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Indian Geography / Physiography

Northern Mountains of India

India can physiographically be divided into the Northern Mountains, the Northern Plains, the Peninsular Plateau and the Coastal Plains and Islands. Northern Mountains of India are made up of Himalayan mountain complex extending from Pamir Knot in the west to Purvanchal in the east. The location of Northern mountain ranges mostly lies between India and China.

The northern Himalayas are formed in the Tertiary Period, that is they are formed between 60 million to 2 million years back. They are young fold mountains. The westernmost peak of Himalaya mountains is Nanga Parbat and the easternmost peak of Himalayas is Namcha Barwa. At both the extremes, the Himalayan mountains take sharp bends towards the south. These sharp bends are known as syntaxial bends of Himalayas.

Geographical Division of Himalayas

Northern Himalayas are divided into 4 parts in North-South direction based on the structure and relief. They are (i) Tibetan / Tethys / Trans Himalayas, (ii) Central / Greater Himalayas or Himadri Ranges, (iii) Lesser Himalayas or Himachal Ranges and (iv) Outer / Sub Himalayas or Siwalik Ranges. They are formed in the same order from (i) to (iv). Trans Himalayas are formed 60 million years back.

Trans Himalayas

  • Trans Himalayas of the Northern Mountains of India are located in earlier Tethys Sea area. Trans Himalayas have 3 important mountain ranges in India mainly in Jammu and Kashmir, namely Karakoram, Zaskar and Ladakh ranges.

  • The largest glacier of Himalayas, Siachen Glacier is situated in the Karakoram ranges of Trans Himalayas.

  • Lake Manasarovar is located in the Kailash range of Tibet and it is the source for river Indus. Lake Rakshastal is the source for river Sutlej.

  • The highest mountain peak of India, K2 / Mount Godwin-Austen located in Karakoram range, is in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is being administered by Pakistan. Hence, Kanchenjunga (in Greater Himalayas) is considered the highest mountain peak of India.

Greater Himalayas

  • Greater Himalayas or Himadri ranges of the Northern Mountains in India are formed 20-25 million years back and they are the most continuous range of mountains.

    The average height of Greater Himalayas is 6000 m. The narrowest width of these mountains is 20-25 km in North-South direction.

  • There are large number of mountain peaks that are being located here. Highest mountain peak Mount Everest or Sagarmatha (8848 m height) is located in Greater Himalayas of Nepal.

    Other mountain peaks Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Makalu, Nanga Parbat, Nanda Devi, Annapurna, Kamet, Namcha Barwa, etc. are located in Greater Himalayas.

  • It is a single continuous mountain range and looks like a wall. The Himadri runs in an arc like shape from Nanga Parbat in west to Namcha Barwa in east.

  • The folds of Greater Himalayas are asymmetrical in nature and the core of Himadri ranges is composed of granite.

Lesser Himalayas

  • Lesser Himalayas of the Himalayan mountain ranges in North India are formed 2-5 million years back. The average height of these mountains range from 3700 m to 4500 m and their average width is 50 km.

  • These mountains are covered with snow only during winter. In summer, they have cool and pleasant climate.

  • They are popular for hill stations like Shimla, Mussoorie, Kullu, Manali, Dehradun, Darjeeling, etc.

  • They are very much discontinuous in nature. Pir Panjal range (longest range of Lesser Himalayas) is located in Jammu & Kashmir, Dhauladhar range in Himachal Pradesh, Mussoorie range in Uttar Pradesh and Mahabharat range in Nepal.

  • They have densely covered forests and are highly uneven and rugged terrains. Valleys are located between Greater Himalayas and Lesser Himalayas.

    Valley of Kashmir is located in between Greater Himalayas and Pir Panjal ranges.

Outer Himalayas

  • Outer Himalayas or Siwaliks of Northern Mountains in India have an average height of 900-1100 m and a width of 10-50 km.

  • They are highly descending in their structure and are having many Gorges and Canyons. They are being covered with dense forests. They are consisting of unconsolidated sediments.

  • They are also very much discontinuous in nature. They are represented by Jammu Hills in Jammu & Kashmir and are very much developed in Uttarakhand and Nepal. In Sikkim, they are very much absent.

  • The longitudinal valleys that are existing between Lesser Himalayas and the Siwaliks are called Duns, e.g. Dehradun, Kotli Dun, Patli Dun, etc. Dehradun is located in between Siwaliks and Mussoorie Hills.

    Udhampur town is located in between Jammu Hills and Pir Panjal ranges. Duns are areas of intensive cultivation. So, population is concentrated here because of fertile lands.

Passes in Himalayan Ranges

  • Passes are also called Cols. They are having economic as well as cultural significance and are strategically important.

  • Karakoram Pass, located near Siachen, connects China and Pakistan in PoK. Banihal Pass is Gateway to Kashmir Valley.

  • Pir Panjal Pass is located on Jammu and Srinagar Highway. Zojila Pass is located close to the Srinagar and Leh Highway.

  • River Sutlej enters India through a Pass known as Shipki La Pass in Himachal Pradesh. Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand is a tri-junction for India, China and Nepal.

  • Nathula Pass in Sikkim is one of the trading border posts in between India and China.

  • In 1962, China invasion started through Tawang Pass and Bomdila Pass in Arunachal Pradesh.

Regional sub-division of Himalayas

The Northern Mountains of India can also be divided on the basis of the region they are located in. The Himalayas in between Indus and Sutlej rivers are called Punjab Himalayas, between Sutlej and Kali rivers are known as Garhwal / Kumaon Himalayas, between Kali and Tista rivers are being known as Nepal Himalayas and between Tista and Brahmaputra rivers are called Arunachal / Assam Himalayas.

The Union Territories and States of Northern Mountains include Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh. The Purvanchal ranges include the States of Nagaland, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram along with some parts of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.


  1. The easternmost peak of the Himalayas is

    1. Makalu

    2. Nanga Parbat

    3. Namcha Barwa

    4. Kamet


    Ans: C

  2. Which of the following mountain range is not part of the Trans Himalayas?

    1. Dhauladhar range

    2. Ladakh range

    3. Karakoram range

    4. Zaskar range


    Ans: A