|Geography of India|
3,287,263 km2 (1,269,219.3 sq mi)
9.56 % water
|Borders||Total land borders:
15,106.70 km (9,386.87 mi)
4,096.70 km (2,545.57 mi)
3,488 km (2,167 mi)
3,323 km (2,065 mi)
1,751 km (1,088 mi)
1,643 km (1,021 mi)
699 km (434 mi)
106 km (66 mi)
8,586 m (28,169.3 ft)
-2.2 m (−7.2 ft)
|Largest lake||Chilka Lake|
The geography of India describes the physical features of India, a country in South Asia that lies entirely on the Indian Plate in the northern portion of the Indo-Australian Plate. The country lies to the north of the equator between 8°4' and 37°6' north latitude and 68°7' and 97°25' east longitude. It is the seventh-largest country in the world, with a total land area of 3,287,263 square kilometres (1,269,219 sq mi). India measures 3,214 km (1,997 mi) from north to south and 2,993 km (1,860 mi) from east to west. It has a land frontier of 15,200 km (9,445 mi) and a coastline of 7,517 km (4,671 mi).
India is bounded to the southwest by the Arabian Sea, to the southeast by the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean to the south. Cape Comorin constitutes the southern tip of the Indian peninsula, which narrows before ending in the Indian Ocean. The southernmost part of India is Indira Point in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Maldives, Sri Lanka and Indonesia are island nations to the south of India with Sri Lanka separated from India by a narrow channel of sea formed by Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar. The territorial waters of India extend into the sea to a distance of 12 nautical miles (13.8 mi; 22.2 km) measured from the appropriate baseline.
The northern frontiers of India are defined largely by the Himalayan mountain range where its political boundaries with China, Bhutan, and Nepal lie. Its western borders with Pakistan lie in the Punjab Plain and the Thar desert. In the far northeast, the Chin Hills and Kachin Hills, deeply forested mountainous regions, separate India from Burma while its political border with Bangladesh is defined by the watershed region of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the Khasi hills and Mizo Hills.
The Ganges is the longest river in India and forms the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The Ganges-Brahmaputra system occupies most of northern, central and eastern India, while the Deccan Plateau occupies most of southern India. Along its western frontier is the Thar Desert, which is the seventh-largest desert in the world.
Officially, India's highest point is K2 at 8,611 m (28,251 ft), though it lies in Gilgit-Baltistan, part of the disputed Kashmir region. Kanchenjunga in Sikkim at 8,598 m (28,209 ft) is the highest point within India's current geographic boundaries. Climate across India ranges from equatorial in the far south, to Alpine in the upper reaches of the Himalayas.
India is entirely contained on the Indian Plate, a major tectonic plate that was formed when it split off from the ancient continent Gondwanaland. About 90 million years ago, during the late Cretaceous Period, the Indian Plate began moving north at about 15 cm/yr (6 in/yr). About 50 to 55 million years ago,in the Eocene epoch of the Cenozoic Era, the plate collided with Asia after covering a distance of 2,000 to 3,000 km (1,243 to 1,864 mi), having moved faster than any other known plate. In 2007, German geologists determined that the reason the India Plate moved so quickly is that it is only half as thick as the other plates which formerly constituted Gondwanaland. The collision with the Eurasian Plate along the modern border between India and Nepal formed the orogenic belt that created the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. As of 2009, The India Plate is moving northeast at 5 cm/yr (2 in/yr), while the Eurasian Plate is moving north at only 2 cm/yr (0.8 in/yr). India is thus referred to as the "fastest continent." This is causing the Eurasian Plate to deform, and the India Plate to compress at a rate of 4 mm/yr (0.15 in/yr).
India is divided into twenty-eight states (further subdivided into districts) and seven union territories.
India's borders run a total length of 15,106.70 km (9,387 mi). Its borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh were delineated according to the Radcliffe Line, which was created in 1947 during Partition of India. Its western border with Pakistan extends up to 3,323 km (2,065 mi), dividing the Punjab region and running along the boundaries of the Thar Desert and the Rann of Kutch. Both nations delineated a Line of Control (LoC) to serve as the informal boundary between the Indian and Pakistan-administered areas of Kashmir. According to India's claim, it shares a 106 km (66 mi) border with Afghanistan in northwestern Kashmir, which is under Pakistani control.
India's border with Bangladesh runs 4,096.70 km (2,546 mi). There are 92 enclaves of Bangladesh on Indian soil and 106 enclaves of India are on Bangladeshi soil. The Teen Bigha Corridor is a strip of land formerly belonging to India on the West Bengal–Bangladesh border which has been leased indefinitely to Bangladesh so that it can access its Dehgram–Angalpota enclaves.
The Line of Actual Control (LAC) is the effective border between India and the People's Republic of China. It traverses 4,057 km along the Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Both nations lay claim to the Aksai Chin region of northeastern Kashmir, which fell into Chinese control during the Sino-Indian War of 1962.The border with Burma (Myanmar) extends up to 1,643 km (1,021 mi) along the southern borders of India's northeastern states. Located amidst the Himalayan range, India's border with Bhutan runs 699 km (434 mi). The border with Nepal runs 1,751 km (1,088 mi) along the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India. The Siliguri Corridor, narrowed sharply by the borders of Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, connects peninsular India with the northeastern states.
India is divided into seven physiographic regions. They are
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 Plate with the Eurasian Plate that started around 50 million years ago. 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 Indo-Gangetic plains, also known as the Great Plains are large floodplains of the Indus and the Ganga-Brahmaputra river systems. They run parallel to the Himalaya mountains, from Jammu and Kashmir in the west to Assam in the east and draining most of northern and eastern India. The plains encompass an area of 700,000 square kilometers (270,272 sq mi). The major rivers in this region are the Ganges and the Indus along with their tributaries–Beas, Yamuna, Gomti, Ravi, Chambal, Sutlej and Chenab.
The great plains are sometimes classified into four divisions:
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.
The Thar Desert (also known as the Great Indian Desert) is the world's seventh largest desert; it forms a significant portion of western India and covers an area of 238,700 km² (92,200 mile²). The desert continues into Pakistan as the Cholistan Desert. Most of the Thar Desert is situated in Rajasthan, covering 61% of its geographic area.
About 10 percent of this ecoregion comprises sand dunes, and the remaining 90 percent consist of craggy rock forms, compacted salt-lake bottoms, and interdunal and fixed dune areas. Annual temperatures can range from 0°C in the winter to over 50°C during the summer. Most of the rainfall received in this region is associated with the short July-September southwest monsoon that brings around 100-500 mm of precipitation. Water is scarce and occurs at great depths, ranging from 30 to 120 m below the ground level. Rainfall is precarious and erratic, ranging from below 120 mm (4.72 inches) in the extreme west to 375 mm (14.75 inches) eastward. The soils of the arid region are generally sandy to sandy-loam in texture. The consistency and depth vary as per the topographical features. The low-lying loams are heavier and may have a hard pan of clay, calcium carbonate or gypsum.
The Central Highlands comprise of three main plateaus — the Malwa Plateau in the west, the Deccan Plateau in the south (covering most of the Indian peninsula) and the Chota Nagpur Plateau in the east.
The Malwa Plateau is spread across Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. The average elevation of the Malwa plateau is 500 metres, and the landscape generally slopes towards the north. Most of the region is drained by the Chambal River and its tributaries; the western part is drained by the upper reaches of the Mahi River. The Deccan Plateau is a large triangular plateau, bounded by the Vindhyas to the north and flanked by the Eastern and Western Ghats. The Deccan covers a total area of 1.9 million km² (735,000 mile²). It is mostly flat, with elevations ranging from 300 to 600 m (1,000 to 2,000 ft). The average elevation of the plateau is 2,000 feet (600 m) above sea level. The surface slopes from 3,000 feet (900 m) in the west to 1,500 feet (450 m) in the east. It slopes gently from west to east and gives rise to several peninsular rivers such as the Godavari, the Krishna, the Kaveri and the Narmada, which drain into the Bay of Bengal. This region is mostly semi-arid as it lies on the leeward side of both Ghats. Much of the Deccan is covered by thorn scrub forest scattered with small regions of deciduous broadleaf forest. Climate in the Deccan ranges from hot summers to mild winters.
The Chota Nagpur Plateau is situated in eastern India, covering much of Jharkhand and adjacent parts of Orissa, Bihar and Chhattisgarh. Its total area is approximately 65,000 km² (25,000 mile²) and is made up of three smaller plateaus — the Ranchi, Hazaribagh, and Kodarma plateaus. The Ranchi plateau is the largest, with an average elevation of 700 m (2,300 ft). Much of the plateau is forested, covered by the Chota Nagpur dry deciduous forests. Vast reserves of metal ores and coal have been found in the Chota Nagpur plateau. The Kathiawar peninsula in western Gujarat is bounded by the Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Khambat. The natural vegetation in most of the peninsula is xeric scrub, part of the Northwestern thorn scrub forests ecoregion.
In western India, the Kutch region in Gujarat and Koyna in Maharashtra are classified as a Zone IV region (high risk) for earthquakes. The Kutch city of Bhuj was the epicentre of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, which claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people and injured 166,836 while destroying or damaging near a million homes. The 1993 Latur earthquake in Maharashtra killed 7,928 people and injured 30,000. Other areas have a moderate to low risk of an earthquake occurring.
The Eastern Coastal Plain is a wide stretch of land lying between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal. It stretches from Tamil Nadu in the south to West Bengal in the north. The Mahanadi, Godavari, Kaveri and Krishna rivers drain these plains and their deltas occupy most of the area. The temperature in the coastal regions exceeds 30 °C (86 °F) coupled with high levels of humidity. The region receives both the northeast and southwest monsoon rains. The southwest monsoon splits into two branches, the Bay of Bengal branch and the Arabian Sea branch. The Bay of Bengal branch moves northwards crossing northeast India in early June. The Arabian Sea branch moves northwards and discharges much of its rain on the windward side of Western Ghats. Annual rainfall in this region averages between 1,000 mm (40 in) and 3,000 mm (120 in). The width of the plains varies between 100 and 130 km (62 to 80 miles). The plains are divided into six regions — the Mahanadi delta, the southern Andhra Pradesh plain, the Krishna-Godavari deltas, the Kanyakumari coast, the Coromandel Coast and sandy coastal.
The Western Coastal Plain is a narrow strip of land sandwiched between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea, ranging from 50 to 100 km (30 to 60 miles) in width. It extends from Gujarat in the north and extends through Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala. Numerous rivers and backwaters inundate the region. Originating in the Western Ghats, the rivers are fast-flowing and mostly perennial, leading to the formation of estuaries. Major rivers flowing into the sea are the Tapi, Narmada, Mandovi and Zuari. The coast is divided into 3 parts namely, Konkan, which is situated in Maharashtra,Goa and northern parts of Karnataka; the Kanara in Karnataka and the Malabar Coast in Kerala. Vegetation is mostly deciduous, but the Malabar Coast moist forests constitute a unique ecoregion.
The Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are India's two major island formations which are classified as union territories. The Lakshadweep Islands lie 200 to 300 km (124 to 186 miles) off the coast of Kerala in the Arabian Sea with an area of 32 km² (11 sq mi). They consist of 12 atolls, 3 reefs and 5 submerged banks, with a total of about 36 islands and islets.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are located between 6o and 14o North latitude and 92o and 94o East longitude. They consist of 572 isles, lying in the Bay of Bengal near the Myanmar coast. It is located 1255 km (780 miles) from Kolkata (Calcutta) and 193 km (120 miles) from Cape Negrais in Myanmar. The territory consists of two island groups, the Andaman Islands and the Nicobar Islands. The Andaman Islands consists of 204 small islands with a total length of 352 km (220 miles). India's only active volcano, Barren Island is situated here, having last erupted in May 2005. The Narcondum is a dormant volcano and there is a mud volcano at Baratang. Indira Point, India's southernmost land point is situated in the Nicobar islands, and lies just 189 km (117 miles) from the Indonesian island of Sumatra to the southeast. The highest point is Mount Thullier at 642 m (2,140 ft).
Significant islands just off the Indian coast include Diu, a former Portuguese enclave; Majuli, Asia's largest freshwater island; Elephanta in the Bombay Harbour; and Sriharikota barrier island in Andhra Pradesh. Salsette Island is India's most populous island on which the city of Mumbai (Bombay) is located. Forty-two islands in the Gulf of Kutch constitute the Marine National Park.
India has around 14,500 km of inland navigable waterways. There are twelve rivers which are classified as major rivers, with the total catchment area exceeding 2,528,000 km2 (976,000 sq mi). All major rivers of India originate from one of the three main watersheds:
The Himalayan river networks are snow-fed and have a perennial supply throughout the year. The other two river systems are dependent on the monsoons and shrink into rivulets during the dry season. The Himalayan rivers that flow westward into Pakistan are the Indus, Beas, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Jhelum.
The Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghana system has the largest catchment area of 1,100,000 km2 (420,000 sq mi). The Ganga originates from the Gangotri Glacier in Uttarakhand. It flows southeast, draining into the Bay of Bengal. The Yamuna and Gomti rivers also arise in the western Himalayas and join the Ganga in the plains. The Brahmaputra, another tributary of the Ganga, originates in Tibet and enters India through the far-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. It proceeds westwards, joining the Ganges in Bangladesh.
The Chambal, another tributary of the Ganga originates from the Vindhya-Satpura watershed. The river flows eastward. Westward-flowing rivers from this watershed are the Narmada and Tapti, which drain into the Arabian Sea in Gujarat. The river network that flows from east to west constitutes 10% of the total outflow.
The Western Ghats are the source of all Deccan rivers, which include the Mahanadi River through the Mahanadi River Delta, Godavari River, Krishna River and Kaveri River, all draining into the Bay of Bengal. These rivers constitute 20% of India's total outflow.
The heavy southwest monsoon rains cause the Brahmaputra and other rivers to distend their banks, often flooding surrounding areas. Though they provide rice paddy farmers with a largely dependable source of natural irrigation and fertilisation, such floods have killed thousands of people and tend to cause displacements of people in such areas.
Major gulfs include the Gulf of Cambay, Gulf of Kutch and the Gulf of Mannar. Straits include the Palk Strait, which separates India from Sri Lanka and the Ten Degree Channel, which separates the Andamans from the Nicobar Islands and the Eight Degree Channel, which separates the Laccadive and Amindivi Islands from the Minicoy Island towards the south. Important capes include the Cape Comorin, the southern tip of mainland India; Indira Point, the southernmost location of India; Rama's Bridge and Point Calimere. While, Arabian Sea lies on the western side of India, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean lie towards the eastern and southern side respectively. Smaller seas include the Laccadive Sea and the Andaman Sea. There are four coral reefs in India, located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Gulf of Mannar, Lakshadweep and Gulf of Kutch. Important lakes include Chilka Lake, the country's largest saltwater lake in Orissa; Kolleru Lake in Andhra Pradesh; Loktak Lake in Manipur, Dal Lake in Kashmir, Sambhar Lake in Rajasthan and the Sasthamkotta Lake in Kerala.
India's wetland ecosystem is widely distributed from the cold and arid located in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, and those with the wet and humid climate of peninsular India. Most of the wetlands are directly or indirectly linked to river networks. The Indian government has identified a total of 71 wetlands for conservation and are part of sanctuaries and national parks. Mangrove forests are present all along the Indian coastline in sheltered estuaries, creeks, backwaters, salt marshes and mudflats. The mangrove area covers a total of 4,461 km2 (1,722 sq mi), which comprises 7% of the world's total mangrove cover. Prominent mangrove covers are located in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Sundarbans delta, the Gulf of Kutch and the deltas of the Mahanadi, Godavari and Krishna rivers. Parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala also have large mangrove covers.
The Sundarbans delta is home to the largest mangrove forest in the world. It lies at the mouth of the Ganges and spreads across areas of Bangladesh and West Bengal. The Sundarbans is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but is identified separately as the Sundarbans (Bangladesh) and the Sundarbans National Park (India). The Sundarbans are intersected by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests. The area is known for its diverse fauna, being home to a large variety of species of birds, spotted deer, crocodiles and snakes. Its most famous inhabitant is the Bengal Tiger. It is estimated that there are now 400 Bengal tigers and about 30,000 spotted deer in the area.
The Rann of Kutch is a marshy region located in northwestern Gujarat and the bordering Sind province of Pakistan. It occupies a total area of 27 900 km² (10,800 mile²). The region was originally a part of the Arabian Sea. Geologic forces such as earthquakes resulted in the damming up of the region, turning it into a large saltwater lagoon. This area gradually filled with silt thus turning it into a seasonal salt marsh. During the monsoons, the area turns into a shallow marsh, often flooding to knee-depth. After the monsoons, the region turns dry and becomes parched.
Based on the Köppen system, India hosts six major climatic subtypes, ranging from arid desert in the west, alpine tundra and glaciers in the north, and humid tropical regions supporting rainforests in the southwest and the island territories. Many regions have starkly different microclimates. The nation has four seasons: winter (January–February), summer (March–May), a monsoon (rainy) season (June–September) and a post-monsoon period (October–December).
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. Although the Tropic of Cancer—the boundary between the tropics and subtropics—passes through the middle of India, the whole country is considered to be tropical.
Summer lasts between March and June in most parts of India. Temperatures exceed 40 °C (104 °F) during the day. The coastal regions exceed 30 °C (86 °F) coupled with high levels of humidity. In the Thar desert area temperatures can exceed 45 °C (113 °F). The rain-bearing monsoon clouds are attracted to the low-pressure system created by the Thar Desert. The southwest monsoon splits into two arms, the Bay of Bengal arm and the Arabian Sea arm. The Bay of Bengal arm moves northwards crossing northeast India in early June. The Arabian Sea arm moves northwards and deposits much of its rain on the windward side of Western Ghats. Winters in peninsula India see mild to warm days and cool nights. Further north the temperature is cooler. Temperatures in some parts of the Indian plains sometimes fall below freezing. Most of northern India is plagued by fog during this season. The highest temperature recorded in India was 50.6 °C (123.1 °F) in Alwar in 1955. The lowest was −45 °C (−49.0 °F) in Kashmir.
India's geological features are classified based on their era of formation. The Precambrian formations of Cudappah and Vindhyan systems are spread out over the eastern and southern states. A small part of this period is spread over western and central India. The Paleozoic formations from the Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian and Devonian system are found in the Western Himalaya region in Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. The Mesozoic Deccan Traps formation is seen over most of the northern Deccan; they are believed to be the result of sub-aerial volcanic activity. The Trap soil is black in colour and conducive to agriculture. The Carboniferous system, Permian System and Triassic systems are seen in the western Himalayas. The Jurassic system is seen in the western Himalayas and Rajasthan.
Tertiary imprints are seen in parts of Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and along the Himalayan belt. The Cretaceous system is seen in central India in the Vindhyas and part of the Indo-Gangetic plains. The Gondowana system is seen in the Narmada River area in the Vindhyas and Satpuras. The Eocene system is seen in the western Himalayas and Assam. Oligocene formations are seen in Kutch and Assam. The Pleistocene system is found over central India. The Andaman and Nicobar Island are thought to have been formed in this era by volcanoes. The Himalayas were formed by the convergence and deformation of the Indo-Australian and Eurasian Plates. Their continued convergence raises the height of the Himalayas by 1 cm each year.
Soils in India can be classified into 8 categories: alluvial, black, red, laterite, forest, arid & desert, saline & alkaline and peaty & organic soils. Alluvial soil constitute the largest soil group in India, constituting 80% of the total land surface. It is derived from the deposition of silt carried by rivers and are found in the Great Northern plains from Punjab to the Assam valley. Alluvial soil are generally fertile but they lack nitrogen and tend to be phosphoric.
Black soil are well developed in the Deccan lava region of Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh. These contain high percentage of clay and are moisture retentive. Red soil are found in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka plateau, Andhra plateau, Chota Nagpur plateau and the Aravallis. These are deficient in nitrogen, phosphorus and humus. Laterite soils are formed in tropical regions with heavy rainfall. Heavy rainfall results in leaching out all soluble material of top layer of soil. These are generally found in Western ghats, Eastern ghats and hilly areas of northeastern states that receive heavy rainfall. Forest soils occur on the slopes of mountains and hills in Himalayas, Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats. These generally consist of large amounts of dead leaves and other organic matter called humus.
India's total renewable water resources are estimated at 1,907.8 km3/year. Its annual supply of usable and replenshable groundwater amounts to 350 billion cubic metres. Only 35% of groundwater resources are being utilised. About 44 million tonnes of cargo is moved annually through the country's major rivers and waterways. Groundwater supplies 40% of water in India's irrigation canals. 56% of the land is arable and used for agriculture. Black soils are moisture-retentive and are preferred for dry farming and growing cotton, linseed, etc. Forest soils are used for tea and coffee plantations. Red soil have a wide diffusion of iron content.
Most of India's estimated 5.4 billion barrels (860,000,000 m3) in oil reserves are located in the Mumbai High, upper Assam, Cambay, the Krishna-Godavari and Cauvery basins. India possesses about seventeen trillion cubic feet of natural gas in Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Orissa. Uranium is mined in Andhra Pradesh. India has 400 medium-to-high enthalpy thermal springs for producing geothermal energy in seven "provinces" — the Himalayas, Sohana, Cambay, the Narmada-Tapti delta, the Godavari delta and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (specifically the volcanic Barren Island.)
India is the world's biggest producer of mica blocks and mica splittings. India ranks second amongst the world's largest producers of barites and chromites. The Pleistocene system is rich in minerals. India is the third-largest coal producer in the world and ranks fourth in the production of iron ore. It is the fifth-largest producer of bauxite and crude steel, the seventh-largest of manganese ore and the eighth-largest of aluminium. India has significant sources of titanium ore, diamonds and limestone. India possesses 24% of the world's known and economically-viable thorium, which is mined along shores of Kerala. Gold had been mined in the now-defunct Kolar Gold Fields in Karnataka.