Friday, May 1, 2015

The Physical India - Amazing Place!

Recently, I spent some time understanding the physical India and the tectonic plates movement. This was right after the devastating earthquake in the Himalayan region killing over 6000 already in Nepal and close to 100 in India.

My key question was - Why is the Himalayan region so susceptible to earthquakes? But while understanding that, I had a good revision of the entire physical features of Indian subcontinent. Right from 12 crores years back to today, and the projection 10 crore years into the future!

Sharing some highlights for those interested in our Bharata Varsha, Bharata Khanda and Jambu Dweepa :)

12 crore years back, India was fairly close to today's Antarctica's location. Trace our Indian subcontinent's movement right from Antarctica region to northern hemisphere pushing the Eurasian tectonic plate up here. India moved from Antarctica region close to African east cost to middle of the Indian ocean to colliding with the Europe-Asia plate and to pushing Himalayas up and reaching the place today.

Where would Indian subcontinent be 10 crores years from today? Pretty much the same place as it can't push any considerable distance. But the western half might expand, while the eastern part might get submerged per the scientific projections.

Watch this video for a graphical representation of what I am trying to say. 

Here's another video giving a closeup look at the most recent 5 crore years. 

Isn't it amazing to see how India changed the Asian continent, and most importantly gave the planet earth, the most amazing Himalayas (Hima = Snow, Alaya = Mountain, in Sanskrit)? Out of the top 15 peaks in the world, ALL are in the Himalayas. If India had not traveled from the tip of southern pole to northern hemisphere, planet Earth would have been a much boring place without giants like Mount Everest, Kanchanjunga, K2, Kailash mountain etc..

If your interest in tectonic geology has gone up, don't miss this awesome video on how Earth was formed, how earth's land surface came up, how continents formed - split - rejoined - split again.. Amazing journey over 10s of crore years!

Asteroid impact
Now that your thirst for tectonic plates, earthquakes, Tsunamis, island formation, Himalayas etc. is quenched, let's move on to more India specific things. I was reading this morning more connection between a very historic event that wiped out Dinosaurs 6.5 crores years ago, and the rise of Deccan plateau over which I am sitting and typing this today. Why did Deccan plateau rise? Also, note that India was not exactly where it is today, as 6.5 crore years ago. It was still somewhere near Equator, making the massive asteroid impact point on the western hemisphere, directly antipodal (exactly opposite place of the sphere in the other side) to the Deccan plateau today. 

Yucatan peninsula (impact point) and Deccan plateau. Pic: enchantedlearning
Pic: Wiki
Here is a simple depiction of what is antipodal point when you take a sphere.

Here is the interesting article that describes how the largest Deccan eruptions, referred to as the Wai subgroup flows, which produced about 70% of the lavas that now stretch across the Indian subcontinent from Mumbai to Kolkata. These researchers argue that the impact likely triggered most of the immense eruptions of lava in India known as the Deccan Traps, explaining the “uncomfortably close” coincidence between the Deccan Traps eruptions and the impact, which has always cast doubt on the theory that the asteroid was the sole cause of the end-Cretaceous mass extinction.

For those not familiar with the Deccan traps, here is a beautiful sight.
Deccan Traps - Pic. Wiki
So we learned quickly about the tectonic plates, the great movement of Indian subcontinent from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, and the amazing connection between the Dinosaur extinction asteroid impact, and the Deccan plateau. Keep in mind, we are talking of extremely high amount of volcanic eruption into the atmosphere right from India, between today's Mumbai to Puri, and Nagpur to Bengaluru region!

Now comes the most important question. Why is India termed a "subcontinent"? Was it just a fancy name due to the amazing diversity of languages, cultures and other diversity? Or was it something beyond that?

Well, I found my answer today. India is called a "subcontinent" because it is the only country on the planet that has ALL the six types of physical features described on planet earth. Wow.. exciting isn't it? Let's find out what are those six physical features and their subcategories.

Feature 1: Mountains.
India is home to all types of mountains described in physical geology. India is home to one of the world's oldest fold mountain called Aravalli range spreading across Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Dilli. India is also the home to the world's newest mountain ranges, the mighty Himalayas. India has the Western Ghats, one of UNESCO's eight biological *hot spots* of the planet, among other mountain regions.
Watch this educational video to learn about the mountains of India. Right from the coldest mountain region to the tropical mountain regions are there in India. This video shows a very interesting sub section of the four cross sections of the might Himalayas, taking you right from the plains of north India to the Mount Everest, to the Manas sarovar holy place, to Tibetan plateau.

Tip: Do you know about a place just north of Jammu and Kashmir (not in India), that is called a *knot*, because four of the world's great mountain ranges start from there, including Himalayas? See the videos here.
Feature 2: Plains. 
India is home to some of the most fertile plains on this planet. The Indus planes, the Gangetic planes and the Brahmaputra planes of North and North-East India are amazingly diverse. 

Watch this video to learn everything you want, about the plains of India, how they were formed and the difference between each section of plains.

Tip: Did you know that India converted most of Tarai or marshy plains of North India into agricultural fields since 1947, to settle and feed the large group of refugees who came in during partition?
Feature 3: Plateaus.
India is home to some of the oldest plateaus on mother Earth. We already talked of Deccan plateau earlier. Did you know about the economic importance of the Chhota Nagpur plateau and its incredible deposits of iron and other valuable ores?
 Watch this video to know all you want about plateaus.

Tip: Did you know that Deccan plateau and Chhota Nagpur plateau of India are the two, that NEVER were submerged under sea over 100s of millions of years? Not even during the four major ice ages or after ice melting! Extremely rare examples of always being above sea level places, yet never below the ice sheet places.
Feature 4: Deserts.
India is home to both hot and cold deserts. The coldest deserts are in the Leh/Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir, while the hottest deserts are in the Thar region of Rajasthan.
Watch this video about deserts.

Tip: You can comfortably drive from one of the coldest deserts on the planet, Ladakh, to the one of the hottest deserts on the planet in Bikaner area, in just 24 hours by road. Where else can you find such diversity?
Feature 5: Coasts.
India is home to over 7000 KM of coastline. This is the seventh longest coastline for a country in the world. Also, the coasts are very historic and very diverse connecting 3 seas and one ocean.

Watch this video about coasts.

Tip: Some coastal areas of India like Dwaraka in Gujarat, trace their history back to 10000+ years of continuous human settlement.
Feature 5: Islands.
India is home to both Volcanic and Coral islands.

Watch this video about islands.
Tip: Traditionally we say Kashmir to Kanyakumari as describing India. But the physical southernmost tip of India is Nicobar islands - a point called Indira Point that is more than 1 degree latitude south of Kanyakumari!
Isn't India one of the most amazing countries of India?
  • The world's largest democracy.. 
  • the country with the world's largest number of tigers.
  • Has the world's biggest gathering of humans called Kumbha Mela (over 10,00,00,000 participated last time) repeating every few years.
  • A historic and traditional calendar that has all six seasons. 
  • Home to the world's oldest continuing civilization. Vedas chanted the same way they were chanted 5000+ years ago!
  • The source of 70% of the world's spices, making the world a truly *spicy* place :)
  • The world's most diverse linguistic country with 15 languages being spoken by at least 1,00,00,000 people.
  • A country where marriages have been sacred, instead of being contracts for 1000s of years. 
  • The only country on the planet where Jews were not persecuted, ever!
  • The first country on the planet that sent a mission successfully to Mars in its first attempt.
  • The world's largest postal service network.
  • Among the four religions with 1 billion+ adherents on the planet, two originated in India.
  • The list continues endlessly..
But most importantly.. India is the ONLY country that is also a subcontinent! You leaned why :)