Geographically India is divided into four physical divisions:
(i) The great Mountain Walls.
(ii) The great Indo-Gangetic plain.
(iii) The great Deccan Plateau and
(iv) The Coastal Ghats.
(i) The Great Mountain Walls or the Mountain Ranges of the Himalayas:
In the north the mighty Himalayas with its lofty mountain ranges and majestic peaks stretching from East to West is protecting the country from external aggression like a gigantic sentinel. The great mountain wall is about 2500 km. long and its width varies from 240 km. to 320 km. Mount Everest is the highest peak known to be the highest in the world with a height of 29,142 feet.
The ranges of Himalayas can be divided into two groups. The high mountain portions are covered with snow round the year. The holy rivers like the Gangas, the Jamuna and the Brahmaputra have originated from the Snow Mountains. The Western off shoots of the Himalayas consists of Hindu Kush, the safed Koh, the Sulaiman Koh, and the ‘Kirthar ranges’.
The height of the mountain in these regions are corporately low, the area is dry with scanty rainfall. In this belt there are several famous passes named the khyber, the Kuuram, the Tochi, the Gomal and the Bolan passes. Most of these passes are situated in low lying ground and thereby has made the country accessible to the foreign invaders.
The Eastern off shoots include the Khasi, the Lushai, the Jaintia, and the Naga Hills and are extended up to the Bay of Bengal. The hilly area and around are covered with beautiful dance forest with abundant rainfall. Its fertile area, rich forest and forest products have made the area highly attractive. The protective character of the Himalayas has considerably guided the course of the Indian history. The insurmountable height of the Himalayas well fortified by thick snow and impossibility to establish any land route has made the Himalayas a formidable barrier. Such a natural obstruction automatically, forbidding the invaders to cross the colossal mountain and embark upon on expedition.
Simultaneously it is protecting India from cold winds and adversities of the Siberian desert. Similarly in the Eastern side dense forest, in-congenial climate and continuous rainfall is equally preventing the outsiders from crossing the boundary. This natural frontier of India thus is giving security but not immunity from invasion separating India from the rest of Asia by well marked boundary lines.
The low lying mountain situated in the North-West with several convenient passes has provoked the rapacious invaders and mercenaries from the Central Asia to cross the border and invade India. Through these routes, the Greeks, the Persians, the Kushanas, the Hunas and the Mughals came and indulged in bloody warfare and invasions. With the result a fusion with the existing culture of the land and the alien culture have further, enriched the Indian Culture.
The Himalayas is the source of many useful and holy rivers like the Indus, the Gangas, the Jamuna, the Brahmaputra, and their tributaries. The snow of the mountain and heavy rainfall are responsible to ensure flow of sufficient water throughout the year through these rivers. The rivers irrigate plains, make land fertile that ultimately add to the richness in agriculture and abundant food supply.
The monsoon rising from the Indian ocean moving towards north-east, checked by eastern offshoots of the Himalayas causes heavy rainfall around Assam Hills and being checked by eastern hills thereby gives sufficient rainfall on the Indo-Gangetic plain. Thus it cannot be denied that the fertility of the northern plain of India is mainly due to the impact of the Himalayan region on the monsoon.
(ii) The great Indo-Gangetic Plain or Northern Plain:
It embraces the valleys of the Indus and the tributaries, the sandy deserts of Sind and Rajputana as well as the fertile region watered by the Ganges, the Jamuna and the Brahmaputra. It has always been the core of the Indian Continent. The plain formed by the deposit of rich soil washed down during countless centuries from the vast Himalayan ranges on the north and from the hills and uplands of the Deccan of the South.
The river system of Northern India namely the Indus and its tributaries—(the Sutlej, the Ravi, the Beas, the Chenab and the Jhelum), the Ganges and its affluent (the Jamuna, the Chambal, the Gomti, the Ghagra and the Sone) and the Brahmaputra and its feeders irrigate this wide plain.
These rivers played an important part in the evolution of Indian culture. It was in the valley of the river Indus that the earliest civilization of India flourished (Mohanjodaro and Harappa). The rivers of the Punjab and the Ganges determined also the nature and the course of the Aryan settlements in India.
The vast natural resources of this plain explain the fertility and thereby the density of the population of this region. The richness and fertility of land here also account for the multiplicity of big urban centres and the centres of trade and the capitals of ancient Kingdoms. All these factors have made this plain the lure of one invader after another.
This extensive northern plain is divided into three component parts by wedges projecting northward from Rajasthan towards the west and the Santhal Parganas farther east. The Santhal Paraganas separate the region of Bengal from the main Gangetic plain. In the south of Delhi lies the waterless tract that creates a narrow corridor known in ancient India as Kurukshetra running between the desert of Rajasthan and the Himalayas.
Due to the fertility of the region the inhabitants could get sufficient crops by minimum labour and spending minimum amount. As a matter of fact the people were confident of their comfortable livelihood. Thus they, had ample of time and opportunity to devote to art, literature, and other kinds of progressive activities.
It is worth mentioning here that right from the Vedic age the people of this region patronized creative and progressive art, and literature. Here famous poets, dramatists, philosophers like Kalidas, Barahamihira, Vanabhata took birth and left marks of their talents in literary fields. It is in this plain region many wars at Panipat and Kurukshetra were fought and the fate of India often has been decided.
Rajputana worked as a torch bearer of the Indian freedom by the Rajput kings when they carved out their independent states and fought back their foreign invaders with consummate Vigour. Thus the Indo-Gangetic plain contributed a maximum share in the process of cultural awakening of India.
(iii) The great Deccan Plateau:
The Deccan Plateau lies in the south of Indo-Gangetic plain. On its north the Vindhya and the Satpura ranges separates it from Indo-Gangetic plain and slope-down to the Cape Comerin. In the east it starts from the Bay of Bengal and spreads right up to Arabian Sea in the West. Rivers like the Godavari, the Krishna, the Kaveri, the Tungabhadra have swept the land and made the plateau highly covetous.
The sharp geographical feature has made the region distinctly different and considerably influenced the course of our history. Geographical condition has created several natural barriers which denied easy and smooth access from north to south. The Vindhynchal and the Satpura range, the dense forest around it have virtually prevented free- entry into the plateau.
Seas on three sides acted as strong hurdle forbidding uninterrupted intercourse from outside. Thus the plateau practically remained isolated from the north and countries. However it enjoyed a special significance and proved useful in many ways in building Indian history.
At a time when the onslaught of the repeated foreign invasions, rise of Jainism and Buddhism in one stage had cornered the Hinduism and brought it down, the South came forward as a Savior and extended all possible patronage. In fact in-spite of numerous odds the Hindu religion and culture remained intact in this region and flourished tremendously. Incidentally both Jainism and Buddhism failed to get desired response from the South and evidently the impervious Deccan firmly held the blessings of Hindu religion and culture and overshadowed the religious imperialism of the Jainism and Buddhism.
On the arrival of the Aryans in the northern plain the existing population was compelled to migrate towards the Deccan plateau. Without surrendering or embracing the new culture the migrants maintained their cultural identity. Even though the Aryan civilization appeared vulnerable yet the Dravidians maintained their own cultural heritage and survived undisturbed.
Deccan is full of hills, mountains and forests that provided opportunity to build many hilly un-accessible forts and hide-outs and roused patriotic spirit of the people to defend the motherland. It has made the inhabitants hardy brave and expert in jungle warfare and strong enough to outwit the invaders by the tactics of Guerrilla Warfare. Indeed the geographical conditions largely influenced the people to take up arms against the invaders and fight for liberty and territorial integrity.
The natural outlet of seas on three sides has given scope to explore sea routes with other countries and developed social economic and cultural ties with them. The Portuguese, the Dutch, the Persians, the Arabians all utilised the seaports and hastened to the land for trade and commerce.
Simultaneously the sea outlets gave away incentives to the people to sail across the sea and establish prosperous colonies in Java, Sumatra, Burma and Cambodia etc. The geographical demarcation between the North and the South was also responsible partly for generating two distinctly separate and independent types of civilizations.
In fact when crisis prevailed in the north the Hinduism and its culture were under suppression the south extended her generous arms and embraced the discomfited Hinduism and its culture and saved them from sure ruin. Thus the south played a vital role in preserving India’s originality and religious fervour of Hinduism.
(iv) Coastal Ghats:
The Coastal Ghats broadly forms the coast-belts of East and West of the Deccan Plateau. On the eastern side of the plateau the hill range running from the north to the South almost parallel to the coast line is known as the Eastern Ghats. On the West the mountain range running parallel to the Arabian sea is known as the Western Ghats.
The length is about 1120 km. and 3000 to 8000 feet above sea level. The lofty cliff has given positive advantages to build up a strong and formidable defence. This natural gift of nature has virtually helped the Marathas to defy the fierce Mughals and assert their superiority. The narrow strip of land sometimes not more than 32 km. in width stretching between coast and foot of the Ghats is known as Konkan and Malabar.
It has a rich soil and is evergreen with rice plants and coconut trees. It is highly productive and thickly populated. In the absence of modern communication facilities it remained isolated for a long time from the rest of the Deccan. Even now some of them practise customs found nowhere else in India.
On the other hand in the far north on the Western Coast the Narmada and the Tapti have broken through the Western scrap and cut wide valleys across them, making easy paths leading to the north. It is in this region that great kingdoms and civilized people have lived from early ages.
On the eastern side, the Coastal land which lies below the Eastern Ghats is much broader. The eastern scrap itself is of low elevation much less steep and it is broken in many places by the valley of the Deccan Rivers flowing eastwards. This made the communication of the east coast with the uplands of the Deccan easy. This resulted in building many cities, flourishing civilizations and powerful kingdoms to exhibit the courage and gallantry of the Indian Community.