Geography of India | Physio-graphic Divisions of India

India is the seventh largest country in the world and second largest country in Asia. It forms a part of south Asia. It is separated by the Himalayas from the rest of the continent. Many of the India states are larger than several countries of the world. India contains for about 2.4% of the total area of the world with an area of 32,87,263 sq.km.

Geography of India
Geographical Map of India

Land and Water Frontiers of India

India land frontier with Pakistan in the west, Afghanistan in the north-west, China, Nepal and Bhutan in the north and Bangladesh and Myanmar in the east.

India’s longest border is with Bangladesh with 4156 km. The shortest border is with Afghanistan with 106 km. About 6,100 km long coastline of India is surrounded on three sides of the country by the Indian Ocean in the south, Arabian sea in the west and the Bay of Bengal in the east.

India and Sri Lanka are separated by a narrow and shallow sea which is called as Palk Strait. India is called as subcontinent.

Location and Extent of India

India is located of the north Eastern hemisphere. India extends from 8°4 ‘N to 37°6 ‘N latitudes and 68°7 ‘E to 97°25 ‘E longitudes.

The southernmost point of the country is Pygmalion Point or Indira Point (6°45’N latitude) located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The southernmost point of main land of India is Cape Comorin (Kanya Kumari). The north-south extent of India is 3,214 km and it extends from Indira Col in Jammu and Kashmir in the north to Kanya Kumari in the south.

The east-west extension is 2933 km and it stretches from Rann of Kutch (Gujarat) in the west to Arunachal Pradesh in the east. The Tropic of Cancer (23°30′ N) passes through the middle of the country dividing it into two halves as northern temperate and southern tropical lands.

India has been divided into 29 states and 7 union territories for administrative convenience. After 31st October 2019 no. of states will be 28 and union territory will be 9. Jammu & Kashmir has been divided to 2 union territory namely Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh.

Physio-graphic Divisions of India

The physiographic divisions of India start with the great Himalayan peaks in the north, the sea beaches in the south, the Thar desert in the west and the breath-taking natural heritage in the east.

These are making India a geographically vibrant, colourful and truly incredible country. These are varied nature of physio-graphic divisions in India. India has many land-forms which divided into the following physio-graphic divisions:

  1. The Himalayan Mountains
  2. The Great Northern Plains
  3. The Peninsular plateau
  4. The Indian Desert
  5. The Coastal Plains
  6. The Islands

The Himalayan Mountains

The term “Himalaya” is derived from Sanskrit. It means “The Abode of Snow”.

The Himalayan Mountains (Northern Mountains) consist of the youngest and the loftiest mountain chains in the world.

It covers for a distance of 2,500 km from the Indus in the west to Brahmaputra in the east. The width of the Northern Mountains varies from 500 km in Kashmir to 200 km in Arunachal Pradesh.

The Pamir Knot, which is popularly known as the “Roof of the World” connects between the Himalayas and the high ranges of Central Asia. From the Pamir, Himalayas extend eastward in the form of an arc shape.

The Northern Mountains is grouped into three divisions.

  1. The Trans-Himalayas
  2. Himalayas
  3. Eastern or Purvanchal hills.

The Trans-Himalayas

The Trans-Himalayas also known as western Himalaya’s. It lies to the north of the Himalayan range. It lies in Jammu and Kashmir and Tibetan plateau. It is also known as Tibetan Himalayas due to its areal extent is more in Tibet.

The Trans-Himalayas are about 40 km wide in its eastern and western extremities. Its central part is about 225 km wide. They contain the Tethys sediments.

The rocks of this region contain fossils bearing marine sediments which are underlain by ‘Tertiary granite’.

It has partly metamorphosed sediments and constitutes the core of the Himalayan axis. Zaskar, Ladakh, Kailash, and Karakoram are the prominent ranges of Trans Himalayas.

The Himalayas

The Himalaya is an young fold mountain and constitutes the core part of northern mountains. It was formed by the movement of Angara land mass in the north and Gondwana land mass in the south.
The Tethys sea found between these two land masses was uplifted by the compression and the resultant land-form was the Himalayas.

It consists of many ranges. The main divisions of the Himalayas are:

  1. The Greater Himalayas,
  2. The Lesser Himalayas and
  3. The Siwaliks.

List of Peaks and its height

PeaksHeight (in Metres)Country
Mt. EverestNepal8848
Mt. K2 or Godwin AustenIndia8611
KanchenjungaIndia8598
MakaluNepal8481
DhaulagiriNepal8172
Nanga ParbatIndia8126
AnnapurnaNepal8078
Nanda DeviIndia7817
KametIndia7756
Namcha BarwaIndia7756
Gurla MandhataNepal7728

The Greater Himalayas

The Greater Himalayas is also known as The Himadri. The Greater Himalayas rise abruptly like a wall north of the Lesser Himalayas. The Greater Himalayas are about 25 km wide and average height is about 6,000 metres.

The Kedar Range of the Greater Himalayas in Geography of India
The Kedar Range of the Greater Himalayas rises behind Kedarnath Temple (Indian state of Uttarakhand), which is one of the twelve jyotirlinga shrines.

The Greater Himalayas receive lesser rainfall as compared to the Lesser Himalayas and the Siwaliks.

Kangchenjunga the third highest mountain in the world
Kangchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world, near the Zemu Glacier in Sikkim, India

Physical weathering is less effective over the Greater Himalayas as compared to the other ranges. Almost all the lofty peaks of Himalayas are located in this range. Mt. Everest (8,848 m) and Kanchenjunga (8,586 m). Mt.Everest is located in Nepal and Kanchenjunga is located between Nepal and Sikkim. It is region of permanent snow cover. So, it has many glaciers. Gangotri, Yamunotri and Siachen are some of them.

The Lesser Himalayas or The Himachal

The Lesser Himalayas is also known as The Himachal. It is the middle range of Himalayas. Height of this range lies from 3, 700 to 4,500 metres. Its width lies up to 80 km. The major rocks of this range are slate, limestone and quartzite.

This region is subjected to extensive erosion due to heavy rainfall, deforestation and urbanisation. Pir Panjal, Dhauladhar and Mahabharat are the mountain ranges found in this part.

Major hill stations of the Himalayas are located in this range. Shimla, Mussourie, Nainital, Almora, Ranikhet and Darjeeling are the familiar ones.

The Siwaliks or Outer Himalayas

The Siwaliks is also known as the Outer Himalayas. The Siwaliks extend from Jammu and Kashmir to Assam. It is partly made by the debris brought by the Himalayan rivers.

The altitude varying between 900-1100 metres elevation of this range is 1300 m. The width of Siwaliks vary from 10 km in the east to 50 km in the west. It is the most discontinuous range.

The longitudinal valleys found between the Siwaliks and the Lesser Himalayas are called Duns in the west and Duars in the east. These are the ideal sites for the development of settlements in this region.

Purvanchal Hills

Dafla Hills, Abor Hills, Mishmi Hills, Patkai Bum Hills, Naga Hills, Manipur Hills, Mizo Hills, Tripura Hills, Mikir Hills, Garo Hills, Khasi Hills and Jaintia Hills are the hills which are collectively known as purvanchal Hills.

These are the eastern off-shoot of Himalayas. It extended in the north-eastern states of India. Most of these hills are located along the border of India and Myanmar and others are inside India.

Importance of Himalayas
  • Himalayas blocks southwest monsoon winds and causes heavy rainfall to north India.
  • It forms a natural barrier to the subcontinent.
  • It is the source for many perennial rivers like Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra etc.
  • The Northern Mountains are described as the paradise of tourists due to its natural beauty.
  • Many hill stations and pilgrim centres like Amarnath, Kedarnath, Badrinath and Vaishnavi Devi temples are situated here.
  • It provides raw material for many forest-based industries.
  • It prevents the cold winds blowing from the central Asia and protects India from severe cold.
  • Himalayas are renowned for the rich biodiversity.

The Great Northern Plains

The fertile land extending across seven north Indian states and it forms the Great Northern Plains.

The Great Northern Plains lies to the south of the northern mountains. This plain is one of the most extensive stretches of the alluvium in the world. It is formed by the rivers Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra and their tributaries.

The length of the plain is about 2,400 km and the width lies from 240 to 320 km. Its width increases from east to west. It covers an area of over 7 lakh sq.km.

The Great Plains of India is remarkably a homogeneous surface with an imperceptible slope. They are formed mostly by the depositional process of the Himalayan and Vindhyan rivers. These rivers deposit enormous quantity of sediments deposited along the foothills and flood plains.

The important characteristics features of sediment deposition in the plains areas as follows:

  1. The Bhabar Plain
  2. The Tarai Tract
  3. The Bhangar Plains
  4. The Khadar Plains
  5. Delta Plains

The Bhabar Plain

This plain is made up of gravels and unassorted sediments deposited by the Himalayan rivers. The porosity of this plain is so high that most of the small streams flow over this region disappear.

It lies to the south of the Siwalik from west to east (Jammu Division to Assam). Its width lies from 8 to 15 km. It is wider in the western plains (Jammu Division) than in the east (Assam).

This plain is not suitable for cultivation, only big trees with large roots thrive in this region.

The Tarai Tract

The Tarai Tract lies to the south of Bhabar plains. It is a zone of excessive dampness, thick forests and rich wild life. The width of this belt is 15-30 km. The Tarai is wider in the eastern parts of the Great Plains, especially in Brahmaputra Valley due to heavy rainfall. In many states, the Tarai forests have been cleared for cultivation.

The Bhangar Plains

The Bhangar represent the upland alluvial tracts of the Great Plains of India, which is formed by the older alluviums.

The Bhangar land lies above the flood limits of the rivers. This soil is dark in colour, rich in humus content, well drained and useful for agriculture.

The Khadar Plains

The new alluvium tracts along the courses of the rivers are known as the ‘Khadar’ or ‘Bet’ lands.

The Khadar tracts are enriched by fresh deposits of silt every year during rainy seasons. The Khadar land consists of sand, silt, clay and mud. It is highly fertile soil.

Delta Plains

The deltaic plain is an extension of the Khadar land. It covers about 1.9 lakh sq.km in the lower reaches of the Ganga River.

It is an area of deposition as the river flows in this tract sluggishly. The deltaic plain consists mainly of old mud, new mud and marsh.

In the delta region, the up lands are called ‘Chars’ while the marshy areas are called ‘Bils’.

According deposition of sediments by various rivers and topographical characteristics, the Northern Plains of India is divided into the four regions:

  1. Rajasthan Plains
  2. Punjab – Haryana Plains
  3. Ganga Plains
  4. Brahmaputra Plains

Rajasthan Plains:

It is located to the west of Aravalli range. It covers an area of about 1,75,000 sq.km.

Rajasthan plain is formed by the deposition of the river Luni and the long-vanished river Saraswathi. There are several salt lakes in Rajasthan. The Sambhar Salt Lake (Pushkar Lake) near Jaipur is the prominent one.

Punjab – Haryana Plains:

It lies to the north-east of the Great Indian Desert. Punjab – Haryana Plain is found over an area of about 1.75 lakh sq.km.

The Punjab – Haryana plains are formed by the deposition of the rivers Sutlej, Beas and Ravi. This plain acts as water – divide (doab). The two major watershed it divides are Yamuna – Sutlej and Ganga – Yamuna.

Ganga Plains:

It extends from the Yamuna River in the west to Bangladesh in the east. The total area covered by this plain is about 3.75 sq.km.

River Ganga and its tributaries such as Ghaghra, Gandak, Kosi, Yamuna, Chambal, Betwa etc. constitute this plain by their sediments and make a great plain in India.

It is the largest plain of India. The general slope of the entire plain (upper, middle and lower Ganga plains) is towards east and south-east.

Brahmaputra Plains:

It is located mainly in the state of Assam. It is a low – level plain located in the eastern part of the Great Plains of India. It is formed by the deposits of river Brahmaputra. It covers an area of about 56,275 sq.km. These plains create alluvial fans and marshy tracts.

The Peninsular Plateaus

The plateau region lies to the south of the Great Northern Plains. This is the largest physiographic division of our country. It covers an area of about 16 lakh sq.km (about half of the total area of the country). It is an old rocky plateau region. The topography consists of a series of plateaus and hill ranges interspersed with river valleys.

Aravalli hills mark the north-western boundary of the plateau region. Its northern and north-eastern boundaries are marked by the Bundelkhand upland, Kaimur and Rajmahal hills.

The Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats mark the western and eastern boundaries respectively. The altitude of a large portion of the plateau is more than 600 m from mean sea level.

The peak of Anaimudi is the highest point in the plateau. Its height is 2,695 mtrs. It is located in Anaimalai. The general slope of this plateau is towards east.

The Great Plateau is a part of the Gondwana (very ancient one) land mass. Due to the old age, the rivers in this region attained their base level and developed broad and shallow valleys.

The river Narmada divides the plateau region of India broadly into two parts. The region lying to the north of the Narmada is called the Central Highlands and the region lying to the south of Narmada is called the Deccan Plateau.

All the major rivers i.e. Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri etc. lying to the south of the Vindhyas flow eastwards and fall into the Bay of Bengal. Narmada and Tapti are the two rivers situated to the south of the Vindhyas flow westward. Their movement towards west is due to the presence of a rift valley in the region.

Central Highlands

The Central Highlands extend between the river Narmada and the Northern Great Plains.

The Aravallis form the west and north western edge of the Central Highlands. These hills extend from Gujarat, through Rajasthan to Delhi in the north-westerly direction for a distance of about 700 km.

The height of these hills is about 1,500 mtrs in southwest while near Delhi the height is hardly 400 mtrs. Gurushikhar with 1,722 m is the highest peak of this range.

The Western part of the Central Highland is known as the Malwa Plateau. It lies to the southeast of Aravallis and to the north of Vindhyachal Range.

The rivers Chambal, Betwa and Ken drain the Malwa Plateau before they join the river Yamuna.

The part of the Central Highlands which extends to the east of Malwa Plateau is known as Bundelkhand and its further extension is known as Bagelkhand.

The eastern part of the Central High lands which lies in the north eastern part of the Indian Plateau is known as Chhota-Nagpur Plateau. It covers so many place of Jharkhand, adjacent parts of Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar and Chhattisgarh.

This region is very rich in mineral resources particularly iron ore and coal.

Deccan Plateau

This physiographic division is the largest part of the plateau region of India. The shape of this plateau is roughly triangular. One of the sides of this triangle is marked by the line joining Kanyakumari with Rajmahal Hills and this line passes through the Eastern Ghats.

The second arm is marked by the Satpura Range, Mahadeo Hills, Maikal Range and the Rajmahal Hills.

The third arm is marked by the Western Ghats. The area of this Plateau is about 7 lakh square km and the height ranges from 500 to 1000 metres above sea level.

The Western Ghats forms the western edge of the Peninsular Plateau.
It runs parallel to the Arabian Sea coast. The northern part of this range is called as Sahyadris. The height of the Sahyadris increases from north to south.

Anaimudi is a sort of tri-junction of the Anaimalai Range, the Cardamom Hills and the Palani Hills. Kodaikanal is a beautiful hill resort situated on the Palani Hills. Eastern Ghats run from southwest to northeast form the eastern edge of this Plateau. This range is also called as Poorvadri.

The Eastern Ghats join the Western Ghats at the Nilgiri hills, bordering Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The Eastern Ghats are not continuous like the Western Ghats. The rivers of Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Pennar and Kaveri have dissected this range at many places.

The Indian Desert

The Thar desert, also known as the Great Indian desert. It is a large arid region in the north western part of the Indian subcontinent that covers an area of 2,00,000 km2 and forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan.

It is the 7th largest desert in the world, and world’s 9th largest sub-tropical desert located in Western part of the India.

The desert lies in the western part of the aravalli range and covers 2/3 of Rajasthan state.

There are two major divisions in the Thar desert. They are known as the Actual desert region (Marusthali) and the semi desert region (Bhangar).

Many different types of sand dunes and salt lakes (Dhands) are seen here.

The Coastal Plains

The Peninsula Plateau of India is flanked by narrow coastal plains of varied width from north to south, It is known as the Western Coastal Plains and the Eastern Coastal Plains.

They were formed by the depositional action of the rivers and the erosional and depositional actions of the sea-waves.

The Indian coastal plains are divided into the two divisions:

  • The Western Coastal Plains and
  • The Eastern Coastal Plains.

The Western Coastal Plain

It lies between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea. It extends from Rann of kutch in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. Its width lies from 10 to 80 km.

It is characterised by sandy beaches, coastal sand dunes, mud flats, lagoons, estuary, laterite platforms and residual hills. The northern part of the West Coastal Plain is known as Konkan Plain.

The middle part of this plain is known as Kanara.

The southern part of the plain is known as Malabar coast which is about 550 km long and 20-100 km wide. This part of the coast is characterized by sand dunes.

Along the coast, there are numerous shallow lagoons and backwaters called Kayals and Teris. Vembanad is a famous back water lake found in this region.

The Eastern Coastal Plain

It lies between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal. It stretches along the states of West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. These plains are formed by the alluvial fillings of the littoral zone by the east flowing rivers of India.

The coastal plain consists mainly of the recent alluvial deposits. This coastal plain has a regular shoreline with well-defined beaches.

The coastal plain between Mahanadi and Krishna river is known as the Northern Circars. The southern part lies between Krishna and Kaveri rivers is called Coromandal coast.

The Marina beach on this coast in Chennai and it is the second longest beach in the world.

Among the back water lakes of this coast, lake Chilka (Odisha) is the largest lake in India located to the southwest of the Mahanadi delta, the Kolleru Lake which lies between the deltas of Godavari and Krishna and the Pulicat Lake lies in the border of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the well-known lakes in the east coastal plain.

The Islands

India has two major island groups namely Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep. The former group consists of 572 islands which are located in Bay of Bengal, and the later one has 27 islands and are located in Arabian Sea.

The islands of Andaman and Nicobar are largely tectonic and volcanic origin. India’s only active volcano is found on Barren Island in Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands, while the islands of the Arabian Sea are mainly coral origin.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

These islands are located in an elevated portion of the submarine mountains. Since these islands lie close to the equator, the climate remains hot and wet throughout the year and has dense forests. The area of the island group is about 8,249 sq.km.

The entire group of islands is divided into two. They are Andaman in the north and the Nicobar in the south. These island groups are of great strategic importance for the country. Port Blair is the administrative capital of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Ten Degree Channel separates Andaman from Nicobar group. The southernmost tip, the Indira Point is a part of Nicobar Island.

Lakshadweep Islands

This is a small group of coral islands located off the west coast of India. It covers an area of 32 sq. km. Kavaratti is its administrative capital.

Lakshadweep islands are separated from the Maldive Islands by the Eight Degree Channel.

The uninhabited “Pitt Island” of this group has a bird sanctuary. Earlier, it had three divisions namely Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi.

It was named as Lakshadweep in 1973.

Offshore Islands

Besides the two group of islands, India has a number of islands along the Western Coast, Eastern Coast, in the delta region of Ganga and in the Gulf of Mannar.

Many of these islands are uninhabited and are administered by the adjacent states.

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