Mountains in India
A great arc of mountains, consisting of the Himalayas, Hindu Kush, and Patkai ranges define the northern Indian subcontinent. These were formed by the ongoing tectonic collision of the Indian and Eurasian plates. The mountains in these ranges include some of the world’s tallest mountains which act as a natural barrier to cold polar winds. They also facilitate the monsoon winds which in turn influence the climate in India. Rivers originating in these mountains, flow through the fertile Indo–Gangetic plains. These mountains are recognised by biogeographers as the boundary between two of the Earth’s great ecozones: the temperate Palearctic that covers most of Eurasia and the tropical and subtropical Indomalaya ecozone which includes the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and Indonesia.
India has eight major mountain ranges having peaks of over 1,000 m (3,281 ft):
- The Himalayan range is considered as the world’s highest mountain range, with its tallest peak Mt. Everest on the Nepal–China border. They form India’s northeastern border, separating it from northeastern Asia. They are one of the world’s youngest mountain ranges and extend almost uninterrupted for 2,500 km (1,553 mi), covering an area of 500,000 km2 (193,051 sq mi). The Himalayas extend from Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Arunachal Pradesh in the east. These states along with Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim lie mostly in the Himalayan region. Numerous Himalayan peaks rise over 7,000 m (22,966 ft) and the snow line ranges between 6,000 m (19,685 ft) in Sikkim to around 3,000 m (9,843 ft) in Kashmir. Kanchenjunga—on the Sikkim–Nepalborder—is the highest point in the area administered by India. Most peaks in the Himalayas remain snowbound throughout the year. The Himalayas act as a barrier to the frigid katabatic winds flowing down from Central Asia. Thus, North India is kept warm or only mildly cooled during winter; in summer, the same phenomenon makes India relatively hot.
- The Karakoram is situated in the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir. It has more than sixty peaks above 7,000 m (22,966 ft), including K2, the second highest peak in the world 8,611 m (28,251 ft). K2 is just 237 m (778 ft) smaller than the 8,848 m (29,029 ft) Mount Everest. The range is about 500 km (311 mi) in length and the most heavily glaciated part of the world outside of the polar regions. The Siachen Glacier at 70 km (43 mi) and the Biafo Glacier at 63 km (39 mi) rank as the world’s second and third-longest glaciers outside the polar regions. Just to the west of the northwest end of the Karakoram, lies the Hindu Raj range, beyond which is the Hindu Kush range. The southern boundary of the Karakoram is formed by the Gilgit, Indus and Shyok rivers, which separate the range from the northwestern end of the Himalayas.
- The Patkai, or Purvanchal, are situated near India’s eastern border with Burma. They were created by the same tectonic processes which led to the formation of the Himalayas. The physical features of the Patkai mountains are conical peaks, steep slopes and deep valleys. The Patkai ranges are not as rugged or tall as the Himalayas. There are three hill ranges that come under the Patkai: the Patkai–Bum, the Garo–Khasi–Jaintia and the Lushai hills. The Garo–Khasi range lies in Meghalaya.Mawsynram, a village near Cherrapunji lying on the windward side of these hills, has the distinction of being the wettest place in the world, receiving the highest annual rainfall.
- The Vindhya range runs across most of central India, extending 1,050 km (652 mi). The average elevation of these hills is 3,000 m (9,843 ft). They are believed to have been formed by the wastes created by the weathering of the ancient Aravali mountains. Geographically, it separates northern India from southern India. The western end of the range lies in eastern Gujarat, near its border with Madhya Pradesh, and runs east and north, almost meeting the Ganges at Mirzapur.
- The Satpura Range begins in eastern Gujarat near the Arabian Sea coast and runs east across Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. It extends 900 km (559 mi) with many peaks rising above 1,000 m (3,281 ft). It is triangular in shape, with its apex at Ratnapuri and the two sides being parallel to the Tapti and Narmada rivers. It runs parallel to the Vindhya Range, which lies to the north, and these two east-west ranges divide the Indo–Gangetic plain from the Deccan Plateau located north of River Narmada.
- The Aravali Range is the oldest mountain range in India, running across Rajasthan from northeast to southwest direction, extending approximately 800 km (497 mi). The northern end of the range continues as isolated hills and rocky ridges intoHaryana, ending near Delhi. The highest peak in this range is Guru Shikhar at Mount Abu, rising to 1,722 m (5,650 ft), lying near the border with Gujarat. The Aravali Range is the eroded stub of an ancient fold mountain system. The range rose in a Precambrian event called the Aravali–Delhiorogen. The range joins two of the ancient segments that make up the Indian craton, the Marwar segment to the northwest of the range, and the Bundelkhand segment to the southeast.
- The Western Ghats or Sahyadri mountains run along the western edge of India’s Deccan Plateau and separate it from a narrow coastal plain along the Arabian Sea. The range runs approximately 1,600 km (994 mi) from south of the Tapti River near the Gujarat–Maharashtra border and across Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu to the southern tip of the Deccan peninsula. The average elevation is around 1,000 m (3,281 ft). Anai Mudi in the Anaimalai Hills 2,695 m (8,842 ft) in Kerala is the highest peak in the Western Ghats.
- The Eastern Ghats are a discontinuous range of mountains, which have been eroded and vivisected by the four major rivers of southern India, the Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri. These mountains extend from West Bengal to Orissa, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, along the coast and parallel to the Bay of Bengal. Though not as tall as the Western Ghats, some of its peaks are over 1,000 m (3,281 ft) in height. The Nilgiri hills in Tamil Nadu lies at the junction of the Eastern and Western Ghats. Jindagada Peak (1657 m), near Araku Valley of Andhra Pradesh, is the tallest peak in Eastern Ghats.
The Indo-Gangetic plains, also known as the Great Plains are large alluvial plains dominated by three main rivers, the Indus, Ganges, andBrahmaputra. They run parallel to the Himalayas, from Jammu and Kashmir in the west to Assam in the east, and drain most of northern and eastern India. The plains encompass an area of 700,000 km2 (270,000 sq mi). The major rivers in this region are the Ganges, Indus, and Brahmaputra along with their main tributaries–Yamuna, Chambal, Gomti, Ghaghara, Kosi, Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Chenab, and Tista—as well as the rivers of the Ganges Delta, such as the Meghna.
The great plains are sometimes classified into four divisions:
- The Bhabar belt is adjacent to the foothills of the Himalayas and consists of boulders and pebbles which have been carried down by streams. As the porosity of this belt is very high, the streams flow underground. The Bhabar is generally narrow with its width varying between 7 to 15 km.
- The Terai belt lies south of the adjacent Bhabar region and is composed of newer alluvium. The underground streams reappear in this region. The region is excessively moist and thickly forested. It also receives heavy rainfall throughout the year and is populated with a variety of wildlife.
- The Bangar belt consists of older alluvium and forms the alluvial terrace of the flood plains. In the Gangetic plains, it has a low upland covered by laterite deposits.
- The Khadar belt lies in lowland areas after the Bangar belt. It is made up of fresh newer alluvium which is deposited by the rivers flowing down the plain.
The Indo-Gangetic belt is the world’s most extensive expanse of uninterrupted alluvium formed by the deposition of silt by the numerous rivers. The plains are flat making it conducive for irrigation through canals. The area is also rich in ground water sources.
The plains are one of the world’s most intensely farmed areas. The main crops grown are rice and wheat, which are grown in rotation. Other important crops grown in the region include maize, sugarcane and cotton. The Indo-Gangetic plains rank among the world’s most densely populated areas.