|Located in southern Asia, India is
a vast country, most of it a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean. To
the northwest is Pakistan, while China, Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan lie to
the north and northeast. To the east is Myanmar, while Bangladesh lies
within India's borders, almost separating India's far eastern lands from
the rest of the country. Southeast is the Bay of Bengal, while the ocean
and island country of Sri Lanka lies to the south, and the Arabian Sea
to the southwest.
India's size and range of climate and landscape are so great that it is often called a subcontinent. In fact, for millions of years, India was a separate continent, and only recently (in geological terms) joined the rest of Asia. The force of this collision created the Himalayas, the world's highest mountain range, which runs along India's northern border. Kanchenjunga mountain dominates the range at 8598 metres.
India's far north is a region of snow-covered peaks, flowery valleys and vast areas where there are more wild sheep and musk deer than people. Southward, the mountains descend into the great Indo-Gangetic Plain and the landscape changes drastically. In the western section are the desert of Thar and the dry plains of Rajasthan, while the eastern plain is one of the wettest regions on earth, receiving up to 15 metres of rain each year. The great river Ganges rises here and flows down toward the Bay of Bengal.
Central India is rich, flat country, irrigated by several rivers. The land rises into the Deccan Plateau, which is bordered by two hill ranges, the Western and Eastern Ghats, running along either coast.
Further south are sandy beaches, coconut groves and the Indian Ocean. Out in the Bay of Bengal lie the Andaman and Nicobar islands, a string of over 300 small islands with coral coasts. The tiny Lacadive Islands lie off the southwestern Malabar Coast.
One-quarter of India is forested. In the north are pine and cedar trees, while in rainy areas, tropical rainforests thrive. Other regions support mangrove trees as well as valuable groves of rosewood, sandalwood and teak. Dry regions have a savannah landscape. Thousands of species of plants, birds, reptiles and mammals live in India's varied regions. Tigers, hyenas, cobras, pythons, elephants, monkeys and leopards are common, though the tiger population is diminishing. In colder regions are bears, yaks and foxes.
The Tropic of Cancer runs through the middle of
India, dividing the country into different climactic zones. Northern India,
including the Gangetic Plain, experiences seasonal temperatures, with hot
summers and cool winters with light snowfall. The rest of India has a climate
that varies from warm to hot. During the height of summer (April to May),
temperatures can reach 48°C in certain areas. The rainy season (June
to September) affects the entire country, though rainfall varies regionally.