Physical Features of India | Meaning, Major Physical Features – Explained

Physical Features of India – Explained

India is a wide land with distinct and varied physical features. From the north to the south and east to west, the physical features of India vary.

It is crucial to understand the features of the land. In this write-up, we aim to provide you with detailed information on the physical features of India.

After you have read the content, you will know the meaning of physical features.

Explore the major physical division of India and other major features such as the climate, soil resources, natural vegetation, water resources, and mineral and energy resources.

Must Read:-

Geography of India

Latitude and Longitude of India

What are the important rives of India?

States and Capitals of India

What do you mean by physical features?

Physical features or attributes are the characteristics of the country which determine its uniqueness and qualities.

They can be the geographic or physical divisions. Alongside, the climate, soil, natural vegetation, mineral resources, energy resources, and water resources.

What are the major physical divisions of India?

India has 5 major physical divisions which are as follows:-

  • The Himalayan Mountains
  • The Indo-Gangetic Plains
  • The Peninsular Plateau
  • The Coastal Plains
  • The Islands

We have discussed each of the division in details below:-

The Himalayan Mountains

The chain of mountains from the Pamir Plateau to the Indo-Myanmar border, Himalayas is 3600 kilometres long forming an arc.

The Himalayas are the only snow-capped mountain ranges in India. The width of the rage varies between 150 and 400 kilometers.

The Indo-Gangatic Plains

The large floodplains of the Indus and Ganga-Brahmaputra river system cover an area of 700000 kilometres square and have a width of several hundred kilometres through their length.

The plains run parallel to the Himalayan Mountains, from the West from Jammu and Kashmir to Assam in the east.

They drain the states of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh and eastern Rajasthan.

The Ganga and the Indus River are the major rivers forming the system along with their tributaries which are Beas, Yamuna, Gomti, Chambal, Ravi, Chenab and Sutlej.

These plains are the world’s most extensive expanse of alluvium formations by silt deposition.

They are intensively farmed and also the world’s most densely populated areas.

The Peninsular Plateau

Triangular in shape, the Peninsular Plateau has its base coinciding with the southern edge of the Great Plain of North India.

Kanyakumari forms the apex of the Plateau in the south.

The Coastal Plains

Eastern Coastal Plains

The East Coast stretches from Tamil Nadu to West Bengal. It is a wide stretch of land that lies between the Bay of Bengal and the Eastern Ghats.

A major portion of this plain is formed by the Deltas of several rivers.

The Eastern Coastal Plains are divided into six regions that are the Mahanadi Delta, the Southern Andhra Pradesh Plain, the Krishna Godavari Deltas, the Kanyakumari Coast, Coromandel Coast and sandy littoral.

Western Coastal Plains

The narrow strip of land between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea ranges from 50 to 100 kilometres in width.

The Western Coastal Plains are divided into three regions that are the Konkan Coast, the Kanara Coast, and the Malabar Coast.

The Islands

The Lakshadweep Islands and the Andaman Nicobar Islands are the two major offshore island possessions of India and are the Union Territories of India.

The Lakshadweep islands are off the coast of Kerela in the Arabian Sea at 200 to 300 kilometres.

The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are located 950 kilometers from Kolkata in the Bay of Bengal near the coast of Myanmar.

What are the major features of India?

Along with the five major physical division of India, the country has other major physical features too.

We have discussed each of the features of India like climate, soil, natural vegetation, mineral resources, energy resources, and water resources.

The Climate of India

India extends from 8° N to 37° N with a distance of 3200 kilometres. There are unique climate contrasts from North to South of India.

The fact of monsoons unifies the climate of India. Therefore, the climate of India is described as Tropical Monsoon Type.

The climate of India is based on the study of temperature, rainfall, wind directions and atmospheric conditions.

Two factors greatly influence the climate of India which we have discussed below:-

The Great Himalayan Range – It separates India from the rest of Asia and prevents the bitterly cold winds enter the country from Central Asia.

The Tropic of Cancer – it divides the country into the North Temperate Zone and the South Tropical Zone.

The Variations and Contrasts in Climate in India

The climate in India varies from region to region and is often contrasting to others. Below, we have discussed the variations and contrasts in temperature and rainfall conditions in India.

Temperature conditions during summer

The Tropic of Cancer divides the country into two regions. The places situated on the North of the Tropic of Cancer experiences a continental type of climate.

This means that they are very hot during the summer and very cold during winter.

The places on the South the Tropic of Cancer are nearer to the equator.

They remain hot throughout the year with an average temperature of 25° C to 27° C.

Places on the vast east-west of the coastline of India experience maritime or oceanic or equable type of climate. They are neither too hot nor too cold due to the influence of the sea.

What are the factors affecting the temperature in India?

The variations and contrasts in climate are due to several factors that affect the temperature. They are as follows:-


The Tropic of Cancer divides India into Subtropical North and Tropical South.

In the northernmost part of India, there are high mountains. The places to the North of the Tropic of Cancer experience continental type of climate.

The southern peninsula is enclosed by the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal on three sides.

Due to this, the region experience a moderate climate and the coastal regions experience an equable climate.

The Himalayas

The Himalayan range is 3200 kilometres long that obstructs the bitterly cold Siberian winds from entering the Indian Subcontinent.

Also, it intercepts the rain-bearing southwest monsoon winds. They shed their moisture and result in heavy rainfall in the Indo-Gangetic Plains and North-East part of the country.

Distance from the sea

The places situated far from the sea have extreme or continental climate type. The places near the sea experience equable climate due to the effect of the land breeze and the sea breeze.


For every 166 metres, the temperature decreases at 1° C at increasing altitude. Therefore, the places situated at higher altitudes have low temperature and are cooler when compared to the places situated in the plains.

Western disturbances and tropical cyclones

There is an inflow of low-pressure depressions in the winters in north-west India that are called the western disturbances.

These originate in the Mediterranean Sea and after crossing Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan enter India.

After intensifying over the North-West of India, these disturbances move towards the east and cause rain in Punjab and Haryana. Also, it causes snowfall in the belt of Himalayas.

Upper air currents or jet streams

These are in the upper layer of the atmosphere and can determine the arrival and departure of the monsoon from India.


The annual average rainfall at different places in India varies according to the regions. Mawsynram in Meghalaya experiences 1187 cm of average annual rainfall while the Thar Desert in Rajasthan experiences 25 cm annual rainfall.

The nature of monsoon in India is erratic which causes chaos at times of high rainfall. Due to this, there can be flood situations in some places while the other might suffer drought conditions.

The Soil Resource of India

India has vast dimensions with varies geological, climate and vegetation conditions. Therefore, India has a wide variety of soil groups that differ from each other distinctly by way of their origin, texture, fertility, colour and chemical composition.

Also Read:- Major Soils of India

On a geological basis, the soils of India are divided into two main groups that are:-

Soils of peninsular India

These are formed by the decomposition of rocks in situ. This means that directly from the underlying parent rock.

These soils are transported and re-deposited to a limited extent. These are known as Sedentary Soil.

Soils of extra peninsular India (Northern Plains)

These are formed by the residual or transported alluvium which was brought down by rivers from the Himalayas or by the wind. These are often referred to as transported soils.

The Classification of Soil

The All India Soil Survey Committee was set up in 1953 by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The Soil Survey Committee divided India soils into the following major groups:-

  • Alluvial Soil
  • Black Soils
  • Red Soils
  • Laterite and Lateritic Soils
OriginAlluvial soils are originated from the transported alluvium which is brought by the rivers. It is also known as river soil. Alluvial soils are divided into two types: Young Khadar SoilsThese are newer alluvium and contains fine sand and Claypole brown Found at lower levels near the river Old Bhnagar Soils. These are older alluvium and contain kankar pebbles and gravelsDarker in colour and vary from light grey to ash grey usually found 30m above the flood level of rivers.
CharacteristicsTransported or ex-situ soilCoarsest in the upper section of the valley, medium in the middle and the finest in the delta regions
Colour, Texture and CompositionAlluvial soils are mostly light to dark in colour. This depends on the new or old alluvium. They are rich in potash and contain humus. However, the alluvium soil in the Ganga Deltaic region is rich in humus but is deficient in nitrogen and phosphorus.
FertilityThere is great variations in texture from region to region but alluvial soils are very fertile. They respond very well to irrigation and manuring. Alluvial soils are good for Rabi as well as Kharif Crops.
Suitable to CropsWheat, Sugarcane, Rice, Cotton, Jute and Oilseeds
States / Areas FoundNorth IndiaSouth India
States – Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam Areas – It is present in the vast track of riverine alluvium of Satluj, Ganga and Brahmaputra PlainsStates – Parts of Odisha and other regions Areas –Deccan coastal strip that occupies the Deltas of Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Narmada and Tapti.
OriginFormed in situ, black soils are also called Regur and black cotton soils. They are also called residual soils. Black soils were formed from the solidification of basic lava spread over large areas of Deccan Plateau during the volcanic activities.
CharacteristicsThey retain moisture and become sticky when wetThis quality is very useful during the dry season for crops especially in the lava tracts of Maharashtra where irrigation cannot be done.The soil is 6 metres deep in some valleys like Tapti and Narmada.Deeper soil retains more moisture.
Colour, Texture and CompositionFrom deep black to chestnut brown. They can be medium black or a mixture of red and black in some places.Black colours observed from black crystalline schists and basic gneisses.They have more than 60 per cent clayFine-grained in textureDo not contain gravel or sand and phosphates, nitrogen and humus or organic matter.Have lime, alumina, iron, potash, magnesium carbonates and calcium
FertilityThe black soils in upland have low fertility Black soils are deep, dark and rich in valleys making them fertile
Suitable to CropsCotton, Rice, Wheat, Jowar, Millets, Sugarcane, Virginia Tobacco, oilseeds, fruits and vegetables
States or Areas FoundAreasStates
Found in the regions of their origin Vastly confined to the Deccan PlateauGujarat, Maharashtra, western Madhya Pradesh, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and southern districts of Tamil Nadu
OriginFormed due to the weathering of ancient crystalline and metamorphic rocks. The parent rocks of Red Soils are acid granites and gneisses.
CharacteristicsIt occupies an area of around 3.6 lakh square kilometres. This makes up 10.6 per cent of the total land area of India.Do not retain moistureBecome fertile with the proper use of irrigation and fertilizerAre coarse, porous and crumbly
Colour, Texture and CompositionRed due to the high iron contentColour varies from red to brown, yellow and chocolateThey are porous and friableThey lack lime, magnesia, phosphate, nitrogen and humusRed soils are rich in potash
FertilityGood fertility with proper irrigation and manuring
Suitable to CropsWheat, Rice, Cotton, Sugarcane, Pulses, Millets, Tobacco and Oilseeds
States or Areas FoundNorth IndiaSouth India
Bihar, West Bengal, Eastern Rajasthan, parts of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura, Mizoram and Nagaland Tamil Nadu, large parts of southern Karnataka, Goa, north-east Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, south-east Maharashtra and Chota Nagpur Plateau
OriginFormed under the conditions of high temperature and heavy rainfall with wet and dry periods alternatively Its formation takes place under strict monsoon conditions
CharacteristicsThe word ‘Laterite’ means ‘brick’ in LatinCovers an area of 2.4 lakh square kilometres in IndiaThe monsoon conditions promote the leaching of soil as heavy rainfall washes away the topsoil which contains silicaA valuable building material because it hardens like iron when exposed to air
Colour, Texture and CompositionRed due to the presence of iron oxideLaterite soils are generally coarse in textureThey are friable and porousRich in iron but poor in lime, magnesium, potash and phosphoric acid
FertilityLack fertility due to intensive leaching Responds readily to manuring and irrigation
Suitable to CropsTea, Coffee, Rubber, Coconut and scrub forests
States or Areas FoundAreasStates
Highland areas of the peninsular plateau i.e. the summits of Western Ghats and summits of Eastern GhatsKarnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and parts of Kerala, Bihar, Odisha, Maharashtra and Jharkhand

The Natural Vegetation of India

Forests and vegetations are amongst the most valuable resources of India. They have an important role in its climate and economic development.

The forest cover in India is 69.09 million hectares of the total geographic area (22%) of the country.

Forests are renewable resources and play a significant role in reducing pollutions, ecological balance, maintaining humidity, purification of air and source of timber, fruits and vegetables.

The natural vegetation of India depends depend on rain and relief. The type of natural vegetation and its distribution depends on the following two factors:

  • Variation in the amount of rainfall
  • Variation in relief

The natural vegetation of India is classified into the following categories:-

Forest-based on the variation of rainfall

  • Tropical Evergreen Forests
  • Deciduous Monsoon Forests
  • Desert and semi-desert Vegetation

Forests based on the variation of relief

  • Mountain forests or Mixed forests
  • The Mangrove or Tidal or Littoral Forests
ClimateRainfall: 200-300 cm Temperature: 25° C to 27° C High humidity
DistributionThe windward side of the Western Ghat Garo-Khasi, Jantia Hills, lower slopes of the eastern Himalayas and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands Found in the states of West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra
Forest and TreesForestsTrees
Dense and thick undergrowthLayer arrangements in tall treesLuxuriant growth of climbers, creepers, ferns, bamboo,  and epiphytesTrees are broad-leaved, fined grained and hardwood over 60 metres (some)
SpeciesRosewood, Ebony, Shisham, Gurjan, Toon, Ironwood and Bamboo
Special featuresAlso called as rain forestsDense forests with mixed stands, thick canopy and dense undergrowthDifferent species shed their leaves at different times
ClimateRainfall: 150 to 200 cms Temperature: 20° C
DistributionExtends from Shiwalik in the North to the eastern edge of western ghats, north-east Deccan plateau and the lower slopes of Himalayas Found in the states of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh
Forest and TreesHave dense undergrowth and shed leaves for 6 to 8 weeks in summer during drought conditions
SpeciesSal, Teak, Sandalwood, Myrobalan
Special featuresThe most commercially used forestTrees shed leaves in hot weatherFound in pure standsIdeal for lumbering and easy to transport
ClimateRainfall: 25 to 100 cms Temperature: 20° C+
DistributionIn the drier parts of north-west India and the rain shadow region of Western Ghats Found in the states of Rajasthan, Punjab, Gujarat and western Uttar Pradesh
Forest and TreesWidely scattered trees within the forest Trees are stunted with long roots and glossy leaves and spines
SpeciesKhajuri Fruit, Khair, Babool
ClimateRainfall: Over 200 cms Temperature: Over 20° C
DistributionIn areas flooded with seawater Found in the states of West Bengal, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
Forest and TreesDense forests with trees having stilt roots and phenmatophores
SpeciesSundari and Casuaina
Special featuresAlso called littoral and mangrove forestIn West Bengal, they are known as Sundarbans due to the presence of Sundari Trees
ClimateRainfall: 150 to 250 cm Temperature: less than 20° C
DistributionEastern and the western Himalayas Found in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Kerala and Tamil Nadu
Forest and TreesIn Shiwalik: Tropical deciduous forests At higher altitudes: Temperate deciduous forests Forests: Pine, Cheddar, Fir and Spruce
Species and their usesConifers, Deodar and Pine, Cheddar, Fir, Spruce, Chir, Sal
Special featuresBest for wildlife sanctuariesExperiences less rain, low temperature, and snowfallTrees are mainly evergreenNeedle shaped leaves with more wood and fewer leaves
ClimateRainfall: less than 25 cms Temperature: 25° C to 27° C
DistributionIn the drier parts of southern Punjab, Rajasthan and the states of the Deccan Plateau
Forest and TreesXerophytic forests with scattered trees Vegetation has thorny bushes, deep roots, thick fleshy stems, few and waxy leaves
SpeciesWild berries, Cactii, Kikar, Babool

The Water Resource of India

There are plenty of rich natural resources available in India. Water is one of the most vital resources. As India is an agricultural country, water is needed for it as well as industry.

India has only 4% of the world’s water resources. The main sources of water for India are as follows:-

Surface Water

Rainfall forms the main source of freshwater in India. India receives 4000 km³ water only from precipitation.

Through the process of plant transpiration and evaporation, a significant part of it is lost.

Another large share of water percolates into the ground that becomes available in the form of groundwater.

The surface water is available on the surface of the earth in the forms of canals, river, ponds and lakes.

Ganga and Brahmaputra-Meghna system has the biggest catchment area of around 110 million hectares.


Groundwater is the share of rainwater the percolates into the ground through the cracks and crevices.

  • It accounts for over 400 km³ of the annual water resources in India.
  • However, the distribution of groundwater is very uneven.
  • With the change n topography, subsurface geology and climate in the region, the presence and availability of groundwater varies.
  • The existence of groundwater is in deep aquifers in some areas while near the surface in other areas
  • The overall yield potential in peninsular India is low due to the limits in the formation of large continuous aquifers
  • Owing to the large alluvial terrain, groundwater is richly present in coastal regions
  • The best potential of groundwater extraction in the country is in the Gangetic plains due to its alluvial track
  • Groundwater has become a popular alternative for domestic and irrigation purposes due to the highly variable climate nature
  • The quality of groundwater is generally excellent in most areas and serves a relatively safe source of drinking water

Lagoons and Backwater

India has a very long coastline that stretches over six thousand kilometres.

The coasts are very indented in some states forming a large number of lagoons in Kerala and Odisha.

  • These lakes and lagoons formed are the surface water resource for India.
  • The quality of water is brackish and is generally used for irrigating paddy crops and coconut and fishing.

India is a vast country with plenty of features and variations. The physical features of India are not only the division but the climate, water resources, soil resources, and vegetation too.

Related Topic:-

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Rabi Crops

Kharif Crops

Rainwater Harvesting

Importance of Ozone Layer

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What is Air and its Composition?

What are the 7 Continents of the World?

Layers of Atmosphere

Diversity in India

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