Predicting rain the native way

Vinson Kurian | Updated on January 23, 2018

Creating a flutter: Butterflies get busy just ahead of rainfall. RAJ P SINGH/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

For centuries, traditional ways of prediction have yielded results

Meteorologists use high-tech gadgetry to predict monsoon. But for centuries traditional ways of prediction have yielded useful results

Among almanac, which includes weather forecasts and farmers' planting date, the Old Farmer's Almanac is the most popular one and its first edition was published in 1792 in North America.

In India, Panchang, the traditional Hindu almanac, have been known to forecast accurately the rainy season and advice farmers for related agricultural activities right at the beginning of the year. The Panchangs have been in use since 4th century BC in India.

In Australia, the Aborigines’ understanding of weather patterns, including obersving behaviour of animals and flowering of plants, is being harnessed by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology's Indigenous Weather Knowledge project. An intimate knowledge of plant and animal life held by the indigenous people has been gained from millennia of observations, says the Bureau.

Experts studying the effects of global warming in the Arctic are looking to the South American Indians' knowledge of weather phenomena such as El Nino.

In India, traditional wisdom on rain or drought has been drawn through observation of sudden change in behaviour and appearance of various insects, animals and birds.

Butterflies, ants, termites and snakes busy themselves and show up moving around just ahead of rainfall.

Sparrow bathing in dust or swarms of bees making into hives and none emerging out could mean rains ‘in a couple of days.’

A ‘crows calling during night and owls hooting during the daytime’ may mean drought.

Dragonflies flying in a group three to four meters above ground level indicates rain in the evening.

A goat flapping ears restlessly; sheep huddling; owl hooting; and frog coming out and croaking; - all indicate imminent rain.

Traditional wisdom of this kind is available from other parts of India:

North India: Interpreting the direction of wind during Holi and Akshaya Tritiya can foretell monsoon. The wind from north or west suggests good monsoon while wind from east indicates drought.

Rajasthan: Khair trees growing extra bushy and the wild cucumbers sprout everywhere are signs for the Bhil tribes to prepare for drought. There’s a saying in Rajasthan - ‘nada tankan, balad bikavan;

mat baje tu, adhe saawan’ – which translate into ‘if the winds are southeasterly during mid-monsoon, then farmers of Marwar because they blow in famine into that particular region.’

Andhra Pradesh: Good foliage of the tarmarind trees is a precursor of a good monsoon but that of mango tree signals exactly the opposite – an approaching drought.

Uttar Pradesh: Dropping of flowers from the Palash tree indicates the onset of monsoon. When fruits of Jamun tree start ripening, it is time to go to the field.

Saurashtra: If the velocity of wind is low during Mrighashirsha constellation accompanied by absence of high heat during the Rohini, drought conditions are there for the asking.

Assam: Local saying ‘Aame aane baan, kothale aane dhann’ translates into ‘abundance of mango brings flood (very heavy rain); that of jackfruit indicates good rice harvest - meaning good monsoon.

Complied by Vinson Kurian

Published on April 13, 2015

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