Geography of India that effects on the history of India, the Himalayas have acted as the “great sentinel of the North”. They have prevented the cold and dry winds of Tiber from coming to India. They are the source of the rivers which have added fertility to the plains of India. They have provided rains by checking the winds carrying moisture. They have saved India from the invasions from the North. Till 1962, no invader was able to send his armies across the Northern passes. Those passes are covered with snow for the most part of the year. The existence of the Himalayas did not allow any Indian to dream of conquering of Northern regions beyond the Himalayas.
Geography of India – North-Western ranges
The North-Western ranges of the Himalayas called the Sulaiman and Hindukush mountains are not very high. There are a large number of passes which enabled many foreigners to enter India. The khyber pass in 3400 feet above sea level. This pass connects Peshawar with Kabul and most of the foreign invaders came to India through this pass. The Tochi, Kurram and Gomal Passes connect India with Afghanistan. The Bolan pass is a very wide one and it links India with Kandhar. It is very easy to pass through this pass. It is through these passes that the Persians, Greeks, Scythians, Kushans, Huns, Turks Tartars, the Mughals and even invaders like Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali attacked India. Those passes changed the fortunes of India. The rulers of India had to take keen interest in providing against the dangers from that quarter. Whenever the same was not done adequately, the people of India had to pay heavily for it. The North- Eastern ranges of the Himalayas did not any contact with the Western world. The passes leading to Chindwin Valley through the Brahmaputra Valley are impossible to cross. The other passes leading from Manipur to Chindwin Valley are also difficult to cross although an attempt was made to do so in 1943 by the soldiers of Azad Hind Fauj under Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. the climate of that region is not good on account of malaria and large-scale movement is impossible. Neither any Indian king tried to invade Burma through these passes nor the vice versa.
The Deccan remained aloof from the political upheavals of the North and it took a lot of time for any conqueror of the north to conquer the South. Even when Northern India came under the influence of the Aryans. South India continued to be the centre of Dravidian culture. It was Agastya Rishi who took the Aryan culture to the south. The same was the case with the Mauryas, the Guptas, the Sultans of Delhi and the Mughals. In difficult times, the Deccan gave shelter to Indian culture.
When Buddhism was dominant in Northern India, the Deccan became the center of Hinduism and was thus saved. When it they took refuge in south India. When as a result of the conquest of Northern India by the Muslims, Hindu culture was in danger of being destroyed, it found refuge in the Hindu state of Vijayanagar based on Geography of India.
Moreover, the rulers of South India helped the growth of oceanic trade and without that, there would not have been any Greater India. Some South Indian rulers like the Rashtrakutas and the Cholas led expeditions to North India if not for permanent conquest, at least to extend their political influence and to exhibit military power. The Marathas, with their centre at Poona, succeeded in building up an empire comprising a large part of North and South India. However, on the whole, South India did not play as dominant a role as North India did.
The Godavari and the Krishna cut the South into three natural divisions and the political history of South Geography of India centres round the struggles between the states which rose to prominence in those areas. The Krishna -Tungabhadra Doab was the chief bone of contention between the powers dominant in the Deccan and in the far South. The rulers of the Bahmani kingdom and the Vijayanagar Empire continued to fight for the possession of the Raichur Doab.
Geography of India – Indo-Gangetic plains
The rivers of the Indo-Gangetic plains provide the easiest means of communication. The result was that a large number of big cities came into existence in that region. Examples are Pataliputra, Banaras, Agra Delhi, Multan, Lahore, prayag etc. these plains remained the centre of political activity throughout the history of India. Whenever an attempt was made to shift the centre to South India, it failed, e.g., Mohammad Tughlaq’s attempt to shift the capital from Delhi to Devagiri.
While dealing with rivers, it must be remembered that many of them have changed their courses in the past and some are changing them even at present. When they are in full flood, they easily cut and carve the soft alluvial plains. The courses of the rivers of the Vedic Aryans can no longer be traced. It is also not position of the cities built on their banks. Pataliputra originally stood at the confluence of the Ganges and the son rivers, but at present its site is several miles below confluence. If Pataliputra had remained in existence to this day, it would have lost its strategic importance. A city built on the bank of a river may be altogether ruined by a change in its course. The course of Hakra which once flowed through the Punjab towards Rajasthan is now marked by scores of mounds which are silent witnesses to the existence of a large number of towns. The ancient port of Tamluk is now far from the sea. The same is the case with the city of Kyal on the Tinnevelly coast in Tamil Nadu which is now away from the sea and buried under sand dunes.
The vast size of the country divided into many regions by rivers, mountains, deserts and forests made the problem of the political unity of India a difficult one. Experience shows that it was difficult to bring the various parts of the country under one political authority. Before the coming of the British in India that task was accomplished temporarily by Asoka and Akbar. It was only during the British regime that the whole of India was brought under one rule.
The geographical features of India helped in the evolution of the so-called composite culture of India. It facilitated the growth of the spirit of toleration among the people in spite of their differences in various respects.
The richness of the soil of India made the struggle for existence comparatively easier in India than in other countries. The result was that the people developed habits of ease and pleasure, with the results that they could not stand against the foreigners who were physically stronger. The Muslims also who at one time came to India as conquerors, lost their original virility and they were conquered by others.
The Vindhyas stood in the way of the North and the South coming into intimate contact with each other and thereby they promoted the character of South Indian culture as a distinct entity. However, the Vindhyas did not remain unconquered for long. The two Ghats were even less effective barriers.
The Thar desert has affected the course of Indian history. It intervenes between the plains of the Indus valley and the Ganges. It separates these regions into two different units. Thet renders Indian defence weak. When foreign invaders poured into India from the Nort-Western mountain pases, “the bulk of the Indian plains being separated from this region by the desert, the resources of North India, far less the whole of India, could seldom be employed to guard these gateways”.
The vast sandy deserts, the dense, impenetrable forests and high ranges of mountains have provided regions difficult of access within Geography of India. They have offered shelter to the wild primitive tribes who were deprived of their belongings and driven away from the plains by the more civilised conquerors of India. That explains the existence of the Bhils, Kola, Santhals, Gonds etc., in the desert, fastnesses of hills and forests of Geography of India.
The Indo-Gangetic plains and the Deccan plateau are divided into many local regions by the large rivers, their tributaries and ranges of the hills, Malwa, Bundelkhand, Avadh, Chhota Nagpur, Orissa, Northern Gujarat, Karnataka etc., are examples of such natural regions. These natural regions developed into separate distinct units retaining their individuality through the ages. They gradually developed regional politics which “tended to keep alive the spirit of local autonomy in well-marked political units.” The isolationist spirit was maintained in those regions, “even amidst political catastrophes and Kaleidoscopic changes of rulers and dynasties.”
The wild and sublime beauty of nature in India gave a philosophic and poetic turn to Indian mind. The result was that remarkable progress was made in religion, philosophy, art and literature. It is contended that almost all the main peculiarities of intellectual development in India may be explained with reference to its physical environment.
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