INDIA is one of the oldest civilisations in the world with a huge variety and rich cultural heritage. It has achieved multifaceted socio-economic progress during the last 59 years of its Independence. India is now self-sufficient in agricultural production, and is now the tenth industrialised country in the world and the sixth nation to have gone into outer space to conquer nature for the benefit of the people. It covers an area of 32,87,263 sq. km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the seventh largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.
Lying entirely in the northern hemisphere, the mainland extends between latitudes 8° 4′ and 37° 6′ north, longitudes 68° 7′ and 97° 25′ east, and measures about 3,214 km from north to south between the extreme latitudes and about 2,933 km from east to west between the extreme longitudes. It has a land frontier of about 15,200 km. The total length of the coastline of the mainland, Lakshadweep Islands, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands is 7,516.6 km.
The mainland comprises four regions, namely, the great mountain zone, plains of the Ganga and the Indus, the desert region and the southern peninsula.
The Himalayas comprise three almost parallel ranges interspersed with large plateaus and valleys, some of which, like the Kashmir and Kullu valleys, are fertile, extensive and of great scenic beauty. Some of the highest peaks in the world are found in these ranges. The high altitudes admit travel only to a few passes, notably the Jelep La and Nathu La on the main Indo-Tibet trade route through the Chumbi Valley, north-east of Darjeeling and Shipki La in the Satluj valley, north-east of Kalpa (Kinnaur). The mountain wall extends over a distance of about 2,400 km with a varying depth of 240 to 320 km. In the east, between India and Myanmar and India and Bangladesh, hill ranges are much lower. Garo, Khasi, Jaintia and Naga Hills, running almost east-west, join the chain to Mizo and Rkhine Hills running north-south.
The plains of the Ganga and the Indus, about 2,400 km long and 240 to 320 km broad, are formed by basins of three distinct river systems – the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. They are one of the world’s greatest stretches of flat alluvium and also one of the most densely populated areas on the earth. Between the Yamuna at Delhi and the Bay of Bengal, nearly 1,600 km away, there is a drop of only 200 metres in elevation.
The desert region can be divided into two parts – the great desert and the little desert. The great desert extends from the edge of the Rann of Kuchch beyond the Luni River northward. The whole of the Rajasthan-Sind frontier runs through this. The little desert extends from the Luni between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur up to the northern wastes. Between the great and the little deserts lies a zone of absolutely sterile country, consisting of rocky land cut up by limestone ridges.
The Peninsular Plateau is marked off from the plains of the Ganga and the Indus by a mass of mountain and hill ranges varying from 460 to 1,220 metres in height. Prominent among these are the Aravalli, Vindhya, Satpura, Maikala and Ajanta. The Peninsula is flanked on the one side by the Eastern Ghats where average elevation is about 610 metres and on the other by the Western Ghats where it is generally from 915 to 1,220 metres, rising in places to over 2,440 metres. Between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea lies a narrow coastal strip, while between Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal there is a broader coastal area. The southern point of plateau is formed by the Nilgiri Hills where the Eastern and the Western Ghats meet. The Cardamom Hills lying beyond may be regarded as a continuation of the Western Ghats.
The geological regions broadly follow the physical features, and may be grouped into three regions: the Himalayas and their associated group of mountains, the Indo-Ganga Plain, and the Peninsular Shield.
The Himalayan mountain belt to the north and the Naga-Lushai mountain in the east, are the regions of mountain-building movement. Most of this area, now presenting some of the most magnificent mountain scenery in the world, was under marine conditions about 600 million years ago. In a series of mountain-building movements commencing about 70 million years ago, the sediments and the basement rocks rose to great heights. The weathering and erosive agencies worked on these to produce the relief seen today. The Indo-Ganga plains are a great alluvial tract that separates the Himalayas in the north from the Peninsula in the south.
The Peninsula is a region of relative stability and occasional seismic disturbances. Highly metamorphosed rocks of the earliest periods, dating back as far as 380 crore years, occur in the area; the rest being covered by the coastal-bearing Gondwana formations, lava flows belonging to the Deccan Trap formation and younger sediments.
The climate of India may be broadly described as tropical monsoon type.
There are four seasons:
- winter (January-February),
- hot weather summer (March-May);
- rainy southwestern monsoon (June-September) and
- post-monsoon, also known as northeast monsoon in the southern Peninsula (October-December).
India’s climate is affected by two seasonal winds – the northeast monsoon and the southwest monsoon. The north-east monsoon, commonly known as winter monsoon blows from land to sea, whereas south-west monsoon, known as summer monsoon blows from sea to land after crossing the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. The south-west monsoon brings most of the rainfall during a year in the country.
- Foreign tourists are required to obtain a visa from the Indian Mission in the country of their residence or in a nearby country. They need a valid permit to visit certain restricted/protected areas.
- They must fill up their Disembarkation/ Embarkation cards on arrival/departure.
- Foreigners coming from or through Yellow Fever countries must be able to produce a valid vaccination certificate.
- Vaccinations like Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Rabies and Typhoid are recommended. There are some health risks in India like Cholera, Dengue Fever, Dysentery, Malaria and Meningitis. Travellers are advised to take precautionary measures against the same.
- Foreigners visiting India, who hold long-term visas (more than 180 days) are required to obtain a Registration Certificate and Residential Permit from the nearest Foreigners’ Registration Office (FRRO) within 15 days of arrival. The foreigners registered at FRRO are required to report change of their addresses.
- Certificates of registration issued by the Registration Officers should be surrendered to the immigration officer at the port/check post of exit from India.
- Passengers embarking on journeys to any place outside India from a Customs airport / seaport are required to pay a Foreign Travel Tax (FTT) of Rs 500 to most countries and Rs 150 on journeys to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
- The Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act bans all forms of wildlife trade. Violations of the provisions of the Act are punishable with heavy fines and imprisonment. Foreigners are therefore, advised not to buy any wild animals or their products and derivatives like articles of ivory, fur and skin.
- Climate in India generally is cooler in the north, especially between September and March. The south is coolest between November to January. In June, winds and warm surface currents begin to move northwards and westwards, heading out of the Indian Ocean and into the Arabian Gulf. This creates a phenomenon known as the south-west monsoon, and it brings heavy rains to the west coast. Between October and December, a similar climatic pattern called the north-east monsoon appears in the Bay of Bengal, bringing rains to the east coast.
- Foreign tourists are advised to do a complete research on the travelling and accommodation arrangements on the places they intend to visit.
- Some religious places in India have dress codes, like covering your head, being barefoot, etc. Tourists are advised to comply with them, so as not to seem offensive towards the religious sentiments of the concerned community.