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Land and the people

1. Land and the People


“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 materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only.”—Mark Twain

  • India has a unique culture and is one of the oldest and greatest civilizations of the world.
  • It covers an area of 32,87,263 sq. km.
  • India is the seventh-largest country in the world and ranks second in population.
  • The country stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give her a distinct geographical entity.
  • Lying entirely in the northern hemisphere, the mainland extends between latitudes 8°4’ and 37°6’ north, longitudes 68°7’ and 97°25’ east and measures about 3,214 km from north to south and about 2,933 km from east to west. It has a land frontier of about 15,200 km. The total length of the coastline is 7,516.6 km.








 Geographical Background

  • Sri Lanka is separated from India by a narrow channel of sea formed by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar.
  • The country can be divided into six zones mainly north, south, east, west, central and northeast zone. It has 28 states and nine union territories.

Physical Features:

The mainland comprises four regions:

Great mountain zone

  • Jelep La and Nathu La pass is on the main Indo-Tibet trade route in the Chumbi valley
  • Shipki La in the Satluj valley.
  • The mountain wall extends over a distance of about 2,400 km with a varying depth of 240 to 320 km. 
  • In the east, between India and Myanmar and India and Bangladesh, hill ranges are much lower.
  • Garo, Khasi, Jaintia and Naga Hills, running almost east-west, join the chain to Mizo and Rakhine Hills running north-south.

Plains of Ganga & Indus

  • The plains of the Ganga and the Indus, about 2,400 km long and 240 to 320 km broad, are formed by basins of three distinct river systems—the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra.
  • They are one of the world’s greatest stretches of flat alluvium and also one of the most densely populated areas on the earth. 

Desert region

  • It can be divided into two parts—the ‘great desert’ and the ‘little desert’. 
  • The great desert- from Rann of Kutch to the Luni river.
  • The little desert- from the Luni between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur up to the northern west.
  • Zone of rocky land of limestone ridges: Between the great and the little deserts

Southern peninsula

  • In Peninsular Plateau hill ranges varies from 460 to 1,220 metres in height.
  • Prominent hills: Aravali, Vindhya, Satpura, Maikala and Ajanta.
  • The Peninsula is flanked on the one side by the Eastern Ghats and on the other by the Western Ghats. Between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea lies a narrow coastal strip, while between Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal, there is a broader coastal area. 
  • The southern point of the plateau is formed by the Nilgiri Hills where the Eastern and the Western Ghats meet.
  • The Cardamom Hills lying beyond may be regarded as a continuation of the Western Ghats. 

Geological Structure:

The geological regions broadly follow the physical features. The geological regions may be grouped into three regions:

Himalayan mountain belt

The Himalayan mountain belt to the north and the Naga-Lushai mountain in the east, are the regions of mountain-building movement. Most of this area was under marine conditions about 60 crore years ago. In a series of mountain building movements, the sediments and the basement rocks rose to great heights. The weathering and erosive elements worked on these to produce the relief seen today.

Indo-Ganga plains

It is a great alluvial tract that separates the Himalayas in the north from the Peninsula in the south. 

The Peninsula

  • It is a region of relative stability and occasional seismic disturbances.
  • Highly metamorphosed rocks of the earliest periods occur in this area; the rest being covered by the Gondwana formations, lava flows belonging to the Deccan Trap formation and younger sediments.

River Systems: 

  • The river systems of India can be classified into four groupsviz., Himalayan rivers, Deccan rivers, Coastal rivers andRivers of the inland drainage basin.
  • The entire country has been divided into 20 river basins/group of river basins comprising 12 major basins and 8 composite river basins.
  • 12 major river basins: It has a drainage area exceeding 20,000 sq. km. Ex. Indus, Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Godavari etc.
  • 8 composite river basins: It has a combines rivers with a drainage area of 2,000 to 20,000 sq. km.  and small rivers drainage area less than 2000 sq. km for the purpose of planning and management. Ex.  Subarnarekha, rivers between Mahanadi and Pennar etc.

Himalayan rivers

  • The Himalayan rivers are formed by melting snow and glaciers and therefore, continuously flow throughout the year.
  • The main Himalayan river systems are those of the Indus and the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna system.


  • It rises near Mansarovar in Tibet and flows through India and thereafter through Pakistan and finally falls into the Arabian sea near Karachi.
  • Its Indian tributaries are:  Sutlej (originating in Tibet), the Beas, the Ravi, the Chenab and the Jhelum.


  • Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda, which join at Dev Prayag to form the Ganga. It traverses through Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. 
  • The Yamuna, the Ramganga, the Ghaghra, the Gandak, the Kosi, the Mahananda and the Sone are the important tributaries of the Ganga. Rivers Chambal and Betwa join the Yamuna.


  • The Brahmaputra rises in Tibet, where it is known as Tsangpo. Near Passighat, the Debang and Lohit join it.  It crosses into Bangladesh downstream of Dhubri. 
  • The Padma and the Brahmaputra join at Bangladesh and continue to flow as the Padma or Ganga.
  • The Brahmaputra in Bangladesh fed by Teesta, etc. finally falls into the Ganga.
  • The principal tributaries of Brahmaputra in India are the Subansiri, Jia Bhareli, Dhansiri, Puthimari, Pagladiya and the Manas.

Deccan rivers

  • The Deccan rivers are rainfed and therefore fluctuate in volume and hence many are non-perennial.
  • The major east flowing rivers are Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery and Mahanadi. Narmada and Tapti are major west-flowing rivers. 
  • Godavari: It has the second largest river basin covering 10 per cent of the area of India.
  • River basin: Godavari > Krishna > Mahanadi
  • The river basin of Narmada and Cauvery are about the same size, though with different character and shape. 

Coastal Rivers

  • While only handful of coastal rivers drain into the sea near the delta of the east coast, there are as many as 600 such rivers on the west coast. 

Inland Rivers

  • A few rivers in Rajasthan do not drain into the sea. They drain into salt lakes and get lost in the sand with no outlet to sea.
  • Besides these, there are the desert rivers which flow for some distance and are lost in the desert.
  • These are Luni, Machhu, Rupen, Saraswati, Banas, Ghaggar and others. 


The climate of India may be broadly described as tropical monsoon type. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) designates four official seasons:


From December to early April, coldest months are December and January.

Summer or pre-monsoon season

For western and southern region: from April to June, the hottest month is April

For North western Region: from April to July, May is the hottest month.

Monsoon or rainy season

From June to September, dominated by the humid south-west summer monsoon. Monsoon rains begin to recede from North India at the beginning of October. South India typically receives more rainfall.

Post-monsoon season

From October to December, in north-western India, October and November are usually cloudless. 

  • The Himalayan states, being more temperate, experience two additional seasons: autumn and spring.
  • Traditionally, Indians note six seasons, each about two months long based on the astronomical division. These are the spring, summer, monsoon, early autumn, late autumn and winter.
  • Effect of Winds on climate: 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.
    • 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. 


  • India is at the tenth position in the world and fourth in Asia in plant diversity.
  • With a wide range of climatic conditions from the torrid to the arctic, India can be divided into eight distinct floristic regions.
  • The flora of the country is being studied by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Kolkata.
  • BSI brings out an inventory of endangered plants in the form of a publication titled ‘Red Data Book.’ 
  • India can be divided into eight distinct floristic regions

Western Himalayas

  • It extends from Kashmir to Kumaon. Its temperate zone is rich in forests of chir, pine. 
  • Higher up, forests of deodar, blue pine, spruce and silver fir occur.  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.

Eastern Himalayas

It extends from Sikkim eastwards and embraces Darjeeling. It is rich in oaks, laurels, maples, rhododendrons, alder and birch. 


It comprises the Brahmaputra and the Surma valleys with evergreen forests, occasional thick clumps of bamboos and tall grasses.

Indus plain

It comprises the plains of Punjab, western Rajasthan and northern Gujarat. It is dry, hot and supports natural vegetation.

Ganga plain

It 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.


It comprises the entire table land of the Indian Peninsula and supports vegetation of various kinds from shrub jungles to mixed deciduous forests.


  • It covers the excessively humid belt of mountain country parallel to the west coast of the Peninsula.
  • This region produces important commercial crops, such as coconut, betel nut, pepper, coffee, tea, rubber and cashew nut.


It abounds in evergreen, mangrove, beach and diluvial forests. ? 

Faunal Resources: 

  • India is very rich in terms of biological diversity due to its unique biogeographical location, diversified climate conditions and enormous ecodiversity and geodiversity.
  • According to world biogeographic classification, India represents two of the major realms (1. the Palearctic and 2. Indo-Malayan) and three biomes (1. Tropical Humid Forests, 2. Tropical Dry/Deciduous Forests and 3. Warm Deserts/Semi-Deserts).
  • The Wildlife Institute of India divides the country into ten biogeographic regions: Trans- Himalayan, Himalayan, Indian Desert, Semi-Arid, Western Ghats, Deccan Peninsula, Gangetic Plain, North-East India, Islands and Coasts.
  • Within only about 2 % of world’s total land surface, India is known to have over 7.50 % animals species of the world.
Demographic Background



Census 2011 was the 15th census of its kind since 1872.  The Final Population data was released on April 30, 2013. 


  • 1,210.9 million (623.2 million males and 587.6 million females) in 2011
  •  1901- 238.4 million, 2011- 1,210.9 million
  •  From 1901 the population has grown steadily except for a decrease during 1911-21. 

Population Density

  • It is defined as the number of persons per sq. km.
  • PD in 2011 was 382 per sq. km-with a decadal growth 17.72 %. 
  • Increased in all states and union territories between 1991 and 2011. 
  • Among major states: Bihar (1,106)>West Bengal (1,028)> Kerala (860)

Sex Ratio

  • It is defined as the number of females per thousand males is an important social indicator. 
  • Always remained unfavourable to females.
  • In 1901-972and thereafter showed continuous decline until 1941. 
  • The sex ratio from 1901-2011 has registered a 10-point increase at census 2011 over 2001.
  • However, child sex ratio has declined to 919 per thousand males. 


  • 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.
    • In the censuses prior to 1991, children below five years of age were necessarily treated as illiterates.
    • 2011 census reveals 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 retained its position by being on top with a 94 per cent literacy rate, closely followed by Lakshadweep (91.9 per cent). Bihar with a literacy rate of 61.8 per cent ranks last in the country.

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. On the contrary, Bihar has recorded the lowest literacy rates both in case of males (71.2 per cent) and females (51.5 per cent).


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