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Indian Geography / Physiography

Northern Plains of India

The Northern plains of India are one of the youngest geological unit in India. They are located towards the south of the foothills of the Himalayas and towards the north of the Peninsular India. They have Purvanchal hills as their eastern boundary. Northern plains were formed due to deposition of sediments that were brought down by the three major river systems namely, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries. They are either flat or gently sloping in nature.

Features of Northern Plains of India

  • When the Eurasian Plate and the Indian Plate collided, Himalayas were formed in the Tethys Sea. Because of the uplift of the mountains, the northern part of the Indian Plate was subsided and formed a large geosynclinal trough, which was filled by the sediments over a period.

  • Sometimes, the northern plains of India are called "Foredeep". Depth of alluvial lands of the Northern Plains is around 400-1400 m. These are the largest depth plains in the world.

  • These plains are continuously drained by the large river systems of Indus, Ganga and Brahmaputra. The states of northern plains of India stretch from Rajasthan to Assam.

    River Indus and its tributaries cover Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana and Western Rajasthan. River Ganges and its tributaries cover Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. River Brahmaputra covers Assam.

  • Doab in India is a very important feature of the Northern Plains. Doab is a small upland area separating adjacent river valleys or streams and acts as a barrier. Doabs are very fertile lands.

    Ganga-Yamuna Doab lies in Western UP. Bari Doab lies between Ravi and Beas rivers. Bist Doab lies between Sutlej and Beas rivers.

  • Floodplains are one more feature of these Plains. Sediments are brought in by the flood water and are deposited on the banks of the river valley. Low-lying parts of the floodplains located near the river valley are called Khadar plains. They are regularly flooded and are called new alluvial lands.

  • Upland parts of the floodplains located away from the river valley are called Bhangar plains. They are occasionally flooded and are called old alluvial lands. Khadar and Bhangar plains are the "Granaries of India".

  • Bhabar Region - Bhabar region lies at the foothills of the mountains. This region is made up of pebbles, stones, gravels and coarse sand. It is a highly porous region. When rivers flow through this area, they almost disappear because of percolation.

  • Terai Region - The disappeared rivers emerge from the Terai region. It is very much swampy or marshy. Because of marshy nature, we can see dense forests here. These are located between Bihar and Nepal and Uttar Pradesh and Nepal.

Regional Division of Northern Plains

Northern Plains of India can be regionally divided into Rajasthan Plains, Punjab Haryana Plains, Ganga Plains and Brahmaputra Plains.

Rajasthan Plains

  • Rajasthan Plains are located to the west of Aravalli mountains. Thar Desert is part of the Rajasthan Plains and it comes under Indus plains from the topographic point of view.

  • These plains can be divided into two regions, namely Bagar region and Marusthali desert region.

  • Bagar region is a semi-arid region. Here, we can find big and small river streams, e.g. Luni river. Salt lakes can also be found here, e.g. Sambhar lake.

  • Marusthali region is a proper Desert region. It is an arid region covered with sand dunes. We can come across small river channels here, e.g. River Ghaggar. River Ghaggar is the sucessor of ancient river Saraswati.

  • After the construction of Indira Gandhi Canal, intensive agriculture is practiced in the northwestern region of Rajasthan.

Punjab Haryana Plains

  • The Punjab-Haryana Plains are formed by the sediments deposited by the rivers, Satluj, Ravi and Beas.

  • The Delhi Ridge functions like a boundary between these plains and the Ganga Plains.

  • Due to small seasonal streams, we can see significant erosion in the northern parts of these plains.

Ganga Plains

    The Ganga Plains stretch from the Yamuna catchment area in the west to the Bangladesh border in the east. These plains extend over a length of approximately 1400 KM and an average width of 300 KM. These plains are gently sloping towards the east with a gradient of about 15 centimeters for each kilometer.

    Due to large extent of area, these plains can further be divided into Upper Ganga Plains, Middle Ganga Plains and Lower Ganga Plains.

    Upper Ganga Plains

    • The Upper Ganga Plains are the western part of the larger Ganga Plains extending up to 550 km in the east-west direction. It includes Ganga-Yamuna Doab, Rohilkhand plains and Avadh plains.

    • The western boundary of Upper Ganga Plains is the catchment area of the upper Yamuna river, the northern boundary is Shiwaliks range, the southern boundry is Peninsular plateau and the eastern boundary extends upto eastern Uttar Pradesh.

    • The main crops that are grown here include wheat, rice, maize, sugarcane, mustard, etc.

    • These plains are drained by river Ganga and some of its tributaries like Yamuna, Sarda, Ram Ganga, Gomati and Ghaghara.

    Middle Ganga Plains

    • Middle Ganga plains are located to the east of the Upper Ganga plains starting from the eastern Uttar Pradesh and extending upto Purnea district of Bihar, measuring around 600 km in the east-west direction and in the north-south direction, from Himalayan foothills to the Peninsular plateau.

    • The key crops that are grown here include wheat, rice, sugarcane, maize, cotton, lentil, Bengal gram, etc.

    • These plains are drained by river Ganga and some of its tributaries like Ghaghara, Son, Gandak and Kosi (also called Sorrow of Bihar).

    Lower Ganga Plains

    • The Lower Ganga Plains include part of the Purnea district in Bihar and whole of the West Bengal except Purulia district and mountainous part of the Darjeeling district.

    • Two-thirds of these plains comprise of delta region. This delta region is the largest in the world.

    • The main crops that are grown here are, rice, jute, potato, wheat, pulses, mustard, groundnut, sugarcane, etc.

    • These plains are drained by river Ganga, Hooghly, Tista, Sankosh, Mahananda, Damodar and Subarnarekha.

Brahmaputra Plains

  • Brahmaputra Plains are located in the easternmost part of the Northern plains of India, covering mostly the state of Assam. These plains are having a length of around 720 KM and a width of around 80 KM.

  • These plains are drained by river Brahmaputra and its tributaries like Lohit, Subansiri, Dhansiri, Manas, Sankosh, etc.

  • The river island Majuli, which is the largest river island in the world, is located in the Brahmaputra Plains.

  • The key crops that are grown here are, tea, rice, jute, wheat, sugarcane, maize, sorghum, etc.

  • The famous Kaziranga National park is located in these particular Northern plains of India.