All about Northern Mountain Physiography of India
Image Courtesy : Wikipedia

India having a wide diversity in the context of physiography. Mountains, plateau, plain land, coastal land, etc. act as ornaments of Indian physiography. The topic of discussion, 'Great Mountain Region of India' is lying throughout the northern part of the country. Northern mountains of India has formed centering the Himalayas and its off-shoots and foothills. Near about 70 million years ago, the Himalayan mountain ranges were formed from the Tethys Sea due to the collision between Indo-Australian and Eurasian tectonic plates. It is structurally folded mountain range, as well as largest and youngest mountain range of the world. The mountain ranges and peaks are permanently slow-cloded, hence it is called 'Himalayas' or 'Himadri'. It has stretched throughout the India's administrative divisions, viz. Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh. The Himalayan mountain range is separating the Indian subcontinent from the Tibetan Plateau. This physiographic division can be divided according to two types of extents of the mountain range : Longitudinal divisions, and Latitudinal divisions.

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Northern Mountains of India
Fig.: Flow chart showing classification of Northern Mountains of India


Longitudinal divisions

From the context of longitudinal division, northern mountain physiography of India consists of three parallel ranges of the Himalayas, namely :
  1. Greater Himalayas or Himadri,
  2. Lesser Himalayas or Himachal,
  3. Outer Himalayas or Sub-Himalayan Foothills or Siwaliks.
These above mentioned three classes have been elaborated in the following :

Longitudinal Divisions of Northern Mountains of India
Fig.: Longitudinal Divisions of Northern Mountain Region of India


Greater Himalayas or Himadri

The highest elevated ranges and the northern most parts are known as ‘The Greater Himalayas’ or ‘Himadri’. This range is oldest than others. Mainly the metamorphosed form of primary sedimentary rocks are found in this region. Average elevation of this range is 6,500 m. from mean sea level. Highest peak of the world, Mount Everest (8,848 m.) is situated in this range; though it does not belong to the part of India. Its summit point is situated on the international border between Nepal and China.

The second largest peak of the world, Godwin Austin or K2 (8,611 m.), is situated in greater Himalayas. Kanchenjunga (8,586 m.), Nandadevi (7,816 m.), Nanga Parbat (8,126 m.) are other important peaks of Greater Himalayas. Kanchenjunga is the highest peak of India, and ranks 3rd in the world. There are several passes in the region, e.g., Zoji La Pass in Jammu and Kashmir, Baralacha La in Sikkim, etc. The Ganges, Yamuna, Gandak, Indus, Kosi etc. have originated from these ranges.

Lesser Himalayas or Himachal

As the Lesser Himalayas or Himachal belongs between greater Himalayas and outer Himalayas, hence it is also called the Middle Himalayas. Average elevation of this range is about 3000 m. from mean sea level. The rocks found in this range of Himalayas are sedimentary rocks. This includes various types, such as, marl, dolomite, greywacke, siltstone, shale, limestone, etc. Notwithstanding metamorphic rocks are also found in the rock structure, especially due to high compression. This range is covered by dense vegetation. Tropical deciduous forests are found in slightly low rainfall regions of comparatively lower slopes of this region. For instance, Pir Panjal range, Dhauladhar, Nag Tibba, etc. There are number of beautiful lakes around Nainital.

Outer Himalayas or Sub-Himalayan Foothills or Siwaliks

It is the southern most part of Himalayan mountain ranges. The elevation of this range is the lowest than others; varies between 600 m. to 1,500 m. from mean sea level. Hence it is known as Sub-Himalayan Foothills or Outer Himalayas or Siwaliks. There are several broad valleys in this foothill region. These valleys are known as 'Doon Valleys', such as, Dehradun.

Latitudinal divisions

Latitudinal Divisions of Northern Mountains of India
Fig.: Latitudinal Divisions of Northern Mountain Region of India

The Himalayas can be classified into four divisions according to the latitudinal extents. The rivers which have originated from the Himalayas, demarcated the mountain range into four regions. From west towards east, the divisions are :
  1. Punjab Himalayas : Between the river Indus and Sutlej.
  2. Kumaon Himalayas : Between Sutlej and Kaali river.
  3. Nepal Himalayas : Between Kaali and Teesta river.
  4. Assam Himalayas : Between Teesta and Dihang river.

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