The Republic of India, in southern Asia, is the seventh largest country in the world, covering an area of 3 287 590 km2. The mainland extends between latitudes 8° 04´ and 37° 06´ North and longitudes 68° 07´ and 97° 25´ East and measures 3 200 km from north to south between the extreme latitudes and about 2 950 km from east to west between the extreme longitudes.

India is bounded on the north by Afghanistan, China, Nepal, and Bhutan; on the east by Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Bay of Bengal; on the south by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar -which separates it from Sri Lanka- and the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Arabian Sea and Pakistan. It has a land frontier of about 15 200 km and a coastline of some 6 100 km.

The mainland is comprised of four well-defined regions:

  • The Himalayas occupy the northern part of the country and consist of three almost parallel ranges interspersed with large plateaus and valleys. Some of the highest peaks in the world are found in these ranges. This mountain wall extends over a distance of 2 400 km with a varying depth of 240 to 320 km;
  • The northern plains, about 2 400 km long and 240 to 320 km broad, formed by the basins of three main rivers - the Indus, Ganga and Brahamaputra - originating in the Himalayas. In this zone variation in relief does not exceed 300 m;
  • Desert occupies the mid-western part of the country. There is no surface water and rainfall is very scanty. The region is almost sterile;
  • The peninsula plateau is set off from the northern plains by a mass of mountain and hill ranges varying from 450 to 1 200 m in height. The peninsula is flanked on one side by the Eastern Ghats, with an average elevation is 600 m, and on the other side by the Western Ghats with elevations from 900 to 1 200 m rising in places to over 2 450 m. Between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea lies a narrow coastal strip. Between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal the coastal strip is broader. The southern part of the plateau is formed by the Nilgiri Hills where the Eastern and Western Ghats meet.

The geological regions broadly follow the physical features and may be grouped into three well-defined zones:

  • The Himalayan mountain belt and associated mountains are regions of mountain building activity.
  • The northern plains are a great alluvial tract that separates the Himalayas from the peninsula in the south. The alluvium, which is about 6 000 m deep, conceals beneath it the southern fringes of the Himalayas and the northern fringes of the peninsula. This belongs to the latest chapter of earth´s history.
  • The peninsula is a region of relative stability and rare seismic disturbances. Highly metamorphosed rocks of the earliest period occur over more than half of the area and the rest is covered by coal-bearing Gondwana formations, later sediments and lava flows belonging to the Deccan trap formation.

The climate of the country can be broadly classified as tropical monsoon type though it varies from torrid to arctic in different areas of the country. Four broad climatic regions are distinguished based on rainfall:

  • Practically the whole of Assam and its neighbourhood, the Western Ghats and adjoining coastal strip and parts of the Himalayas are areas of very heavy rainfall with more than 2 000 mm annual precipitation.
  • In contrast Rajasthan, Kutch and the high Ladakh plateau of Kashmir receive rainfall of less than 500 mm per year.
  • Between these two extremes are regions of moderately high rainfall, from 1 000 to 2 000 mm. The former consists of a broad belt in the eastern part of the peninsula merging northward with the northern plains. The latt

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last updated:  Monday, 28 May, 2012