History: The Geographical Setting and Pre-Historic Cultures of India: The Himalayas and The River Plains of North India

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Based on geographical diversities the subcontinent can be broadly divided into the following main regions. These are:

  • The Himalayas

  • The River Plains of North India

  • The Peninsular India

The Himalayas

The Himalayas are the world’s largest and the highest mountain ranges. These are approximately 2,400 kilometres long. These ranges have not only checked invasions but have also protected us from the cold winds coming from north. They also stop the monsoon winds from the seas which results in rainfall in the northern plains.

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In the north-western direction the broken Himalayan ranges contain the major routes linking the Indian plains with Iran and Central Asia through Afghanistan. These pass through the Gomel, Bolan and Khyber passes. The Greeks, Shakas, Kushanas, Hunas and other foreign tribes reached India following these routes.

The River Plains of North India

The Indus plains include the regions of Punjab and Sind. Irrigated by the tributaries of the river Indus, they form a vast fertile plain which have made the region the ‘breadbasket’ of the subcontinent. It is called so because this region is very important for wheat cultivation. The Sind region includes the lower Indus Valley and the delta. It is the Indus plains which witnessed the development of an urbanized culture called the Harappan culture for the first time in the subcontinent.

The Gangetic basin receives more rainfall and is more humid than the Indus region. The Gangetic plains is divided into three sub-regions: Upper, Middle and Lower. The Upper plains of the river Ganges constitute the western and southern parts of Uttar Pradesh. It is the region where mahajanpadas (territorial states) like Kosala, Kasi and Magadha were established in the 6th century BC. The two main religions of India, Jainism and Buddhism also took their birth here.

In Gujarat the fertile plains of the rivers Sabarmati, Mahi, Narmada and Tapti brought prosperity. A very long coastal line too helped Gujarat to develop contacts with other countries through its ports. The most important seaportof this region has been Brigukaccha or Bharuch (Broach).

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