India is the seventh largest country in the world. It is situated in south-east Asia and is approximately 3.3 million square kilometres. It has a large coastline, which stretches for just over 7500 kilometres. The Arabian Sea forms its south-west coast, the Bay of Bengal its south-east coast and the Indian Ocean its southern-most coast.

In the northern areas of this country, the immense and impressive Himalayan Mountain Range characterises the landscape. This mammoth natural wonder has long lured travellers and intrigued visitors from all over the world. These are the world’s highest peaks, with over 100 of its mountains exceeding 7200 metres. This mountain range extends across six countries and has the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yangtze and Indus rivers flowing through its gorges. There are several peaks in the Himalayas that are holy to those subscribing to the Hindu and Buddhist faiths. However, more than just being awe-inspiring and the ultimate challenge to climbers, the Himalayas also form the boundary between India and China, Bhutan and Nepal.

On the west of India are the Punjab Plains, in which Pakistan is situated, and the Thar Desert. This is one of the largest
Image of India from space
India from space
deserts in the world, measuring over 200 000 square kilometres. Unlike many other deserts, Thar is home to a wide diversity of animals and plants. These include the Indian Gazelle, Wild Ass, Laggar Falcon, many eagle species, Bengal fox, some wolf species and many more exciting specimens. The north and north-east are particularly beautiful as they boast the densely forested Chin and Kachin hills as well as the Indo-Gangetic Plain. This plain is formed by the revered and acclaimed Ganges River, which holds spiritual and religious importance for the Hindu locals, who consider its waters to be holy. This is the longest river originating in this subcontinent. It flows across the border into Bangladesh and has a maximum depth of about 30 metres.

There are several islands off the coast of India, including the Maldives, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Indira Point is one of the islands that make up the Andaman, Lakshadweep and Nicobar islands and is recognised as the southernmost tip of India. These islands are accountable for 2094 kilometres of the coastline. Of the total coastline, 43% is sandy beach, 46% is mud or marsh and 11% is rocky.

India is situated on the Indian tectonic plate, which is part of the Indo-Australian Plate. It is believed that what is now known as India began splitting from the main land mass, Gondwana, some 75 million years ago. At this time, all of today’s continents were connected as one. The north-westerly movement of Gondwana lasted some 50 million years and resulted in India’s movement towards, and into, the rest of Asia. This collision is believed to be the cause of the Himalayan Mountain Range.

The Himalayas and the Thar Desert are the primary causes for the monsoons, for which India is so well known. This mountain range prevents cold winds from blowing in from Central Asia, while the desert attracts the south-west summer monsoon, which is a particularly wet one.

India is a land of mystery and fascination. Its geography is only one aspect of its intrigue, but plays an integral role in its cultures, societies and natural allure.

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