• India is the largest country in South Asia with rich civilization. Its cultural influences had crossed its borders and reached East Asia and South East Asian countries. India’s strength lies in its geography as much as in its culture. In historical times, India was known as ‘Bharat’ and  ‘Hindustan’. The Europeans afterwards started referring to this country as ‘India’ a derivative of the word ‘Sindhu’.

India, a subcontinent

  • A continent possesses distinct characteristics of diverse,

1) Physical features,

2) Climatic conditions,

3) Natural vegetation,

4) Cultural norms,

5) Ancient ethnic and lingulstic groups and

6) Huge area

  • All these distinctive continental characteristics are found in India. Hence, we consider India as a subcontinent.

Location and Extent

  • India extends from 804’N to 3706’N latitudes and 6807’E to  97025’E longitudes. The Tropic of Cancer 23 ½ 0N runs across the country and divides it into two equal halves.

Tropical and Temperate regions.

  • It covers an area of 32, 87, 263, with 1.2 billion population (2011 Census). It Stretches from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south, for about 3, 214 Km and from Gujarat in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the north east for about 2,933Km. 
  • Length of Coastline of Indian mainland is 6000km. It has coastline of about 7, 516km inclusive of the main land, Lakshadweep, and Andaman and Nicobar Island.

Indian Standard Time

  • The 82030’E longitude is taken as Indian Standard Time Meridian (IST), as it passes through the middle of India near Allahabad. This is 5 hours 30 minutes ahead of the Greenwich Mean Time (00longitude ).

India and its neighbouring countries

  • Palk Strait separates India and Sri Lanka on the South. The Himalayas provide a natural boundary on the north. Arakanyoma mountain range in the east separates India from Myanmer. Kanyakumari or Cape Comorin constitutes the southern tip of the Indian peninsula.

Unity in Diversity

  • India has unique land forms ranging from the highest peaks to the lowest plains.

Which is the highest peak in the world?                                                                                                                                                           

  • Mount Everest is the highest peak in the world, is located in Himalayas, in the border of Nepal and China. The height is 8,848 metres above the sea level. The climate varies from the tropical to the temperate zone. Mawsynram in Meghalaya receives the highest amount of rainfall, whereas the Thar Desert receives very low rainfall.
  • We have wet dense tropical forest on the Western Ghats, mangrove trees in the Sunderbans of West Bengal and the shrubs and sparse vegetation in the Thar Desert. The diversity of the physical environment and climate has made India an ideal habitat for varieties of flora and fauna.
  • India is a secular country with total freedom of worship. People follow Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism and Zorastrianism with cultural diversities. In spite of its physical, religious and racial varieties, the ‘Indian culture’ unites all people.  Hence India is known for her “Unity in diversity”.

Political Division

  • India has been divided into 29 States and 7 Union Territories on the basis of the language for administrative convenience.


  • Based on the structure, India is divided into five physiographical divisions. They are:
  1. Northern mountains
  2. Northern Great Plains

          III. Peninsular Plateaus

  1. Coastal Plains
  2. Island.
  3. Northern Mountains
  • The Northern Mountains are the greatest mountain ranges. The upper slopes of many o the ranges are permanently covered with snow and hence they are known as the ‘Abode of Snow’ or the ‘Himalayas’. This is the highest mountain range of the world.
  • It extends, in the shape of an arc, for a distance of 2,500 km from west to east between the Indus gorge in Jammu and Kashmir in the west and Brahmaputra gorge in Arunachal Pradesh in the east.

Formation of Himalayas

  • Millions of years ago, there was only one large land mass on the surface of the Earth and it was surrounded by oceans on all sides. The landmass was called ‘Pangea’, surrounded by a water body, known as ‘Panthalasa’. This large land mass split up into two parts. The northern part was known as ‘Angaraland’ and the southern part was known as ‘Gondwana land’.  The separating these two was called the ‘Tethys sea’.
  • The river from Angara and the Tethys Sea. After a long time due to the northward movement of Gondwana land the deposits under the sea were uplifted and formed the Himalayas as fold mountains.
  1. Western Himalayas
  • The lofty Karakoram Mountains extend eastwards from Pamir Knot, which lies in the North West India. These ranges in the southwest of Kashmir form India’s frontier with Afghanistan and China. Godwin Austen known as K2 (8,611 metres), the world’s second highest peak, belongs to this range.
  • Baltora and Siachen are the two big glaciers, found to the south of Karakoram. These are two parallel ranges, known as the Ladakh and Zaskar. The extension of Ladakh range is ‘Ladakh plateau’, and it is the highest plateau of India.
  1. Central Himalayas
  • The Himalayas, which radiate from Pamir Knot in the southeast direction is called Central Himalayas.
  • There are three parallel ranges found in the central Himalayas from north ot south. They are:
  1. i) Himadri
  2. ii) Himachal

iii) Siwalik

  1. i) Himadri or Greater Himalayas
  • The average height of this range is 6,000 metres. It extends from Indus Valley in the north west to Brahmaputra in the northeast. It consists of several peaks of the world. Everest is the highest peak of the world with an altitude of 8,848 m. The other peaks of Himadri are Kanchen Junga (8586 m), Nanga Parbat (8,126 m(, Dhaulagiri (8,167 m) and Nanda Devi (7, 817 m). Many glaciers which are source of rivers are found in Himadri.  For example, Gangotri and Yamunotri glaciers are the sources of Ganga and Yamuna rivers, respectively.
  • ‘Passes’ are the natural gaps across the mountains. Zojila pass in Kashmir Shipkila in Himachal Pradesh and nathula and Jelepla in Sikkim are the most important passes across Himadri.
  1. ii) Himachal or Lesser Himalayas
  • Himachal lies between the Himadri in the north and Siwaliks in the south. It extends over a variable width of 80 km in average. The altitude varies from 3,700 m to 4,500 m. “pirpanjal” in Kashmir is the longest range of Himachal region.  ‘Dhauladar ranges’ stretches from Jammu and Kashmir across Himachal Pradesh. 

iii) Siwalik  or Outer Himalayas

  • Siwalik is the southern most range of the Himalayas. Its average height is 1,000 m. It is a discontinuous range, made up or mud and soft rocks.  The narrow longitudinal valleys called ‘Duns’ are found in Siwalik.  The best example is ‘Dehra Dun’.  ‘Terai plain’ is made up of deposits of the silts in the south of Siwalik.  It supports the growth of thick forests and marshy lands.
  1. Purvachal or Eastern Himalayas
  • Brahmaputra river marks the Eastern most geographical limit of the Himalayas. These mountains along the Eastern boundary of India is called Purvachal. They comprise of patkai hills and the Naga Hills in the North and the Mizo Hills in the south.
  1. Northern Great Plains
  • These are formed by the deposits of Indus, the Ganga and Brahmaputra rivers. It extends over a length of 2,400km. It covers an area of over 7 lakh Important characteristics include the soil features such as Bhabar (unasserted sediments) Terai (marshy track)  Bhangar (Older Alluvium) and Khadar (newer alluvium).
  • The porosity of the deposits is so high that streams sinks and disappears in the bhabar tract and flow underground. The area is marked by dry river courses. The Terai is a marshy tract, where most of the underground streams of the bhabar belt reappear. It is a zone of excessive dampness.  It helps to the growth of forests and variety of wildlife.
  • Northern Plains can be divided into the following regions.
  1. Rajasthan plain
  2. Punjab – Haryana plain
  3. Ganga Plain
  4. Brahmaputra Plain
  5. Rajasthan Plain
  • Rajasthan plain is found located in the west of Aravalli Range and it extends for about 640kms. It covers western Rajasthan where two thirds of this region is desert. It is about 300 metres above mean sea level.  In general, the eastern part of the desert is rocky, while western part has shifting sand dunes. Luni is an important river of this region.  It flows into Rann of Kutch.
  • There are several saline lakes in Rajasthan plain. The largest is the Sambhar lake, (Puskar Lake) which is located about 65km west of Jaipur.
  1. Punjab-Haryana Plains
  • These Plains extends for about 640km from the northeast to the south west and about 300km from west to east. The area between Ghaghra and the Yamuna rivers lies in Haryana and forms the Haryana plain. It acts as water-divide (doab) between the  Yamuna and the Sutlej River.
  1. Ganga Plain
  • The Ganga plain is the largest plain. It extends from the Yamuna river in the west upto Bangladesh in the east, covering a distance of about 1500 Km. with an average width of 300km.  The Kosi river, known as the “Sorrow of Bihar” has shifted its course by about 100km in the recent times.
  • In the lower part the Ganga and the Brahmaputra rivers divided into several channels in this region to form the largest delta in the world. The lower part of the delta called the Sundarbans  is covered with thick tidal and mangrove forests.  The sea – facing  region of the delta has a large number of estuaries, mangrove swamps, sand banks and islands.
  1. Brahmaputra Plain
  • The easternmost part of the northern plains is drained by the Brahmaputra River and its numerous tributaries. The Brahmaputra River originates in Tibet and is locally known as Tsangpo (the purifiers). Before entering India, it cuts through the Dihang gorge and enters the Assam valley.

III. Peninsular Plateau.

  • It is triangular in shape and covers an area of about 16 lakh It is surrounded by hill ranges on all sides, such as the Aravalli, Vindhya, Satpura and Rajmahal ranges in the north, the Western Ghats in the West and the Eastern Ghats in the east.
  • The average height of this plateau varies between 600-900 mts above the mean sea level. The general slope is from west to east, while in the Narmada – Tapti region it is from east to west. The Narmada River divides the peninsular plateau into two unequal parts. The northern part is called the ‘Central Highlands’ and the southern part is called the ‘Deccan Plateau’.
  1. A) Central Highland

1) Malwa Plateau is bounded by the Aravali range, the Vidghya Range and Bundelkhand.  It is made up of lava and is covered with black soil. The Chambal River and its tributaries have created ravines in the northern part of the plateau.

2) The Bundelkhand  is located towards the south of the Yamuna River and is composed of igneous and metamorphic rocks.  In the northern part, the Ganga and Yamuna system have  deposited alluvium.  The hilly areas are made up of sandstone and granite. Some rivers like Betwa and Ken have carved out deep gorges.

3) The Baghelkhand lies to the east of ‘Maikala Range’.  It is made up of west and granite in the east.  The central part of the plateaus acts as water divide between the son and the Mahanadhi  drainage basins.

4) The Chotanagpur Plateau is located towards the northeast.  It is drained by Damodar, Subarnarekha, Koel and Barakar river systems. The Damodar River flows from west to east through the middle of this region.  This region has a series of plateaus and hills, such as the Hazaribagh plateau to the north of the Damoder River, Ranchi plateau to the south and the Rajmahal hills in the north eastern part.

  1. B) Deccan plateau
  • It covers an area of about 5 lakh sq. km, It is bounded by the satpura and the Vindhya ranges in the northwest, the Mahadev and  Maikala ranges in the north, the Western Ghats in the west, and the Eastern Ghats in the east.  The Deccan plateau slopes from west to east. That is why the rivers like Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri flow eastward and join the Bay of Bengal. 
  • The northern part, also known as the Deccan trap is made up the lava rocks and has black regur In the southern part, the  Karnataka plateau merges with the Nilgiri Hills.  The Telengana plateau is drained by the Godavari, Krishna and Pennaru rivers.

Hill Ranges of Peninsular India

  1. i) Aravalli Range is one of the oldest fold mountain systems in the world. From northeast to southwest, its extent is about 800km.  In the north, the average height is about 400 metres, while in the south it is about 900 metres.  Gurushikhar (about 1722 metres) in the Abu hills is the highest peak of the Aravalli range.  The Aravalli ranges are highly eroded and dissected.  It is an example for relic mountain.
  2. ii) Vindhya Range rises as an escarpment overlooking the Narmada Valley, and runs parallel to it in the east –west direction for about 1200km. It is composed of sand stone, lime stone and shale. It acts as a watershed between the Ganga river system and the river systems of south India.

iii) Satpura range lies between the Narmada and the Tapti rivers.  It is a series of seven hills and stretches for about 900km.  A major Part of the Satpura Range has height of more than 900 meters.

  1. C) Western Ghats
  • Its extent is about 1600km from the Tapti valley in the north upto Kanyakumari in the south. That is why on the western side, the rivers flow swiftly and make a number of waterfalls like the Jog falls (270mts) on the Sharavati River. Thal Ghat, Bhor Ghat and PalGhat are  the three important passes in the  Western Ghats.
  • The Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats join at the Nilgiris hills and the highest point is Dodda Beta (2637m). ‘Udhagamandalam’, a hill station, lies at the foot of the Doda Beta in the
  • The highest peak of South India is ‘Anaimudi’ (2695m) . The western Ghats terminates about 20km north of cape comorin. Kodaikanal is a hill station which lies in the southern tip of the Palani hills.
  1. D) Eastern Ghats
  • These are a series of intersected hills, lying between the Mahanadhi River in Orissa and the Vaigai river in Tamil Nadu. ‘Mahendra Giri’ (1501m) is the highest peak in the northern part. In the southern part, the ‘Nallamalai range’ is the most prominent.  It is composed of quartz and slate.  The Eastern Ghats merge with the western Ghats at Nilgiris.
  1. IV) Coastal plains
  • It extends from the ‘Rann of Kutch’ in the west to the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta in the east, covering a distance of about 6000Kms. The area between the Western Ghats and the Arabian sea is called the Western coastal plain. The area between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal is called the Eastern coastal plain.  The two coastal plains meet each other at Kanyakumari the southernmost tip of the mainland of India.
  1. a) Western coastal plains
  • It stretches from the Rann of Kutch in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. The Gujarat plain, lying towards the east of Kutch and Kathiawar, was formed by the Narmada Tapti, Mahi and Sabarmati river. The ‘Konkan Plain’ lying towards the south of Gujarat, extends upto Goa for a distance of about 500km.  its width is about 50 to 80km.
  • ‘The ‘Karnataka plain’ extends from Goa to Mangalore, and has an average width of about 30 to 50 km. The ‘Malabar plain’ lies between Mangalore and Kanyakumari.
  1. b) Eastern Coastal Plains
  • It stretches from the delta region of west Bengal to Kanyakumari. The average width is about 120km and it reaches upto 200kms in the deltaic regions. The coastal plain between Mahanadi and Krishna rivers is known as the ‘Northern circars’. The part lying  between Krishna and Kaveri rivers is called the ‘coromandal coast’.
  • The ‘Utkal plain’ is found along the coast of Odisha and extends for about 400km and includes the deltaic region of Mahanadi river. The coast line of Utkal plain is smooth and fringed with sand dunes. Chilka Lake the biggest lake in India is located towards the south of the Mahanadi river delta. The ‘Andhra plain’ lies between Berhamput and Pulicat Lake.
  • The Andhra plain has straight coast and has few sites for good harbours, ‘Vishakhapatnam’ and Machilipatnam’ are notable examples. Kollerulake is found in Andhra plain. The ‘Tamil Nadu’ plain stretches from the pulicat lake to Kanyakumari for a distance of about 992 km. Its average width is about 100 km.  The fertile soil and well-developed irrigation  facilities have made the Kaveri river delta the ‘Granary of South India’.
  1. V) Indian Islands
  • The Andaman and Nicobar groups in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep in the Arabian sea. The Andamn Island groups are separated from the Nicobar Island groups by the ‘Ten Degree channel’. The extreme southern most point is the ‘Indira Point’.
  • The Lakshadweep groups of islands are located in the Arabian Sea and have only 27 islands out of which only 11 are inhabited. The Laccadives, Minicoy and Aminidivi group of islands were renamed as Lakshadweep (literally means one lakh islands) in 1973. This islands group is widely scattered over an area of about  Lakshadweep is located about 200 to 500 km south west of the Kerala coast.  These islands are a coral origin.

Significance of Indian Physiography

  • The presence of the Himalayas in north prevents southwest monsoon winds and cause rainfall and snowfall. If this mountain is absent, a major part of the Indian sub-continent would have been a hot and dry desert. Himalayas forms a natural boundary for the sub-continent. It is permanently frozen and is a barrier to invasion.
  • The northern plains of India are of great economic and social significance due to their fertile alluvial soils, flat level land, slow moving perennial rivers and a favourable climate, agriculture and trade have been developed. Peninsular Plateau is rich in mineral resources and has huge reserves of Iron, manganese, Copper, Bauxite mica, Chromium, Limestone etc.
  • A large number of big and small ports have been developed all along the coastal areas. These ports play an important role in the growth of national and international trade.

DRAINAGE (Rivers and Lakes)

  • Rivers, with their tributary systems, are the main channels of drainage of the land surface.

Birth of a River System

  • The sheet of water flows down the slope in the form of rills which, after uniting with others, form steams. A number of tributary streams develop to join the main stream at different points along its course. This main stream is known as a river and this stream together with its tributaries constitutes a river system.

Distinction Between Himalayan Rivers and Peninsular Rivers

Himalayan Rivers

Peninsular Rivers

The Himalayan rivers like Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra originate from the snow – covered mountains.

The Peninsular rivers like Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Narmada and Tapti originate from the peninsular plateaus.

These rivers have large basins and catchment areas

These rivers have small basins and catchment areas

These rivers flow through deep, nearly I – Shaped valleys.

These rivers flow through broad and shallow valleys.

These rivers are perennial in nature and receive water both from the monsoons and the melting of snow.

These rivers are seasonal as they receive water only from the monsoon rains.

Due to their perennial nature, these rivers are very useful for irrigation.

Due to the seasonal nature, these rivers are not very useful for irrigation.

These rivers are suitable for navigations as they flow over plain areas.

These are not suitable for navigation as they flow over uneven land in the plateau region.

These rivers form large deltas near their mouth like the Ganga-Brahmaputra delta.

The west flowing rivers mostly form estuaries and form smaller deltas.

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