Episode 1 Earliest History of the Indian Subcontinent
A History of India
Michael Fisher (2016)
The Indian subcontinent, also known as South Asia, contains 20% of the global population. Dozens of languages, some with hundreds of dialects, are spoken there. According to Fisher, the linguistic diversity stems from significant geographic separations caused by mountains and major rivers.
Two hundred million years ago, India was located at the South Pole, along with Africa and Australia, as part of the ancient super continent Gondwana. Beginning around 140 million years ago, collision of the Indian and Asian plates led to the formation of the Himalayan mountains.
Historically the Himalayas blocked contact between India/Pakistan and its northeastern neighbor China. This isolation ended with the completion of the 15,000 foot high Karakoram Highway (between Pakistan and China) in 1978. The Eastern Ghats (mountains) on India’s east coast aren’t nearly so high, enabling regular contact with Southeast Asia. In the northwest, the Khyber Pass allows access from Afghanistan through the Hindu Kush Mountains to Pakistan.
The Indian subcontinent can be divided into four distinct climatic zones: the Gangetic Plain (bordering the Ganges Rivers), the dry central upland Deccan Plateau (between the Eastern Ghats along the east coast and the Western Ghats along the west coast), the Indus River Plain (a semi-arid plain forming the core of modern day Pakistan) and the Southeast Plain, filled with rice paddies as India’s main agricultural region.
India has an extremely varied climate, with the southern tip reaching the Tropic of Cancer and the northern border reaching as far north as Ohio. The coastal plain west of the Ghats, which receives plentiful rainfall, is characterized by rich agricultural land and one of the most densely populated regions. The Deccan plateau supports dry crops, such as wheat and millet, and is less densely populated.
Development in the subcontinent was very much shaped by the yearly monsoons, torrential rains lasting four months (June – Sept) every year. The monsoons typically cause flooding in cities and towns. Cyclones are common on the northern section of India’s east coast (mostly in Bengal), which also consists of densely populated agricultural areas.
South India receives most of its rain in winter.
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