TN History Textbook: India- Geographical Features and their Impact on History Notes | Study Must Read (Old & New) NCERTs for IAS Preparation - UPSC

UPSC: TN History Textbook: India- Geographical Features and their Impact on History Notes | Study Must Read (Old & New) NCERTs for IAS Preparation - UPSC

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 Page 1


1
LESSON 1
INDIA- GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES
AND THEIR IMPACT ON HISTORY
It is generally said that history has two eyes – one is
chronology and the other is geography. In other words time and
space are significant factors in determining the historical process. In
particular, a country’s geography largely determines its historical
events. The history of India is also influenced by its geography.
Hence, the study of Indian geographical features contributes to the
better understanding of its history.
The Indian subcontinent is a well-defined geographical unit.
It may be divided into three major regions: the Himalayan Mountains,
the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the Southern Peninsula. There are
five countries in the subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Nepal and Bhutan. India is the largest among them and it comprises
twenty-eight states and six Union Territories. According to the 2001
Census, the population of India is over one hundred crores.
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The geographical features of India.
2. The Himalayan Mountains and their impact on Indian
history.
3. The Gangetic plains and their role in Indian history.
4. The Southern Peninsula and its effects on South Indian
history.
5. India’s unity in diversity
Page 2


1
LESSON 1
INDIA- GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES
AND THEIR IMPACT ON HISTORY
It is generally said that history has two eyes – one is
chronology and the other is geography. In other words time and
space are significant factors in determining the historical process. In
particular, a country’s geography largely determines its historical
events. The history of India is also influenced by its geography.
Hence, the study of Indian geographical features contributes to the
better understanding of its history.
The Indian subcontinent is a well-defined geographical unit.
It may be divided into three major regions: the Himalayan Mountains,
the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the Southern Peninsula. There are
five countries in the subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Nepal and Bhutan. India is the largest among them and it comprises
twenty-eight states and six Union Territories. According to the 2001
Census, the population of India is over one hundred crores.
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The geographical features of India.
2. The Himalayan Mountains and their impact on Indian
history.
3. The Gangetic plains and their role in Indian history.
4. The Southern Peninsula and its effects on South Indian
history.
5. India’s unity in diversity
3 2
The valley of Kashmir is surrounded by high mountains. However,
it could be reached through several passes. The Kashmir valley
remains unique for its tradition and culture. Nepal is also a small
valley under the foot of the Himalayas and it is accessible from
Gangetic plains through a number of passes.
In the east, the Himalayas extend up to Assam. The important
mountains in this region are Pat Koi, Nagai and Lushai ranges. These
hills are covered with thick forests due to heavy rains and mostly
remain inhospitable. The mountains of northeast India is difficult to
cross and many parts of this region had remained in relative isolation.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain
The Indo-Gangetic plain is irrigated by three important rivers,
the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra. This vast plain is most fertile
and productive because of the alluvial soil brought by the streams
of the rivers and its tributaries.
The Indus river rises beyond the Himalayas and its major
tributaries are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. The Punjab
plains are benefited by the Indus river system. The literal meaning of
the term ‘Punjab’ is the land of five rivers. Sind is situated at the lower
valley of the Indus. The Indus plain is known for its fertile soil.
The Thar Desert and Aravalli hills are situated in between the
Indus and Gangetic plains. Mount Abu is the highest point (5650 ft.) in
the Aravalli hills. The Ganges river rises in the Himalayas, flows south
and then towards the east. The river
Yamuna flows almost parallel to the
Ganges and then joins it. The area
between these two rivers is called doab
– meaning the land between two rivers.
The important tributaries of the Ganges
are the Gomati, Sarayu, Ghagra and
Gandak. Thar Desert 
The Himalayan Mountains
The Himalayan Mountains are situated on the north of India.
Starting from the Pamir in the extreme northwest of India, the mighty
Himalayan range extends towards northeast. It has a length of nearly
2560 kilometres with an average breadth of 240 to 320 kilometres.
The highest peak of the Himalayas is known as Mount Everest with
its height being 8869 metres. It acts as a natural wall and protects
the country against the cold arctic winds blowing from Siberia through
Central Asia. This keeps the climate of northern India fairly warm
throughout the year. The Himalayan region is mostly inhospitable in
winter and generally covered with snow.
It was considered for a long time that the Himalayas stood as
a natural barrier to protect India against invasions. But, the passes
in the northwest mountains such as the Khyber, Bolan, Kurram and
Gomal provided easy routes between India and Central Asia. These
passes are situated in the Hindukush, Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges.
From prehistoric times, there was a continuous flow of traffic through
these passes. Many people came to India through these passes as
invaders and immigrants. The Indo-Aryans, the Indo-Greeks,
Parthians, Sakas, Kushanas, Hunas and Turks entered India through
these passes. The Swat valley in this region formed another
important route. Alexander of Macedon came to India through this
route. Apart from invading armies, missionaries and merchants came
to India using these routes. Therefore, these passes in the northwest
mountains had facilitated trade as well as cultural contacts between
India and the Central Asia.
In the north of Kashmir is Karakoram Range. The second
highest peak in the world, Mount Godwin Austen is situated here.
This part of the Himalayas and its passes are high and snow-covered
in the winter. The Karakoram highway via Gilgit is connected to
Central Asia but there was little communication through this route.
Page 3


1
LESSON 1
INDIA- GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES
AND THEIR IMPACT ON HISTORY
It is generally said that history has two eyes – one is
chronology and the other is geography. In other words time and
space are significant factors in determining the historical process. In
particular, a country’s geography largely determines its historical
events. The history of India is also influenced by its geography.
Hence, the study of Indian geographical features contributes to the
better understanding of its history.
The Indian subcontinent is a well-defined geographical unit.
It may be divided into three major regions: the Himalayan Mountains,
the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the Southern Peninsula. There are
five countries in the subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Nepal and Bhutan. India is the largest among them and it comprises
twenty-eight states and six Union Territories. According to the 2001
Census, the population of India is over one hundred crores.
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The geographical features of India.
2. The Himalayan Mountains and their impact on Indian
history.
3. The Gangetic plains and their role in Indian history.
4. The Southern Peninsula and its effects on South Indian
history.
5. India’s unity in diversity
3 2
The valley of Kashmir is surrounded by high mountains. However,
it could be reached through several passes. The Kashmir valley
remains unique for its tradition and culture. Nepal is also a small
valley under the foot of the Himalayas and it is accessible from
Gangetic plains through a number of passes.
In the east, the Himalayas extend up to Assam. The important
mountains in this region are Pat Koi, Nagai and Lushai ranges. These
hills are covered with thick forests due to heavy rains and mostly
remain inhospitable. The mountains of northeast India is difficult to
cross and many parts of this region had remained in relative isolation.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain
The Indo-Gangetic plain is irrigated by three important rivers,
the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra. This vast plain is most fertile
and productive because of the alluvial soil brought by the streams
of the rivers and its tributaries.
The Indus river rises beyond the Himalayas and its major
tributaries are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. The Punjab
plains are benefited by the Indus river system. The literal meaning of
the term ‘Punjab’ is the land of five rivers. Sind is situated at the lower
valley of the Indus. The Indus plain is known for its fertile soil.
The Thar Desert and Aravalli hills are situated in between the
Indus and Gangetic plains. Mount Abu is the highest point (5650 ft.) in
the Aravalli hills. The Ganges river rises in the Himalayas, flows south
and then towards the east. The river
Yamuna flows almost parallel to the
Ganges and then joins it. The area
between these two rivers is called doab
– meaning the land between two rivers.
The important tributaries of the Ganges
are the Gomati, Sarayu, Ghagra and
Gandak. Thar Desert 
The Himalayan Mountains
The Himalayan Mountains are situated on the north of India.
Starting from the Pamir in the extreme northwest of India, the mighty
Himalayan range extends towards northeast. It has a length of nearly
2560 kilometres with an average breadth of 240 to 320 kilometres.
The highest peak of the Himalayas is known as Mount Everest with
its height being 8869 metres. It acts as a natural wall and protects
the country against the cold arctic winds blowing from Siberia through
Central Asia. This keeps the climate of northern India fairly warm
throughout the year. The Himalayan region is mostly inhospitable in
winter and generally covered with snow.
It was considered for a long time that the Himalayas stood as
a natural barrier to protect India against invasions. But, the passes
in the northwest mountains such as the Khyber, Bolan, Kurram and
Gomal provided easy routes between India and Central Asia. These
passes are situated in the Hindukush, Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges.
From prehistoric times, there was a continuous flow of traffic through
these passes. Many people came to India through these passes as
invaders and immigrants. The Indo-Aryans, the Indo-Greeks,
Parthians, Sakas, Kushanas, Hunas and Turks entered India through
these passes. The Swat valley in this region formed another
important route. Alexander of Macedon came to India through this
route. Apart from invading armies, missionaries and merchants came
to India using these routes. Therefore, these passes in the northwest
mountains had facilitated trade as well as cultural contacts between
India and the Central Asia.
In the north of Kashmir is Karakoram Range. The second
highest peak in the world, Mount Godwin Austen is situated here.
This part of the Himalayas and its passes are high and snow-covered
in the winter. The Karakoram highway via Gilgit is connected to
Central Asia but there was little communication through this route.
5 4
to cut into, we find a number of rock-cut monasteries and temples
in the Deccan.
The Deccan plateau is flanked by the Eastern Ghats and
Western Ghats. The Coramandal Coast stands between the Eastern
Ghats and the Bay of Bengal. The Western Ghats runs along the
Arabian sea and the lands between these are known as Konkan up
to Goa and beyond that as Kanara. The southernmost part is known
as Malabar Coast. The passes in the Western Ghats like Junnar,
Kanheri and Karle linked the trade routes to the western ports. The
Deccan plateau acted as a bridge between the north and south India.
However, the dense forests in the Vindhya Mountains makes this
region isolated from the north. The language and culture in the
southern peninsula are preserved in tact for a long time due to this
geographical isolation.
In the southern end remains the famous Palghat Pass. It is the
passage across the Ghats from the Kaveri valley to the Malabar
Coast. The Palghat Pass was an important trade route for the Indo-
Roman trade in the ancient times. The Anaimudi is the highest peak
in the southern peninsula. Doddapetta is another highest peak in the
Western Ghats. The Eastern Ghats are not very high and have several
openings caused by the eastward flow of the rivers into the Bay of
Bengal. The port cities of Arikkamedu, Mamallapuram and
Kaveripattanam were situated on the Coramandal coast.
The major rivers of the southern peninsula are almost running
parallel. Mahanadhi is at the eastern end of the peninsula. Narmadha
and Tapti run from east to west. Other rivers like the Godavari,
Krishna, Tungabhadra and Kaveri flow from west to east. These
rivers make the plateau into a fertile rice producing soil. Throughout
history, the region between Krishna and Tungabhadra (Raichur
Doab) remained a bone of contention between the major kingdoms
of the south. The deltaic plains formed by these two rivers at their
In the east of India, the Ganges plain merges into the plains of
Brahmaputra. The river Brahmaputra rises beyond the Himalayas, flows
across Tibet and then continues through the plains of northeast India. In
the plains, it is a vast but a slow-moving river forming several islands.
The Indo-Gangetic plain has contributed to the rise of urban
centres, particularly on the river banks or at the confluence of rivers.
The Harappan culture flourished in the Indus valley. The V edic culture
prospered in the western Gangetic plain. Banares, Allahabad, Agra,
Delhi and Pataliputra are some of the important cities of the Gangetic
plain. The city of Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of Son
river with the Ganges. In the ancient period Pataliputra had remained
the capital for the Mauryas, Sungas, Guptas and other kingdoms.
The most important city on the western side of the Gangetic plain
is Delhi. Most of the decisive battles of Indian history such as the
Kurukshetra, Tarain and Panipat were fought near Delhi. Also, this
plain had always been a source of temptation and attraction for the
foreign invaders due to its fertility and productive wealth. Important
powers fought for the possession of these plains and valleys. Especially
the Ganga-Yamuna doab proved to be the most coveted and contested
area.
The rivers in this region served as arteries of commerce and
communication. In ancient times it was difficult to make roads, and
so men and material were moved by boat. The importance of rivers
for communication continued till the days of the East India Company.
The Southern Peninsula
The Vindhya and Satpura mountains along with Narmada and
the Tapti rivers form the great dividing line between northern and
southern India. The plateau to the south of the Vindhya Mountains
is known as the Deccan plateau. It consists of volcanic rock, which
is different from the northern mountains. As these rocks are easier
Page 4


1
LESSON 1
INDIA- GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES
AND THEIR IMPACT ON HISTORY
It is generally said that history has two eyes – one is
chronology and the other is geography. In other words time and
space are significant factors in determining the historical process. In
particular, a country’s geography largely determines its historical
events. The history of India is also influenced by its geography.
Hence, the study of Indian geographical features contributes to the
better understanding of its history.
The Indian subcontinent is a well-defined geographical unit.
It may be divided into three major regions: the Himalayan Mountains,
the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the Southern Peninsula. There are
five countries in the subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Nepal and Bhutan. India is the largest among them and it comprises
twenty-eight states and six Union Territories. According to the 2001
Census, the population of India is over one hundred crores.
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The geographical features of India.
2. The Himalayan Mountains and their impact on Indian
history.
3. The Gangetic plains and their role in Indian history.
4. The Southern Peninsula and its effects on South Indian
history.
5. India’s unity in diversity
3 2
The valley of Kashmir is surrounded by high mountains. However,
it could be reached through several passes. The Kashmir valley
remains unique for its tradition and culture. Nepal is also a small
valley under the foot of the Himalayas and it is accessible from
Gangetic plains through a number of passes.
In the east, the Himalayas extend up to Assam. The important
mountains in this region are Pat Koi, Nagai and Lushai ranges. These
hills are covered with thick forests due to heavy rains and mostly
remain inhospitable. The mountains of northeast India is difficult to
cross and many parts of this region had remained in relative isolation.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain
The Indo-Gangetic plain is irrigated by three important rivers,
the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra. This vast plain is most fertile
and productive because of the alluvial soil brought by the streams
of the rivers and its tributaries.
The Indus river rises beyond the Himalayas and its major
tributaries are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. The Punjab
plains are benefited by the Indus river system. The literal meaning of
the term ‘Punjab’ is the land of five rivers. Sind is situated at the lower
valley of the Indus. The Indus plain is known for its fertile soil.
The Thar Desert and Aravalli hills are situated in between the
Indus and Gangetic plains. Mount Abu is the highest point (5650 ft.) in
the Aravalli hills. The Ganges river rises in the Himalayas, flows south
and then towards the east. The river
Yamuna flows almost parallel to the
Ganges and then joins it. The area
between these two rivers is called doab
– meaning the land between two rivers.
The important tributaries of the Ganges
are the Gomati, Sarayu, Ghagra and
Gandak. Thar Desert 
The Himalayan Mountains
The Himalayan Mountains are situated on the north of India.
Starting from the Pamir in the extreme northwest of India, the mighty
Himalayan range extends towards northeast. It has a length of nearly
2560 kilometres with an average breadth of 240 to 320 kilometres.
The highest peak of the Himalayas is known as Mount Everest with
its height being 8869 metres. It acts as a natural wall and protects
the country against the cold arctic winds blowing from Siberia through
Central Asia. This keeps the climate of northern India fairly warm
throughout the year. The Himalayan region is mostly inhospitable in
winter and generally covered with snow.
It was considered for a long time that the Himalayas stood as
a natural barrier to protect India against invasions. But, the passes
in the northwest mountains such as the Khyber, Bolan, Kurram and
Gomal provided easy routes between India and Central Asia. These
passes are situated in the Hindukush, Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges.
From prehistoric times, there was a continuous flow of traffic through
these passes. Many people came to India through these passes as
invaders and immigrants. The Indo-Aryans, the Indo-Greeks,
Parthians, Sakas, Kushanas, Hunas and Turks entered India through
these passes. The Swat valley in this region formed another
important route. Alexander of Macedon came to India through this
route. Apart from invading armies, missionaries and merchants came
to India using these routes. Therefore, these passes in the northwest
mountains had facilitated trade as well as cultural contacts between
India and the Central Asia.
In the north of Kashmir is Karakoram Range. The second
highest peak in the world, Mount Godwin Austen is situated here.
This part of the Himalayas and its passes are high and snow-covered
in the winter. The Karakoram highway via Gilgit is connected to
Central Asia but there was little communication through this route.
5 4
to cut into, we find a number of rock-cut monasteries and temples
in the Deccan.
The Deccan plateau is flanked by the Eastern Ghats and
Western Ghats. The Coramandal Coast stands between the Eastern
Ghats and the Bay of Bengal. The Western Ghats runs along the
Arabian sea and the lands between these are known as Konkan up
to Goa and beyond that as Kanara. The southernmost part is known
as Malabar Coast. The passes in the Western Ghats like Junnar,
Kanheri and Karle linked the trade routes to the western ports. The
Deccan plateau acted as a bridge between the north and south India.
However, the dense forests in the Vindhya Mountains makes this
region isolated from the north. The language and culture in the
southern peninsula are preserved in tact for a long time due to this
geographical isolation.
In the southern end remains the famous Palghat Pass. It is the
passage across the Ghats from the Kaveri valley to the Malabar
Coast. The Palghat Pass was an important trade route for the Indo-
Roman trade in the ancient times. The Anaimudi is the highest peak
in the southern peninsula. Doddapetta is another highest peak in the
Western Ghats. The Eastern Ghats are not very high and have several
openings caused by the eastward flow of the rivers into the Bay of
Bengal. The port cities of Arikkamedu, Mamallapuram and
Kaveripattanam were situated on the Coramandal coast.
The major rivers of the southern peninsula are almost running
parallel. Mahanadhi is at the eastern end of the peninsula. Narmadha
and Tapti run from east to west. Other rivers like the Godavari,
Krishna, Tungabhadra and Kaveri flow from west to east. These
rivers make the plateau into a fertile rice producing soil. Throughout
history, the region between Krishna and Tungabhadra (Raichur
Doab) remained a bone of contention between the major kingdoms
of the south. The deltaic plains formed by these two rivers at their
In the east of India, the Ganges plain merges into the plains of
Brahmaputra. The river Brahmaputra rises beyond the Himalayas, flows
across Tibet and then continues through the plains of northeast India. In
the plains, it is a vast but a slow-moving river forming several islands.
The Indo-Gangetic plain has contributed to the rise of urban
centres, particularly on the river banks or at the confluence of rivers.
The Harappan culture flourished in the Indus valley. The V edic culture
prospered in the western Gangetic plain. Banares, Allahabad, Agra,
Delhi and Pataliputra are some of the important cities of the Gangetic
plain. The city of Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of Son
river with the Ganges. In the ancient period Pataliputra had remained
the capital for the Mauryas, Sungas, Guptas and other kingdoms.
The most important city on the western side of the Gangetic plain
is Delhi. Most of the decisive battles of Indian history such as the
Kurukshetra, Tarain and Panipat were fought near Delhi. Also, this
plain had always been a source of temptation and attraction for the
foreign invaders due to its fertility and productive wealth. Important
powers fought for the possession of these plains and valleys. Especially
the Ganga-Yamuna doab proved to be the most coveted and contested
area.
The rivers in this region served as arteries of commerce and
communication. In ancient times it was difficult to make roads, and
so men and material were moved by boat. The importance of rivers
for communication continued till the days of the East India Company.
The Southern Peninsula
The Vindhya and Satpura mountains along with Narmada and
the Tapti rivers form the great dividing line between northern and
southern India. The plateau to the south of the Vindhya Mountains
is known as the Deccan plateau. It consists of volcanic rock, which
is different from the northern mountains. As these rocks are easier
7 6
religions, and observe different social customs, they follow certain
common styles of life throughout the country. Therefore, our country
shows a deep underlying unity in spite of great diversity.
In fact, the ancients strove for unity. They looked upon this
vast subcontinent as one land. The name Bharatavarsha or the
land of Bharata was given to the whole country, after the name of
an ancient tribe called the Bharatas. Our ancient poets, philosophers
and writers viewed the country as an integral unit. This kind of political
unity was attained at least twice during the Mauryan and Gupta
Empires.
The unity of India was also recognized by foreigners. They
first came into contact with the people living on the Sindhu or the
Indus, and so they named the whole country after this river. The
word Hind is derived from the Sanskrit term Sindhu, and in course
of time the country came to be known as ‘India’ in Greek, and
‘Hind’ in Persian and Arabic languages.
Efforts for the linguistic and cultural unity of the country were
made through the ages. In the third century B.C., Prakrit language
served as the lingua franca of the country. Throughout the major
portion of India, Asoka’s inscriptions were written in the Prakrit
language. Also, the ancient epics, the Ramayana and the
Mahabharata, were studied with the same zeal and devotion
throughout the country. Originally composed in Sanskrit, these epics
came to be presented in different local languages. Although the Indian
cultural values and ideas were expressed in different forms, the
substance remained the same throughout the country.
Hence, India has emerged a multi-religious and multi-cultural
society. However, the underlying unity and integrity and the plural
character of Indian society remain the real strength for the
development of the country.
mouths became famous under the Satavahanas. A number of towns
and ports flourished in these plains in the beginning of the Christian
era.
The Kaveri delta constitutes a distinct geographical zone in
the far south. It became the seat of the Chola power. The Kaveri
basin with its rich tradition, language and culture has flourished from
the ancient times.
As the southern peninsula is gifted with a long coastline, the
people of this region took keen interest in the maritime activities. A
great deal of trade and commerce went on through the seaways
from the earliest times. In the east, mariners reached countries like
Jawa, Sumatra, Burma and Cambodia. Apart from trade, they
spread Indian art, religion and culture in these parts of the world.
The commercial contacts between south India and the Greco-Roman
countries flourished along with cultural relations.
India – A Land of Unity in Diversity
The history of ancient India is interesting because India proved
to be a melting pot of numerous races. The pre-Aryans, the Indo-
Aryans, the Greeks, the Scythians, the Hunas, the Turks, etc., made
India their home. Each ethnic group contributed its might to the
making of Indian culture. All these peoples mixed up so inextricably
with one another that at present none of them can be identified in
their original form. Different cultures mingled with one another
through the ages. Many pre-Aryan or Dravidian terms occur in the
Vedic texts. Similarly, many Pali and Sanskritic terms appear in the
Sangam literature.
Since ancient times, India has been the land of several religions.
Ancient India witnessed the birth of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
But all these cultures and religions intermingled with one another.
Although Indians people speak different languages, practice different
Page 5


1
LESSON 1
INDIA- GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES
AND THEIR IMPACT ON HISTORY
It is generally said that history has two eyes – one is
chronology and the other is geography. In other words time and
space are significant factors in determining the historical process. In
particular, a country’s geography largely determines its historical
events. The history of India is also influenced by its geography.
Hence, the study of Indian geographical features contributes to the
better understanding of its history.
The Indian subcontinent is a well-defined geographical unit.
It may be divided into three major regions: the Himalayan Mountains,
the Indo-Gangetic Plains and the Southern Peninsula. There are
five countries in the subcontinent – India, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
Nepal and Bhutan. India is the largest among them and it comprises
twenty-eight states and six Union Territories. According to the 2001
Census, the population of India is over one hundred crores.
Learning Objectives
Students will acquire knowledge about
1. The geographical features of India.
2. The Himalayan Mountains and their impact on Indian
history.
3. The Gangetic plains and their role in Indian history.
4. The Southern Peninsula and its effects on South Indian
history.
5. India’s unity in diversity
3 2
The valley of Kashmir is surrounded by high mountains. However,
it could be reached through several passes. The Kashmir valley
remains unique for its tradition and culture. Nepal is also a small
valley under the foot of the Himalayas and it is accessible from
Gangetic plains through a number of passes.
In the east, the Himalayas extend up to Assam. The important
mountains in this region are Pat Koi, Nagai and Lushai ranges. These
hills are covered with thick forests due to heavy rains and mostly
remain inhospitable. The mountains of northeast India is difficult to
cross and many parts of this region had remained in relative isolation.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain
The Indo-Gangetic plain is irrigated by three important rivers,
the Ganges, Indus and Brahmaputra. This vast plain is most fertile
and productive because of the alluvial soil brought by the streams
of the rivers and its tributaries.
The Indus river rises beyond the Himalayas and its major
tributaries are the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. The Punjab
plains are benefited by the Indus river system. The literal meaning of
the term ‘Punjab’ is the land of five rivers. Sind is situated at the lower
valley of the Indus. The Indus plain is known for its fertile soil.
The Thar Desert and Aravalli hills are situated in between the
Indus and Gangetic plains. Mount Abu is the highest point (5650 ft.) in
the Aravalli hills. The Ganges river rises in the Himalayas, flows south
and then towards the east. The river
Yamuna flows almost parallel to the
Ganges and then joins it. The area
between these two rivers is called doab
– meaning the land between two rivers.
The important tributaries of the Ganges
are the Gomati, Sarayu, Ghagra and
Gandak. Thar Desert 
The Himalayan Mountains
The Himalayan Mountains are situated on the north of India.
Starting from the Pamir in the extreme northwest of India, the mighty
Himalayan range extends towards northeast. It has a length of nearly
2560 kilometres with an average breadth of 240 to 320 kilometres.
The highest peak of the Himalayas is known as Mount Everest with
its height being 8869 metres. It acts as a natural wall and protects
the country against the cold arctic winds blowing from Siberia through
Central Asia. This keeps the climate of northern India fairly warm
throughout the year. The Himalayan region is mostly inhospitable in
winter and generally covered with snow.
It was considered for a long time that the Himalayas stood as
a natural barrier to protect India against invasions. But, the passes
in the northwest mountains such as the Khyber, Bolan, Kurram and
Gomal provided easy routes between India and Central Asia. These
passes are situated in the Hindukush, Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges.
From prehistoric times, there was a continuous flow of traffic through
these passes. Many people came to India through these passes as
invaders and immigrants. The Indo-Aryans, the Indo-Greeks,
Parthians, Sakas, Kushanas, Hunas and Turks entered India through
these passes. The Swat valley in this region formed another
important route. Alexander of Macedon came to India through this
route. Apart from invading armies, missionaries and merchants came
to India using these routes. Therefore, these passes in the northwest
mountains had facilitated trade as well as cultural contacts between
India and the Central Asia.
In the north of Kashmir is Karakoram Range. The second
highest peak in the world, Mount Godwin Austen is situated here.
This part of the Himalayas and its passes are high and snow-covered
in the winter. The Karakoram highway via Gilgit is connected to
Central Asia but there was little communication through this route.
5 4
to cut into, we find a number of rock-cut monasteries and temples
in the Deccan.
The Deccan plateau is flanked by the Eastern Ghats and
Western Ghats. The Coramandal Coast stands between the Eastern
Ghats and the Bay of Bengal. The Western Ghats runs along the
Arabian sea and the lands between these are known as Konkan up
to Goa and beyond that as Kanara. The southernmost part is known
as Malabar Coast. The passes in the Western Ghats like Junnar,
Kanheri and Karle linked the trade routes to the western ports. The
Deccan plateau acted as a bridge between the north and south India.
However, the dense forests in the Vindhya Mountains makes this
region isolated from the north. The language and culture in the
southern peninsula are preserved in tact for a long time due to this
geographical isolation.
In the southern end remains the famous Palghat Pass. It is the
passage across the Ghats from the Kaveri valley to the Malabar
Coast. The Palghat Pass was an important trade route for the Indo-
Roman trade in the ancient times. The Anaimudi is the highest peak
in the southern peninsula. Doddapetta is another highest peak in the
Western Ghats. The Eastern Ghats are not very high and have several
openings caused by the eastward flow of the rivers into the Bay of
Bengal. The port cities of Arikkamedu, Mamallapuram and
Kaveripattanam were situated on the Coramandal coast.
The major rivers of the southern peninsula are almost running
parallel. Mahanadhi is at the eastern end of the peninsula. Narmadha
and Tapti run from east to west. Other rivers like the Godavari,
Krishna, Tungabhadra and Kaveri flow from west to east. These
rivers make the plateau into a fertile rice producing soil. Throughout
history, the region between Krishna and Tungabhadra (Raichur
Doab) remained a bone of contention between the major kingdoms
of the south. The deltaic plains formed by these two rivers at their
In the east of India, the Ganges plain merges into the plains of
Brahmaputra. The river Brahmaputra rises beyond the Himalayas, flows
across Tibet and then continues through the plains of northeast India. In
the plains, it is a vast but a slow-moving river forming several islands.
The Indo-Gangetic plain has contributed to the rise of urban
centres, particularly on the river banks or at the confluence of rivers.
The Harappan culture flourished in the Indus valley. The V edic culture
prospered in the western Gangetic plain. Banares, Allahabad, Agra,
Delhi and Pataliputra are some of the important cities of the Gangetic
plain. The city of Pataliputra was situated at the confluence of Son
river with the Ganges. In the ancient period Pataliputra had remained
the capital for the Mauryas, Sungas, Guptas and other kingdoms.
The most important city on the western side of the Gangetic plain
is Delhi. Most of the decisive battles of Indian history such as the
Kurukshetra, Tarain and Panipat were fought near Delhi. Also, this
plain had always been a source of temptation and attraction for the
foreign invaders due to its fertility and productive wealth. Important
powers fought for the possession of these plains and valleys. Especially
the Ganga-Yamuna doab proved to be the most coveted and contested
area.
The rivers in this region served as arteries of commerce and
communication. In ancient times it was difficult to make roads, and
so men and material were moved by boat. The importance of rivers
for communication continued till the days of the East India Company.
The Southern Peninsula
The Vindhya and Satpura mountains along with Narmada and
the Tapti rivers form the great dividing line between northern and
southern India. The plateau to the south of the Vindhya Mountains
is known as the Deccan plateau. It consists of volcanic rock, which
is different from the northern mountains. As these rocks are easier
7 6
religions, and observe different social customs, they follow certain
common styles of life throughout the country. Therefore, our country
shows a deep underlying unity in spite of great diversity.
In fact, the ancients strove for unity. They looked upon this
vast subcontinent as one land. The name Bharatavarsha or the
land of Bharata was given to the whole country, after the name of
an ancient tribe called the Bharatas. Our ancient poets, philosophers
and writers viewed the country as an integral unit. This kind of political
unity was attained at least twice during the Mauryan and Gupta
Empires.
The unity of India was also recognized by foreigners. They
first came into contact with the people living on the Sindhu or the
Indus, and so they named the whole country after this river. The
word Hind is derived from the Sanskrit term Sindhu, and in course
of time the country came to be known as ‘India’ in Greek, and
‘Hind’ in Persian and Arabic languages.
Efforts for the linguistic and cultural unity of the country were
made through the ages. In the third century B.C., Prakrit language
served as the lingua franca of the country. Throughout the major
portion of India, Asoka’s inscriptions were written in the Prakrit
language. Also, the ancient epics, the Ramayana and the
Mahabharata, were studied with the same zeal and devotion
throughout the country. Originally composed in Sanskrit, these epics
came to be presented in different local languages. Although the Indian
cultural values and ideas were expressed in different forms, the
substance remained the same throughout the country.
Hence, India has emerged a multi-religious and multi-cultural
society. However, the underlying unity and integrity and the plural
character of Indian society remain the real strength for the
development of the country.
mouths became famous under the Satavahanas. A number of towns
and ports flourished in these plains in the beginning of the Christian
era.
The Kaveri delta constitutes a distinct geographical zone in
the far south. It became the seat of the Chola power. The Kaveri
basin with its rich tradition, language and culture has flourished from
the ancient times.
As the southern peninsula is gifted with a long coastline, the
people of this region took keen interest in the maritime activities. A
great deal of trade and commerce went on through the seaways
from the earliest times. In the east, mariners reached countries like
Jawa, Sumatra, Burma and Cambodia. Apart from trade, they
spread Indian art, religion and culture in these parts of the world.
The commercial contacts between south India and the Greco-Roman
countries flourished along with cultural relations.
India – A Land of Unity in Diversity
The history of ancient India is interesting because India proved
to be a melting pot of numerous races. The pre-Aryans, the Indo-
Aryans, the Greeks, the Scythians, the Hunas, the Turks, etc., made
India their home. Each ethnic group contributed its might to the
making of Indian culture. All these peoples mixed up so inextricably
with one another that at present none of them can be identified in
their original form. Different cultures mingled with one another
through the ages. Many pre-Aryan or Dravidian terms occur in the
Vedic texts. Similarly, many Pali and Sanskritic terms appear in the
Sangam literature.
Since ancient times, India has been the land of several religions.
Ancient India witnessed the birth of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.
But all these cultures and religions intermingled with one another.
Although Indians people speak different languages, practice different
9 8
MODEL QUESTIONS
I. Choose the correct answer.
1. Alexander of Macedon came to India through
(a) Deccan Plateau (b) Kharakoram range
(c) Swat valley (d) Aravalli hills
2. The region between two rivers is called
(a) Plateau (b) Peninsula
(c) Doab (d) Peak
II. Fill in the blanks.
1. The river Ganges rises in …….
2. The highest peak in the southern peninsula is ……
III. Match the following.
1. Mount Everest a) Aravalli hills
2. Mount Abu b) Kharakoram
3. Doddabetta c) Himalayas
4. Godwin Austin d) Western Ghats
IV. Find out the correct statement. One statement alone is
right.
a) Narmada river runs from east to west.
b) Kaveri river runs from south to north.
c) Yamuna river merges with Tapti.
d) Maha Nadhi river irrigates the Punjab region.
Learning Outcome
After learning this lesson the students will be able to explain
1. The geographical features of India.
2. The details of the Himalayan Mountains, the passes in
the northwest and how they were used by the foreign
invaders, traders and migrants.
3. The river systems of the Indo-Gangetic Gangetic valley
and their impact on the historical events such as battles
and emergence of urban centres.
4. The southern peninsula, the long coasts which
contributed to a lot of maritime activities.
5. How India emerged as a multicultural society and the
same is successfully sustained over the centuries.
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