Indian history dates back to 3000 BC. Excavations in Punjab and Gujarat reveal that the Indus Valley civilisation was a highly developed urban civilisation. In fact the two cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, situated on two sides of the river Ravi, are known to have been built on a similar plan. But that only meant a new wave of urbanisation was taking place along the Ganges around 1500 BC. This has been recorded in the Rig Veda – the earliest known literary source composed in this period that sheds light on India’s past.
The Great Dynasties
By 6th century BC, the Magadh rulers dominated the Northern plains. It was also the time when new thinking emerged in the form of Buddhism and Jainism to challenge Hindu orthodoxy. The Magadh rule was followed by the rule of Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 B.C.), one of India’s greatest emperors. The Mauryan reign peaked under the reign of Ashoka the Great who extended his empire from the Kashmir and Peshawar in the North to Mysore in the South and Orissa in the East. Not only was Ashoka a great ruler, he was one of the most successful propagators of Buddhism in the country. After Ashoka’s death in 232 B.C. the empire began to disintegrate and the country was repeatedly raided and plundered by foreign invaders, leaving India disunited and weak for the next 400 years. Stability returned with the reign of Chandra Gupta I (380-412 A.D.). His rule is considered the golden period in Indian history when art and culture flourished and the country prospered.
India is the 7th largest country in the world. It has a total area of 3,166,414 square kilometer. Situated north of the equator, the country lies between 68°7′ and 97°25′ east longitude and between 8°4′ and 37°6′ north latitude. The second most-populous country in the world, it is surrounded by countries like Nepal, Bhutan, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar on land and by the Indian Ocean, mainly the Bay of Bengal, the Laccadive Sea and the Arabian Sea. The highest point of India is Kangchenjunga (8,598 m/28,208.7 ft) and the lowest point is Kuttanad (−2.2 m/−7.2 ft).
India is divided into 6 physiographic regions:
- The Northern Mountains: This region consists of the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountain range.
- The Peninsular Plateaus: The largest and oldest physiographic region constitutes the Vindhya range, the Malwa Plateau, the Deccan Plateau, the Chota Nagpur Plateau, the Satpura Range, the Aravali Range, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats.
- Indo-Gangetic Plains: Also known as the Great Plains, three main rivers i.e. the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra dominate this region. It runs parallel to the Himalayas and covers 700,000 sq km in area.
- Thar Desert: It is one of the largest deserts in the world with an area of 200,000. Most of the desert is located in Rajasthan. It enters into Pakistan as well.
- The Coastal Plains: This region is composed of Eastern Coastal Plain, which stretches from Tamil Nadu in the south to the West Bengal in the east, and Western Coastal Plain, which lies between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea.
- The Islands: Two major island groups the Lakshadweep Islands off the coast of Kerala in the Arabian Sea and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal near the Burmese coast and other islands make up this region. Barren Island, which is the only active volcano in India, is situated in the Andaman Islands.