India is a land of diversity in all manners. From culture, economy and even the landscape of India has diverse elements, all on one landmass. The wide range of physical features of India makes the country a complete geographical study. In fact, India has every possible landscape that the earth has. From cold mountains to arid deserts, vast plains, hot and humid plateau and wide sea shores and tropical islands, the physical features of India cover every terrain.
Origin of the Indian Landscape
Millions of years ago, the Peninsular Plateau region (the oldest landmass) was a part of the Gondwana Land which covered India, Australia, South Africa, and South America. Over hundreds of years of shifting landmass and ocean currents broke this landmass into multiple pieces.
One such piece- the Indo-Australian plate started shifting northwards, where it collided with the Eurasian plate (now Europe). Consequently, this collision caused the landmass to fold and become, what we know as the Himalayas today. Thereafter, many such geological events led to the formation of each of the varied physical features of India.
Main Physical Features of India
The physical features of India can be divided into six broad categories according to their physiographic forms:
The northernmost landscape of the country highlights the fold mountains of the Himalayas. Though geologically young, the Himalayan Mountains are the loftiest and the most rugged of the world. Since they stretch across 2500 KM from Kashmir in the north, through Arunachal Pradesh in the North East, these mountains form an arc. This helps keep the cold arctic winds from reaching the tropical landmass.
One of the most significant of all the physical features of India, the Himalayas vary in width between 400 Km to 150 KM. Furthermore, the entire mountain belt is divided into three main sections-
- The Greater Himalayas or the Himadri, with average peaks reaching up to 6000 meters above the sea-level.
- The Lesser Himalayas with average peaks rising as high as 4000 meters
- The Outer Himalayas or the Shiwalik Range
- The Eastern Hills or the Purvanchal covering North Bengal, and northernmost parts of the North Eastern states.
See more interesting facts about Himalayas here.
The three major river systems of India- Indus, Ganga and the Brahmaputra along with their tributaries have fed the foothills of the Himalayas. Since these river basins had a huge amount of alluvial deposits from these glacial rivers, these regions grew fertile over hundreds of years and led to the Northern Plains. Furthermore, the Northern Plains can again be divided into three significant parts-
- The Punjab Plains- The Indus River and its tributaries lead to the formation of these vast plains, a major part of which now lies in Pakistan
- The Ganga Plains- This spreads across the states of North India, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Delhi and West Bengal.
- The Brahmaputra Plains- This covers major parts of Assam and the other North Eastern States
The oldest landmass of India, the Peninsular Plateau was the result of the tectonic shifts of the Gondwana Land. This massive plateau area is further divided as-
- The Central Highlands – lying on the north of the Narmada River and covering a large part of the Malwa Plateau.
- The Deccan Plateau- a triangular landmass lying on the south of the Narmada River. The Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats border the Deccan plateau on its eastern and western sides respectively. While the Satpura mountain ranges stand on its northern part, the Western Ghats have higher elevation with a maximum height of 1600 meters. On the other hand, the Eastern Ghats reach to a maximum of 600 meters in height.
Read more about Peninsular Rivers here.
The undulating sandy plains covered with sand dunes on the western fringes of the Aravali Hills comprise the Indian Desert. With rainfall as low as 150 mm per annum, this region is the aridest in the country and thus, low on greenery. The states of Rajasthan and northwestern parts of Gujarat collectively form the desert region.
Right on the outer edges of the Indian peninsula, lies the narrow strips of the coastal plains. These sea fed regions cover the shores of the Bay of Bengal in the East and the Arabian Sea on the West. The western coast along the Arabian Sea can again be divided into three sections-
- The Konkan Coast- covering coastal Maharashtra and Goa
- The Kannada Plains- covering coasts of Karnataka
- The Malabar Coast- covering Kerala
On the other hand, the Eastern coast has two broad sections-
- The Northern Circar
- The Coromandel Coast
Two groups of islands lie on the two oceans surrounding the main landmass of the subcontinent. These most likely complete the physical features of India. And, the island region is divided by the mainland as well as the seas. Thus forming two major island states-
- The Lakshadweep, which lies closer to the Malabar Coast. And, these consist of clusters of coral islands collectively named Lakshadweep.
- The Andaman & Nicobar Islands which are off the Bay of Bengal and lie on the Indian Ocean. These group of islands are larger in size than their western counterparts and have rich biodiversity. Because the Andaman & Nicobar islands are closer to the equator, the region also experiences equatorial climate.