding 300 cms; hence, the hills are clothed with tropical moist deciduous and semi-evergreen species of vegetation; the forest interior is dense with an undergrowth during the rains and for months after. In the hot weather, the undergrowth dries, larger trees shed their leaves and yet the landscape is far from being bleak. With the flowering of many of the species, the forest turns into a gay red. The main species that recur, are teak, ain, bakul, mango, amber, beheda, jambul and apta. The forest interior supports wild game. Most of the virgin forest cover has been destroyed over years, except perhaps in inaccessible steep slopes and higher elevations.
From the human point of view, the region is negative in character. Population is scanty and scattered in tiny hamlets that are precariously perched near water-holes that run dry during the hot weather and necessitate tiring journeys over considerable distances to procure even drinking water. The people are almost entirely tribal. Varlis and Thakurs.
Human interest in the region centres round the passes that have acted as Konkan darwajas and traditional trade-routes, since the ancient past. The Nana ghat and the Khodala ghat are also used to some extent for road transport across the Sahyadri. The Maratha fortresses, so strategically located overlooking the Konkan lowlands and having access only through deep ravines on the scarps. add a historic grandeur to this region.
The Plateau country: The Plateau country covers the eastern half of the district. It begins where the foot-hills of the Sahyadri abut into the Konkan at an average elevation of about 400 metres and generally slopes westwards, falling in elevation by steps. The Mokhada-Jawhar plateau in the north, the Vada plateau in the west centre, the Shahapur plateau in the middle and the Murbad plateau in the south are included in this region. The Mokhada-Jawhar plateau at the foot of the Nasik section of the Sahyadri in the northeast is an undulating country at average elevations of 350 to 450 metres and descends on the west by fairly steep gradients to the Vada plateau at a lesser level—about 100 to 150 metres. Separated from the Mokhada-Jawhar plateau by the deeply incised valley of the Vaitarna and further south of it is the Shahapur plateau. It is well defined by the Bhatsai valley to its west and the Kalu valley to its south. It forms a series of levels one below the other between 150 and 400 metres. The Murbad plateau, south of the Kalu valley, is at the lowest level — about 100 metres. Thus, there is a fall in the plateau levels from east to west and north to south, the individual levels being remarkably visible to the naked eye in atraverse from Bombay to Igatpuri, by road; the road runs for a considerable distance on level ground and then over short stretches rises over steep gradients to the next higher level. As far as eye can see, these levels are apparent.
The Mokhada-Jawhar plateau : The rugged and uneven terrain of the Mokhada-Jawhar plateau, extremely well dissected by narrow, steep-sided stream valleys occurs in two levels, the Mokhada region being at a somewhat higher level than the Jawhar region, further west. Areas of flat land, and adequately wide valley bottoms to permit extensive cultivation are extremely limited. In fact, farm lands constitute barely a quarter of the region; forests dominate the landscape, accounting for nearly a third of the land. About an eighth of the land is barren and about a fifth lies under current and other fellows. Permanent pastures and tree crops occupy a small area in the neighbourhood of Jawhar.
The soils are stony and gravelly and infertile. The heavy down-pouring rains of the monsoon period wash away the finer soil particles, reducing the soil to an extremely coarse, open texture. Most of the fields are in the uplands or varkas area, and over a good deal or the area, the tillage system is dalhi, i.e., sowing the seeds in wood ashes. The main crops of the region is nagli (ragi); together with other small millets, it accounts for half the tilled hectarage. Rice occupies the valley slopes and valley floors or the lower terraces and accounts for a sixth of the cropped area.
The village in Mokhada-Jawhar plateau is a medium-sized unit, ‘ supporting on an average 700 people and located centrally on a level plateau ; a number of cart-tracks and paths running over the plateau crest before ascending the adjoining valley slopes, converge on the settlement It is a fairly compact unit, with well-built tiled houses aligned along one or two streets of caste Hindu Kunbi cultivators. Each main village has a number of hamlets or padas, on an average four to six, distributed all around along the edges of the level plateau, commanding the fairly steep valley slopes that are well wooded.
Very few villages are found on the valley bottom probably because they are too narrow to support a good-sized village and also due to isolation enforced by relief.
Jawhar was a former seat of administration of Jawhar State. Juni Jawhar, a deserted site in ruins, is at the edge of a deep, narrow valley and seems to have been given up in favour of a more central site on the plateau top, along the road. The township has developed as a ribbon on either side of the road, and owes its functional importance to its taluka administration, market centre and timber depot.
The Vada plateau : The Vada plateau, split into nearly equal halves by the east to west flowing Vaitarna, is at a lesser elevation- – about 150 metres — and is effectively shut off from the coastal lands by a double coastal range running north-south and rising to more than 500 metres locally. The valley floor is wide enough to permit good tillage. From October to February the climate is unhealthy, fever being rife in every village. Water is fairly abundant along the valleys, though on plateau crests wells run dry during the hot weather, and procuring even drinking water becomes a problem. Rice is the chief crop in the lowlands during the rainy season ; nachni, tur and vari are the other crops on the varkas. About a sixth of the area is under tillage, while nearly half the area is under forests. In the past, teak from the region used to find a wide market, but with a vast and negligent depletion of the forest-cover, re-forestation has become imperative; young plantations on many of the denuded slopes are slowly increasing.
Here too, half the population is tribal, mainly Varlis, Malhar and Mahadev Kolis and Katkaris. The Katkaris, slimmer and darker than the other forest tribes, are kath-makers. They till the uplands, after burning the brush-wood. They quite often sell fire-wood, wild honey and hunt for small forest animals and birds. They live in independent hamlets.
Vada villages are mostly clustered in the Vaitarna and Pinjal valleys ; they have fewer hamlets than the villages further east.
Vada is sited on the right bank of the Vaitama above the confluence of the Pinjal with the Vaitama. Built on a tank site, it derives its functional importance from administration and its weekly market. Manor, on the new Bombay-Ahmedabad road, is located at a site where the Vaitama escapes through the hills of tie Takmak-Asheri group into the longitudinal valley between the two coastal ranges.
Shahapur plateau : Shahapur plateau is very wild, broken by hills and covered with extensive forests. The northern part, north of Shahapur, consists of long wavy uplands and narrow, long, east? west running ridges, seamed by steep-sided rocky ravines. The area is drained to the south-west by the Bhatsai and its tributaries. South of Shahapur, the country opens out to some extent, and is drained to the west by the Kalu and its tributaries. Here, the topography permits a wider tillage, unlike the northern parts where it is confined to patches along stream valleys. The climate is very unpleasant, except in the rains with half the area under forests, and a fifth barren in this wild country, the net sown area is reduced to just about a fifth Rice, nagli, vari and pulses are the crops. On the level ground deprived of its forest-cover, soil erosion is assuming menacing proportions, leading to a highly denuded stony soil cover that is barren and useless even for poor pasture to grow.
As in Mokhada-Jawhar, villages are sited on flat plateaus with numerous padas strung around along the plateau edges and valley sides. The larger villages are strung along the Bombay-Agra road and the Bombay-Igatpuri railway line which traverse the country south-west to north-east between Kalyan and Kasara. Villages in the lower reaches of the Bhatsai valley are not only larger but more nucleated, with fewer hamlets. The villages on the plateau terraces suffer from acute shortage during the hot weather.
The jungle country of Shahapur is a land predominantly of the jhum-cultivators Thakurs — though Varlis and “Katkaris are also present in good number. These tribes live in separate hamlets distinct from the Kunbi village.
Shahapur is the route-focus of the region. Sited on the left bank of the Bharangi river, a tributary of the Bhatsai, and on the Bombay-Agra National Highway, Shahapur owes its importance to its administrative function as taluka headquarters, timber and saw mills and forest depot and a weekly market. Cart-making is an industry of local importance.
Kasara, the terminal for the suburban railway service to Bombay, is located at the foot of the Sahyadri, commanding the Thal ghat entry from Konkan to Desh. Khardi, also on the railway and road between Shahapur and Kasara, is a local collection centre for the forest produce.
The Murbad plateau : South of the Kalu river, drained by a number of sub-parallel west-flowing streams occupies the southern part of the district, and occurs at the lowest level — about 100 metres among the plateaus. The only large area of level land is in the east, towards the foot of the Sahyadri. The soil is poor and stony. Uplands are of little value except as supplying brush-wood for manure. Nearly a third of the land tilled is rain-fed ; rice is no doubt the main crop, but nagli, vari and pulses together are of equal importance. Water is scanty all over the plateau. Villages are comparatively smaller, with fewer hamlets. They are mostly Maratha villages in the west, Koli and Thakur villages in the east. The region as a whole is difficult of access ; the Kalyan-Murbad-Junnar road along the Murbadi valley is of some value in linking the area with the Kalyan region. The area is entirely rural and even the taluka place, Murbad, is a small market centre with about 6,000 people.
The coastal lowlands : The coastal lowlands of Thane form a belt, about ten kilometres wide, of lowlands and flats, seamed by tidal cream, and are backed by two hill ranges, running north-south, remarkably parallel to each other, and enclosing within the narrow Surya valley in the north and the comparatively wider tidal stretch of the Vaitarna valley in the south. The hill ranges rise on an average to about 200 to 300 metres and present fairly steep slopes towards the coastal lowlands to their west.
Physically, the region falls into a number of parallel longitudinal strips, from the coast inland. Stretching from the shore eastwards to a distance of two to three kilometres is a sandy strip developed over sand-beaches and living dunes backed by stabilised dead dunes, old beach ridges and ban. The shore itself presents a succession of alternating headlands and bays ; apart from the three wide estuaries of the Bassein (Ulhas) creek in the south, the Vaitarna estuary in the middle and the Damanganga estuary in the north (just outside the limits of the district), small creeks and inlets like the Khonda (Dahanu) creek, Tarapur-Chinchani creek, Dudh river creek, Mahim and Kelve creeks form alongsides extensive salt marshes and khar lands liable to tidal inundations. In many sections, this strip consists of old sand bars and spits.
Culturally, this is a zone of slightly saltish, sandy soils, a shallow water-table and rice-coconut fish culture. Well irrigation with the help of Persian wheels, rahats and pumps is of wide and increasing use, in fact so rapid is the expansion of pump irrigation that the area is liable to face water famine, with the exhaustion of the top film of fresh water in the water-table, and the sea-water rising up to take its place. The better-watered lands are devoted to vegetables, flowers and chillis.
Further inland is a flat alluvial low-land, with fairly productive black soils; its eastern limits are marked more or less by the railway. No doubt rice is the predominant crop during the rains, but after the rains a quick succession of winter and summer vegetables are raised making heavy use of pump irrigation, manures and artificial fertilisers. The entire produce finds its way to the city market through trucks and rail. This is also a zone of fruit farming. Nearness to the Bombay market is of vital importance in determining the market produce raised in the region, and accordingly, this zone falls into a number of south to north cultural divisions, with increasing distance and decreasing accessibility from the city. On the peri-urban fringe, in the northern parts of Salsette, dairy farming is of considerable importance. Just across the Bassein creek, around Bassein lies a zone of seasonal green vegetables and banana culture. The seaside and the creekside, however, are areas of fishing and salt-pans. Further beyond, around Vicar, the suburban railway terminal, are a number of prosperous villages like Agashi, Bolinj, Sopara and others that specialise” in winter vegetables and flowers. Still farther north, beyond the Vaitarna estuary and its immediate neighbourhood, again a zone of fishing and salt-pans, around Palghar, Vangaon and Chinchani is a region of vegetables and chillies that can stand longer distance transport by trucks and rail. Further beyond, around Dahanu and Gholwad lies a fruit zone, where the local Iranis have developed a stable fruit culture, producing chickoos, guavas and pomegranates. Still farther out, along the northern limits of the district is a hay and fodder zone.
East of the railway is a zone where, again, rice is the predominant crop : but, hay and fodder culture gain locally an immense importance, because of the great demand and ready premium price obtained in the dairying zones on the outskirts of Greater Bombay and the adjoining parts of Salsette. Every rail-head here has a major hay godown. There is a persistent tendency among the farmers of the region to divert even productive rice lands to the more lucrative, less expensive hay farming.
The coastal lowlands as a whole have a larger percentage of area under tillage for obvious reasons ; permanent pastures for hay making and fruit groves occupy considerable areas, particularly in the Dahanu taluka. Barring rice, no other cereal is grown. Pulses are of minor importance. Well irrigation from about 6,000 wells, most of which are in Bassein taluka, account for the prosperity of fruit gardening in this region.
Industries are by and large absent from the regional scene. Yet, with the increasing pressure on space, during the last few years of the current decade, a few industries have set up units in north Salsette, around Dahisar and Bhayandar.
Villages are fair sized and inter village distances are low, particularly in Bassein. The villages tend to be larger along the railway, and towards the south, because of large service-seeking commuters residing close to the railway. In Dahanu and Talasari, the northern talukas, significant population is tribal, mostly Varlis. They are husbandmen, and agricultural labour, better settled and progressive than the Varlis of the uplands further east. Malhar Kolis are found all over the region.
Larger settlements like Dahanu, Chinchani-Tarapur, Kelve-Mahim and Bassein are all ferry points across creeks located along the shore, where large quantities of fish are landed to find their way over land by trucks to the city market. Each of them is a road terminal, linked with the rail-head, about six to eight kilometres further east. Dahanu is a huge collection centre for fish, fruits and forest products. It is a saw-mill centre. Chinchani-Tarapur, a twin settlement across the Tarapur creek, is an old settlement with a fortification, now in ruins. The settlement of Chinchani on old sand bars is a market gardening village while its fishing counterpart, Tarapur, has gained some importance recently due to the location of the nuclear power generating station. Chinchani has an old die casting craft, now declining. Kelve-Mahim is a fishing centre with a richer past. Satpati, closeby, is a large fishery training centre. Bassein, or Vasai as it is now known, has an old fortification of Maratha period overlooking the estuary, now in ruins. Around it are a large number of vegetable, betel and banana gardens.
Rail-head location has added vigour to quite a few settlements. Paighar is a collection centre of fairly large size commanding the rice lands and vegetable zone of the central sections, north of the Vaitarna estuary. Virar is the suburban rail terminal to the south of the Vaitama estuary. Bhayandar is a salt-producing centre.
The tempo of growth of this region has been hampered to some extent by the two wide estuaries, extensive marshes and the absence of a road, parallel to, the railway, traversing the country south to north. The construction of a road bridge across the Bassein creek has been of some use ; but the absence of a similar bridge across the Vaitarna estuary has shut off a smoother and more voluminous flow of perishable goods to Bombay city.
The Lower Ulhas Valley or the Kalyan-Bhiwandi lowlands : The Kalyan-Bhiwandi lowlands, below the confluence of the Kalu and the Bhatsai with the main stream of the Ulhas, lies at elevations below twenty metres and is dotted with occasional hills. Along the Thane creek runs the Mumbra ridge, deflecting the stream northwards into its estuarine course through the Bassein creek. Between the ridge and the creek lies a narrow tidal flat, extending into the salt marshes along the shores. On either side of the river, particularly around Mumbra and Diva, extensive areas are liable to tidal inundations, and the river-side is thick with salt swamps. The land is of fine silt in this strip, rising gradually to the slightly higher elevations of the paddy lands. Away from the river, the land is more undulating and leads to the hills in the backdrop.
If the physical landscape of the region is of limited variety, the cultural landscape more than compensates for this deficiency. Lying as it does on the transit corridor on which converges all the road and rail net-work from the Desh through the Thal and Bhor Ghats and from Konkan in the south, before an entry to the city and Salsette across the Thane creek, over the Kasheli and Thane bridges, this region has immensely benefited from its fringe location to the Metropolitan City. This is well reflected in the high densities of population, exceeding 600 per square kilometre (not exceeded anywhere else in rural Maharashtra), the predominantly urban character of the population, a significant proportion of commuting population that move in and out of the city daily, the receding role of rice farming and its replacement by market gardening and dairy farming on one hand, and the slowly increasing spill-over of industries from the city on the other. Strung along the railway from Mulund on the city limits right upto Titvala on the Igatpuri line and Badlapur on the Pune line are a number of rising townships that are mostly residential areas, but yet during the last decade have witnessed a slowly evolving functional differentiation, due to the growth of industrial establishments. Located at the head of the Thane creek on the city side, commanding all the arteries converging on the city, as well as the water mains, Thane is fast flowering into an industrial city, with two woollen mills and a large number of units producing chemicals, drug, tools and a variety of engineering goods. All these industrial units are located along the old Bombay-Agra road and the new Express Highway. The residential township adjoins the creek-side, particularly the older, congested parts. Newer developments are mainly to the south and the west. Administration has added to its functional importance. It is also a historic town, with an old port.
Across the creek, at the entry to the mainland lies Kalwa, a village in desertion during the fifties but at present a flourishing industrial township with a population of 14,551, dependent on the huge machinery manufacturing plant and an aluminium plant. Stretching from Kalva southwards between the Mumbra ridge and the creek is a strip of rice lands. A vast industrial estate has been laid here by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation, bringing in a number of industries, accompanied by growing industrial colonies. South of Kalva, along the Belapur road, lie industrial units specialising in machinery, tools, engineering and electrical goods. Further south are large chemical plants and a vast petrochemical industrial complex, right upto Belapur. All these are recent expansions of huge industrial units of the city attracted by developed cheep land, power and water facilities. The recent opening of a road bridge across the Thane creek between Trombay and Belapur, short circuiting thereby the distance on the Bombay-Pune road through Mumbra, and the proposed New Bombay City Project are likely to further transform the economic and social landscape of this till-now-neglected strip.
Beyond Kalwa, along the railway, and across the marshes of Mumbra lies Diva. Mumbra till now used to hold the key to the road traffic to Pune and Konkan, but with the Trombay bridge now in operation, this importance may decline. Diva at present is entirely residential, but is likely to grow in importance with the Diva-Panvel rail link being further extended into Konkan and the Diva-Bassein link coming into existence. Further on, is Dombivli, on a relatively high ground, well drained. Dombivli (population 51,108 in 1971) has had a phenomenal growth nearly 20 per cent in the last ten years, as a residential township, in a rural setting. East of Dombivli is Thakurli, at the head of a bend in the Ulhas river, with a thermal power generating plant, supplying power for railway traction. About three kilometres further east is Kalyan.
Known as an emporium in the early Christian era, when Greek. Roman and Arab traders used to sail up the Ulhas, Kalyan is a town of historic antiquities. It lost its importance to Thane at the head of the creek, as the river silted. But it owes its present importance to the railway. It is the mute-focus of the fan-shaped Ulhas lowlands. Located on the inner bend of a loop in the Ulhas river, on low ground, it is liable to extensive flooding when the river is in floods. Not being directly connected with Bombay by a highway, its growth as a residential outskirt of the city has been rather slow but steady. Its present population is 99,547. But its industrial adjuncts to the north and the south-east, i.e., Mohone-Shahad (11,344 in 1971) and Katemanivli (9,647 in 1971) have had a much more spectacular growth during the last decade. Rayon and chemical industries are located here along the banks of the Ulhas, above a small weir, making full use of the water available in the river throughout the year. Ulhasnagar, a refugee township of Sindhis that came into existence soon after the Partition of India in 1947, has grown into a large city with a population of 1,68,462 and is a hub of activity with considerable retailing and small-scale industrial functions. Ambarnath (population 56,276 in 1971), also a place of historic antiquities and old monuments and a temple, is at present the industrial out-post of the Bombay City, with chemicals and matches as its main out-put. Badlapur, just beyond Ambarnath, is yet to receive the urban impact although there are signs in this direction already. It has a waterworks on the Ulhas that supplies drinking water to Ambarnath, Ulhasnagar and Kalyan.
Away from the railway, beyond the commuter-residential-cumindustrial zone is a narrow strip of market gardening and dairy farmers, whose supplies enter the Bombay markets daily, through the suburban train service. Further inland are the rice farming Kunbi villages, closely spaced and of fair size, with limited hamlet formation. To the north of the Ulhas river, Bhiwandi dominates the rice farming lowlands as a major rice collection and milling centre. Bhiwandi (population 79,576 in 1971) is admirably located commanding the road emerging from Bombay and Thane through the Kasheli bridge, and roads leading to Kasara, and Igatpuri along the Bhatsai valley, and to Vada through a gap across the Thane valley. Over decades, it is known for its cottage industries : tile-making and hand-loom sari weaving. The addition of some industrial units manufacturing agricultural and textile machinery parts has added to its importance. It is also a taluka town and a small educational centre. Bhiwandi is famous for the weaving industry.
General summary : No other district of Maharashtra presents such a vividly and rapidly changing physical and cultural landscape as the district of Thane does. While the northern, interior Thane resembles both in the physical landscape and the socio-cultural economy the rest of Konkan, the coastal and southern parts lying in the vicinity of Metropolitan Bombay and the transport corridor reveal all characteristics of the urban transformation that the area is undergoing rapidly. With the rest of Konkan, the district shares many features of land use and cropping pattern in common the predominance of rice in the lowlands, the raising of nagli, vari and pulses on the varkas uplands, and some importance given to fruit culture. But the wider use of well irrigation, heavier use of fertilisers and the proximity to Bombay has superposed on the basic agrarian economy a market gardening frame, that raises the average income of the lowland farmer in Thane substantially higher than that of his counterpart elsewhere in Konkan. Again, the immense demand for hay and fodder in Bombay’s dairy farms has introduced a significant variation in the farm culture of coastal Thane in that along the rail road there has developed a prosperous hay and fodder culture.
The rail and road net-work, industries and commuting have combined to produce in the Ulhas lowlands and the coastal strip a thriving middle class society, mostly service-seeking with a fairly high per-capita income. In sharp contrast are the uplanders, entirely rural living in separate hamlets, in a state of economic stagnation, dependent on a precarious single season farming and forest gathering. Without even an assured supply of drinking water throughout the year, not to speak of basic civic and social amenities like medical and schooling facilities, these people, mostly tribal, live in a world of their own. Deforestation and stripping of the soil cover by heavy rains on the one hand, and restrictions on encroachment in forest areas on the other, apart from a rigorous check on shifting cultivation and illegal poaching in the forest interior have unsettled many of these people.
Regional disparities within the district are enormous and the differences imposed by physical relief have only been further enhanced by uneven levels of development opportunities. Obviously the problems of the different parts of the district are also different.
The section on Geography is contributed by Prof. Arunacbalam, Department of Geography, University of Mumbai, Mumbai.