The Indian Subcontinent – A Profile
First published: Saturday July 31st, 2021
A subcontinent is a part of a continent that is politically, geographically or culturally distinct from the rest of the continent.
The Indian subcontinent, or simply the subcontinent, is the most famous, and perhaps, the only subcontinent in the world. It is a geographical region in south Asia. It generally includes the countries of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Some also consider Afghanistan, Myanmar (Burma) and Tibet to be a part of it.
The Indian subcontinent is located entirely on the Indian plate. However, the Indian plate also includes some parts of southern China, southeast and central Asia, which are usually not included within the subcontinent. Thus, the geographical definition of the subcontinent is somewhat arbitrary.
The region is home to a variety of geographical features, such as glaciers, rainforests, valleys, deserts and grasslands. It is surrounded by three water bodies – the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
The northern parts are prone to frequent earthquakes of wide ranging magnitudes. The eastern parts witness annual floods and strong cyclones. Some tsunamis have also been encountered in southern regions. The western regions are largely dry and barren. The annual monsoon season brings in rain and winds to the subcontinent providing relief from the heat and helping in agriculture.
The Indian subcontinent is separated from the rest of Asia by three mountain ranges – the Himalayas in the north, the Patkai in the northeast and the Karakoram in the northwest. They are a source of several perennial rivers which flow through the fertile plains of north India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan. These plains are highly alluvial and densely populated and cultivated. They are drained by three main rivers – the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. The Great Indian Desert (or the Thar Desert) is a transboundary desert between India and Pakistan.
Plateaus form a large part of the subcontinent. Notable plateaus include the Deccan and Balochistan plateaus. The former is the oldest part of the subcontinent and is separated from the coast by the Eastern and Western Ghats. Other mountain ranges found in the plateau region include the Vindhyas, the Aravallis and the Satpuras.
The Indian subcontinent also includes several groups of islands. Some notable islands and archipelagoes include the Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and the Lakshadweep.
Mount Everest is the highest point in the Indian subcontinent at a height of 8848 m (29,029 ft). It is located on the China-Nepal border. The lowest point is sea level.
The Indian subcontinent has a ginormous population of more than 1.7 billion people! It accounts for roughly 23% of the entire population of the Earth.
The Indian subcontinent is home to diverse groups of people. The largest ethnic group is that of the Indo-Aryans accounting for around 73% of the total population. The Dravidians form the second largest group at around 19%. The rest is made of several smaller groups like the Iranian, Turkic, Sino-Tibetan and Austroasiatic peoples. An extremely small group of European peoples is also present in some parts of the subcontinent.
The Indian subcontinent is home to several religions. It is the birthplace of four religions. The majority of the population is Hindu at around 65%. Islam comes second at around 31%. The rest of the population follow Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. Judaism, animism and the Baháʼí faith are also practiced in small pockets.
The Indian subcontinent is one of the most diverse region linguistically. It is home to more than 800 languages. The majority of the population speaks Hindustani, a pluricentric language with two registers – Hindi and Urdu. Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu and Punjabi are other major languages. English is the official language of most of the countries. It is the main language used in administration, business and education.
The subcontinent houses a diverse range of flora. It would be so hard to list them all. The most important trees of the region include: neem, banyan, mango, coconut and bamboo.
Once again, the subcontinent is home to a very large variety of fauna. Some of the most notable fauna include the following:
The Indian subcontinent has a very long history of several thousands of years. From the Indus Valley civilisation to the Vedic period, the Mauryan Empire to the Golden Age of India, the Mughal Empire to the colonial days, and finally to the modern-day countries. I won't be able to provide a detailed history of the region because it would make this blog extremely long and boring. I'd write detailed history segments separately for the countries in future blogs. Sorry! 😔
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