India Physical Features: Objectives, Location, Extent and Boundaries of India, Size, Physiographic Divisions of India

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Historically, India is an ancient country, known as Bharatvarsh. It is surrounded by the sea on three sides, separated from the rest of Asia by a lofty mountain chain. Hence, it has become an independent entity called the Indian subcontinent. In terms of size, India is the seventh largest country in the world. It is a vast country characterized by great diversity in its physical features. Therefore, it is necessary to acquire some knowledge about the principal physical features and the main aspects of its geography.


The major objectives of this chapter are:

  • To describe the location of India in terms of latitude and longitude

  • To describe the importance of the location of India in terms of neighbouring countries, continents, hemispheres and the Indian Ocean

  • To describe the main characteristics of the major physiographic divisions

  • To give a description of the major relief features and rivers of India

  • To compare the Himalayan rivers with those of the peninsular India

  • To conclude that India’s rich and diverse culture is the result of its varied physical features

  • To explain how different physiographic divisions are economically complementary to each other

Location, Extent and Boundaries of India

  • A huge landmass of South Asia is flanked by new fold towering mountains on the northwest, north and northeast. The Arabian sea lies to its southwest, the Bay of Bengal to its southeast and the Indian Ocean to its south. This well-defined South Asian landmass is called Indian sub-continent. This sub-continent consists of the countries of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan including Sri Lanka, an island narrowly separated by the Palk Strait. India alone covers about three-fourths of the area of this sub-continent and has common frontier with each one of them. She along with her five neighbours forms a clearly identifiable geographical unit, with certain common cultural parameters.

  • The Indian mainland extends between 8°4’N to 37°6’N latitudes and from 68°7’E to 97°25’E longitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. It measures about 3,214 km from north to south, and 2,933 km from east to west.

  • The northern most point of the Indian mainland lies in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and the southernmost point is Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu. However, the southernmost point of the country as a whole lie further south in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. It is now called Indira Point. It is situated at 6°30’N latitude. The westernmost point of India lies in Gujarat and the eastern most in Arunachal Pradesh.

  • The northern parts of the country are quite far off from the equator. Therefore, the rays of the sun strike those parts more obliquely. Consequently, this part of the country receives lesser amount of insolation and has cold climate unlike the southern parts. The difference between the length of day and right in southern most part of India is much less only about 45 minutes as they are situated near the equator.

  • The Tropic of Cancer passes almost halfway through the country. Thus, half of the country to the south of the Tropic of Cancer is situated in the Tropical or Torrid zone and the other half lying north of the Tropic of Cancer falls in the Sub-tropical zone.

Latitudinal and Longitudinal Extent of India

Latitudinal and Longitudinal Extent of India

Latitudinal and Longitudinal Extent of India

  • The earth takes 24 hours to complete one rotation on its axis. The Sun rises first in the east and then in the west because the earth rotates from west to east. The earth’s longitudinal expanse of 360° is thus covered in 24 hours, at the pace of 15° per hour. As the longitudinal extent of India is nearly 29°, the real time difference in India between its eastern and western extremities is roughly of two hours. While at the eastern extremity of India the day may have just broken out, the western extremity would take nearly another two full hours to do so. For the convenience of all, each country chooses its standard meridian in a multiple of 7°30’. Accordingly, the standard meridian of India has been chosen to be 82°30’ E.

  • The total length of the coastline of India including the island groups is about 7,516.6 km. The Palk Strait separates Indian mainland from Sri Lanka. Structurally, Sri Lanka is an extension of the peninsular block of India.


India accounts for 2.42 % of the world’s total land area whereas it sustains 16 % of the world population. The land frontiers of India measure 15,200 km. Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Myanmar, and Bangladesh share common boundaries with India. The kingdom of Bhutan is situated in the Eastern Himalaya. It is a small country and the responsibility of its defence rests with India. Most of our boundary with Pakistan and Bangladesh is almost man-made. There is no mountain range or river to form a natural boundary. The international boundary of India passes through a variety of landforms- barren desert lands, lush green agricultural fields, gushing rivers, snow clad mountains as well as densely forested mountain ranges. The defence of such an international boundary passing through various kinds of terrains is certainly a difficult job. Our country has to spend crores of rupees daily for the defence of such a long and inhospitable boundary that passes through various kinds of terrain.

Physiographic Divisions of India

  • India is a land of physical diversities. Almost all types of picturesque and breath-taking landforms are found here. According to one estimate, 29.3 % of area of India is occupied by mountains and hills, 27.7 % by plateaus and 43 % by plains.

  • From a physiographical point of view, India can be divided into following four regions:

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