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India is a country of ancient times and unlimited natural resources. Its ancient culture, the rivers, mountains and vegetation, not to forget its exotic spices, make the country a wonderful place to visit or to live.
Mark Twain once said: "So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked."
One of the earliest civilizations, the Indus Valley civilisation from c. 2600 B.C. to c. 2000 B.C is the earliest known in the region. Although little is known about the rise and subsequent fall of the civilisation, e the twin cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa (now in Pakistan) are thought to have been ruled by priests and held the rudiments of Hinduism. These civilisations were known to possess a sophisticated lifestyle, a highly developed sense of aesthetics, an astonishing knowledge of town planning and a script language that has remained undeciphered till date. The Indus civilisation, at one point of time, extended nearly a million square kilometres (sq km) across the Indus river valley. It existed at the same time as the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Sumer but far outlasted them. The civilisation is known to have survived for nearly a 1,000 years.
The coming of the Indo-European group around 1500 BC provided the final blow to the collapsing Indus Valley civilisation. At the dawn of Vedic ages, the Indo-European group came in from the North and spread through large parts of India bringing with them their culture and religious beliefs. The Four Vedas, or the important books of Hinduism, were compiled in this period. Although it is widely held that the Indo-European group came into India from somewhere in Central Asia and soon spread to other parts of India, there are also very compelling arguments amongst historians that the Indo-European group were native to the rough geographical area that is the Indian subcontinent.
Buddhism was founded in the 6th century B.C. and was spread throughout northern India, most notably by one of the great ancient kings of the Mauryan dynasty, Asoka (c. 269-232 B.C.), who also unified most of the Indian subcontinent for the first time.
In 567 BC, the founder of the Buddhist religion - Siddhartha Gautama - The Buddha was born into a royal family in village Lumbini, now in present days located in Nepal, in 563 BC. At 29, he realised that wealth and luxury did not guarantee happiness, so he explored the different teachings religions and philosophies of the day, to find the key to human happiness. After six years of study and meditation he finally found 'the middle path' and was enlightened. After enlightenment, the Buddha spent the rest of his life teaching the principles of Buddhism - called the Dhamma, or Truth - until his death at the age of 80.
Siddhartha had also seen a monk, and he decided this was a sign that he should leave his protected royal life and live as a homeless holy man.
Siddhartha's travels showed him much more of the suffering of the world. He searched for a way to escape the inevitability of death, old age and pain first by studying with religious men. This didn't provide him with an answer.
During this time also lived Mahavira, who founded the Jain religion. The religion derives its name from the jinas ("conquerors"), a title given to twenty-four great teachers (tirthankaras or "ford-makers"), through whom their faith was revealed. Mahavira, the last of the tirthankaras, is considered the founder of Jainism. The ultimate goal of Jainism the liberation of the self (jiva) from rebirth, which is attained through the elimination of accumulated karma (the consequences of previous actions).
Mahavir was born in 599 B.C. as a prince in Bihar, India. At the age of 30, he left his family and royal household, gave up his worldly possessions, including clothing and become a monk.
Mahavira was born of Sidhatha, Raja of Kundalpura, and Queen Trisala, who was known by the name Priya Karni. ‘Maha’ means great and ‘Vira’ means a hero. ‘Tirtha’ literally means a ford, a means of crossing over. Metaphorically, it denotes a spiritual guide or philosophy which enables one to cross over the ocean of recurring births in this world. ‘Kara’ means one who makes. The whole word Tirthankara means a Jain holy teacher.
Two hundred years later, in the 4th century BC, Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty, one of the greatest King of Indian history, led the Magadhan Empire based at Pataliputra (present day Patna and capital of Bihar) to take over almost all of what is now modern India. This great leader embraced Buddhism and built the group of monuments at Sanchi (a UNESCO world heritage site). The Ashoka pillar at Sarnath has been adopted by India as its national emblem and the Dharma Chakra on the Ashoka Pillar adorns the National Flag.
The Gupta dynasty was the greatest to rule in the north after the Mauryas, heralding a period known as the ‘Golden Age of India’, while in the southern part of India several different empires - the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Cheras - spread and grew, trading with Europe and other parts of Asia till the end of the 1100s. Christianity entered India at about the same time from Europe. Legend has it that St. Thomas the Apostle arrived in India in 52 AD. Even earlier than that people of Jewish religion arrived on India's shores. In approximately the 7th century AD, a group of Zoroastrians, or Parsees, landed in Gujarat and became a part of the large mix of religions in India today, each of which adds its important and distinctive flavour. In the 15th century, Guru Nanak laid the foundation of the Sikh religion in Punjab.
"The Palace of the Lord God is so beautiful. Within it, there are gems, rubies, pearls and flawless diamonds. A fortress of gold surrounds this Source of Nectar. How can I climb up to the Fortress without a ladder? By meditating on the Lord, through the Guru, I am blessed and exalted. The Guru is the Ladder, the Guru is the Boat, and the Guru is the Raft to take me to the Lord's Name. The Guru is the Boat to carry me across the world-ocean; the Guru is the Sacred Shrine of Pilgrimage, the Guru is the Holy River. If it pleases Him, I bathe in the Pool of Truth, and become radiant and pure." (Guru Nanak, Sri Rag, pg. 17)
The word "Guru" is a Sanskrit word meaning teacher, honoured person, religious person or saint. Sikhism, or known in Punjabi as Sikhi. Sikhism though has a very specific definition of the word Guru. It means the descent of divine guidance to mankind provided through ten Enlightened Masters. This honour of being called a Sikh Guru applies only to the ten Gurus who founded the religion starting with Guru Nanak in 1469 and ending with Guru Gobind Singh in 1708; thereafter it refers to the Sikh Holy Scriptures the Guru Granth Sahib. The divine spirit was passed from one Guru to the next as "The light of a lamp which lights another does not abate. Similarly a spiritual leader and his disciple become equal, Nanak says the truth."
"They distinguish and separate one Guru from the other. And rare is the one who knows that they, indeed, were one. They who realised this in their hearts, attained Realisation of God." (Guru Gobind Singh, Dohira, Vachitra Natak).
In 1192, Mohammed of Ghor, a ruler from Afghanistan, came into India and captured several places in the north including Delhi. Sultan Shahab-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori, originally called Mu'izzuddin Muhammad Bin Sam (and also referred to by Orientalists as Muhammad of Ghor) (1162 - 15 March 1206), was a ruler of the Ghorid dynasty who reigned over a territory spanning present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and northern India.
Shahabuddin Ghori first invaded India in 1175, capturing Multan and the fortress of Uch. He attacked Gujrat in 1179.
The battle of Gujarat or Kayadara (1178) was a defeat suffered by Muhammad of Ghur during his first campaign against a Hindu ruler in India. Muhammad's first campaign had been against the Muslim rulers of Multan in 1175 and had ended in victory. In 1178 he turned south, and led his army from Multan to Uch and then across the desert towards the Gujarat capital of Anhilwara (modern Patan).
Gujarat was ruled by the young Raja Bhimdev II (ruled 1178-1241), a member of the Solanki dynasty (one of several Chalukya dynasties), although the age of the Raja meant that the army was commanded by his mother Naikidevi. Muhammad's army had suffered greatly during the march across the desert, and Naikidevi inflicted a major defeat on him at the village of Kayadra (near to Mount Abu, about forty miles to the north-east of Anhilwara). The invading army suffered heavy casualties during the battle, and also in the retreat back across the desert to Multan.
Muhammad of Ghur never returned to Gujarat. When he returned home, he left one of his generals in charge Qutb al-din Aibek who became the first Sultan of Delhi. An army led by Qutb al-din Aibek, his deputy in India, invaded in c.1195-97 and plundered the capital, but then returned to Delhi. Gujarat wasn't annexed by the Sultanate of Delhi until 1297. During this time Islam, was introduced into a major part of northern India. It may be mentioned that, even before that, just after the period of the Prophet (Praise Be Upon Him), Islam was brought to the western coast of India by Arab traders and flourished in what is now Kerala.
He captured Lahore in 1181 and constructed the fortress of Sialkot. In 1191, he pushed further eastwards against the Hindu Rajput kingdoms, and his forces were defeated by the armies of Prithviraj Chauhan, the Hindu Rajput ruler of Delhi and Ajmer and his allies. A year later, in 1192, Ghori again fought the Hindu Rajputs, which resulted in victory.
The Delhi Sultanate gradually took control of more and more of North India over the next 200 years, till Timur, who was called "Timur the Lame" or "Tamberlane" came from Turkey in 1398 to attack India which practically signaled the end of the Delhi Sultanate. Soon the Mughals, who were from Central Asia, came in and took control of the north.
In the meantime in the south, in 1336, the Hindu Vijayanagar Empire based at modern day Hampi in Karnataka was established and gained strength.
In 1526, Muslim invaders founded the great Mogul Empire, centered on Delhi, which lasted, at least in name, until 1857. Akbar the Great (1542–1605) strengthened and consolidated this empire. The long reign of his great-grandson, Aurangzeb (1618-1707), represents both the greatest extent of the Mogul Empire and the beginning of its decay.
Indian trade links with Europe started in through sea route only after the arrival of Vasco da Gama in Calicut, India on May 20, 1498. The Portuguese had traded in Goa as early as 1510, and later founded three other colonies on the west coast in Diu, Bassein, and Mangalore. In 1601 the East India Company was chartered, and the English began their first inroads into the Indian Ocean. At first they were little interested in India, but rather, like the Portuguese and Dutch before them, with the Spice Islands. But the English were unable to dislodge the Dutch from Spice Islands. In 1610, the British chased away a Portuguese naval squadron, and the East India Company created its own outpost at Surat. This small outpost marked the beginning of a remarkable presence that would last over 300 years and eventually dominate the entire subcontinent. In 1612 British established a trading post in Gujarat. As a result of English disappointments with dislodging the Dutch from the Spice Islands, they turned instead to India.
In 1614 Sir Thomas Roe was instructed by James I to visit the court of Jahangir, the Mughal emperor of Hindustan. Sir Thomas was to arrange a commercial treaty and to secure for the East India Company sites for commercial agencies, -"factories" as they were called. Sir Thomas was successful in getting permission from Jahangir for setting up factories. East India Company set up factories at Ahmedabad, Broach and Agra. In 1640 East India Company established an outpost at Madras. In 1661 the company obtained Bombay from Charles II and converted it to a flourishing center of trade by 1668. English settlements rose in Orissa and Bengal. In 1633, in the Mahanadi delta of Hariharpur at Balasore in Orissa, factories were set up. In 1650 Gabriel Boughton an employee of the Company obtained a license for trade in Bengal. An English factory was set up in 1651 at Hugli. In 1690 Job Charnock established a factory. In 1698 the factory was fortified and called Fort William. The villages of Sutanati, Kalikata and Gobindpore were developed into a single area called Calcutta. Calcutta became a trading center for East India Company. Once in India, the British began to compete with the Portuguese, the Dutch, and the French. Through a combination of outright combat and deft alliances with local princes, the East India Company gained control of all European trade in India by 1769. In 1672 the French established themselves at Pondicherry and stage was set for a rivalry between the British and French for control of Indian trade.
Bombay, taken from the Portuguese, became the seat of English rule in 1687. The defeat of French and Mogul armies by Lord Clive in 1757 laid the foundation of the British Empire in India. The East India Company continued to suppress native uprisings and extend British rule until 1858, when the administration of India was formally transferred to the British Crown following the Sepoy Mutiny of native troops in 1857-1858.
Lastly, the Britishers came and ruled over India for nearly 200 years. After the battle of Plassey in 1757, the British achieved political power in India. And their paramountcy was established during the tenure of Lord Dalhousie, who became the Governor- General in 1848. He annexed Punjab, Peshawar and the Pathan tribes in the north-west of India. And by 1856, the British conquest and its authority were firmly established. And while the British power gained its heights during the middle of the 19th century, the discontent of the local rulers, the peasantry, the intellectuals, common masses as also of the soldiers who became unemployed due to the disbanding of the armies of various states that were annexed by the British, became widespread. This soon broke out into a revolt which assumed the dimensions of the 1857 Mutiny.
The Indian Mutiny of 1857
The conquest of India, which could be said to have begun with the Battle of Plassey (1757), was practically completed by the end of Dalhousie's tenure in 1856. It had been by no means a smooth affair as the simmering discontent of the people manifested itself in many localized revolt during this period. However, the Mutiny of 1857, which began with a revolt of the military soldiers at Meerut, soon became widespread and posed a grave challenge to the British rule. Even though the British succeeded in crushing it within a year, it was certainly a popular revolt in which the Indian rulers, the masses and the militia participated so enthusiastically that it came to be regarded as the First War of Indian Independence.
Introduction of zamindari system by the British, where the peasants were ruined through exorbitant charges made from them by the new class of landlords. The craftsmen were destroyed by the influx of the British manufactured goods. The religion and the caste system which formed the firm foundation of the traditional Indian society was endangered by the British administration. The Indian soldiers as well as people in administration could not rise in hierarchy as the senior jobs were reserved for the Europeans. Thus, there was all-round discontent and disgust against the British rule, which burst out in a revolt by the 'sepoys' at Meerut whose religious sentiments were offended when they were given new cartridges greased with cow and pig fat, whose covering had to be stripped out by biting with the mouth before using them in rifles. The Hindu as well as the Muslim soldiers, who refused to use such cartridges, were arrested which resulted in a revolt by their fellow soldiers on May 9, 1857.
The rebel forces soon captured Delhi and the revolt spread to a wider area and there was uprising in almost all parts of the country. The most ferocious battles were fought in Delhi, Awadh, Rohilkhand, Bundelkhand, Allahabad, Agra, Meerut and western Bihar. The rebellious forces under the commands of Kanwar Singh in Bihar and Bakht Khan in Delhi gave a stunning blow to the British. In Kanpur, Nana Sahib was proclaimed as the Peshwa and the brave leader Tantya Tope led his troops. Rani Lakshmibai was proclaimed the ruler of Jhansi who led her troops in the heroic battles with the British. The Hindus, the Muslims, the Sikhs and all the other brave sons of India fought shoulder to shoulder to throw out the British. The revolt was controlled by the British within one year, it began from Meerut on 10 May 1857 and ended in Gwalior on 20 June 1858.
End of the East India Company
Consequent to the failure of the Revolt of 1857 rebellion, one also saw the end of the East India Company's rule in India and many important changes took place in the British Government's policy towards India which sought to strengthen the British rule through winning over the Indian princes, the chiefs and the landlords. Queen Victoria's Proclamation of November 1, 1858 declared that thereafter India would be governed by and in the name of the British Monarch through a Secretary of State.
The Governor General was given title of Viceroy, which meant the representative of the Monarch. Queen Victoria assumed the title of the Empress of India and thus gave the British Government unlimited powers to intervene in the internal affair of the Indian states. In brief, the British paramountcy over India, including the Indian States, was firmly established. The British gave their support to the loyal princes, zamindar and local chiefs but neglected the educated people and the common masses. They also promoted the other interests like those of the British merchants, industrialists, planters and civil servants. The people of India, as such, did not have any say in running the government or formulation of its policies. Consequently, people's disgust with the British rule kept mounting, which gave rise to the birth of Indian National Movement.
The leadership of the freedom movement passed into the hands of reformists like Raja Rammohan Roy, Bankim Chandra and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. During this time, the binding psychological concept of National Unity was also forged in the fire of the struggle against a common foreign oppressor.
Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833) founded the Brahmo Samaj in 1828 which aimed at purging the society of all its evil practices. He worked for eradicating evils like sati, child marriage and purdah system, championed widow marriage and women's education and favoured English system of education in India. It was through his effort that sati was declared a legal offence by the British.
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) the disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, established the Ramkrishna Mission at Belur in 1897. He championed the supremacy of Vedantic philosophy. His talk at the Chicago (USA) Conference of World Religions in 1893 made the westerners realize the greatness of Hinduism for the first time.
Formation of Indian National Congress (INC)
The foundations of the Indian National Movement were laid by Suredranath Banerjee with the formation of Indian Association at Calcutta in 1876. The aim of the Association was to represent the views of the educated middle class, inspire the Indian community to take the value of united action. The Indian Association was, in a way, the forerunner of the Indian National Congress, which was founded, with the help of A.O. Hume, a retired British official. The birth of Indian National Congress (INC) in 1885 marked the entry of new educated middle-class into politics and transformed the Indian political horizon. The first session of the Indian National Congress was held in Bombay in December 1885 under the president ship of Womesh Chandra Banerjee and was attended among others by and Badr-uddin-Tyabji.
At the turn of the century, the freedom movement reached out to the common unlettered man through the launching of the "Swadeshi Movement" by leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghose. The Congress session at Calcutta in 1906, presided by Dadabhai Naoroji, gave a call for attainment of 'Swaraj' a type of self-government elected by the people within the British Dominion, as it prevailed in Canada and Australia, which were also the parts of the British Empire.
Meanwhile, in 1909, the British Government announced certain reforms in the structure of Government in India which are known as Morley-Minto Reforms. But these reforms came as a disappointment as they did not mark any advance towards the establishment of a representative Government. The provision of special representation of the Muslim was seen as a threat to the Hindu-Muslim unity on which the strength of the National Movement rested. So, these reforms were vehemently opposed by all the leaders, including the Muslim leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Subsequently, King George V made two announcements in Delhi: firstly, the partition of Bengal, which had been effected in 1905, was annulled and, secondly, it was announced that the capital of India was to be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi.
The disgust with the reforms announced in 1909 led to the intensification of the struggle for Swaraj. While, on one side, the activists led by the great leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chandra Pal waged a virtual war against the British, on the other side, the revolutionaries stepped up their violent activities There was a widespread unrest in the country. To add to the already growing discontent among the people, Rowlatt Act was passed in 1919, which empowered the Government to put people in jail without trial. This caused widespread indignation, led to massive demonstration and hartals, which the Government repressed with brutal measures like the Jaliawalla Bagh massacre, where thousands of unarmed peaceful people were gunned down on the order of General Dyer.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
Jalianwala Bagh massacre of April 13, 1919 was one of the most inhuman acts of the British rulers in India. The people of Punjab gathered on the auspicious day of Baisakhi at Jalianwala Bagh, adjacent to Golden Temple (Amritsar), to lodge their protest peacefully against persecution by the British Indian Government. General Dyer appeared suddenly with his armed police force and fired indiscriminately at innocent empty handed people leaving hundreds of people dead, including women and children.
After the First World War (1914-1918), Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became the undisputed leader of the Congress. During this struggle, Mahatma Gandhi had developed the novel technique of non-violent agitation, which he called 'Satyagraha', loosely translated as 'moral domination'. Gandhi, himself a devout Hindu, also espoused a total moral philosophy of tolerance, brotherhood of all religions, non-violence (ahimsa) and of simple living. With this, new leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose also emerged on the scene and advocated the adoption of complete independence as the goal of the National Movement.
The Non-Cooperation Movement
The Non-Cooperation Movement was pitched in under leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress from September 1920 to February 1922, marking a new awakening in the Indian Independence Movement. After a series of events including the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, Gandhiji realised that there was no prospect of getting any fair treatment at the hands of British, so he planned to withdraw the nation's co-operation from the British Government, thus launching the Non-Cooperation Movement and thereby marring the administrative set up of the country. This movement was a great success as it got massive encouragement to millions of Indians. This movement almost shook the British authorities.
The Non-cooperation movement failed. Therefore there was a lull in political activities. The Simon Commission was sent to India in 1927 by the British Government to suggest further reforms in the structure of Indian Government. The Commission did not include any Indian member and the Government showed no intention of accepting the demand for Swaraj. Therefore, it sparked a wave of protests all over the country and the Congress as well as the Muslim League gave a call to boycott it under the leadership of Lala Lajpat Rai. The crowds were lathi charged and Lala Lajpat Rai, also called Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of Punjab) died of the blows received in an agitation.
Civil Disobedience Movement
Mahatma Gandhi led the Civil Disobedience Movement that was launched in the Congress Session of December 1929. The aim of this movement was a complete disobedience of the orders of the British Government. During this movement it was decided that India would celebrate 26th January as Independence Day all over the country. On 26th January 1930, meetings were held all over the country and the Congress tricolour was hoisted. The British Government tried to repress the movement and resorted to brutal firing, killing hundreds of people. Thousands were arrested along with Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru. But the movement spread to all the four corners of the country Following this, Round Table Conferences were arranged by the British and Gandhiji attended the second Round Table Conference at London. But nothing came out of the conference and the Civil Disobedience Movement was revived.
During this time, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case (killing of a British police officer J.P. Saunders in 1928) and ordered to be hanged on 24 March 1931. Their execution had been advanced 1 day to take place on 23 March 1931 instead of 24th March and they were informed just a few hours before the execution. The jail authorities then broke the rear wall of the jail and secretly cremated the three martyrs under cover of darkness because they were afraid of the public outburst and anger.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh was one of the greatest and most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. Bhagat Singh was involved in the killing of English policeman John Saunders seeking revenge for the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. He and Batukeshwar Dutt threw two bombs and brochures inside the Central Legislative Assembly while shouting the slogans of Inquilab Zindabad. He did not try to flee the scene and offered the arrest himself. He obtained extensive national support when he went for a 116 day fast in prison demanding equal rights for English and Indian prisoners. He was charged and subsequently hanged for his involvement in the killing at age 23. His martyrdom encouraged younger generation in India to begin fighting for independence and he still remains a younger generation idol in today’s India.
Shivaram Rajguru was also a great revolutionary like Bhagat Singh. Together with Sukhdev and Bhagat Singh, Rajguru also participated in the killing of English policeman John Saunders. On 23rd March, 1931, three brave sons of mother India were hanged, Rajguru was one of them. Rajguru was also only 23 years old when he became a martyr for his country. His bravery and scarifies has earned him a place in the history of Indian freedom fighting moment that can never be forgotten.
Sukhdev (full name Sukhdev Thapar) was a member of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) was formed and headed by Chandra Shekhar Azad. Sardar Bhagat Singh and Rajguru were also the members of the Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA). He was one of the founding members of the ‘Naujawan Bharat Sabha’, an organization started at Lahore with primary aim of inspiring the youth for the freedom movement and putting an end to communalism. Sukhdev was also a co-accused in the assassination of Deputy Superintendent of Police, J.P. Saunders in 1928. Along with Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Rajguru, Sukhdev was also hanged on 23rd March, 1931 at the age of 24. Undaunted spirit and firm resolve for the independence of India made Sukhdev as one of the greatest Heroes of freedom fighting movement.
Quit India Movement
In August 1942, Gandhiji started the 'Quit India Movement' and decided to launch a mass civil disobedience movement 'Do or Die' call to force the British to leave India. The movement was followed, nonetheless, by large-scale violence directed at railway stations, telegraph offices, government buildings, and other emblems and institutions of colonial rule. There were widespread acts of sabotage, and the government held Gandhi responsible for these acts of violence, suggesting that they were a deliberate act of Congress policy. However, all the prominent leaders were arrested, the Congress was banned and the police and army were brought out to suppress the movement.
Meanwhile, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who stealthily ran away from the British detention in Calcutta, reached foreign lands and organized the Indian National Army (INA) to overthrow the British from India.
The Second World War broke out in September of 1939 and without consulting the Indian leaders, India was declared a warring state (on behalf of the British) by the Governor General. Subhash Chandra Bose, with the help of Japan, preceded fighting the British forces and not only freed Andaman and Nicobar Islands from the Britishers but also entered the north-eastern border of India. But in 1945 Japan was defeated and Netaji proceeded from Japan through an aeroplane to a place of safety but met with an accident and it was given out that he died in that air-crash itself.
"Give me blood and I shall give you freedom" - was one of the most popular statements made by him, where he urges the people of India to join him in his freedom movement.
Partition of India and Pakistan
At the conclusion of the Second World War, the Labour Party, under Prime Minister Clement Richard Attlee, came to power in Britain. The Labour Party was largely sympathetic towards Indian people for freedom. A Cabinet Mission was sent to India in March 1946, which after a careful study of the Indian political scenario, proposed the formation of an interim Government and convening of a Constituent Assembly comprising members elected by the provincial legislatures and nominees of the Indian states. An interim Government was formed headed by Jawaharlal Nehru. However, the Muslim League refused to participate in the deliberations of the Constituent Assembly and pressed for the separate state for Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten, the Viceroy of India, presented a plan for the division of India into India and Pakistan, and the Indian leaders had no choice but to accept the division, as the Muslim League was adamant.
Thus, India became free at the stroke of midnight, on August 14, 1947. (Since then, every year India celebrates its Independence Day on 15th August). Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minster of free India and continued his term till 1964. Giving voice to the sentiments of the nation, Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.... We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.”
When British rule came to an end in 1947, the subcontinent was partitioned along religious lines into two separate countries - India, with a majority of Hindus, and Pakistan, with a majority of Muslims; the eastern portion of Pakistan later split off to form Bangladesh. Many British institutions stayed in place (such as the parliamentary system of government); English continued to be a widely used lingua franca; and India remained within the Commonwealth. Hindi became the official language (and a number of other local languages achieved official status), while a vibrant English-language intelligentsia thrived.
India remains one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Apart from its many religions and sects, India is home to innumerable castes and tribes, as well as to more than a dozen major and hundreds of minor linguistic groups from several language families unrelated to one another. Religious minorities, including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains, still account for a significant proportion of the population; collectively, their numbers exceed the populations of all countries except China. Earnest attempts have been made to instill a spirit of nationhood in so varied a population, but tensions between neighbouring groups have remained and at times have resulted in outbreaks of violence. Yet social legislation has done much to alleviate the disabilities previously suffered by formerly “untouchable” castes, tribal populations, women, and other traditionally disadvantaged segments of society. At independence, India was blessed with several leaders of world stature, most notably Mohandas K. Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who were able to galvanize the masses at home and bring prestige to India abroad. The country has played an increasing role in global affairs.
Contemporary India’s increasing physical prosperity and cultural dynamism - despite continued domestic challenges and economic inequality - are seen in its well-developed infrastructure and a highly diversified industrial base, in its pool of scientific and engineering personnel (one of the largest in the world), in the pace of its agricultural expansion, and in its rich and vibrant cultural exports of music, literature, and cinema. Though the country’s population remains largely rural, India has three of the most populous and cosmopolitan cities in the world - Mumbai (Bombay), Kolkata (Calcutta), and Delhi. Three other Indian cities - Bangalore (Bengaluru), Chennai (Madras), and Hyderabad - are among the world’s fastest-growing high-technology centres, and most of the world’s major information technology and software companies now have offices in India.
India’s frontier, which is roughly one-third coastline, abuts six countries. It is bounded to the northwest by Pakistan, to the north by Nepal, China, and Bhutan; and to the east by Myanmar (Burma). Bangladesh to the east is surrounded by India to the north, east, and west. The island country of Sri Lanka is situated some 40 miles (65 km) off the southeast coast of India across the Palk Strait and Gulf of Mannar.
The land of India - together with Bangladesh and most of Pakistan - forms a well-defined subcontinent, set off from the rest of Asia by the imposing northern mountain rampart of the Himalayas and by adjoining mountain ranges to the west and east. In area, India ranks as the seventh largest country in the world.
Much of India’s territory lies within a large peninsula, surrounded by the Arabian Sea to the west and the Bay of Bengal to the east; Cape Comorin, the southernmost point of the Indian mainland, marks the dividing line between these two bodies of water. India has two union territories composed entirely of islands: Lakshadweep, in the Arabian Sea, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which lie between the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
The Himalayas (from the Sanskrit words hima, “snow,” and alaya, “abode”), the loftiest mountain system in the world, form the northern limit of India. This great, geologically young mountain arc is about 1,550 miles (2,500 km) long, stretching from the peak of Nanga Parbat (26,660 feet [8,126 meters]) in Pakistan-administered Kashmir to the Namcha Barwa peak in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Between these extremes the mountains fall across India, southern Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. The width of the system varies between 125 and 250 miles (200 and 400 km).
Within India the Himalayas are divided into three longitudinal belts, called the Outer, Lesser, and Great Himalayas. At each extremity there is a great bend in the system’s alignment, from which a number of lower mountain ranges and hills spread out. Those in the west lie wholly within Pakistan and Afghanistan, while those to the east straddle India’s border with Myanmar (Burma). North of the Himalayas are the Plateau of Tibet and various Trans-Himalayan ranges, only a small part of which, in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir state, are within the territorial limits of India.
Because of the continued subduction of the Indian peninsula against the Eurasian Plate, the Himalayas and the associated eastern ranges remain tectonically active. As a result, the mountains are still rising, and earthquakes - often accompanied by landslides - are common. Several since 1900 have been devastating, including one in 1934 in what is now Bihar state that killed more than 10,000 persons. In 2001 another tremor, farther from the mountains, in Gujarat state, was less powerful but caused extensive damage, taking the lives of more than 20,000 people and leaving more than 500,000 homeless (see Bhuj earthquake of 2001). The relatively high frequency and wide distribution of earthquakes likewise have generated controversies about the safety and advisability of several hydroelectric and irrigation projects.
Our Shiwalik Range or the Outer Himalayas
The southernmost of the three mountain belts are the Outer Himalayas, also called the Shiwalik Range. Crests in the Shiwaliks, averaging from 3,000 to 5,000 feet (900 to 1,500 meters) in elevation, seldom exceed 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). The range narrows as it moves east and is hardly discernible beyond the Duars, a plains region in West Bengal state. Interspersed in the Shiwaliks are heavily cultivated flat valleys (duns) with a high population density. To the south of the range is the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Weakly indurate, largely deforested, and subject to heavy rain and intense erosion, the Shiwaliks provide much of the sediment transported onto the plain.
To the north of the Shiwaliks and separated from them by a fault zone, the Lesser Himalayas (also called the Lower or Middle Himalayas) rise to heights ranging from 11,900 to 15,100 feet (3,600 to 4,600 meters). Their ancient name is Himachal (Sanskrit: hima, “snow,” and acal, “mountain”). These mountains are composed of both ancient crystalline and geologically young rocks, sometimes in a reversed stratigraphic sequence because of thrust faulting. The Lesser Himalayas are traversed by numerous deep gorges formed by swift-flowing streams (some of them older than the mountains themselves), which are fed by glaciers and snowfields to the north.
Our Great Himalayas
The northernmost Great, or Higher, Himalayas (in ancient times, the Himadri), with crests generally above 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) in elevation, are composed of ancient crystalline rocks and old marine sedimentary formations. Between the Great and Lesser Himalayas are several fertile longitudinal vales; in India the largest is the Vale of Kashmir, an ancient lake basin with an area of about 1,700 square miles (4,400 square km). The Great Himalayas, ranging from 30 to 45 miles (50 to 75 km) wide, include some of the world’s highest peaks. The highest, Mount Everest (at 29,035 feet [8,850 meters]; see Researcher’s Note: Height of Mount Everest), is on the China-Nepal border, but India also has many lofty peaks, such as Kanchenjunga (28,169 feet [8,586 meters]) on the border of Nepal and the state of Sikkim and Nanda Devi (25,646 feet [7,817 meters]), Kamet (25,446 feet [7,755 meters]), and Trisul (23,359 feet [7,120]) in Uttaranchal. The Great Himalayas lie mostly above the line of perpetual snow and thus contain most of the Himalayan glaciers.
Indian Ranges and Hills
In general, the various regional ranges and hills run parallel to the Himalayas’ main axis. These are especially prominent in the northwest, where the Zaskar Range and the Ladakh and Karakoram ranges, all in Jammu and Kashmir state, run to the northeast of the Great Himalayas. Also in Jammu and Kashmir is the Pir Panjal Range, which, extending along the southwest of the Great Himalayas, forms the western and southern flanks of the Vale of Kashmir.
At its eastern extremity, the Himalayas give way to a number of smaller ranges running northeast-southwest - including the heavily forested Patkai Range and the Naga and Mizo hills - which extend along India’s borders with Myanmar and the southeastern panhandle of Bangladesh. Within the Naga Hills, the reedy Logtak Lake, in the Manipur River valley, is an important feature. Branching off from these hills to the northwest are the Mikir Hills, and to the west are the Jaintia, Khasi, and Garo hills, which run just north of India’s border with Bangladesh. Collectively, the latter group is also designated as the Shillong (Meghalaya) Plateau.
Indo-Genetic Plain or North Indian Plain
The second great structural component of India, the Indo-Gangetic Plain (also called the North Indian Plain), lies between the Himalayas and the Deccan. The plain occupies the Himalayan for deep, formerly a seabed but now filled with river-borne alluvium to depths of up to 6,000 feet (1,800 meters). The plain stretches from the Pakistani provinces of Sind and Punjab in the west, where it is watered by the Indus River and its tributaries, eastward to the Brahmaputra River valley in Assam state.
The Ganges (Ganga) River basin (mainly in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states) forms the central and principal part of this plain. The eastern portion is made up of the combined delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, which, though mainly in Bangladesh, also occupies a part of the adjacent Indian state of West Bengal. This deltaic area is characterized by annual flooding attributed to intense monsoon rainfall, an exceedingly gentle gradient, and an enormous discharge that the alluvium-choked rivers cannot contain within their channels. The Indus River basin, extending west from Delhi, forms the western part of the plain; the Indian portion is mainly in the states of Haryana and Punjab.
The overall gradient of the plain is virtually imperceptible, averaging only about 6 inches per mile (95 mm per km) in the Ganges basin and slightly more along the Indus and Brahmaputra. Even so, to those who till its soils, there is an important distinction between bhangar - the slightly elevated, terraced land of older alluvium - and khadar, the more fertile fresh alluvium on the low-lying floodplain. In general, the ratio of bhangar areas to those of khadar increases upstream along all major rivers. An exception to the largely monotonous relief is encountered in the southwestern portion of the plain, where there are gullied badlands centering on the Chambal River. That area has long been famous for harbouring violent gangs of criminals called dacoits, who find shelter in its many hidden ravines.
The Great Indian, or Thar, Desert, forms an important southern extension of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. It is mostly in India but also extends into Pakistan and is mainly an area of gently undulating terrain, and within it are several areas dominated by shifting sand dunes and numerous isolated hills. The latter provide visible evidence of the fact that the thin surface deposits of the region, partially alluvial and partially wind-borne, are underlain by the much older Indian-Australian Plate, of which the hills are structurally a part.
The remainder of India is designated, not altogether accurately, as either the Deccan plateau or peninsular India. It is actually a topographically variegated region that extends well beyond the peninsula - that portion of the country lying between the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal - and includes a substantial area to the north of the Vindhya Range, which has popularly been regarded as the divide between Hindustan (northern India) and the Deccan (from Sanskrit dakshina, “south”).
Having once constituted a segment of the ancient continent of Gondwana, this land is the oldest and most stable in India. The plateau is mainly between 1,000 and 2,500 feet (300 to 750 meters) above sea level, and its general slope descends toward the east. A number of the hill ranges of the Deccan have been eroded and rejuvenated several times, and only their remaining summits testify to their geologic past. The main peninsular block is composed of gneiss, granite-gneiss, schist's, and granites, as well as of more geologically recent basaltic lava flows.
The Western Ghats or Sahyadri
The Western Ghats, also called the Sahyadri, are a north-south chain of mountains or hills that mark the western edge of the Deccan plateau region. They rise abruptly from the coastal plain as an escarpment of variable height, but their eastern slopes are much more gentle. The Western Ghats contain a series of residual plateaus and peaks separated by saddles and passes. The hill station (resort) of Mahabaleshwar, located on a late rite plateau, is one of the highest elevations in the northern half, rising to 4,700 feet (1,430 meters). The chain attains greater heights in the south, where the mountains terminate in several uplifted blocks bordered by steep slopes on all sides. These include the Nilgiri Hills, with their highest peak, Doda Betta (8,652 feet [2,637 meters]); and the Anaimalai, Palni, and Cardamom hills, all three of which radiate from the highest peak in the Western Ghats, Anai Peak (Anai Mudi, 8,842 feet [2,695 meters]). The Western Ghats receive heavy rainfall, and several major rivers - most notably the Krishna (Kistna) and the two holy rivers, the Godavari and the Kaveri (Cauvery) - have their headwaters there.
The Eastern Ghat
The Eastern Ghats are a series of discontinuous low ranges running generally northeast-southwest parallel to the coast of the Bay of Bengal. The largest single sector - the remnant of an ancient mountain range that eroded and subsequently rejuvenated - is found in the Dandakaranya region between the Mahanadi and Godavari rivers. This narrow range has a central ridge, the highest peak of which is Arma Konda (5,512 feet [1,680 meters]) in Andhra Pradesh state. The hills become subdued farther southwest, where they are traversed by the Godavari River through a gorge 40 miles (65 km) long. Still farther southwest, beyond the Krishna River, the Eastern Ghats appear as a series of low ranges and hills, including the Erramala, Nallamala, Velikonda, and Palkonda. Southwest of the city of Chennai (Madras), the Eastern Ghats continue as the Javadi and Shevaroy hills, beyond which they merge with the Western Ghats.
Our Inlands Regions
The northernmost portion of the Deccan may be termed the peninsular foreland. This large, ill-defined area lies between the peninsula proper to the south (roughly demarcated by the Vindhya Range) and the Indo-Gangetic Plain and the Great Indian Desert (beyond the Aravali Range) to the north.
The Aravali Range runs southwest-northeast for more than 450 miles (725 km) from a highland node near Ahmadabad, Gujarat, northeast to Delhi. These mountains are composed of ancient rocks and are divided into several parts, in one of which lies Sambhar Salt Lake. Their highest summit is Guru Peak (5,650 feet [1,722 meters]), on Mount Abu. The Aravalis form a divide between the west-flowing streams, draining into the desert or the Rann of Kachchh (Kutch), and the Chambal and its tributaries within the Ganges River catchment area.
Between the Aravalis and the Vindhya Range lies the fertile, basaltic Malwa Plateau. This plateau gradually rises southward toward the so-called Vindhya Range, which is actually a south-facing escarpment deeply eroded by short streams flowing into the valley of the Narmada River below. The escarpment appears from the south as an imposing range of mountains. The Narmada valley forms the western and principal portion of the Narmada-Son trough, a continuous depression running southwest-northeast, mostly at the base of the Vindhya Range, for about 750 miles (1,200 km).
To the east of the peninsular foreland lies the mineral-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau (mostly within Jharkhand, northwestern Orissa, and Chhattisgarh states). This is a region of numerous scarps separating areas of rolling terrain. To the southwest of the Chota Nagpur Plateau is the Chhattisgarh Plain, centered in Chhattisgarh on the upper course of the Mahanadi River.
Most of the inland area south of the peninsular foreland and the Chota Nagpur Plateau is characterized by rolling terrain and generally low relief, within which a number of hill ranges, some of them mesa like formations, run in various directions. Occupying much of the northwestern portion of the peninsula (most of Maharashtra and some bordering areas of Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka) is the Deccan lava plateau. The mesa-like features are especially characteristic of this large, fertile area, which is cut across by the Satpura, Ajanta, and Balaghat ranges.
Our Coastal Areas
Most of the coast of India flanks the Eastern and Western Ghats. In the northwest, however, much of coastal Gujarat lies to the northwest of the Western Ghats, extending around the Gulf of Khambhat (Cambay) and into the salt marshes of the Kathiawar and Kachchh (Kutch) peninsulas. These tidal marshes include the Great Rann of Kachchh along the border with Pakistan and the Little Rann of Kachchh between the two peninsulas. Because the level of these marshes rises markedly during the rainy season, the Kachchh Peninsula normally becomes an island for several months each year.
The area farther south, especially the stretch from Daman to Goa (known as the Konkan coast), is indented with raise (flooded valleys) extending inland into narrow riverine plains. These plains are dominated by low-level lateritic plateaus and are marked by alternating headlands and bays, the latter often sheltering crescent-shaped beaches. From Goa south to Cape Comorin (the southernmost tip of India) is the Malabar coastal plain, which was formed by the deposition of sediment along the shoreline. This plain, varying between 15 and 60 miles (25 to 100 km) wide, is characterized by lagoons and brackish, navigable backwater channels.
The predominantly deltaic eastern coastal plain is an area of deep sedimentation. Over most of its length it is considerably wider than the plain on the western coast. The major deltas, from south to north, are of the Kaveri, the Krishna-Godavari, the Mahanadi, and the Ganges-Brahmaputra rivers. The last of these is some 190 miles (300 km) wide, but only about one-third of it lies within India. Traversed by innumerable distributaries, the Ganges delta is an ill-drained region, and the western part within Indian territory has become moribund because of shifts in the channels of the Ganges. Tidal incursions extend far inland, and any small temporary rise in sea level could submerge Kolkata (Calcutta), located about 95 miles (155 km) from the head of the Bay of Bengal. The eastern coastal plain includes several lagoons, the largest of which, Pulicat and Chilika (Chilka) lakes, have resulted from sediment being deposited along the shoreline.
Several archipelagoes in the Indian Ocean are politically a part of India. The union territory of Lakshadweep is a group of small coral atolls in the Arabian Sea to the west of the Malabar Coast. Far off the eastern coast, separating the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, lie the considerably larger and hillier chains of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, also a union territory; the Andamans are closer to Myanmar and the Nicobars closer to Indonesia than to the Indian mainland.
India’s Drainage Territory
More than 70 percent of India’s territory drains into the Bay of Bengal via the Ganges-Brahmaputra river system and a number of large and small peninsular rivers. Areas draining into the Arabian Sea, accounting for about 20 percent of the total, lie partially within the Indus drainage basin (in northwestern India) and partially within a completely separate set of drainage basins well to the south (in Gujarat, western Madhya Pradesh, northern Maharashtra, and areas west of the Western Ghats). Most of the remaining area, less than 10 percent of the total, lies in regions of interior drainage, notably in the Great Indian Desert of Rajasthan state (another is in the Aksai Chin, a barren plateau in a portion of Kashmir administered by China but claimed by India). Finally, less than 1 percent of India’s area, along the border with Myanmar, drains into the Andaman Sea via tributaries of the Irrawaddy River.
The Ganges-Brahamputra Rivers
The Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, together with their tributaries, drain about one-third of India. The Ganges (Ganga), considered sacred by the country’s Hindu population, is 1,560 miles (2,510 km) long. Although its deltaic portion lies mostly in Bangladesh, the course of the Ganges within India is longer than that of any of the country’s other rivers. It has numerous headstreams that are fed by runoff and melt water from Himalayan glaciers and mountain peaks. The main headwater, the Bhagirathi River, rises at an elevation of about 10,000 feet (3,000 meters) at the foot of the Gangotri Glacier, considered sacred by Hindus.
The Ganges enters the Indo-Gangetic Plain at the city of Haridwar (Hardwar). From Haridwar to Kolkata it is joined by numerous tributaries. Proceeding from west to east, the Ghaghara, Gandak, and Kosi rivers, all of which emerge from the Himalayas, join the Ganges from the north, while the Yamuna and Son are the two most important tributaries from the south. The Yamuna, which also has a Himalayan source (the Yamunotri glacier) and flows roughly parallel to the Ganges throughout its length, receives the flow of several important rivers, including the Chambal, Betwa, and Ken, which originate in India’s peninsular foreland. Of the northern tributaries of the Ganges, the Kosi, India’s most destructive river (referred to as the “Sorrow of Bihar”), warrants special mention. Because of its large catchment in the Himalayas of Nepal and its gentle gradient once it reaches the plain, the Kosi is unable to discharge the large volume of water it carries at its peak flows, and it frequently floods and changes its course.
The seasonal flows of the Ganges and other rivers fed by melt waters from the Himalayas vary considerably less than those of the exclusively rain-fed peninsular rivers. This consistency of flow enhances their suitability for irrigation and - where the diversion of water for irrigation is not excessive - for navigation as well.
Although the total length of the Brahmaputra (about 1,800 miles [2,900 km]) exceeds that of the Ganges, only 450 miles (725 km) of its course lies within India. The Brahmaputra, like the Indus, has its source in a trans-Himalayan area about 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Mapam Lake in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The river runs east across Tibet for more than half its total length before cutting into India at the northern border of Arunachal Pradesh. It then flows south and west through the state of Assam and south into Bangladesh, where it empties into the vast Ganges-Brahmaputra delta. The narrow Brahmaputra basin in Assam is prone to flooding because of its large catchment areas, parts of which experience exceedingly heavy precipitation.
The peninsular drainage into the Bay of Bengal includes a number of major rivers, most notably the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri. Except for the Mahanadi, the headwaters of these rivers are in the high-rainfall zones of the Western Ghats, and they traverse the entire width of the plateau (generally from northwest to southeast) before reaching the Bay of Bengal. The Mahanadi has its source at the southern edge of the Chhattisgarh Plain.
India’s peninsular rivers have relatively steep gradients and thus rarely give rise to floods of the type that occur in the plains of northern India, despite considerable variations in flow from the dry to wet seasons. The lower courses of a number of these rivers are marked by rapids and gorges, usually as they cross the Eastern Ghats. Because of their steep gradients, rocky underlying terrain, and variable flow regimes, the peninsular rivers are not navigable.
Drainage into the Arabian Sea
A substantial part of northwestern India is included in the Indus drainage basin, which India shares with China, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. The Indus and its longest tributary, the Sutlej, both rise in the trans-Himalayan region of Tibet. The Indus initially flows to the northwest between towering mountain ranges and through Jammu and Kashmir state before entering the Pakistani-administered portion of Kashmir. It then travels generally to the southwest through Pakistan until it reaches the Arabian Sea. The Sutlej also flows northwest from its source but enters India farther south, at the border of Himachal Pradesh. From there it travels west into the Indian state of Punjab and eventually enters Pakistan, where it flows into the Indus.
Between the Indus and the Sutlej lie several other major Indus tributaries. The Jhelum, the northernmost of these rivers, flows out of the Pir Panjal Range into the Vale of Kashmir and thence via Baramula Gorge into Pakistani-administered Kashmir. The three others - the Chenab, Ravi, and Beasoriginate in the Himalayas within the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. The Chenab travels across Jammu and Kashmir state before flowing into Pakistan; the Ravi forms a part of the southern boundary between Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh states and thereafter a short stretch of the India-Pakistan border prior to entering Pakistan; and the Beas flows entirely within India, joining the Sutlej in the Indian state of Punjab. The area through which the five Indus tributaries flow has traditionally been called the Punjab (from Persian panj, “five,” and ab, “water”). That area currently falls in the Indian state of Punjab (containing the Sutlej and the Beas) and the Pakistani province of Punjab. Despite low rainfall in the Punjab plains, the moderately high runoff from the Himalayas ensures a year-round flow in the Indus and its tributaries, which are extensively utilized for canal irrigation.
Farther to the south, another notable river flowing into the Arabian Sea is the Luni of southern Rajasthan, which in most years has carried enough water to reach the Great Rann of Kachchh in western Gujarat. Also flowing through Gujarat is the Mahi River, as well as the two most important west-flowing rivers of peninsular India - the Narmada (drainage basin 38,200 square miles [98,900 square km]) and Tapi (Tapti; 25,000 square miles [65,000 square km]). The Narmada and its basin are undergoing large-scale multipurpose development. Most of the other peninsular rivers draining into the Arabian Sea have short courses, and those that flow westward from headwaters in the Western Ghats have seasonally torrential flows.
Lakes and Inland Drainage
For such a large country, India has few natural lakes. Most of the lakes in the Himalayas were formed when glaciers either dug out a basin or dammed an area with earth and rocks. Wular Lake in Jammu and Kashmir, by contrast, is the result of a tectonic depression. Although its area fluctuates, Wular Lake is the largest natural freshwater lake in India.
Inland drainage in India is mainly ephemeral and almost entirely in the arid and semiarid part of northwestern India, particularly in the Great Indian Desert of Rajasthan, where there are several ephemeral salt lakes - most prominently Sambhar Salt Lake, the largest lake in India. These lakes are fed by short, intermittent streams, which experience flash floods during occasional intense rains and become dry and lose their identity once the rains are over. The water in the lakes also evaporates and subsequently leaves a layer of white saline soils, from which a considerable amount of salt is commercially produced. Many of India’s largest lakes are reservoirs formed by damming rivers.
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