string(4) "here" array(3) { [0]=> string(19) "discoveredindia.com" [1]=> string(17) "india-at-a-glance" [2]=> string(13) "geography.htm" } Geography Home > India At A Glance > Geography

Geography of India

The geographical location of any place is important for understanding the history, economy, art and culture, natural vegetation, climatic conditions prevailing and the food habits of the country. On the globe, India lies entirely in the northern hemisphere, and southern part of the continent of Asia. Geologically, most of the Indian landmass lies on the Indian Plate and the northern part of the Indo-Australian Plate. The continental crust of the Indo-Australian Plate forms an Indian sub-continent. India lies between 8° 4' and 37° 6' north latitudes and 68° 7' and 97° 25' east longitudes thus placing it entirely in the northern hemisphere. The aerial distance from north to south is about 3,214 km and between east to west is nearly 2,933 km. It have land periphery of about 15,200 km and covers an area of 3,287,590 sq. km (1,269,346 sq mi). In terms of area the country encloses, it stands as the seventh (7th) largest country in the world. The vast coastline of the country including mainland and Islands of Lakshadweep and Andaman & Nicobar is 7,516.6 km.

India is surrounded by sea and oceans from all sides except the northern landmass. India is surrounded by the Indian Ocean on its south, and on the southwest by Arabian Sea, and on the southeastern side through Bay of Bengal. The Laccadive Sea lies in its south. A channel of sea separates India from Sri Lanka. This is stretch is called Gulf of Mannar and The Palk Strait. India has also authority over a group of Islands. These islands are Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and Maldives. Andaman and Nicobar Islands is located to its southeast at a distance of around 1200 kilometers. The group of islands share maritime border with other countries like Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar. Kanyakumari is the last point on the mainland and Indira Point is the last point on Great Nicobar Island is the southernmost tip of the country.Territorial waters of India extend to 12 nautical miles (13.8 mi; 22.2 km) measured from the coast baseline.

The Great Himalayan Mountain Range secures the northern boundaries of India and separates it from Tibet and China. Two small independent countries of Nepal and Bhutan also lie in this mountain belt. Pakistan is situated on the western side and Bangladesh and Myanmar on the eastern border of India.Pakistan shares the Thar Desert and Punjab Plain with India. A vast stretch of densely forested and mountainous stretch of the Kachin Hills and Chin Hills lie between India and Myanmar which also is the separating border between the two countries. Similarly, bordered with Bangladesh is mainly due to the presence of Mizo and Khasi Hills along with the water bodies of Indo- Gangetic Plains.

The northern, eastern and central India predominantly features the plain formed by the Gangetic-Brahmaputra system of rivers. The Ganges originates in Himalayan mountain range in the north and covers a vast distance to finally end up with Bay of Bengal. It is, in fact, the longest river which originates in India and travels through four states providing water to dense population and agriculture. South India is occupied mostly by the Deccan Plateau. Kangchenjunga, is the highest peak of India measuring 8,598 metres (28,209 ft) and lies on the border between Indian state of Sikkim and Nepal. It is also the third highest peak in the world. Climate in India varies from one region to other depending on so many geographical factors. The climate across India varies from equatorial climate in the extreme southern part of India to alpine climate in the higher reaches of the Himalayan stretch.

Physiographic Regions

Indian topography is divided into five physiographical regions. They are:-

Mountains

The northern part of India is naturally secured by a Great Wall called the Great Himalayan Range which runs throughout the northern frontiers of India. The Himalayas along with Hindu Kush range and Patkai ranges forms a great arc. This arc of mountains acts as natural front for the descending chilling polar winds. These are geologically recently formed fold mountains and result of the collision between Indian plate and Eurasian plate. Due to their recent birth, the mountain ranges include some of the world's highest peaks.

Eight (8) extreme mountain ranges with average height of peaks of over 1,000m (3,281ft) covers whole of India.

  • The Himalayan Mountain Range is the youngest mountain range in India. It is abode of some of the highest peaks in the world. The tallest peak of this mountain range is Mt. Everest situated at the China and Nepal border. The mountain range extends for 2,500km (1,553mi), completely unhindered and unbroken, thus covering a total area of around 500,000 km2 (193,051sqmi).
  • The Karakoram Range is located in an Indian state Jammu and Kashmir. It earns the credit for harboring more than 60 mountain peaks which has an average height of more than 7,000 m (22,966 ft). The range also includes K2 which is the 2nd highest peak in the world with a height of 8,611 m (28,251 ft).
  • The Patkai Bum range also called Purvanchal, is situated on the eastern border of India with Myanmar. They are also young fold mountains and formed in the same way as the Great Himalayan range was formed. As a result, they also have high peaks in conical in appearance with steep slopes and deep valleys.
  • The Vindhya Range dominates in the Central Indian region and runs across central India for 1,050 km (652 miles). The average height of the hills in this range is 3,000 m (9,843 ft). They are believed to be formed by the unused things accumulated by the weathered Aravali Mountains.
  • The Satpura Range starts from the eastern Gujarat in the vicinity of the Arabian Sea coast and extends towards east crossing Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh. It measures 900 km (559 miles) and has the average peak heights rising above 1,000 m (3,281 ft).
  • The weathered Aravali Range of today is, in fact, the oldest mountain peak in India. It cris-crosses the Indian state of Rajasthan from north-east to south-west direction, covering a distance of around 800 km (497 miles). The north-eastern end projects as rocky ridges into the state of Haryana and finally terminating near Delhi.
  • The Western Ghats, also known as Sahyadris run side by side the western sides of Deccan Plateau and divided it from coastal plains of south-west India along the Arabian Sea. Western Ghats are continuous and harbor a number of hill stations and beautiful tea and coffee state. The forests of Western Ghats abode some of the exotic species of plants.
  • The Eastern Ghats are discontinuous, weathered and eroded range of mountains and cut across by the South India’s 4 major rivers namely Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri.

Indo-Gangetic Plain

The Indo-Gangetic plains, as the name itself denotes, is formed from the river systems of Indus and Ganges. The plains formed from these river systems are extensive and is also known as the Great Plains. The three great rivers namely Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra and their tributaries namely Yamuna, Chambal, Gomti, Ghaghara, Kosi, Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Chenab, and Tista, irrigate a vast stretch of land or alluvial plains which are immensely fertile. These rivers replenish the land every year.These rivers and the resultant plains that are formed run parallel to the Himalayan Range, right from Kashmir in the west to Assam in the east, and irrigate most of the northern and eastern plains of India. The stretch of these plains measures a total area of 700,000 km2 (270,000 sq mi).

The Great Plains of India are classified on the basis of the soil, texture, vegetation and the regions broadly into following four divisions:

  • The Bhabar Belt: - This belt comprise the upper stream of the river, the place where the stream leaves the mountain and meets the plains or in other words, the foothills of the Himalayas. Bhabar belt consists of big boulders and rough pebbles which have been brought down by the flowing streams. The ground consisting of such boulders and pebbles are very porous and therefore streams flow under the ground of this stretch.
  • The Terai Belt: - Next to the Bhabar belt, there lie a region of newer alluvium which is called the Terai belt. The underground stream of the Bhabar region resurfaces in this region. The belt is characterized by thick forest and a variety of fauna, flora and wildlife.
  • The Bangar Belt: - Bangar belt is constituted by older alluvium. The alluvial terraces of the flood plains are chiefly made of the soil of this belt. The soil gets deposited and in course of time gets modified by other geographical factors.
  • The Khadar Belt: - lies in low-lying areas adjacent to the Bangar belt. It is formed by the newer alluvium deposited every year brought by the flowing rivers. This is the area of high fertility.

Thar Desert

The Thar Desert is located on the western part of India stretching from the state of Rajasthan covering almost 61 percent of the total area of the state, some parts of Gujarat and regions of Pakistan. Thar Deserts is the seventh largest desert of the world. The total area covered by the desert is in between 200,000 km2 (77,000sqmiles) to about 238,700 km2 (92,200sqmi). Thar Desert is known as the Cholistan Desert in Pakistan.

Highlands

Three plateaus or highland areas namely the Malwa Plateau in the west, the Deccan Plateau in the south and the Chota Nagpur Plateau in the east constitute the Central Highlands in India. Almost all of south India is covered by

Deccan Plateau

The Malwa Plateau spans over Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, the average height of which is 500 metres, and the topography of the land slopes towards the northern side. Most of the area of Malwa Plateau is drained by Chambal River and its tributaries. Mahi River drains the western part of the Plateau region.

Coasts

A vast stretch of land lies between the Bay of Bengal and the mountains of Eastern Ghats. This stretch is known as the Eastern Coastal Plain which extends from West Bengal in the eastern part of India to the coastal plains of Tamil Nadu in the southern India. The four rivers, Mahanadi, Godavari, Kaveri, and Krishna cuts across the weathered mountains of Eastern Ghats and drain the adjoining plains to finally meet the Bay of Bengal. Coastal regions have typically hot and humid weather conditions. The Eastern Coastal region receives rains from both the south-west monsoon system and the retreating north-east monsoon systems.

Islands

The Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are come under the political sovereignty of India. They are included in the Indian Union as union territories. The Lakshadweep Islands are located 200-300 km (120 to 190 miles) from the Kerala coast in the Arabian Sea. The total land area of Lakshadweep Islands is 32sq km (12sqmiles) and consists of 12 atolls, 3 reefs, and 5 submerged banks and a total of about 36 islands and islets.

Water Bodies

A system of various major rivers and minor rivers creates around 14,500km of navigable inland waterways. The major rivers which are mostly perennial are the lifelines of India. They are 12 in numbers and have a total catchment area of more than 2,528,000 km2 (976,000 sq mi). All the major rivers of India have their origins from either of the given three main watersheds:

  • The Karakoram and Himalaya ranges
  • In central India, Satpura and Vindhya Range
  • In western India, Western Ghats or Sahyadri.

Wetlands

Wetland ecosystem in India extends from the cold and arid regions of Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir to those of wet and humid climate of peninsular India. Almost all of the wetlands are linked to river systems in India, directly or indirectly. The Government of India has identified 71 wetlands in total for the purpose of conservation which also is a part of sanctuaries and national parks. All along the coastal regions of India, mangrove forests could be found in sheltered estuaries, creeks, backwaters, salt marshes and mudflats.

Natural Resources

India is endowed with huge supply of natural resources. It has an usable and replenishable groundwater supply of around 350 billion cubic meters out of which only 35% are being used today. The cargo which is transported along the inland waterways of the country is estimated to be around 44 million tonnes.Around 56% of the total land is arable in India at present which are used for agricultural purposes. Black soils of peninsular India are moisture-retentive in its characteristics and so are preferred for dry farming and cotton growing. On the other hand forest soils are fit for tea and coffee plantations.

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