Physical Features of India

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The Himalayas

Himalaya means ‘Abode of Snow’. They are one of the youngest fold mountain ranges in the world & comprise mainly sedimentary rocks, which were folded over Tethys sea due to inter-continental collision. They stretch from the Indus River in the west to the Brahmaputra River in the east. The Eastern Himalayas-made up of Patkai Hills, Naga Hills, Mizo Hills & the Garo, Khasi & Jaintia Hills-are also known as Purvanchal. The Pamir, popularly known as the Roof of the World, is the connecting link between the Himalayas & the high ranges of Central Asia. Can be divided into 3 parallel or longitudinal zones, each with separate features.

They consists of three parallel ranges such as:

1.Greater Himalayas

2.Lesser Himalayas

3.Outer Himalayas

Greater Himalayas or Inner Himalayas(Himadri)

  • Northern most part of Himalayan range, It is mainly formed of the central crystallines (granites and gneisses) overlain by metamorphosed sediments [limestone]. {Rock System}
  • The folds in this range are asymmetrical with steep south slope and gentle north slope giving ‘hog back (a long, steep hill or mountain ridge)’ topography.
  • It is the world’s highest part with an average altitude of 6100 m above sea level.
  • This mountain arc convexes to the south just like the other two.
  • Terminates abruptly at the syntaxial bends. One in the Nanga Parbatin north-west and the other in the Namcha Barwa in the north-east.
  • This mountain range boasts of the tallest peaks of the world, most of which remain under perpetual snow.
  • Zaskar range is situated on the western part of Greater Himalayas.
  • Some of the world’s highest peaks are here : Mt Everest (or Sagarmatha or Chomo Langma) 8848 m (in Nepal) ,Mt Kanchenjunqa 8598 m (in India), Makalu 8481 m (in Nepal), Dhaulaqiri 81 72 m (in Nepal) ,Cho Oyu 8153m (in Nepal), Nanga Parbat 8126m (in India) , Annapurna 8078 m (in Nepal) and Nando Devi 7817 m (in India)

Passes in the Greater Himalayas

Jammu and Kashmir: Burzil Pass,Karakoram Pass and Zoji La [La means pass]

Himachal Pradesh: Bara Lacha La and Shipki La [The Hindustan-Tibet Road connecting Shimla with Gartok in Western Tibet]

Uttarakhand: Thaga La,Niti Pass and Lipu Lekh

Arunachal Pradesh:Yang yap Pass[Entry of Brahmaputra river]

Middle or the Lesser Himalaya(Himachal)

  • In between the Shiwaliks in the south and the Greater Himalayas in the north.Runs almost parallel to both the ranges.
  • Ranges are 60-80 km wide and about 2400 km in length.
  • Average Elevations vary from 3,500 to 4,500 mabove sea level.
  • Mountains & valleys are disposed in all direction (mountains rising to 5000 m & the valleys touching 1000 m).
  • From West to East middle Himalaya is divided into:-
  • Pirpanjal range (Jammu and Kashmir),it is the longest range of the middle Himalaya.
  • Dhauladhar range(Himachal Pradesh)
  • Mussoorie range(Uttarakhand)
  • Nagtiba range(Nepal)
  • Mahabharat range(Nepal)
  • East of the Kosi River, the Sapt Kosi, Sikkim, Bhutan, Miri, Abor and Mishmi hills represent the lower Himalayas.
  • The Middle Himalayan ranges are more friendly to human contact.

Passes in Middle Himalaya:

Jammu and Kashmir:Pirpanjal Pass & Banihal Pass[Jammu-Srinagar highway and Jammu-Baramula railway]

Himachal Pradesh:Rohtang Pass

Outer Himalayas (Shiwalik)

  • Shiwalik are part of synclines and hills are part of anticlines or antisynclines
  • Forms the foothills & lies between the Lesser Himalayas & the plains. It is the newest range.
  • Located in between the Great Plains and Lesser Himalayas.
  • Average altitude varies from 600 to 1500 metres.
  • Runs for a distance of 2,400 km from the Potwar Plateauto the Brahmaputra valley.
  • The southern slopes are steep while the northern slopes are gentle.
  • The width of the Shiwaliks varies from 50 km in Himachal Pradesh to less than 15 km in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Shiwalik range from North-East India up to Nepal are covered with thick forests but the forest cover decreases towards west from Nepal (The quantum of rainfall decreases from east to westin Shiwaliks and Ganga Plains).
  • The southern slopes of Shiwalik range in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are almost devoid of forest cover. These slopes are highly dissected by seasonal streams called

Formation of Duns (Duras)

  • Shiwalik Hills were formed by the accumulation of conglomerates (sand, stone, silt, gravel, debris etc.).
  • These conglomerates, in the initial stages of deposition, obstructed the courses of the rivers draining from the higher reaches of the Himalayas and formed temporary lakes.
  • With passage of time, these temporary lakes accumulated more and more conglomerates. The conglomerates were well settled at the bottom of the lakes.
  • When the rivers were able to cut their courses through the lakes filled with conglomerate deposits, the lakes were drained away leaving behind plains called ‘duns’ or ‘doons’in the west and ‘duars’ in the east.
  • Kotah, Patli Kothri, Chumbi, Kyarda, Chaukhamba, Udhampur and Kotli are other important duns.


This range lies to the north of the Great Himalayas. It has some important ranges like Karakoram, Laddakh, Zanskar, etc. The highest peak in this region is K2 or Godwin Austin (8611m, in Pak occupied Kashmir). Other high peaks are Hidden Peak (8068 m), Broad Peak (8047 m) & Gasherbrum II (8035 m). The longest glacier is Siachin in the Nubra valley, which is more than 72 km long (biggest glacier in the world). Biafo, Baltaro, Batura, Hispar are the other important glaciers in this region. This area is the largest snow-field outside the Polar Regions.


  • To the south of the Himalayas & to the north of the Peninsula lies the great plains of North India.
  • They are formed by the depositional works of three major river systems, Indus, Ganga & Brahmaputra.
  • The vast plains of north India are alluvial in nature & the westernmost portion is occupied by the Thar Desert.
  • The thickness of the alluvium is maximum in the Ganga plains & minimum in the Western Plains.

The plains consist of four divisions:

Bhabhar– a zone of porous and rocky soils made up of debris washed down from the higher ranges. The rivers usually disappear in this belt. The Bhabhar and the lower Shiwalik ranges have a subtropical climate. This belt is just above terai.

Terai– Above the alluvial plain lies the Terai strip, a seasonally marshy zone of sand and clay soils. The Terai has higher rainfall than the plains, and the downward-rushing rivers of the Himalaya slow down and spread out in the flatter Terai zone, depositing fertile silt during the monsoon season and receding in the dry season. The Terai has a high water table due to groundwater percolating down from the adjacent zone.

Bangar belt consists of older alluvium and forms the alluvial terrace of the flood plains. In the Gangetic plains, it has a low upland covered by laterite deposits.

Khadar belt lies in lowland areas after the Bangar belt. It is made up of fresh newer alluvium which is deposited by the rivers flowing down the plain.

Indo – Gangetic – Brahmaputra Plain

  • The Indo-Gangetic plains, also known as the Great Plainsare large alluvial plains  dominated by three main rivers, the Indus,Gangas and Brahmaputra.
  • It stretches for about 3,200 kmfrom the mouth of the Indus to the mouth of the Ganga. Indian sector of the plain accounts for 2,400 km.
  • The northern boundary is well marked by the Shiwaliksand the southern boundary is a wavy irregular line along the northern edge of the Peninsular India.western boarder is marked by Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges. On the eastern side, the plains are bordered by Purvanchal hills.
  • The width of the plain varies from region to region. It is widest in the west where it stretches for about 500 km. Its width decreases in the east.
  • The cones or alluvial fans of Kosi in the north and those of Son in the south exhibit greater alluvial thickness while the intra-cone areas have relatively shallower deposits.
  • Its average elevation is about 200 m above mean sea level, highest elevation being 291 m above mean sea level near Ambala(This elevation forms the drainage divide or watershed between Indus system and Ganga system).
  • Its average gradient from Saharanpur to Kolkata is only 20 cm per km and it decreases to 15 cm per km from Varanasi to the Ganga delta.
  • They run parallel to the Himalayas, from Jammu and Kashmir in the west to Assam in the east, and drain most of northern and eastern India. The plains encompass an area of 700,000 km2(270,000 sq mi).

Coastal Plain:

  • India has a coastline of 6 Km [6100 km of mainland coastline + coastline of 1197 Indian islands]touching 13 States and Union Territories (UTs).
  • The straight and regular coastline of India is the result of faulting of the Gondwanaland during the Cretaceous period.
  • The coastal plains in India are situated parallel to the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal. On the basis of location and active geomorphic process, it is divided into Western and eastern Coastal Plains.

The Western Ghats Coastal Plain

The Western Ghats Coastal Plain extends from Surat to Kanyakumari which is divided into four parts:

  • The Gujarat Plain: The Gujarat Plain lies east of Kachchh and Kathiawar and slopes towards the west and south west. The eastern part of this plain is fertile enough to support agriculture, but the greater part near the coast is covered by windblown loess (heaps of sand).
  • The Konkan Plain: The Konkan Plain south of the Gujarat plain extends from Daman to Goa It has some features of marine erosion including cliffs, shoals, reefs and islands in the Arabian Sea.The Thane creek around Mumbai is an important embayment (a recess in a coastline forming a bay) which provides an excellent natural harbour.
  • The Kannad Plain:Lies between Goa to Mangalore.At some places the streams originating in the Western Ghats descend along steep slopes and make waterfalls.The Sharavati while descending over such a steep slope makes an impressive waterfall known as Gersoppa (Jog) Falls which is 271 m high. [Angel falls (979 m) in Venezuela is the highest waterfall on earth. Tugela Falls (948 m) in Drakensberg mountains in South Africa is the second highest.]
  • The Malabar Plain– Between Mangalore and Kanyakumari. The backwaters, locally known as kayalsare the shallow lagoons or inlets of the sea, lying parallel to the coastline.
  • The largest among these is the Vembanad Lakewhich is about 75 km long and 5-10 km wide and gives rise to a 55 km long spit

The Eastern Coastal Plains

  • The Eastern Coastal Plains extends between the Eastern Ghats and the sea coast from Subarnarekha River to Kanyakumari.
  • It is wider than Western Coastal Plain because the rivers like Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri formed the delta over there. The continental shelf extends up to 500 km into the sea, which makes it difficult for the development of good ports and harbours.
  • In Eastern Coastal plain, there is the Kolleru lake which situated in the delta region of Godavari and the Krishna Rivers. Chilka lake and and Pulicat lake are best example of lagoon which is also found in this region.
  • The Orissan plain is also known as the Utkal Plain. The plain between the Godavari and the Mahanadi is known as the Northern Circar whereas the eastern coast of Tamil Nadu is called the Coromandel Coast.
  • This plain is divided into six region viz. Coromandel Coast, Kanyakumari Coast, Krishna-Godavari deltas, Mahanadi delta and south of Andhra Pradesh plain which discussed below:
  • Coromandel Coast:
  • The coast is named after an ancient dynasty Cholas that ruled over Tamil Nadu. It is a wide coastal region covering an area of 8800 square miles in eastern Tamil Nadu and shares its borders with Utkal Plains, Bay of Bengal, Kaveri delta and Eastern Ghats.
  • It is a straight coastline comprising of many temples and therefore, is also known as the ‘land of temples’. The coastline does not have dense forests and the soil is marshy. Coconut palms stand tall alongside the coastline.
  • The economy of this region largely depends upon Agriculture. Crops of sugarcane, legumes, rice, groundnuts and cotton are grown here which serve as major source of income for farmers.
  • Apart from this, there are several large-scale industries in the area that manufacture chemicals, fertilizers, automobiles and amplifiers. Running parallel to the coastline, are interlinking roads and railway tracks that link major cities like Chennai with Cuddalore, Chengalpattu, Puducherry and Cuddalore.
  • Kanyakumari Coast:It is extended over the southern part of India’s coastline.
  • Krishna Delta:It is located in the south-east of Vijayawada.
  • Godavari Delta:It is about 150 kms in length and its geological structure is same as Mahandi River.
  • Mahanadi Delta: It is located in the Eastern coastline and comprises of fertile alluvial soil.
  • Coastal Andhra Plain: It is situated in the state of Andhra Pradesh. This region is very fertile due to silt deposit of the Krishna and Godavari Rivers.

Peninsular Plateau

Spreads south of the Indo-Gangetic plains flanked by sea on three sides. This plateau is shaped like a triangle with its base in the north. The Eastern Ghats & the Western Ghats constitute its eastern & western boundaries, respectively.

Hills of Peninsular India

  • Most of the hills in the peninsular region are of the relict type (residual hills).
  • They are the remnants of the hills and horsts formed many million years ago

Aravali Range

  • One of the oldest (very old) fold mountainsof the world and the oldest in India. {Fold Mountains – Block Mountains}.
  • It’s general elevation is only 400-600 m, with few hills well above 1,000 m.
  • They are aligned in north-east to south-west direction.
  • They run for about 800 km between Delhi and Palanpur in Gujarat.
  • At the south-west extremity the range rises to over 1,000 m. Here Mt. Abu (1,158 m), a small hilly block, is separated from the main range by the valley of the BanasGuru Sikhar (1,722 m), the highest peak, is situated in Mt. Abu.
  • Pipli Ghat, Dewair and Desuri passes allow movement by roads and railways.

Vindhyan Range

  • The Vindhyan Range, overlooking (have a view of from above) the Narmada valley, rises as an escarpment (a long, steep slope at the edge of a plateau or separating areas of land at different heights)
  • It runs more or less parallel to the Narmada Valleyin an east-west direction from Jobat in Gujarat to Sasaram in Bihar for a distance of over 1,200 km.
  • The general elevation of the Vindhyan Range is 300 to 650 m.

Satpura Range

  • Satpura range is a series of seven mountains (‘Sat’ = seven and ‘pura’ = mountains)
  • It runs in an east-west direction south of the Vindhyas and in between the Narmada and the Tapi, roughly parallel to these rivers.
  • It stretches for a distance of about 900 km.
  • Dhupgarh (1,350 m) near Pachmarhi on Mahadev Hills is the highest peak.
  • Amarkantak (1,127 m) is another important peak.

Western Ghats (or The Sahyadris)

  • They form the western edge of the Deccan tableland.
  • Run from the Tapi valley (21° N latitude) to a little north of Kanniyakumari (11° N latitude) for a distance of 1,600 km.
  • The Western Ghats are steep-sided, terraced, flat-topped hills presenting a stepped topography facing the Arabian Sea coast.
  • This is due to the horizontally bedded lavas, which on weathering, have given a characteristic ‘landing stair aspect’to the relief of this mountain chain.
  • The Western Ghats abruptly rise as a sheer wall to an average elevation of 1,000 m from the Western Coastal Plain

Eastern Ghats

  • Eastern Ghats run almost parallel to the east coast of India leaving broad plains between their base and the coast.
  • It is a chain of highly broken and detached hills starting from the Mahanadi in Odisha to the Vagai in Tamil Nadu. They almost disappear between the Godavari and the Krishna.
  • It is only in the northern part, between the Mahanadi and the Godavari that the Eastern Ghats exhibit true mountain character. This part comprises the Maliya and the Madugula Konda ranges.
  • The peaks and ridges of the Maliya range have a general elevation of 900-1,200 m and Mahendra Giri (1,501 m) is the tallest peak here.
  • The Madugula Konda range has higher elevations ranging from 1,100 m and 1,400 m with several peaks exceeding 1,600 m. Jindhagada Peak (1690 m) in Araku Valley Arma Konda (1,680 m), Gali Konda (1,643 m) and Sinkram Gutta (1,620 m) are important peaks.

Peninsular Plateau (Deccan Plateau)

  • Roughly triangular in shape with its base coinciding with the southern edge of the great plain of North India. Apex of the triangular plateau is at Kanniyakumari.
  • It covers a total area of about 16 lakh sq km(India as a whole is 32 lakh sq km).
  • The average height of the plateau is 600-900 mabove sea level (varies from region to region).

Marwar Plateau or Mewar Plateau

  • It is the plateau of eastern Rajasthan. [Marwar plainis to the west of Aravalis whereas Marwar plateau is to the east].
  • The average elevation is 250-500 m above sea level and it slopes down eastwards.
  • It is made up of sandstone, shales and limestones of the Vindhayan period.
  • The Banas river, along with its tributaries [Berach river, Khari rivers]originate in the Aravali Range and flow towards northwest into Chambal river. The erosional activity of these rives make the plateau top appear like a rolling plain.

Central Highland

  • Also called the Madhya Bharat Patharor Madhya Bharat Plateau.
  • It is to the east of the Marwar or Mewar Upland.
  • Most of plateau comprises the basin of the Chambal riverwhich flows in a rift valley.

Bundelkhand Upland

  • Yamuna river to the north, Madhya Bharat Pathar to the west, Vindhyan Scarplands to the east and south-east and Malwa Plateau to the south.
  • It is the old dissected (divided by a number of deep valleys) upland of the ‘Bundelkhand gneiss’ comprising of granite andgneiss.
  • Spreads over five districts of Uttar Pradesh and four districts of Madhya Pradesh.

Malwa Plateau

  • The Malwa Plateau roughly forms a triangle based on the Vindhyan Hills, bounded by the Aravali Range in the west and Madhya Bharat Pathar to the north and Bundelkhand to the east.
  • This plateau has two systems of drainage; one towards the Arabian sea (The Narmada, the Tapiand the Mahi), and the other towards the Bay of Bengal (Chambal and Betwa, joining the Yamuna).


  • North of the Maikal Rangeis the Baghelkhand.
  • Made of limestones and sandstones on the west and granite in the east.
  • It is bounded by the Son river on the north.
  • The central part of the plateau acts as a water divide between the Sondrainage system in the north and the Mahanadi river system in the south.

Chotanagpur Plateau

  • Chotanagpur plateau represents the north-eastern projection of the Indian Peninsula.
  • Mostly in Jharkhand, northern part of Chhatisgarh and Purulia district of West Bengal.
  • The Son riverflows in the north-west of the plateau and joins the Ganga.
  • This plateau is composed mainly of Gondwana rocks.

Meghalaya Plateau

  • The peninsular plateau extends further east beyond the Rajmahal hills to from Meghalaya or theShillong plateau.
  • Garo-Rajmahal Gapseparates this plateau from the main block.
  • This gap was formed by down-faulting(normal fault: a block of earth slides downwards). It was later filled by sediments deposited by the Ganga and Brahmaputa.

Deccan Plateau

  • It covers an area of about five lakh sq km.
  • It is triangular in shape and is bounded by the Satpuraand the Vindhya in the north-west, the Mahadev and the Maikal in the north, the Western Ghats in the west and the Eastern Ghats in the east.
  • Its average elevation is 600 m.

Indian Islands

There are two major island groups in India – one in the Bay of Bengal and the other in the Arabian Sea. The Bay of Bengal island groups consist of about 572 islands/islets. The islands of the Arabian Sea include Lakshadweep and Minicoy.

Andaman and Nicobar Islands

  • The Andaman islands are divided into three main islands i.e. North, Middle and South.
  • Duncan passage separates Little Andaman from South Andaman.
  • The Great Andaman group of islands in the north is separated by the Ten Degree Channelfrom the Nicobar group in the south [Pr Port Blair, the capital of Andaman Nicobar Islands lies in the South Andaman.
  • Among the Nicobar islands, the Great Nicobaris the largest. It is the southernmost island and is very close to Sumatra island of Indonesia. The Car Nicobar is the northernmost.
  • THE BARREN AND NARCONDAM ISLANDS, north of Port Blair, are volcanic islands [these are the only active volcanoes in India][There are no active volcanoes in main land India].
  • Some of the islands are fringed with coral reefs.
  • Saddle peak (737 m) in North Andaman is the highest peak.
  • Volcanic Islands: Barren & Narcodam Islands. Barren is in the process of eruption these days after lying dormant for 200 years.

Lakshadweep Islands

  • In the Arabian Sea, there are three types of islands.
  1. Amindivi Islands(consisting of six main islands of Amini, Keltan, Chetlat, Kadmat, Bitra and Perumul Par). [don’t have to remember all these names]
  2. Laccadive Islands(consisting of five major islands of Androth, Kalpeni, Kavaratti, Pitti and Suheli Par) and
  3. Minicoy Island.
  • These islands are collectively known as Lakshadweep.
  • The largest and the most advanced is the Minicoy island with an area of 4.53 sq km.













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