Indian Geography - Exploring India

Quick Facts-

India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage

All the five major racial types – Australoid, Mongoloid, Europoid, Caucasian, and Negroid find representation among the people of India [Unity in diversity]

There are 22 National Languages have been recognized by the Constitution of India, of which Hindi is the Official Union Language. Besides these, there are 844 different dialects that are practiced in various parts of the Country

India is a developing country with a healthy growth rate of 9% since last 5 years [It was dropped to 6.7% in 2009 due to global economic recession]


Census 2001 [India]-
Census is a process to acquire information about demography of a particular region/territory. Census is conducted in India regularly at an interval of 10 years. 1st Census was conducted in 1860 but 1st modern census in India started from 1901. Latest census (14th) was conducted in February-2001 and next census is due in 2011. The census is carried out by the office of the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India, Delhi an office in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, under the 1948 Census of India Act. One of the most important provisions of law is the guarantee for the maintenance of secrecy of the information collected at the census of each individual. The census records are not open to inspection and also not admissible in evidence. In India census is carried out by the canvassing method
9th February 2001, the first day of the 2001 census was celebrated as the census day and DC acts as census officer in India
Census-2001 [Data at a Glance]-
Highest Population States
1. Uttar Pradesh (16.16% of India’s total population)
2. Maharashtra (9.42%)
3. Bihar (8.07%)
4. West Bengal (7.79%)
Lowest Population States
1. Sikkim ( 0.05%)
2. Mizoram (0.09%)
3. Arunachal Pradesh (0.11%)
4. Goa (0.13%)
Highest Density of Population States
1. West Bengal (903 persons per sq km)
2. Bihar (881)
3. Kerala (819)
4. Uttar Pradesh (690)
Lowest Density of Population States
1. Arunachal Pradesh (13 persons per sq km)
2. Mizoram (42)
3. Sikkim (76)
4. Manipur (97)
Highest Decadal Growth Rate of Population States
1. Nagaland (64.53%)
2. Sikkim (33.06%)
3. Meghalaya (30.65%)
4. Jammu and Kashmir (29.43%)
Lowest Decadal Growth Rate of Population States
1. Kerala (9.43%)
2. Tamil Nadu (11.72%)
3. Andhra Pradesh (14.59%)
4. Goa (15.21%)
Highest Literacy States
1. Kerala (90.9%)
2. Mizoram (88.8%)
3. Goa (82.0%)
4. Maharashtra (76.9%)
Lowest Literacy States
1. Bihar (47%)
2. Sikkim (50.6%)
3. Jharkhand (53.6%)
4. Arunachal Pradesh (54.3%)

Least populous district- Yanam

Most literate district- Aizawl


Indian Geography in detail-
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. India measures 3,214 km from north (J & K) to South (Kanya Kumari). It has a coastline of 7,517 Km. Gujarat is the state with longest coast line followed by Andhra Pradesh. 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 territorial waters of India extend into the sea to a distance of twelve nautical miles (22 km) measured from the appropriate baseline.
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.
India is divided into seven physiographic regions. They are-

The northern mountains including the Himalayas, which include the Kuen Lun and the Karakoram ranges and the northeast mountain ranges

Indo-Gangetic plains

Thar Desert

Central Highlands and Deccan Plateau

East Coast

West Coast

Bordering seas and islands


I will explain later under heading Mountain System of World
Indo-Gangetic plains-
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 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 known as Bhabar Belt, Terai Belt, Bangar Belt and Khadar Belt
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
Central Highlands-
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. Deccan Plateau is mostly flat, with elevations ranging from 300 to 600 m. 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. It is made of 3 smaller plateaus — the Ranchi, Hazaribagh, and Kodarma plateaus. The Ranchi plateau is the largest, with an average elevation of 700 m. 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. 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 epicenter of the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, which claimed the lives of more than 20,000 people
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 and 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)
Western Ghats-
The Western Ghats also known as the Sahyadri Mountains is a mountain range along the western side of India. It runs north to south along the western edge of the Deccan Plateau, and separates the plateau from a narrow coastal plain along the Arabian Sea. The range starts near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra, south of the River Tapti, and runs approximately 1600 km through the states of Maharashtra, Goa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala ending at Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India. 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. About sixty percent of the Western Ghats are located in the state of Karnataka.
The average elevation is around 1,200 meters. The area is one of the world’s ten “Hottest biodiversity hotspots” and has over 5000 species of flowering plants, 139 mammal species, 508 bird species and 179 amphibian species. At least 325 globally threatened species occur in the Western Ghats
Eastern Ghats-
The Eastern Ghats are a discontinuous range of mountains along India’s eastern coast. The Eastern Ghats run from West Bengal state in the north, through Orissa and Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu in the south. They are eroded and cut through by the four major rivers of southern India, the Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri. 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 mountain ranges run parallel to the Bay of Bengal. The Eastern Ghats are not as high as the Western Ghats. The highest point in Eastern Ghats is Mahendra Giri (1501 m) but the average width of Eastern Ghats is more than Western Ghats. The region boasts of fertile soil but hydropower generation here is not as profitable as it is in the Western Ghats. The Eastern Ghats are older than the Western Ghats.
The Eastern and Western Ghats meet at the southern part of the Indian Peninsula which is formed by the Nilgiri Hills (Blue Mountains)

Ports in India-
India has a long coastline spanning 7600 kilometers forming one of the biggest peninsulas in the world. It is serviced by 12 major ports and 185 notified minor and intermediate ports. However the words “major”, “intermediate” and “minor” do not have a strict association with the traffic volumes served by these ports. As an example, Mundra Port, a newly developed minor port in the state of Gujarat registered a cargo traffic of around 28.8 million tons per annum during the financial year of 2008, which is higher than that of many major ports. Major ports handled over 80% cargo traffic of India. The classification of Indian ports into major, minor and intermediate has an administrative significance. Indian government has a federal structure, and according to its constitution, maritime transport falls under the “concurrent list”, to be administered by both the Central and the State governments. While the Central Shipping Ministry administer the major ports, the minor and intermediate ports are administered by the relevant departments or ministries in the nine coastal states of West Bengal, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat. Several of these 185 minor and intermediate ports are merely “notified”, with little or no cargo handling actually taking place. These ports have been identified by the respective governments to be developed, in a phased manner, a good proportion of them involving Public-private partnership. Some 60% of India’s container traffic is handled by the Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in Mumbai. It has just 9 berths compared to 40 in the main port of Singapore. It takes an average of 21 days to clear import cargo in India compared to just 3 in Singapore.

List of major ports in India-

Total coast line of India- 7517 K.M.
In India total 9 states shared coast line and longest is in Gujarat [1600 KM]. There are 12 major ports in India out of which 6 are situated at West Coast and 6 are at East Coast. All major ports, except one (Ennore Port), are government administered, but private-sector participation in ports has increased.

On West coast

Mumbai [Biggest and Busiest]

On East Coast

Haldia or Kolkata [In news due to decrease in traffic]


Jawahar Lal Nehru at Nava Sheva [Fastest growing]


Pradeep [Exports raw iron to Japan]


Kandla [The Child of partition]




Marmugao [There is Naval base also]


Chennai [Oldest Port]


New Mangalore [Exports Kudremukh iron-Ore]


Ennore under Ennore Port Ltd Company [Modern and only port in private hands]


Kochi or Cochin [Natural Harbour of India]


Tuticorn [Southernmost]

Recent Developments-
The Gangavaram Port in Andhra Pradesh, inaugurated in July 2009, is India’s deepest port, with a depth of 21m

Recently an expert team of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) led by Dr. Gion Caprez visited India to evaluate The Matheran Light Railway, Maharashtra for inscription as a World Heritage Site

What is concept of Human Development Index [HDI]-?

The Human Development Index (HDI) is an index used to rank the countries on the basis of developed, developing, or underdeveloped country based upon human development in that country.

It is being used since 1990. The index was developed in 1990 by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and India’s Nobel prize Winner Economist Amartya Sen [Noble prize winner of 1998]
It is prepared by UNDP (United Nations Development Programme)
It is a composite of 3 factors-

Life Expectancy at birth or life expectancy at birth also called LEI (Life Expectancy Index)

Standard of Knowledge & Education : Adult Literacy Rate also called EAI (Education Attainment Index) given 2/3 priority and Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) given 1/3 priority (weight age)

Standard of living measured by natural logarithm of gross domestic product per capita also called SLI (Standard of Living Index)


The latest report is of year 2008. It was a new index was released on December 18, 2008. It was called “statistical update” and it covers the period up to 2006 and was originally published without an accompanying report on human development. The update is relevant due to newly released estimates of purchasing power parities (PPP), implying substantial adjustments for many countries, resulting in changes in HDI values and, in many cases, HDI ranks. Here are the salient features of this report (memorable points):-

It was launched in December 2008

It includes 177 UN members plus Hong Kong plus Palestinian territories.

Countries fall into three broad categories based on their HDI: high, medium and low human development.

Iceland is the top of this list with HDI of 0.968.

India’s Rank is 134 with HDI of 0.609 [it was 132th in 2008 with HDI of 0.619]

Top 5 countries are Iceland, Norway, Canada, Australia and Ireland

Japan Tops the list in Asia (0.956)

Libya Tops the list in Africa (0.840)

Canada has an Higher HDI (0.967) than USA (0.950)

Since 1990, Japan, Norway, Iceland & Canada only have been able to get a top slot in this index


Indian States [Languages, Religion and Notable points]-



1. Jammu & Kashmir

Language: Urdu, Kashmiri & Dogri. Urdu written in the Persian script is the official language of the state.

Under Article 370, Separate Constitution, 6 Year assembly term
Only State where Muslims are in Majority
Since 1990, the Armed Forces Act is applicable to J&K [criticized by Human Right Activists]
Only 4% population is under BPL
Ambitious Kashmir Railway project which is being constructed by Konkani Railway Corporation and IRCON
Vaishno Devi and Amarnath
Gulmarg, one of the most popular ski resort destinations in India & home to the world’s highest green golf course
Monastic Fest, Buddhism is an integral part of Ladakh’s culture
Dumhal is a famous dance in the Kashmir valley, performed by men


2. State - Himachal Pradesh

Language - Hindi, Bilaspuri & Pahari

Located in Western HimalayasMaximum Population belongs to Rural [92%]
Abundance of perennial rivers
The economy of the state is highly dependent on three sources- hydroelectric power, tourism and agriculture
Least corrupt after Kerala
Fruit bowl of the country
Flower basket of the world
Well known habitat to a variety of animals. It has 12 major national parks and sanctuaries – the largest number in the Himalayan region. Musk Deer is State Animal of HP
Himachal has a rich heritage of handicrafts
The Kalka-Shimla Railway track has a length of 96 kilometers recently included in World Heritage List
There are 3 domestic Airports in State but No international Airport
Kangra Painting


3. State : Uttrakhand

Langauge - Hindi, Kumaoni, & Garhwali

The High Court of the state is in Nainital. 27th State of Republic of India [2000]
Well known as the birthplace of the Chipko environmental movement. The native people of Uttrakhanda are generally called either Kumaoni or Garhwal Many Holy sites of India Like Haridwar, Kedarnath, Badrinath, Gangotri, Yamunotri & Rishikesh located in this State.
Rishikesh is widely considered the Yoga capital of the world.
Jim Corbett National Park (the oldest national park of India) at Ramnagar in Nainital District
Valley of Flowers National Park and Nanda Devi National Park in Chamoli District [UNESO world heritage site]
Rajaji National Park in Haridwar District
Top Tourist destination of India due to hill-stations of Nainital, Mussoorie, Almora, Kausani, Bhimtal and Ranikhet
Mindroling Monastery & Shri Bheema Shankar Mandir
Kartik Purnima


4. State : Punjab

Langugage - Punjabi, The Punjabi language, written in the Gurumukhi script is the official and most commonly used language in the state

Golden Temple, Bhangra & Baisakhi Highest per capita income and Human Development Index in India

Punjab is a fertile plain of India [Alluvial Soil]

There are a number of wetlands, bird sanctuaries and zoological parks all over Punjab

Cobra is common snake in Punjab

The holiest of Sikh Shrines, the Shri Harmandir Sahib Ji (or Golden Temple), is in The Holy city of Amritsar

The Sri Akal Takht Sahib Ji which resides within the Golden temple complex is the temporal seat of Sikhs. Of the five Takhts (Temporal Seats) of Sikhism, three are in Punjab

Anandpur Sahib is where Shri Guru Gobind Singh Ji created the Khalsa on Baisakhi
Professor Har Gobind Khorana, famous Nobel laureate & biotechnologist was educated at Punjab University.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh Award (a very prestigious award) is associated with Punjab
The first ever Asian Member of the US Congress, Dr. Dalip Singh Saund, was a Punjabi as was Kalpana Chawla, the famous US astronaut.


5. State : Haryana

Languages - Hindi, Haryanvi & Khadi Boli

Haryana has the 3rd highest per capita income in the countryDuring the Indian rebellion of 1857, several leaders from this region, including Rao Tula Ram, participated actively
Rainfall is varied, with the Sivalik Hills region being the wettest and the Aravalli Hills region being the driest
Over 3% of the S&P CNX 500 conglomerates have corporate offices in Haryana.
Establishment of Nano City a joint venture between the Haryana State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation (HSIIDC) and Nano Works Developers Private Ltd, a company promoted by Sabeer Bhatia, the much talked about creator of Hotmail will further boost the state position in this sector.
Haryana was the first State in the country to achieve 100% rural electrification in 1970
Haryana has adopted a new sports policy on August 21, 2009