Northern Mountains of India

Northern Mountains of India
Posted on 14-08-2023

Geological Evolution and Physiographic Diversity of India's Northern Mountains

The physiographic evolution of the Northern Mountains, including the formation and structure of the Himalayan region, can be explained in several stages:

Stage 1: Origin and Initial Movement The Himalayas are the result of the collision between the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate. During the Cretaceous period, the Indian peninsula broke away from the ancient supercontinent Gondwana and began moving northward. The Tethys Sea, situated between the two plates, underwent compression, forming a geosyncline.

As the Indian plate moved northward, the oceanic margin of the plate started to subduct beneath the Eurasian plate. This subduction led to volcanic activity, and some of these volcanic rocks are preserved in the Ladakh region.

Stage 2: Formation of Plateau and Eastern Himalayas Around 60 million years ago, the northwestern part of the Indian plate collided with the Eurasian plate, leading to the formation of the Potwar Plateau. Subsequently, the plate took an anticlockwise turn. The collision with the eastern part of the plate created the Eastern Himalayas.

Stage 3: Rising of Tethyan Himalayas Continued northward movement and compression of the Tethys Sea led to the uplift of the Tethyan Himalayas.

Stage 4: Formation of Main Himalayas and Fault Lines The ongoing convergence of the two plates resulted in the formation of the fold mountains known as the Greater Himalayas or Main Himalayas. To the south of this range, the Main Central Thrust fault line emerged. As the process continued, the Lesser Himalayas or Middle Himalayas formed, with the Main Boundary Fault line located to the south.

Stage 5: Formation of Foredeep and Frontal Fault With the emergence of the Greater and Lesser Himalayas, a foredeep was created at the foothills of these mountains. Deposition and further compression led to the formation of the Shivalik mountains. A new fault line emerged to the south of this range, known as the Himalayan Frontal Fault.

Trans-Himalayas and Indus-Yarlung Tsangpo Suture Zone The Trans-Himalayas, located north of the Yarlung Tsangpo River on the southern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, are primarily composed of granites and volcanic rocks. Unlike the main Himalayas, these mountains lack deep river gorges and a distinct alignment. They represent an island arc.

The Indus-Yarlung Tsangpo suture zone is a tectonic boundary resulting from the collision between the Indian plate and the Eurasian plate. It consists of various rock types, including ophiolites and flyschs, and has played a significant role in shaping the region's geology.

Tethyan Himalayas, Main Himalayas, and Lesser Himalayas The Tethyan Himalayas were formed due to the compression of sediments in the Tethys Sea. These sediments, of marine origin, underwent metamorphism due to compression. The Zanskar and Kailash ranges are significant components of this region, which acts as the backbone of high Asia and determines India's frontiers with Afghanistan and China.

The Main Himalayas are characterized by lofty peaks, extensive snowfields, and glaciers. Composed mainly of crystalline igneous or metamorphic rocks, this range is continuous with few gaps and antecedent rivers. The Lesser Himalayas have an average height ranging from 1300 to 5000 meters and are composed of unfossiliferous sediments or metamorphosed crystalline rocks.

Shiwaliks and Division of Himalayas The Shiwaliks, also known as the Outer Himalayas, are not a continuous range and exhibit a hog-back appearance with steeper slopes toward the south. The region contains largely fossiliferous sedimentary rocks such as sandstone, sand rocks, clay, conglomerate, and limestone.

Based on relief, range alignment, and geomorphological features, the Himalayas can be divided into various subdivisions, including Kashmir or Northwestern Himalayas, Himachal and Uttarakhand Himalayas, Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas, Arunachal Himalayas, and Eastern Hills and Mountains.

Kashmir Himalayas, Himachal and Uttarakhand Himalayas The Kashmir Himalayas consist of ranges like Karakoram, Ladakh, Zaskar, and Pir Panjal. It features the Dal Lake, significant glaciers, and valleys called 'duns.' The Himachal and Uttarakhand Himalayas are characterized by the presence of the Great Himalayan range, Lesser Himalayas, and Shiwalik range. The region includes longitudinal valleys known as 'duns' and is known for its tea plantations.

Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas, Arunachal Himalayas The Darjeeling and Sikkim Himalayas are small but significant, featuring peaks like Kanchenjunga and deep valleys. These areas have ethnic tribal communities and are famous for tea plantations. The Arunachal Himalayas extend to the east of Bhutan and have fast-flowing rivers and deep gorges, offering high hydroelectric power potential and rich biodiversity.

Northern Mountains The Northern Mountains encompass ranges like Patkai Bum, Naga hills, Manipur hills, and Mizo or Lushai hills. They are low hills inhabited by various tribal groups and are dissected by small rivers. Notable geographical features in this region include the 'Loktak' lake in Manipur and the presence of duns.

This physiographic description outlines the intricate evolution and structure of the Northern Mountains, highlighting the various stages of their formation and the distinct characteristics of each sub-region.

The Northern Mountains of India are a prominent geographical feature that spans across several states in the northern part of the country. These mountains are part of the larger Himalayan mountain range, which is one of the most significant mountain systems in the world. The Northern Mountains of India are characterized by their breathtaking landscapes, diverse ecosystems, and cultural significance. Here are some key aspects of the Northern Mountains:

  1. Geographical Extent: The Northern Mountains cover a vast region, spanning from the western state of Jammu and Kashmir in the northwest to the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh. This region includes states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and parts of northern West Bengal.

  2. Himalayan Range: The Himalayas, often referred to as the "Abode of Snow," are a massive mountain range that stretches across multiple countries, including India, Nepal, Bhutan, China, and Pakistan. The Northern Mountains of India encompass a significant portion of the Indian Himalayas.

  3. Topography: The terrain of the Northern Mountains is incredibly varied, ranging from snow-capped peaks, alpine meadows, and dense forests to deep valleys, rivers, and glaciers. Some of the world's highest peaks, such as Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga, are part of this range.

  4. Biodiversity: The Northern Mountains house a diverse range of flora and fauna due to the varying altitudes and climates. These mountains are home to rare and endangered species like the snow leopard, Himalayan tahr, red panda, and various species of pheasants.

  5. Cultural Significance: The Northern Mountains have a rich cultural heritage with a blend of indigenous cultures, languages, and traditions. Many communities in these regions follow unique customs and practices that have evolved over centuries. Tibetan Buddhism has a strong presence in some areas.

  6. Tourism: The picturesque landscapes, adventure opportunities (such as trekking, mountaineering, and river rafting), and spiritual destinations attract a large number of tourists to the Northern Mountains. Popular destinations include Manali, Shimla, Leh-Ladakh, Rishikesh, and Darjeeling.

  7. Challenges: The region also faces various challenges, including environmental degradation, deforestation, and the impacts of climate change, which can lead to glacial melt, landslides, and changes in water availability.

  8. Strategic Importance: The Northern Mountains hold strategic significance for India due to their location near its borders with countries like China and Pakistan. These areas have witnessed military tensions historically.

  9. Natural Resources: The Northern Mountains are rich in natural resources, including minerals, water resources, and hydropower potential. However, the exploitation of these resources must be balanced with environmental conservation efforts.

Overall, the Northern Mountains of India are a captivating and crucial part of the country's geography, culture, and environment, offering both opportunities and challenges for the region's development and sustainability.

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