India : The geography of history – Part 3

India and its Many regions


It often said , as well as written in our constitution that India as – Union of India. Historians claim that unlike united of states ,where states surrendered their sovereignty to form United States Of America; India was a whole and divided in to pieces, hence Union of India not United states of India.The claims aside, India, remained and still remains a union of states or , to put it more geographically Unions of regions.Political unity was never achieved in India in the past,though British came close to it, still central India and extreme regions in the peninsula remained far from the influence of any great political power.

Regions have been delineated on the basis of language or culture or physical geography.However the regional frontiers broadly correspond and appear to be co-terminus.The boundaries of the physical and the natural regions converge. The natural regions happen to be independent cultural areas with their own configurations of language, caste, family and kinship organization and historical tradition.Physical isolation led to development of various cultures and cultural practices and thus rendering India as a land of diversity.

Vindhya, Aravalli, Uneven topography in North east acted as limits to cultural integration in various parts of India.For eg- The culture of  to the north and west of the Aravali line appears to be different  from the culture east of Aravalli i.e Gangetic Valley culture . Only some areas of Rajasthan and Gujarat responded to the mainstream of cultural  development of the Gangetic valley in the early historical period.This can be further explained by Punjab Paradox: –

Punjab Paradox :-

  • After the Rig-Vedic period there seems to have been arrested growth In the Punjab. The persistence of non-monarchical janapadas in the region till the Gupta period suggests autonomous development. It also indicates weak property in land and poor agricultural growth. The absence of land grant inscriptions. a feature common in Gupta and post-Gupta times in the rest of the country, from the Punjab plains strengthens the assumption.
  • Brahmanism never had deep roots in the Punjab plains, nor for that matter did the Varna structure become wholly acceptable. The Brahmanas rarely played an important role in society and the Kshatriyas soon faded out. The Khatris who claim to be Kshatriyas are usually found in professions associated with the Vaisya.Thus Punjab remained and still remains outside from the realm of Brahamanism and its influences , majorly due to the Aravalli barrier.

The Punjab paradox is that every invader came through this route to India, but no one really ruled it extensively from the Indian seat of power-Delhi.It was always ruled by the regional power largely and it remains true to  this date.

Gangetic Basin:-

  • The Ganga plain by virtue of it high agricultural productivity and rich population base has enjoyed a dominant position in the Indian subcontinent. No other region has had a comparable power base.However , the entire plain is not a homogeneous geographical piece.
  • The gangetic plain can be divided into 3 sub regions –  Upper, Middle and Lower . The difference is explained hereafter.
  • Upper Ganga Plains:-The Upper plains in western and central Uttar Pradesh largely include the Doab. This has been an area of conflict and cultural synthesis. There is increasing evidence of the extension of the Harappan culture into this zone. This was also the centre of the Painted Grey Ware Culture and the scene of pulsating activity in the Later Vedic Period.
  • Middle ganga Plains:- At the confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna at the terminal point of the Doab is Allahabad (andent Prayaga). The Middle Ganga plains correspond to eastern Uttar Radesh and Bihar. This is where ancient Kosala, Kasi and Magadha were situated. It was the centre of city life,money economy and trade since the 6th century B.C. This region provided the basis for Mauryan imperial expansion and it continued to be politically important till the Gupta period (5th century A.D.).
  • Lower Ganga Plains :-The Iower plains are co-terminus with the province of Bengal. The wide plains of Bengal are formed by the alluvium brought by the
    Ganga and the Brahmaputra. High rainfall in low-lying plains created forest and marshy conditions which made early settlements in Bengal a difficult proposition. The fertility of the heavy alluvial soil could be exploited only with greater utilization and control of iron technology. Urban culture spread into this region from the Middle plains relatively late. Given the kind of environment, ponds have been an observable feature from ancient times in Bengal  and fish  has become a part of the diet of all sections of people.
  • Middle Ganga plains, for a variety of reasons, emerged more successful than the Upper and Lower plains and by the time of the Mauryas had attained undisputed hegemony in the subcontinent. During the Rig Vedic period the centre for this was the Indo-Gangetic divide. In the Later Vedic: period, around 1000 B.C., the geographical focus shifted to the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. With it the eastward improvement of the Vedic people had begun. However, the more important developments were the beginnings of settled agrarian life, with the help of the plough yoked to oxen, and consequently the emergence of the idea of territory and territorial kingdoms (rastra, janapada).Kuru and Panchala are good examples of such territories. By the 6th century B.C. the process of the emergence of janapadas tended to accelerate. For the first time we come to see the growth of mahajampadas which incorporated smaller janapadas and contemporary literature puts their total number at sixteen.
  • Agricultural surpluses helped in the rise and growth of towns. The distinctive pottery of the period was the NBP which appeared around 500 B.C. Simultaneously we  come across the first system of coinage. The need for it was generated by regular trade and commerce. The spread of the NBP from Kosala and Magadha to such far flung areas as Taxila in north west, Ujjain in Western Malwa and Amaravati in coastal Andhra suggests the existence of organized commerce and a good communication network, which linked these towns among others.
  • The gram (village), nigama (a bigger settlement where commercial exchange also took place) and nagara (town) were the usual components of the Janapada. Woods and Jungles (vana) were also parts of it. A Janapada was basically a socio-cultural region. It provided the basis for state formation which actualised in the 6th century B.C.  Together with the rise of the Mahajampadm we notice the growth of Mahanagaras.
  • State society had thus arrived and the state was willing to make use of powerful religious systems such as Brahmanism, Buddhism, Jainism and so on to maintain itself and the social order. With these developments Gangetic northern India emerges into the full view of history.


The Tamil Country and Sangam Literature :-

  • The anthologies of early Tamil poems collectively known as Sangam literature provide a vivid account of the transition to a state society in the ancient Tamil country (Tamilakam) from an earlier tribal-pastoral stage
  • They indicate simultaneous existence of different ecological regions and suggest how different but interrelated lifeways ranging from food gathering, marginal agriculture, fishing and cattle-tending to intensive agriculture co-existed.
  • In the fertile river  valleys (Marutam regions) of the Kaveri, Periyar and Vaigai agricultural surpluses were produced and these precisely were the stronghold of the three ancient clan chiefs, the Chola, Chera and Pandya.
  • The cult of war catapulted the warrior groups under their chiefs to a dominant position. The peasantry looking for protection and immunity from raids and plunder tended to be absorbed into a system in which a rudimentary state came into existence. The process of state formation was accelerated by the:-
    • Roman trade
    • Rise of towns
    • Penetration of Aryan Culture

The Deccan : Andhra and Maharashtra :- 

  • In Andhra and the Northern Deccan, the iron-using Megalithic communities which followed the Neolithic-Chalcolithic cultures provided the base for settled agriculture and helped in the transformation of these regions. High yielding paddy cultivation was resorted to in the occupied coastal tracts of Andhra during the 5th-3rd century B.C. The Megalithic burials have produced evidence for :
    1)  rudimentary craft specialization,
    2)  a rudimentary exchange network, which transported mineral resources to the NorthernDeccan
    3)  status differentiation.
  • Black-and-Red ware was profound in these regions
  • The emergence of localities seems to be a significant development  by the time of the Satavahanas. They provided the basis for early historic state formation in
    the Deccan. From the 2nd century B.C. we see the gradual expansion of agricultural settlements and the integration of new communities.
  • First, the monasteries and Buddhism and later the Brahmanas and Brahmanism helped the process of social integration. There developed a triangular relationship between the settled communities, the state and the monasteries and or the Brahmanas. The historical process advanced further under the Ikshvakus in coastal Andhra, the Kadambas in Karnataka and the Vakatakas in Maharashtra. By the middle of the first millennium A.D. the two regions registered their distinct individual presence.

Kalinga -Ancient Odisha:-

  • The history of Odisha is one of internal transformation of the tribal society.
  • The transition was partly autonomous and partly stimulated by contacts with the Sanskritic culture of the Gangetic plains, the beginnings of which can be traced back to the times of the Nandas and Mauryas.
  • The large concentration of tribals and the physiography of the land prevented a repetition of the Gangetic socio-economic pattern. Caste society within the Varna structure was late to emerge in Odisha and when it did there was a difference in the broad essentials. In terms of social structure Odisha presents an interesting case of regional variation.

Conclusion :-

  • A general survey of the problem of regions and regionalism in our history and the above examples trying to explain the process of the formation of reginns very clearly show that the socio-cultural differentiation of regions is historically old.Emergence of natural physical regions as historical/cultural regions can be traced back ta the formative period of Indian history. Subsequently these regions evolved their distinct socio-cultural ethos leading to the emergence of separate socio-political entities. Some regions surfaced earlier and faster than others owing to the early convergence of certain historical forces in them. Developments in other areas were triggered off by interaction with and cultural diffusion from these primary centres. This may partly explain. the differential traits of the varied regions.This concludes the India of regions and regions of India.


P.S. – This is rather a long article.We have tried to cut it as short as possible for easy reading, however certain aspects must be read in detail so as not only to understand them fully but to replicate on our answers.More often, we might know the key words but fail to put it in a good perspective and hence for a chapter like this long sentences are inevitable.Kindly bear with us on this one.


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By | 2017-02-13T19:49:32+00:00 October 26th, 2015|editorials, History, History of India|6 Comments
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