India’s geography has four distinct regions or zones. These are the great mountain ranges in the north, the fertile and sprawling Indo-Gangetic Plains, the desert region towards the north-west and the southern peninsula. India has an area of 3.3 square km. India’s geography includes a coastline of 7,517 km along the mainland, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshwadweep Islands.
The Great Mountain Ranges
The Himalayas, which run in the north and north-eastern regions, separate India from the Tibetan Plateau. It is classified into three parallel zones – the Great or Inner Himalaya; the Lesser of Middle Himalaya and the sub-Himalaya or the Outer Himalaya.
The Great Himalaya includes the innermost line of some of the highest peaks in the world (above 6,100 metres), including Mount Everest, K2, Kanchenjunga, Nanga Parbat and Dhaulagiri. This zone also includes a number of glaciers which feed the rivers that flow through Indian geography.
The Middle Himalaya has a series of mountain ranges that are about 4,000-4,500 metres in height and roughly 80 km in width. It includes the Kashmir Valley, the Kullu and Kangra Valleys (in Himachal Pradesh), Mussoorie and Nainital (in Uttarakhand).
The Outer Himalaya is the foothill zone with mountains that are 900-1,200 m high on an average and includes the Shivalik range.
The Indo-Gangetic Plains
Also known as the Indus-Ganga Plain or the North Indian River Plain, it is formed of the Indus, the Ganges or Ganga and the Brahmaputra and their tributaries. The region, among the most fertile in India, has one of the highest population densities in the world.
The Indus and its tributaries, Ravi, Beas, Jhelum, Satluj and Chenab, mainly flow through the plains of Punjab. The Ganges and its tributaries like the Yamuna flow through the plains of states like Haryana, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. The Brahmaputra and its tributaries flow through Assam in the north-east region.
The Great Indian Desert, better known as the Thar Desert, is found in Rajasthan and forms a natural boundary with Pakistan. It covers an area of more than 200,000 square km, mostly in Rajasthan and Gujarat (the Rann of Kutch). It also covers parts of Punjab and Haryana. It is the 18th largest desert in the world in terms of area.
The northern boundary of the Southern Peninsula is demarcated by mountain ranges less than 1,200 m high which separate it from the Indo-Gangetic Plains. It is a tableland that comprises the Deccan Plateau and other plateaus like Malwa and Chotanagpur. The Southern Peninsula has the Eastern Ghats on one side and the Western Ghats on the other. The Western Ghats taper off to a narrow Western Coastal Plains but the area between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal, known as the Eastern Coastal Plains, is much bigger.
In addition to these regions, Indian geography also has two large island systems, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and Lakshadweep in the Arabian Sea. Both, incidentally, are Union Territories.