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Indian Geography / Physiography

The Great Northern Mountains of India


    India can physiographically be divided into the Great Northern Mountains, the Great Northern Plains, the Peninsular Plateau and the Coastal Plains and Islands. The Great Northern Mountains of India are made up of Himalayan mountain complex. Himalayas are young fold mountains. They are formed in Tertiary era that is they are formed between 60 to 2 million years back. The westernmost peak of Himalayas is Nanga Parbat and the easternmost peak of Himalayas is Namcha Barwa.

    Himalayas are divided into 4 parts in North-South direction based on the structure and relief. They are (i) Tibetan / Tethys / Trans Himalayas, (ii) Greater / Central 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 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 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 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 Great Himalayas are asymmetrical in nature and the core of Himadri ranges is composed of granite.

    Lesser Himalayas

    • Lesser Himalayas 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 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 Himalayas in between Indus and Sutlej rivers are 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.