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Geography of India
‚India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history,
the grandmother of legend and the great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and
most instructive material in the history of man are treasured up in India only.‛
– Mark Twain
India is a vast country. Lying entirely in the Northern hemisphere the main land
extends between latitudes 8°4'N and 37°6'N and longitudes 68°7'E and 97°25'E. The
southernmost tip of India is Indira point in Andaman and Nicobar islands at 6°45΄N
latitudes. The Tropic of Cancer (23° 30'N) divides the country into almost two equal
parts. India is bounded by the young fold mountains in the northwest, north and
northeast. South of about 22° north latitude, it begins to taper, and extends towards
the Indian Ocean, dividing it into two seas, the Arabian Sea on the west and the Bay
of Bengal on its east.
The landmass of India has an area of 3.28 million square km (3,287,590 sq. Km).
India’s total area accounts for about 2.4 per cent of the total geographical area of the
world. India is the seventh largest country of the world. India's population, as on 1
March 2011 stood at 1,21,05,69,573 (62,31,21,843 males and 58,74,47,730 females)
which accounts for 17.5 per cent of the world population. Population wise India is
the second largest country in the world.
India in the World
Border Countries
Countries having a common border with India are Afghanistan and Pakistan to the
north-west, China, Bhutan and Nepal to the north, Myanmar to the Far East and
Bangladesh to the east. Sri Lanka is separated from India by a narrow channel of sea
formed by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar.
India and the Adjacent Countries
States and Union territories
There are 29 states and 7 Union territories in India.
States and Union Territories of India
Andhra Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Gandhi Nagar
Himachal Pradesh
Jammu & Kashmir
Madhya Pradesh
Tamil Nadu
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal
Union Territory
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Port Blair
Dadra & Nagar Haveli
Daman & Diu
National Capital Territory of Delhi
Indian Standard Time
From Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh there is a time lag of two hours. Hence, time
along the Standard Meridian of India (82°30'E) passing through Mirzapur (in Uttar
Pradesh) is taken as the standard time for the whole country. Indian standard time is
GMT+05:30. The latitudinal extent influences the duration of the day and night, as
one move from south to north.
India: Extent and Standard Meridian
The climate of India can broadly be classified as a tropical monsoon one. Even
though much of the northern part of India lies beyond the tropical zone, the entire
country has a tropical climate marked by relatively high temperatures and dry
winters. There are four seasons:
Winter (December-February)
Summer (March-June)
South-west monsoon season (June-September)
Post monsoon season (October-November)
The Himalayan states, being more temperate, experience an additional two
seasons: autumn and spring. Traditionally, Indians note six seasons, each about two
months long. These are the spring (Sanskrit: vasanta), summer (grisma) monsoon
season (varsa), early autumn (sarada), late autumn (hemanta), and winter (sisira).
These are based on the astronomical division of the twelve months into six parts. The
ancient Hindu calendar also reflects these seasons in its arrangement of months.
India’s climate is affected by two seasonal winds-the north-east monsoon and
the south-west monsoon. The north-east monsoon commonly known as winter
monsoon blows from land to sea whereas the south-west monsoon known as
summer monsoon blows from sea to land after crossing the Indian ocean, the
Arabian sea and the Bay of Bengal. The south-west monsoon brings most of the
rainfall during the year in the country.
Monsoon Advancing in India
Major Physiographic Divisions
The land of India displays great physical variation. The physical features of India
can be grouped under the following physiographic divisions:
(1) The Himalayan Mountains: The Himalayas, geologically young and
structurally fold mountains stretch over the northern borders of India. These
mountain ranges run in a west-east direction from the Indus to the
Brahmaputra. The Himalayas represent the loftiest and one of the most
rugged mountain barriers of the world. They form an arc, which covers a
distance of about 2,400 km. Their width varies from 400 km in Kashmir to 150
km in Arunachal Pradesh. The altitudinal variations are greater in the eastern
half than those in the western half. The Himalaya consists of three parallel
ranges in its longitudinal extent. A number of valleys lie between these
ranges. The northern most range is known as the Great or Inner Himalayas or
the ‘Himadri’. It is the most continuous range consisting of the loftiest peaks
with an average height of 6,000 metres. It contains all the prominent
Himalayan peaks.
Major Physiographic Divisions of India
The folds of the Great Himalayas are asymmetrical in nature. The core
of this part of Himalayas is composed of granite. It is perennially snow
bound, and a number of glaciers descend from this range.
The range lying to the south of the Himadri forms the most rugged
mountain system and is known as Himachal or lesser Himalaya. The ranges
are mainly composed of highly compressed and altered rocks. The altitude
varies between 3,700 and 4,500 metres and the average width is of 50 Km.
While the Pir Panjal range forms the longest and the most important range, the
Dhaula the Dhaula Dharand the Mahabharat ranges are also prominent ones.
This range consists of the famous valley of Kashmir, the Kangra and Kullu
Valley in Himachal Pradesh. This region is well known for its hill stations.
Pahalgam, the valley of shepherds in Jammu and Kashmir
The outer most range of the Himalayas is called the Shiwaliks. They
extend over a width of 10-50 Km and have an altitude varying between 900
and 1100 metres. These ranges are composed of unconsolidated sediments
brought down by rivers from the main Himalayan ranges located farther
north. These valleys are covered with thick gravel and alluvium. The
longitudinal valley lying between lesser Himalaya and the Shiwaliks are
known as Duns. Dehra Dun, Kotli Dun and Patli Dun are some of the wellknown Duns
Besides the longitudinal divisions, the Himalayas have been divided
on the basis of regions from west to east. These divisions have been
demarcated by river valleys. For example, the part of Himalayas lying
between Indus and Satluj has been traditionally known as Punjab Himalaya
but it is also known regionally as Kashmir and Himachal Himalaya from west
to east respectively. The part of the Himalayas lying between Satluj and Kali
rivers is known as Kumaon Himalayas. The Kali and Tista rivers demarcate
the Nepal Himalayas and the part lying between Tista and Dihang rivers is
known as Assam Himalayas. There are regional names also in these broad
The Brahmaputra marks the eastern most boundary of the Himalayas.
Beyond the Dihang gorge, the Himalayas bend sharply to the south and
spread along the eastern boundary of India. They are known as the Purvachal
or the Eastern hills and mountains. These hills running through the northeastern states are mostly composed of strong sandstones which are
sedimentary rocks. Covered with dense forests, they mostly run as parallel
ranges and valleys. The Purvachal comprises the Patkai hills, the Naga hills,
Manipur hills and the Mizo hills.
Mizo Hills
(2) The Northern Plains: The northern plain has been formed by the interplay of
the three major river systems, namely– the Indus, the Ganga and the
Brahmaputra along with their tributaries. This plain is formed of alluvial soil.
The deposition of alluvium in a vast basin lying at the foothills of the
Himalaya over millions of years formed this fertile plain. It spreads over an
area of 7 lakh sq. km. The plain being about 2400 Km long and 240 to 320 Km
broad, is a densely populated physiographic division. With a rich soil cover
combined with adequate water supply and favourable climate it is
agriculturally a very productive part of India. The rivers coming from
northern mountains are involved in depositional work. In the lower course,
due to gentle slope, the velocity of the river decreases which results in the
formation of riverine islands. Majuli, in the Brahmaputra River is the largest
inhabited riverine island in the world.
Aerial view of Majuli island
The Northern Plain is broadly divided into three sections. The Western
part of the Northern Plain is referred to as the Punjab Plains. Formed by the
Indus and its tributaries, the larger part of this plain lies in Pakistan. The
Indus and its tributaries–the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas and the
Satluj originate in the Himalaya. This section of the plain is dominated by the
doabs (‘Doab’ is made up of two words- ‘do’ meaning two and ‘ab’ meaning
water. Similarly ‘Punjab’ is also made up two words- ‘Punj’ meaning five and
‘ab’ meaning water). The Ganga plain extends between Ghaggar and Teesta
rivers. It is spread over the states of Haryana, Delhi, U.P., Bihar, partly
Jharkhand and West Bengal. To its east, particularly in Assam lies the
Brahmaputra plain.
The northern plains are generally described as flat land with no
variations in its relief. It is not true. These vast plains also have diverse relief
features. According to the variations in relief features, the Northern plains can
be divided into four regions. The rivers, after descending from the mountains
deposit pebbles in a narrow belt of about 8 to 16 km in width lying parallel to
the slopes of the Shiwaliks. It is known as bhabar. All the streams disappear in
this bhabar belt. South of this belt, the streams and rivers re-emerge and create
a wet, swampy and marshy region known as terai. This was a thickly forested
region full of wildlife. The forests have been cleared to create agricultural
land and to settle migrants from Pakistan after partition.
The largest part of the northern plain is formed of older alluvium. They
lie above the flood plains of the rivers and present a terrace like feature. This
part is known as bhangar. The soil in this region contains calcareous deposits
locally known as kankar. The newer, younger deposits of the flood plains are
called khadar. They are renewed almost every year and so are fertile, thus,
ideal for intensive agriculture.
(3) The Peninsular Plateau: The Peninsular plateau is a tableland composed of
the old crystalline, igneous and metamorphic rocks. It was formed due to the
breaking and drifting of the Gondwana land thus, making it a part of the
oldest landmass. The plateau has broad and shallow valleys and rounded
hills. This plateau consists of two broad divisions, namely, the Central
Highlands and the Deccan Plateau. The part of the Peninsular plateau lying to
the north of the Narmada river covering a major area of the Malwa plateau is
known as the Central Highlands. The Vindhyas range is bounded by the
Central Highlands on the south and the Aravalis on the northwest. The
further westward extension gradually merges with the sandy and rocky
desert of Rajasthan. The flow of the rivers draining this region, namely the
Chambal, the Sind, the Betwa and Ken is from southwest to northeast, thus
indicating the slope. The Central Highlands are wider in the west but
narrower in the east. The eastward extensions of this plateau are locally
known as the Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand. The Chotanagpur plateau marks
the further eastward extension, drained by the Damodar river.
The Deccan Plateau is a triangular landmass that lies to the south of the
river Narmada. The Satpura range flanks its broad base in the north while the
Mahadev, the Kaimur hills and the Maikal range form its eastern extensions.
The Deccan Plateau is higher in the west and slopes gently eastwards. An
extension of the Plateau is also visible in the northeast– locally known as the
Meghalaya, Karbi-Anglong Plateau and North Cachar Hills. It is separated by
a fault from the Chotanagpur Plateau. Three prominent hill ranges from the
west to east are the Garo, the Khasi and the Jaintia Hills.
The Western Ghats and
the Eastern Ghats mark the
western and the eastern edges
respectively. Western Ghats lie
parallel to the western coast.
They are continuous and can be
crossed through passes only e.g.
Thal, Bhor and the Pal Ghats.
The Western Ghats are
higher than the Eastern Ghats.
Sohra, previously known as Cherrapunjee is
Their average elevation is 900–
1600 metres as against 600
a sub division in East Khasi hills
metres of the Eastern Ghats. The
Eastern Ghats stretch from the Mahanadi Valley to the Nilgiris in the south.
The Eastern Ghats are discontinuous and irregular and dissected by rivers
draining into the Bay of Bengal. The Western Ghats cause orographic rain by
facing the rain bearing moist winds to rise along the western slopes of the
Ghats. The Western Ghats are known by different local names. The height of
the Western Ghats progressively increases from north to south. The highest
peaks include the Anai Mudi (2,695metres) and the Doda Betta (2,637 metres).
Mahendragiri (1,501 metres) is the highest peak in the Eastern Ghats. Shevroy
Hills and the Javadi Hills are located to the southeast of the Eastern Ghats.
Famous hill stations are Udagamandalam, (popularly known as Ooty) and the
One of the distinct features of the peninsular plateau is the black soil
area known as Decean Trap. This is of volcanic origin hence the rocks are
igneous. These rocks have denuded over time and are responsible for the
formation of black soil. The Aravali Hills lie on the western and north western
margins of the peninsular plateau. These are highly eroded hills and are
found as broken hills. They extend from Gujarat to Delhi in a southwestnortheast direction.
(4) The Indian Desert: The Indian desert lies towards the western margins of the
Aravali Hills. It is an undulating sandy plain covered with sand dunes. This
region receives very low rainfall below 150 mm per year. It has arid climate
with low vegetation cover. Streams appear during the rainy season but soon
after they disappear into the sand as they do not have enough water to reach
the sea. Luni is the only large river in this region.
Barchans (crescent shaped dunes) cover larger areas but longitudinal dunes
become more prominent near the Indo-Pakistan boundary. If you visit
Jaisalmer, you may get to see a group of barchans.
Sand Dunes and Camels for a Ride in Jaisalmer
(5) The Coastal Plains: The Peninsular plateau is flanked by stretch of narrow
coastal strips, running along the Arabian Sea on the west and Bay of Bengal
on the east. The western coast, sandwiched between the Western Ghats and
the Arabian Sea, is a narrow plain. It consists of three sections. The northern
part of the coast is called the Konkan (Mumbai – Goa), the central stretch is
called the Kannad Plain while the southern stretch is referred to as the
Malabar coast.
The plains along the Bay of Bengal are wide and level. In the northern
part, it is referred to as the Northern Circar, while the southern part is known
as the Coromandel Coast. Large rivers such as the Mahanadi, the Godavari,
the Krishna and the Kaveri have formed extensive delta on this coast. Lake
Chilika along the eastern coast is the largest salt water lake in India. It lies in
the state of Odisha, to the south of the Mahanadi delta.
Birds at Chilikalake in Odisha
(6) The Islands: India has a vast main land. Besides this, the country has also two
groups of islands – one in the Arabian Sea and another in the Bay of Bengal.
Both these island groups have great diversity of flora and fauna.
In the Arabian sea, Lakshadweep Islands are close to the Malabar coast
of Kerala. This group of islands is composed of small coral islands. Earlier
they were known as Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindive. In 1973 these were
named as Lakshadweep. It covers small area of 32 sq km. Kavarattiisland is
the administrative headquarters of Lakshadweep. The Pittiisland, which is
uninhabited, has a bird sanctuary.
Lakshadweep island
The elongated chain of islands located in the Bay of Bengal extending from
north to south are Andaman and Nicobar islands. They are bigger in size and
are more numerous and scattered. The entire group of islands is divided into
two broad categories – The Andaman in the north and the Nicobar in the
south. It is believed that these islands are an elevated portion of submarine
mountains. These island groups are of great strategic importance for the
country. There is great diversity of flora and fauna in this group of islands
too. These islands lie close to the equator and experience equatorial climate
and have thick forest cover. India’s only active volcano is found on Barren
Island in the Andaman and Nicobar group of Islands.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Drainage Systems in India
The drainage systems of India are mainly controlled by the broad relief features of
the subcontinent. Accordingly, the Indian rivers are divided into two major groups:
• the Himalayan rivers; and
• the Peninsular rivers.
Apart from originating from the two major physiographic regions of India,
the Himalayan and the Peninsular rivers are different from each other in many ways.
Most of the Himalayan rivers are perennial. It means that they have water
throughout the year. These rivers receive water from rain as well as from melted
snow from the lofty mountains. The two major Himalayan rivers, the Indus and the
Brahmaputra originate from the north of the mountain ranges. They have cut
through the mountains making gorges. The Himalayan rivers have long courses
from their source to the sea. They perform intensive erosional activity in their upper
courses and carry huge loads of silt and sand. In the middle and the lower courses,
these rivers form meanders, oxbow lakes, and many other depositional features in
their floodplains. They also have well-developed deltas.
A large number of the Peninsular rivers are seasonal, as their flow is
dependent on rainfall. During the dry season, even the large rivers have reduced
flow of water in their channels. The Peninsular rivers have shorter and shallower
courses as compared to their Himalayan counterparts. However, some of them
originate in the central highlands and flow towards the west. Most of the rivers of
peninsular India originate in the Western Ghats and flow towards the Bay of Bengal.
Major Rivers and Dams in India
The Himalayan Rivers
The major Himalayan rivers are the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. These
rivers are long, and are joined by many large and important tributaries. A river
along with its tributaries may be called a river system.
The Indus River System: The river Indus rises in Tibet, near Lake Mansarowar.
Flowing west, it enters India in the Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir. It forms
a picturesque gorge in this part. Several tributaries, the Zaskar, the Nubra, the Shyok
and the Hunza, join it in the Kashmir region. The Indus flows through Baltistan and
Gilgit and emerges from the mountains at Attock. The Satluj, the Beas, the Ravi, the
Chenab and the Jhelum join together to enter the Indus near Mithankot in Pakistan.
Beyond this, the Indus flows southwards eventually reaching the Arabian Sea, east
of Karachi. The Indus plain has a very gentle slope. With a total length of 2900 km,
the Indus is one of the longest rivers of the world. A little over a third of the Indus
basin is located in India in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and
the Punjab and the rest is in Pakistan. According to the regulations of the Indus
Water Treaty (1960), India can use only 20 per cent of the total water carried by
Indus river system. This water is used for irrigation in Punjab, Haryana and the
southern and western parts of Rajasthan.
The Ganga River System: The headwaters of the Ganga, called the ‘Bhagirathi’ is fed
by the Gangotri Glacier and joined by the Alaknanda at Devaprayag in Uttarakhand.
At Haridwar the Ganga emerges from the mountains on to the plains.
Confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda at Devprayag
The Ganga is joined by many tributaries from the Himalayas, a few of them
being major rivers such as the Yamuna, the Ghaghara, the Gandak and the Kosi. The
river Yamuna rises from the Yamunotri Glacier in the Himalayas. It flows parallel to
the Ganga and as a right bank tributary, meets the Ganga at Allahabad. The
Ghaghara, the Gandak and the Kosi rise in the Nepal Himalayas. They are the rivers
which flood parts of the northern plains every year, causing widespread damage to
life and property but enriching the soil for the extensive agricultural lands.
The main tributaries, which come from the peninsular uplands, are the
Chambal, the Betwa and the Son. These rise from semi arid areas, have shorter
courses and do not carry much water in them. Enlarged with the waters from its
right and left bank tributaries, the Ganga flows eastwards till Farakka in West
Bengal. This is the northernmost point of the Ganga delta. The river bifurcates here;
the Bhagirathi-Hooghly (a distributary) flows southwards through the deltaic plains
to the Bay of Bengal. The mainstream flows southwards into Bangladesh and is
joined by the Brahmaputra. Further downstream, it is known as the Meghna. This
mighty river, with waters from the Ganga, and the Brahmaputra, flows into the Bay
of Bengal. The delta formed by these rivers is known as the Sunderban delta. The
Sundarban Delta derived its name from the Sundari tree which grows well in
marshland. It is the world’s largest and fastest growing delta. It is also the home of
Royal Bengal tiger.
Royal Bengal Tiger and the Sunderbans
The length of the Ganga is over 2500 km. Ambala is located on the water
divide between the Indus and the Ganga river systems. The plains from Ambala to
the Sunderban stretch over nearly 1800 km, but the fall in its slope is hardly 300
metres. In other words, there is a fall of just one metre for every 6 km. Therefore, the
river develops large meanders.
The Brahmaputra River System: The Brahmaputra rises in Tibet, east of Mansarowar
lake very close to the sources of the Indus and the Satluj. It is slightly longer than the
Indus, and most of its course lies outside India. It flows eastwards parallel to the
Himalayas. On reaching the Namcha Barwa (7757 m), it takes a ‘U’ turn and enters
India in Arunachal Pradesh through a gorge. Here, it is called the Dihang and it is
joined by the Dibang, the Lohit, and many other tributaries to form the Brahmaputra
in Assam.
River Brahmaputra and Fishing Nets at Sunset in Assam
Brahmaputra is known as the Tsang Po in Tibet and Jamuna in Bangladesh. In
Tibet the river carries a smaller volume of water and less silt as it is a cold and a dry
area. In India it passes through a region of high rainfall. Here the river carries a large
volume of water and considerable amount of silt. The Brahmaputra has a braided
channel in its entire length in Assam and forms many riverine islands.
Every year during the rainy season, the river overflows its banks, causing
widespread devastation due to floods in Assam and Bangladesh. Unlike other north
Indian rivers the Brahmaputra is marked by huge deposits of silt on its bed causing
the river bed to rise. The river also shifts its channel frequently.
The Peninsular Rivers
The main water divide in Peninsular India is formed by the Western Ghats, which
runs from north to south close to the western coast. Most of the major rivers of the
Peninsula such as the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri flow
eastwards and drain into the Bay of Bengal. These rivers make deltas at their
mouths. There are numerous small streams flowing west of the Western Ghats. The
Narmada and the Tapi are the only long rivers, which flow west and make estuaries.
The drainage basins of the peninsular rivers are comparatively small in size.
The Narmada Basin: The Narmada rises in the Amarkantak hills in Madhya
Pradesh. It flows towards the west in a rift valley formed due to faulting. On its way
to the sea, the Narmada creates many picturesque locations. The ‘Marble rocks’, near
Jabalpur where the Narmada flows through a deep gorge, and the ‘Dhuadhar falls’
where the river plunges over steep rocks, are some of the notable ones. All the
tributaries of the Narmada are very short and most of these join the mainstream at
right angles. The Narmada basin covers parts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
Narmada through the marble rocks
Dhuadhar Falls
The Tapi Basin: The Tapi rises in the Satpura ranges, in the Betul district of Madhya
Pradesh. It also flows in a rift valley parallel to the Narmada but it is much shorter in
length. Its basin covers parts of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The
coastal plains between Western Ghats and the Arabian sea are very narrow. Hence,
the coastal rivers are short. The main west flowing rivers are Sabarmati, Mahi,
Bharathpuzha and Periyar.
The Godavari Basin: The Godavari is the largest Peninsular river. It rises from the
slopes of the Western Ghats in the Nasik district of Maharashtra. Its length is about
1500 km. It drains into the Bay of Bengal. Its drainage basin is also the largest among
the peninsular rivers. The basin covers parts of Maharashtra (about 50 per cent of the
basin area lies in Maharashtra), Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. The
Godavari is joined by a number of tributaries such as the Purna, the Wardha, the
Pranhita, the Manjra, the Wainganga and the Penganga. The last three tributaries are
very large. Because of its length and the area it covers, it is also known as the
‘Dakshin Ganga’.
The Mahanadi Basin: The Mahanadi rises in the highlands of Chhattisgarh. It flows
through Odisha to reach the Bay of Bengal. The length of the river is about 860 km.
Its drainage basin is shared by Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Odisha.
Hirakund dam on the Mahanadi river
The Krishna Basin: Rising from a spring near Mahabaleshwar, the Krishna flows for
about 1400 km and reaches the Bay of Bengal. The Tungabhadra, the Koyana, the
Ghatprabha, the Musi and the Bhima are some of its tributaries. Its drainage basin is
shared by Maharasthra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
The Kaveri Basin: The Kaveri rises in the Brahmagri range of the Western Ghats and
it reaches the Bay of Bengal in south of Cuddalore, in Tamil Nadu. Total length of
the river is about 760 km. Its main tributaries are Amravati, Bhavani, Hemavati and
Kabini. Its basin drains parts of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The river Kaveri
makes the second biggest waterfall in India, known as Sivasamudram. The
hydroelectric power generated from the falls is supplied to Mysore, Bangalore and
the Kolar Gold Field.
You may be familiar with the valley of Kashmir and the famous Dal Lake, the house
boats and shikaras, which attract thousands tourists every year. Similarly, you may
have visited some other tourist spot near a lake and enjoyed boating, swimming and
other water games. Imagine that if Srinagar, Nainital and other tourist places did not
have a lake would they have been as attractive as they are today? Apart from
attraction for tourists, lakes are also useful to human beings in many ways.
Shikaras in a Dal Lake
India has many lakes. These differ from each other in size, and other
characteristics. Most lakes are permanent; some contain water only during the rainy
season, like the lakes in the basins of inland drainage of semi-arid regions. There are
some of the lakes which are the result of the action of glaciers and ice sheets, while
the others have been formed by wind, river action, and human activities. A
meandering river across a flood plain forms cut-offs that later develop into ox-bow
lakes. Spits and bars form lagoons in the coastal areas, eg the Chilikalake, the Pulicat
lake, the Kolleru lake. Lakes in the region of inland drainage are sometimes seasonal;
for example, the Sambhar lake in Rajasthan, which is a salt water lake. Its water is
used for producing salt.
Production of salt in Sambhar lake
Most of the fresh water lakes are in the Himalayan region. They are of glacial
origin. In other words, they formed when glaciers dug out a basin, which was later
filled with snowmelt. The Wular lake in Jammu and Kashmir, in contrast, is the
result of tectonic activity. It is the largest freshwater lake in India. The Dal lake,
Bhimtal, Nainital, Loktak and Barapani are some other important fresh water lakes.
Apart from natural lakes, the damming of the rivers for the generation of hydel
power has also led to the formation of lakes such as Guru Gobind Sagar (Bhakra
Nangal Project).
Loktak Lake
GobindSagar Lake
We share this planet with millions of other living beings, starting from microorganisms and bacteria, lichens to banyan trees, elephants and blue whales. This
entire habitat that we live in has immense biodiversity. We humans along with all
living organisms form a complex web of ecological system in which we are only a
part and very much dependent on this system for our own existence. Forests plays a
key role in the ecological system as these are also the primary producers on which all
other living beings depend. India is one of the world’s richest countries in terms of
its vast array of biological diversity, and has nearly 8 per cent of the total number of
species in the world (estimated to be 1.6 million). This is possibly twice or thrice the
number yet to be discovered.
India is rich in flora. Available data place India in the tenth position in the world and
fourth in Asia in plant diversity. From about 70 per cent geographical area surveyed
so far, over 46,000 species of plants have been described by the Botanical Survey of
India (BSI), Kolkata. The vascular flora, which forms the conspicuous vegetation
cover, comprises 15,000 species.
With a wide range of climatic conditions from the torrid to the arctic, India
has rich and varied vegetation, which only a few countries of comparable size
possess. India can be divided into eight distinct-floristic-regions, namely, the
western Himalayas, the eastern Himalayas, Assam, the Indus plain, the Ganga plain,
the Deccan, Malabar and the Andamans.
The Western Himalayan region extends from Kashmir to Kumaon. Its temperate
zone is rich in forests of chir, pine, other conifers and broad-leaved temperate trees.
Higher up, there are forests of deodar, blue pine, spruce and silver fir. The alpine
zone extends from the upper limit of the temperate zone of about 4,750 metres or
even higher. The characteristic trees of this zone are high-level silver fir, silver birch
and junipers. The Eastern Himalayan region extends from Sikkim eastwards and
embraces Darjeeling, Kurseon and the adjacent tracts. The temperate zone has forest
of oaks, laurels, maples, rhododendrons, alder and birch. Many conifers, junipers
and dwarf willows also grow here. The Assam region comprises the Brahmaputra
and the Surma valleys with evergreen forest, occasional thick clumps of bamboos
and tall grasses. The Indus plain region comprises the plain of Punjab, western
Rajasthan and northern Gujarat. It is dry, hot and supports natural vegetation. The
Ganga plain region covers the area which is alluvial plain and is under cultivation
for wheat, sugarcane and rice. Only small areas support forests of widely differing
types. The Deccan region comprises the entire table land of the Indian Peninsula
and supports vegetation of various kinds from shrub jungles to mixed deciduous
forest. The Malabar region covers the excessively humid belt of mountain country
parallel to the west coast of the Peninsula. Besides being rich in forest vegetation,
this region produces important commercial crops, such as coconut, betel nut, pepper,
coffee, tea, rubber and cashew nut. The Andaman region abounds in evergreen,
mangrove, beach and diluvial forests. The Himalayan region extending from
Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh through Sikkim, Meghalaya and Nagaland and the
Deccan Peninsula is rich in endemic flora, with a large number of plants which are
not found elsewhere.
Few extinct, rare and endangered species
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with its headquarters in Kolkata and various
regional stations is responsible for surveying the faunal resources of India.
Possessing a tremendous diversity of climate and physical conditions, India has
great variety of fauna numbering over 92,037 species. Of these, protozoa number
2,557, mollusca 5,155, anthropoda 71,480, amphibian 312, mammalian 397, reptile
462, members of protochordata 119, pisces 2,641, aves 1,232 and other inverterbrates
The mammals include the majestic elephant, the gaur or Indian bison-the
largest of existing bovines, the great Indian rhinoceros, the gigantic wild sheep of the
Himalaya, the swamp deer, the thamin spotted deer, nilgai, the four-horned
antelope, the Indian antelope or black-buck – the only representative of these genera.
Among the cats, the tiger and lion are the most magnificent of all; other splendid
creatures such as the clouded leopard, the snow leopard, the marbled cat etc., are
also found. Many other species of mammals are remarkable for their beauty,
colouring, grace and uniqueness. Several birds, like pheasants, geese ducks, myanahs,
parakeets, pigeons, cranes, hornbills and sunbirds inhabit forests and wetlands.
One horned Rhinoceros and herd of Elephants at Kaziranga National Park
Among the crocodiles and gharials, the salt water crocodile is found along the
eastern coast and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A project for breeding
crocodiles which started in 1974, has been instrumental in saving the crocodile from
extinction.The great Himalayan range has a very interesting variety of fauna that
includes the wild sheep and goats, markhor, ibex, shrew and tapir. The panda and
the snow leopard are found in the upper reaches of the mountains.
Depletion of forest cover due to expansion of agriculture, habitat destruction,
over-exploitation, pollution, introduction of toxic imbalance in community structure,
epidemics, floods, droughts and cyclones, contribute to the loss of flora and fauna.
Conservation of Forest and Wildlife in India
Conservation in the background of rapid decline in wildlife population and forestry
has become essential. In the 1960s and 1970s, conservationists demanded a national
wildlife protection programme. The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act was
implemented in 1972, with various provisions for protecting habitats. An all-India
list of protected species was also published. The thrust of the programme was
towards protecting the remaining population of certain endangered species by
banning hunting, giving legal protection to their habitats, and restricting trade in
wildlife. Subsequently, central and many state governments established national
parks and wildlife sanctuaries. The central government also announced several
projects for protecting specific animals, which were gravely threatened, including
the tiger, the one- horned rhinoceros, the Kashmir stag or hangul, three types of
crocodiles – fresh water crocodile, saltwater crocodile and the Gharial, the Asiatic
lion, and others. Most recently, the Indian elephant, black buck (chinkara), the great
Indian bustard (godawan) and the snow leopard, etc. have been given full or partial
legal protection against hunting and trade throughout India.
Project Tiger
Tiger is one of the key wildlife species in the faunal web. The threats to tiger population are
numerous, such as poaching for trade, shrinking habitat, depletion of prey base species,
growing human population, etc. The trade of tiger skins and the use of their bones in
traditional medicines, especially in the Asian countries left the tiger population on the verge
of extinction ‚Project Tiger‛ was launched in April, 1973 with the objective ‚to ensure
maintenance of a viable population of Tigers in India for scientific, economic, aesthetic,
cultural and ecological values, and to preserve for all times, areas of biological importance as
a national heritage for the benefit, education and enjoyment of the people‛. Corbett National
Park in Uttarakhand, Sunderbans National Park in West Bengal, Bandhavgarh National
Park in Madhya Pradesh, Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary in Rajasthan, Manas Tiger Reserve in
Assam and Periyar Tiger Reserve in Kerala are some of the tiger reserves of India.
Community and Conservation: Conservation strategies are not new in our country.
We often ignore that in India, forests are also home to some of the traditional
communities. In some areas of India, local communities are struggling to conserve
these habitats along with government officials, recognising that only this will secure
their own long-term livelihood. In the Sariska Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan, villagers
have fought against mining by citing the Wildlife Protection Act. In many areas,
villagers themselves are protecting habitats and explicitly rejecting government
involvement. The inhabitants of five villages in the Alwar district of Rajasthan have
declared 1,200 hectares of forest as the Bhairodev Dakav ‘Sonchuri’, declaring their
own set of rules and regulations which do not allow hunting, and are protecting the
wildlife against any outside encroachments.
The famous Chipko movement in the Himalayas has not only successfully
resisted deforestation in several areas but has also shown that community
afforestation with indigenous species can be enormously successful. Attempts to
revive the traditional conservation methods or developing new methods of
ecological farming are now widespread. Farmers and citizen’s groups like the Beej
Bachao Andolan in Tehri and Navdanya have shown that adequate levels of diversified
crop production without the use of synthetic chemicals are possible and
economically viable. In India joint forest management (JFM) programme furnishes a
good example for involving local communities in the management and restoration of
degraded forests. The programme has been in formal existence since 1988 when the
state of Odisha passed the first resolution for joint forest management. The JFM
depends on the formation of local (village) institutions that undertake protection
activities mostly on degraded forest land managed by the forest department. In
return, the members of these communities are entitled to intermediary benefits like
non-timber forest produces and share in the timber harvested by ‘successful
protection’. The clear lesson from the dynamics of both environmental destruction
and reconstruction in India is that local communities everywhere have to be
involved in some kind of natural resource management. But there is still a long way
to go before local communities are at the centre-stage in decision-making.
Sacred groves - a wealth of diverse and rare species
Nature worship is an age old tribal belief based on the premise that all creations of nature
have to be protected. Such beliefs have preserved several virgin forests in pristine form called
Sacred Groves (the forests of God and Goddesses). These patches of forest or parts of large
forests have been left untouched by the local people and any interference with them is banned.
Certain societies revere a particular tree which they have preserved from time immemorial.
The Mundas and the Santhal of Chota Nagpur region worship mahua (Bassialatifolia) and
kadamba (Anthocaphaluscadamba) trees, and the tribals of Odisha and Bihar worship the
tamarind (Tamarindusindica) and mango (Mangiferaindica) trees during weddings. To
many of us, peepal and banyan trees are considered sacred. Indian society comprises several
cultures, each with its own set of traditional methods of conserving nature and its creations.
Sacred qualities are often ascribed to springs, mountain peaks, plants and animals which are
closely protected. One will find troops of macaques and langurs around many temples. They
are fed daily and treated as a part of temple devotees. In and around Bishnoi villages in
Rajasthan, herds of blackbuck, (chinkara), nilgai and peacocks can be seen as an integral part
of the community and nobody harms them.
India is an agriculturally important country. Two-thirds of its population is engaged
in agricultural activities. Agriculture is a primary activity, which produces most of
the food that we consume. Besides food grains, it also produces raw material for
various industries. Moreover, some agricultural products like tea, coffee, spices, etc.
are also exported.
Types of Farming
Agriculture is an age-old economic activity in our country. Over these years,
cultivation methods have changed significantly depending upon the characteristics
of physical environment, technological know-how and socio-cultural practices.
Farming varies from subsistence to commercial type. At present, in different parts of
India, the following farming systems are practised.
Primitive Subsistence Farming: This type of farming is still practised in few pockets
of India. Primitive subsistence agriculture is practised on small patches of land with
the help of primitive tools like hoe, dao and digging sticks, and family/community
labour. This type of farming depends upon monsoon, natural fertility of the soil and
suitability of other environmental conditions to the crops grown. It is ‘slash and
burn’ agriculture. Farmers clear a patch of land and produce cereals and other food
crops to sustain their family. When the soil fertility decreases, the farmers shift and
clear a fresh patch of land for cultivation. This type of shifting allows nature to
replenish the fertility of the soil through natural processes; land productivity in this
type of agriculture is low as the farmer does not use fertilisers or other modern
inputs. It is known by different names in different parts of the country. It is
jhumming in north-eastern states like Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland;
Pamlou in Manipur, Bewar or Dahiya in Madhya Pradesh, Poduor Penda in Andhra
Pradesh, PamaDabi or KomanorBringa in Odisha, Kumari in Western Ghats, Valre or
Waltre in South-eastern Rajasthan, Khil in the Himalayan belt, Kuruw’ in Jharkhand,
Dipa in Bastar district of Chhattishgarh, and in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
The ‘slash and burn’ agriculture is known as Milpa in Mexico and Central
America, Conuco in Venzuela, Roca in Brazil, Masole in Central Africa, Ladang in
Indonesia, Ray in Vietnam.
‘Slash and Burn’ agriculture
Intensive Subsistence Farming: This type of farming is practised in areas of high
population pressure on land. It is labour intensive farming, where high doses of
biochemical inputs and irrigation are used for obtaining higher production.
Though the ‘right of inheritance’ leading to the division of land among
successive generations has rendered land-holding size uneconomical, the farmers
continue to take maximum output from the limited land in the absence of alternative
source of livelihood. Thus, there is enormous pressure on agricultural land.
Commercial Farming: The main characteristic of this type of farming is the use of
higher doses of modern inputs, e.g. high yielding variety (HYV) seeds, chemical
fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides in order to obtain higher productivity. The
degree of commercialisation of agriculture varies from one region to another. For
example, rice is a commercial crop in Haryana and Punjab, but in Odisha, it is a
subsistence crop.
Plantation is also a type of commercial farming. In this type of farming, a
single crop is grown on a large area. The plantation has an interface of agriculture
and industry. Plantations cover large tracts of land, using capital intensive inputs,
with the help of migrant labourers. All the produce is used as raw material in
respective industries.
Banana plantation in southern part of India
Bamboo Plantation in North-East
In India, tea, coffee, rubber, sugarcane, banana, etc. are important plantation
crops. Tea in Assam and North Bengal coffee in Karnataka are some of the important
plantation crops grown in these states. Since the production is mainly for market, a
well developed network of transport and communication connecting the plantation
areas, processing industries and markets plays an important role in the development
of plantations.
Cropping Pattern
There are physical diversities and plurality of cultures in India. These are also
reflected in agricultural practices and cropping patterns in the country. Various
types of food and fibre crops, vegetables and fruits, spices and condiments, etc.
constitute some of the important crops grown in the country. India has three
cropping seasons-rabi, kharif and zaid.
Rabi crops are sown in winter from October to December and harvested in
summer from April to June. Some of the important rabi crops are wheat, barley,
peas, gram and mustard. Though these crops are grown in large parts of India, states
from the north and north western parts such as Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh,
Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh are important for the
production of wheat and other rabi crops. Availability of precipitation during winter
months due to the western temperate cyclones helps in the success of these crops.
However, the success of the green revolution in Punjab, Haryana, western Uttar
Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan has also been an important factor in the growth of
the abovementioned rabi crops.
Kharif crops are grown with the onset of monsoon in different parts of the
country and these are harvested in September-October. Important crops grown
during this season are paddy, maize, jowar, bajra, tur (arhar), moong, urad, cotton,
jute, groundnut and soyabean. Some of the most important rice-growing regions are
Assam, West Bengal, coastal regions of Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil
Nadu, Kerala and Maharashtra, particularly the (Konkan coast) along with Uttar
Pradesh and Bihar. Recently, paddy has also become an important crop of Punjab
and Haryana. In states like Assam, West Bengal and Odisha, three crops of paddy
are grown in a year. These are Aus, Amanand Boro.
In between the rabi and the kharif seasons, there is a short season during the
summer months known as the Zaid season. Some of the crops produced during zaid
are watermelon, muskmelon, cucumber, vegetables and fodder crops. Sugarcane
takes almost a year to grow.
Classification of Soils
India has varied relief features, landforms, climatic realms and vegetation types.
These have contributed in the development of various types of soils.
Alluvial Soils: This is the most widely spread and important soil. In fact, the entire
northern f are made of alluvial soil. These have been deposited by three important
Himalayan river systems– the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. These soils
also extend in Rajasthan and Gujarat through a narrow corridor. Alluvial soil is also
found in the eastern coastal plains particularly in the deltas of the Mahanadi, the
Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri rivers.
The alluvial soil consists of various proportions of sand, silt and clay. As we
move inlands towards the river valleys, soil particles appear somewhat bigger in
size. In the upper reaches of the river valley i.e. near the place of the break of slope,
the soils are coarse. Such soils are more common in piedmont plains such as Duars,
Chos andTerai.
Apart from the size of their grains or components, soils are also described on
the basis of their age. According to their age alluvial soils can be classified as old
alluvial (Bangar) and new alluvial (Khadar). The bangar soil has higher concentration
of kanker nodules than the Khadar. It has more fine particles and is more fertile than
the bangar. Alluvial soils as a whole are very fertile. Mostly these soils contain
adequate proportion of potash, phosphoric acid and lime which are ideal for the
growth of sugarcane, paddy, wheat and other cereal and pulse crops. Due to its high
fertility, regions of alluvial soils are intensively cultivated and densely populated.
Soils in the drier areas are more alkaline and can be productive after proper
treatment and irrigation.
Black Soil: These soils are black in colour and are also known as regur soils. Black
soil is ideal for growing cotton and is also known as blackcotton soil. It is believed that
climatic conditions along with the parent rock material are the important factors for
the formation of black soil. This type of soil is typical of the Deccan trap (Basalt)
region spread over northwest Deccan plateau and is made up of lava flows. They
cover the plateaus of Maharashtra, Saurashtra, Malwa, Madhya Pradesh and
Chhattisgarh and extend in the south east direction along the Godavari and the
Krishna valleys. The black soils are made up of extremely fine i.e. clayey material.
They are well-known for their capacity to hold moisture. In addition, they are rich in
soil nutrients, such as calcium carbonate, magnesium, potash and lime. These soils
are generally poor in phosphoric contents. They develop deep cracks during hot
weather, which helps in the proper aeration of the soil. These soils are sticky when
wet and difficult to work on unless tilled immediately after the first shower or
during the pre-monsoon period.
Red and Yellow Soils: Red soil develops on crystalline igneous rocks in areas of low
rainfall in the eastern and southern parts of the Deccan plateau. Yellow and red soils
are also found in parts of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, southern parts of the middle Ganga
plain and along the piedmont zone of the Western Ghats. These soils develop a
reddish colour due to diffusion of iron in crystalline and metamorphic rocks. It looks
yellow when it occurs in a hydrated form.
Laterite Soil: Laterite has been derived from the Latin word ‘later’ which means
brick. The laterite soil develops in areas with high temperature and heavy rainfall.
This is the result of intense leaching due to heavy rain. Humus content of the soil is
low because most of the micro organisms, particularly the decomposers, like
bacteria, get destroyed due to high temperature. Laterite soils are suitable for
cultivation with adequate doses of manures and fertilizers. These soils are mainly
found in Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, and the hilly areas of
Odisha and Assam. After adopting appropriate soil conservation techniques
particularly in the hilly areas of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, this soil is very
useful for growing tea and coffee. Red laterite soils in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh
and Kerala are more suitable for crops like cashew nut.
Arid Soils: Arid soils range from red to brown in colour. They are generally sandy in
texture and saline in nature. In some areas the salt content is very high and common
salt is obtained by evaporating the water. Due to the dry climate, high temperature,
evaporation is faster and the soil lacks humus and moisture. The lower horizons of
the soil are occupied by Kankar because of the increasing calcium content
downwards. The Kankar layer formations in the bottom horizons restrict the
infiltration of water. After proper irrigation these soils become cultivable as has been
in the case of western Rajasthan.
Forest Soils: These soils are found in the hilly and mountainous areas where
sufficient rain forests are available. The soils texture varies according to the
mountain environment where they are formed. They are loamy and silty in valley
sides and coarse grained in the upper slopes. In the snow covered areas of
Himalayas, these soils experience denudation and are acidic with low humus
content. The soils found in the lower parts of the valleys particularly on the river
terraces and alluvial fans are fertile.
Major Crops
A variety of food and non food crops are grown in different parts of the country
depending upon the variations in soil, climate and cultivation practices. Major crops
grown in India are rice, wheat, millets, pulses, tea, coffee, sugarcane, oil seeds, cotton
and jute, etc.
Rice: It is the staple food crop of a majority of the people in India. Our country is the
second largest producer of rice in the world after China. It is a kharif crop which
requires high temperature, (above 25°C) and high humidity with annual rainfall
above 100 cm. In the areas of less rainfall, it grows with the help of irrigation. Rice is
grown in the plains of north and north-eastern India, coastal areas and the deltaic
regions. Development of dense network of canal irrigation and tube wells have
made it possible to grow rice in areas of less rainfall such as Punjab, Haryana and
western Uttar Pradesh and parts of Rajasthan.
Rice Cultivation
Rice is ready to be harvested in the field
Wheat: This is the second most important cereal crop. It is the main food crop, in
north and north-western part of the country. This rabi crop requires a cool growing
season and a bright sunshine at the time of ripening. It requires 50 to 75 cm of annual
rainfall evenly distributed over the growing season. There are two important wheatgrowing zones in the country – the Ganga-Satluj plains in the northwest and black
soil region of the Deccan. The major wheat-producing states are Punjab, Haryana,
Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and parts of Madhya Pradesh.
Wheat Cultivation
Millets: Jowar, bajra and ragi are the important millets grown in India. Though,
these are known as coarse grains, they have very high nutritional value. For
example, ragi is very rich in iron, calcium, other micro nutrients and roughage.
Jowar is the third most important food crop with respect to area and production. It is
a rain-fed crop mostly grown in the moist areas which hardly needs irrigation. Major
Jowar producing States are Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya
Pradesh. Bajra grows well on sandy soils and shallow black soil. Major Bajra
producing States are Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.
Ragi is a crop of dry regions and grows well on red, black, sandy, loamy and shallow
black soils. Major ragi producing states are Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Himachal
Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Jharkhand and Arunachal Pradesh.
Bajra Cultivation
Maize: It is a crop which is used both as food and fodder. It is a kharif crop which
requires temperature between 21°C to 27°C and grows well in old alluvial soil. In
some states like Bihar maize is grown in rabi season also. Use of modern inputs such
as High Yielding Variety seeds, fertilisers and irrigation have contributed to the
increasing production of maize. Major maize-producing states are Karnataka, Uttar
Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh.
Maize Cultivation
Pulses: India is the largest producer as well as the consumer of pulses in the world.
These are the major source of protein in a vegetarian diet. Major pulses that are
grown in India are tur (arhar), urad, moong, masur, peas and gram. Pulses need less
moisture and survive even in dry conditions. Being leguminous crops, all these
crops except arhar help in restoring soil fertility by fixing nitrogen from the air.
Therefore, these are mostly grown in rotation with other crops. Major pulse
producing states in India are Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan,
Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Food Crops other than Grains
Sugarcane: It is a tropical as well as a subtropical crop. It grows well in hot and
humid climate with a temperature of 21°C to 27°C and an annual rainfall between
75cm. and 100cm. Irrigation is required in the regions of low rainfall. It can be grown
on a variety of soils and needs manual labour from sowing to harvesting. India is the
second largest producer of sugarcane only after Brazil. It is the main source of sugar,
gur (jaggary), khandsari and molasses. The major sugarcane producing states are
Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana,
Bihar, Punjab and Haryana.
Sugarcane Cultivation
Oil Seeds: Different oil seeds are grown covering approximately 12 per cent of the
total cropped area of the country. Main oil-seeds produced in India are groundnut,
mustard, coconut, sesamum (til), soyabean, castor seeds, cotton seeds, linseed and
sunflower. Most of these are edible and used as cooking mediums. However, some
of these are also used as raw material in the production of soap, cosmetics and
ointments. Groundnut is a kharif crop and accounts for about half of the major
oilseeds produced in the country. Gujarat Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are the
main producer of groundnut. Linseed and mustard are rabi crops. Sesamum is a
kharif crop in north and rabi crop in south India. Castor seed is grown both as rabi
and kharif crop.
Groundnut, sunflower and mustard are ready to be harvested in the field
Tea: Tea cultivation is an example of plantation agriculture. It is also an important
beverage crop introduced in India initially by the British. Today, most of the tea
plantations are owned by Indians. The tea plant grows well in tropical and subtropical climates endowed with deep and fertile well-drained soil, rich in humus and
organic matter. Tea bushes require warm and moist frost-free climate all through the
year. Frequent showers evenly distributed over the year ensure continuous growth
of tender leaves. Tea is a labour intensive industry. It requires abundant, cheap and
skilled labour. Tea is processed within the tea garden to restore its freshness. Major
tea producing states are Assam, hills of Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts, West
Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Apart from these, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand,
Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh and Tripura are also tea-producing states in the
Aerial View of a Tea Garden
Tea Pluckers at the Tea Garden
Coffee: Indian coffee is known in the world for its good quality. The Arabica variety
initially brought from Yemen is produced in the country. This variety is in great
demand all over the world. Initially its cultivation was introduced on the Baba
Budan Hills and even today its cultivation is confined to the Nilgiri in Karnataka,
Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
Horticulture Crops: India is a producer of tropical as well as temperate fruits.
Mangoes of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West
Bengal, oranges of Nagpur and Cherrapunjee (Meghalaya), bananas of Kerala,
Mizoram, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, lichi and guava of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar,
pineapples of Meghalaya, grapes of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra,
apples, pears, apricots and walnuts of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh
are in great demand the world over. India produces about 13 per cent of the world’s
vegetables. It is an important producer of pea, cauliflower, onion, cabbage, tomato,
brinjal and potato.
Cultivation of vegetables- peas, cauliflower, tomatoes and brinjal
Non-Food Crops
Rubber: It is an equatorial crop, but under special conditions, it is also grown in
tropical and sub-tropical areas. It requires moist and humid climate with rainfall of
more than 200 cm. and temperature above 25°C. Rubber is an important industrial
raw material. It is mainly grown in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andaman
and Nicobar Islands and Garo hills of Meghalaya.
Fibre Crops: Cotton, jute, hemp and natural silk are the four major fibre crops grown
in India. The first three are derived from the crops grown in the soil, the latter is
obtained from cocoons of the silkworms fed on green leaves specially mulberry.
Rearing of silk worms for the production of silk fibre is known as sericulture.
Silk worm are fed on mulberry leaves and silk fibre is produced
Cotton: India is believed to be the original home of the cotton plant. Cotton is one of
the main raw materials for cotton textile industry. Cotton grows well in drier parts of
the black cotton soil of the Deccan plateau. It requires high temperature, light rainfall
or irrigation, 210 frost-free days and bright sun-shine for its growth. It is a kharif
crop and requires 6 to 8 months to mature. Major cotton-producing states are–
Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana,
Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Cotton Cultivation
Jute: It is known as the golden fibre. Jute grows well on well-drained fertile soils in
the flood plains where soils are renewed every year. High temperature is required
during the time of growth. West Bengal, Bihar, Assam, Odisha and Meghalaya are
the major jute producing states. It is used in making gunny bags, mats, ropes, yarn,
carpets and other artefacts. Due to its high cost, it is losing market to synthetic fibres
and packing materials, particularly the nylon.
Demographic Background
Census: Census of India reveals data on the state of abundant human resources
available in the country, their demography, culture and economic structure.
Census 2011 is the 15th Census of India since 1872. It was held in two phases:
1. House listing and Housing Census (April to Sept. 2010) and
2. Population Enumeration (9th -28th February 2011 with Revisional round
during 1st-5th March, 2011). Reference Date was 0.00 hour of 1st March 2011.
In snow bound areas, the Population Enumeration was conducted from
11th to 30th September 2010.
The general trends of census 2011 are being mentioned as under:
 Population: Persons-1210.6 million; Males 623 million; and Females-587.4
 Density of Population 2001-2011: Density in 2001- 325 and density in 2011382, difference being 17.5% (density is defined as the number of person/sq
 Gender composition of Population 2011: Overall sex ratio at the National
level has increased by 7 points since census 2001 to reach 943 at census
2011. This is the highest sex ration recorded since census 1991.
 As per population totals of census 2011, literates constituted 73.0 per cent
of the total population aged seven and above and illiterates formed 27.0
per cent. Literacy rate has gone up from 64.8 per cent in 2001 to 73.0 per
cent showing an increase of 8.2 percentage points. It is encouraging to note
that out of total of 202,810,720 literates added during the decade, female
104,660,657 outnumber male 98,150,063.
Ethnic Groups: All the five major racial types - Australoid, Mongoloid, Europoid,
Caucasian, and Negroid find representation among the people of India
The population of India as on March 1st, 2011 stood at 1,210.6 million (623 million
males and 587.5 million females). India accounts for a meagre 2.4 per cent of the
world surface area yet, it supports and sustains a whopping per cent of the world
population. The population of India, which at the turn of the twentieth century was
around 238.4 million, increased to reach 1210.6 million by 2011. Since 1981, growth
rate of population in India has started declining gradually as birth rate is declining.
Population Density
One of the important indices of population concentration is the density of
population. It is defined as the number of person per The population density
of India in 2011 was 382 per sq km-decadal growth 17.54 per cent.
The density of population increased in all States and Union Territories
between 1991 and 2011. Among major states, Bihar is the most thickly populated
state with (a population density of) 1,106 persons per Followed by West
Bengal 1,028 and Kerala 860.
Sex Ratio
Sex ratio, defined as the number of females per thousand males is an important
social indicator to measure the extent of prevailing equality between males and
females in a society at a given point of time. The sex ratio in the country has always
remained unfavourable to females. It was 972 at the beginning of the 20th century
and thereafter showed continuous decline until 1941. The sex ration from 1901-2011
has registered a 10 point increase at census 2011 over 2001
For the purpose of census 2011, a person aged seven and above, who can both read
and write with understanding in any language, is treated as literate. A person, who
can only read but cannot write, is not literate. The results of 2011 census reveal that
there has been an increase in literacy in the country. The literacy rate in the country
is 73.0 per cent, 80.9 for males and 64.6 for females.
Kerala ranks first in the country with a literacy rate of 93.91 per cent, closely
followed by Lakshadweep (92.28 per cent) and Mizoram (91.58 per cent). Kerala also
occupies the top spot in the country both in male literacy with 96.1 per cent and
female literacy with 92.1 per cent.
Today, India is well-linked with the rest of the world despite its vast size, diversity
and linguistic and socio-cultural plurality. Railways, airways, water ways,
newspapers, radio, television, cinema and internet, etc. have been contributing to its
socio-economic progress in many ways. The trades from local to international levels
have added to the vitality of its economy. It has enriched our life and added
substantially to growing amenities and facilities for the comforts of life.
India has one of the largest road networks in the world, aggregating to about 2.3
million km at present. In India, roadways have preceded railways. They still have an
edge over railways in view of the ease with which they can be built and maintained.
In India, roads are classified in the following six classes according to their capacity.
Golden Quadrilateral Super Highways: The government has launched a major road
development project linking Delhi-Kolkata-Chennai-Mumbai and Delhi by six-lane
Super Highways. The North-South corridors linking Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir)
and Kanniyakumari (Tamil Nadu), and East-West Corridor connecting Silcher
(Assam) and Porbandar (Gujarat) are part of this project. The major objective of these
super highways is to reduce the time and distance between the mega cities of India.
These highway projects are being implemented by the National Highway Authority
of India (NHAI).
National Highways: National Highways link extreme parts of the country. These are
the primary road systems and are laid and maintained by the Central Public Works
Department (CPWD). A number of major National Highways run in North-South
and East-West directions. The historical Sher-Shah Suri Marg is called National
Highway No.1, between Delhi and Amritsar. National Highway-7 is the longest and
traverses 2, 369 km between Varanasi and Kanyakumari via Jabalpur, Nagpur,
Hyderabad, Bangalore and Madurai. Delhi and Mumbai are connected by National
Highway-8, while National Highway-15 covers most of Rajasthan.
National highways
State Highways: Roads linking a state capital with different district headquarters are
known as State Highways. These roads are constructed and maintained by the State
Public Works Department (PWD) in State and Union Territories.
District Roads: These roads connect the district headquarters with other places of
the district. These roads are maintained by the Zila Parishad.
Other Roads: Rural roads, which link rural areas and villages with towns, are
classified under this category. These roads received special impetus under the
Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana. Under this scheme special provisions are made
so that every village in the country is linked to a major town in the country by an all
season motorable road.
Border Roads: A part from these, Border Roads Organisation, a Government of India
undertaking constructs and maintains roads in the border areas of the country. This
organisation was established in 1960 for the development of the roads of strategic
importance in the northern and north eastern border areas. These roads have
improved accessibility in areas of difficult terrain and have helped in the economic
development of these areas.
Roads can also be classified on the basis of the type of material used for their
construction such as metalled and unmetalled roads. Metalled roads may be made of
cement, concrete or even bitumen of coal, therefore, these are all weather roads.
Unmetalled roads go out of use in the rainy season.
Road Density: The length of road per 100 sq. km of area is known as density of
roads. Distribution of road is not uniform in the country. Density of all roads varies
from only 12.14 km in Jammu and Kashmir to 517.77 km in Kerala(as on 31 March
2011) with the national average of 142.68 km (31 March 2011). Road transportation in
India faces a number of problems. Keeping in view the volume of traffic and
passengers, the road network is inadequate. About half of the roads are unmetalled
and this limits their usage during the rainy season. The National Highways are
inadequate too. Moreover, the roadways are highly congested in cities. However, in
recent years fast development of road network has taken place in different parts of
the country.
Railways are the principal mode of transportation for freight and passengers in
India. Railways also make it possible to conduct multifarious activities like business,
sightseeing, pilgrimage along with transportation of goods over longer distances.
Apart from an important means of transport, the Indian Railways have been a great
integrating force for more than 150 years. Railways in India bind the economic life of
the country as well as accelerate the development of industry and agriculture. Indian
Railway has a network of 7,133 stations spread over a route length of 64,460 km with
a fleet of 9,213 locomotives, 53,220 passenger service vehicles, 6,493 other coach
vehicles and 2,29,381 wagons as on March 2011.
The Indian Railway is now reorganised into 16 zones. The distribution pattern
of the Railway network in the country has been largely influenced by physiographic,
economic and administrative factors. The northern plains with their vast level land,
high population density and rich agricultural resources provided the most
favourable condition for their growth. However, a large number of rivers requiring
construction of bridges across their wide beds posed some obstacles. In the hilly
terrains of the peninsular region, railway tracts are laid through low hills gaps or
tunnels. The Himalayan mountainous regions too are unfavourable for the
construction of railway lines due to high relief, sparse population and lack of
economic opportunities. Likewise, it was difficult to lay railway lines on the sandy
plain of western Rajasthan, swamps of Gujarat, forested tracks of Madhya Pradesh,
Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Jharkhand. The contiguous stretch of the Sahyadriranges
could be crossed only through gaps or passes. In recent times, the development of
the Konkan railway along the west coast has facilitated the movement of passengers
and goods in this most important economic region of India. It has also faced a
number of problems such as sinking of track in some stretches and landslides.
Today, the railways have become more important in our national economy
than all other means of transport put together. However, rail transport suffers from
considerable problems like infrastructure deficits, lack of basic amenities or poor
maintenance of amenities, ticketless travel. Thefts and damaging of railway property
has not yet stopped completely. People stop the trains, pull the chain unnecessarily
and this causes heavy damage to the railway.
Since time immemorial, India has been a seafaring country. People sailed far and
near, carrying and spreading Indian commerce and culture. Waterways are the
cheapest means of transport. They are most suitable for carrying heavy and bulky
goods. It is also a fuel-efficient and environment friendly mode of transport. India
has inland navigation waterways of 14,500 km in length. Out of these only 5685 km
are navigable by mechanised vessels. The following waterways have been declared
as the National Waterways by the Government.
 The Ganga river between Allahabad and Haldia (1620 km)-N.W. No.1
National Waterway No.1
The Brahmaputra river between Sadiya and Dhubri (891 km)-N.W. No.2
National Waterway No.2
The West-Coast Canal in Kerala (Kottapurma-Kollam, Udyogamandal and
Champakkara canals-205 km) – N.W. No.3
National Waterway No.3
Specified stretches of Godavari and Krishna rivers along with Kakinada
Puducherry stretch of canals (1078 km) – N.W. No.4
National Waterway No.4
Specified stretches of river Brahmani along with Matai river, delta channels of
Mahanadi and Brahmani rivers and East Coast Canal (588 km) – N.W. No.5
There are some other inland water ways on which substantial transportation
takes place. These are Mandavi, Zuari and Cumberjua, Sunderbans, Barak,
backwaters of Kerala and tidal stretches of some other rivers. Apart from these,
India’s trade with foreign countries is carried from the ports located along the coast.
95 per cent of the country’s trade volume (68 per cent in terms of value) is moved by
Major Sea Ports
With a long coastline of 7,516.6 km, India is dotted with 12 major and 187, notified
non majors (minor/intermediate) ports. These major ports handle 95 per cent of
India’s foreign trade. Kandla in Kutch was the first port to be developed soon after
Independence to ease the volume of trade on the Mumbai port, in the wake of the
loss of Karachi port to Pakistan after Partition. Kandla is a tidal port. It caters to the
convenient handling of exports and imports of highly productive granary and
industrial belt stretching across the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal
Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan and Gujarat. Mumbai is the biggest port with a
spacious natural and well-sheltered harbour. The Jawaharlal Nehru Port was
planned with a view to decongest the Mumbai port and serve as a hub port for this
region. Marmagao Port (Goa) is the premier iron ore exporting port of the country.
This port accounts for about fifty percent of India’s iron ore export. New Mangalore
port, located in Karnataka caters to the export of iron ore concentrates from
Kudremukh mines. Kochi is the extreme south-western port, located at the entrance
of a lagoon with a natural harbour.
In India, the east coast has more seaports than the west coast. Moving along
the east coast, you would see the extreme south-eastern port of Tuticorin in Tamil
Nadu. This port has a natural harbour and rich hinterland allowing a flourishing
trade handling of a large variety of cargoes to even our neighbouring countries like
Sri Lanka, Maldives as well as the coastal regions of India. Chennai is one of the
oldest artificial ports of the country. It is ranked next to Mumbai in terms of the
volume of trade and cargo. Vishakhapatnam is the deepest landlocked and wellprotected port, originally conceived as an outlet for iron ore exports. Paradwip Port
located in Odisha, specialises in the export of iron ore. Kolkata is an inland riverine
port. This port serves a very large and rich hinterland of the Ganga- Brahmaputra
basin. Being a tidal port, it requires constant dredging of Hooghly. Haldia port was
developed as a subsidiary port, in order to relieve growing pressure on the Kolkata
Air travel today is the fastest and comfortable mode of transport. It can cover
difficult terrains like high mountains, dreary deserts, dense forests and also long
oceanic stretches with great ease. Air transport was nationalised in 1953 when the
Indian Parliament passed the Air Corporations Act. Indian Airlines and Air India
International were set up after merging independent domestic airlines. Air India and
Indian Airlines were merged in 2007 and the new entity is known as Air India and
its mascot is ‘Maharaja’. The Pawan Hans Helicopters Limited is one of the leading
helicopter companies in India. Its objective is to provide helicopter support services
to the Oil Sector for its off-shore exploration operations, services in remote and hilly
areas as well as charter services for promotion of travel and tourism.
Major Ports and International Airport
The above material is courtesy the National Council of Education Research and Training, New Delhi
Some Interesting Facts
India’s National Animal
Tiger is the national animal of India. Tigers have been admired in this land since
many centuries for its royal grace and majesty.
International Tiger Day
Realizing that tigers were soon becoming extinct, the International Tiger’s Day
was instituted in the year 2010 at the Saint Petersburg Tiger summit with the
main goal of raising awareness on protecting tigers and their habitats. Many
programs, including seminars are held in this regard, across the world.
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