Northern Plain of India

Northern Plain of India
Posted on 14-08-2023

Exploring the Geography of India's Northern Plains: Formation and Regional Divisions

The Northern Plain of India, often referred to as the Great Plains, owes its formation to the accumulation of alluvial deposits carried by rivers originating in the Himalayan and Peninsular regions. These expansive plains stretch approximately 3,200 km from east to west.

These Great Plains exhibit remarkable uniformity in their relief features, spanning hundreds of kilometers. However, this monotony is occasionally interrupted by bluffs, levees, ravines, and khols, which add some variety to the landscape.

Bhabar Plains, located parallel to the foothills of the Shiwalik Mountains, extend around 8-10 km. As the slope changes here, streams and rivers descending from the mountains deposit substantial rock and boulder materials, sometimes even disappearing in this zone. This area is not suitable for agriculture, but it does feature large trees with substantial roots, and it provides materials like heavy boulders for construction purposes. Footloose industries have recently found encouragement in this region.

Further south of the Bhabar Plains, the terrain becomes marshy and is referred to as the Terai. This region boasts lush natural vegetation and hosts a diverse wildlife. While in Uttar Pradesh (UP), these forests have been cleared for cultivating crops like sugarcane, rice, and wheat.

The Bhangar Plains represent elevated areas formed by older alluvial deposits. The alluvium here is typically dark and rich in calcium, known as Kankar. Clay is the primary constituent of Bhangar, occasionally transitioning into loam and sandy-loam in certain areas. Dry regions may display saline and alkaline efflorescences, referred to as Reh.

On the other hand, the Khadar Plains are composed of younger floodplain alluvium. The alluvium in this region is lighter in color and lacks significant calcareous content.

The Delta Plains extend from the Khadar Plains. In this region, the uplands are called Chars, while the marshy lands are referred to as Bils.

Dividing the Northern Plains into regional sections, the Rajasthan Plains encompass Marusthali and the Rajasthan Bagar regions to the west of the Aravali Mountains. This area experienced marine submergence that receded during the upliftment of the Himalayas, leading to the formation of brackish lakes like Sambhar. Numerous inland drainages exist, with only the Luni River reaching the sea. The Luni River is fresh in its upper reaches but turns brackish in the lower regions. Sand and dunes cover this region, which is separated from Bagar through a 25cm Isohyet. Bagar, a semi-arid and fertile region, is drained by the Luni River to the south.

The Punjab-Haryana Plain is shaped by the deposition of the Satluj, Beas, and Ravi rivers. The fertile Doabs, highlands between these rivers, are prominent here. Intense erosion in the northern part of the region is caused by smaller streams known as Chos.

The Ganga Plains stretch from the Yamuna River in the west to Bangladesh in the east. This expanse can be divided into three parts:

  1. Upper Gangetic Plain: Encompassing the Ganga-Yamuna Doab, Rohilkhand plain (drained by the Ramganga), and Avadh plains (drained by the Ghagra and Gomati rivers).

  2. Middle Ganga Plain.

  3. Lower Ganga Plain: Formed by the subduction of the Rajmahal-Garo gap and subsequent river infilling. This region features a monotonous surface broken by Bils, swamps, marshes, and levees.

The Brahmaputra Plains, characterized by a low gradient, give rise to numerous riverine islands. This region is surrounded by towering mountains on all sides.

The Northern Plain of India is a vast, flat region that covers a significant portion of northern India. It is one of the most fertile and densely populated areas in the country, and it plays a crucial role in India's agricultural and economic activities. Here are some key features and aspects of the Northern Plain of India's geography:

Geographical Extent: The Northern Plain extends from the eastern state of West Bengal in the east to the western state of Punjab in the west. It is bordered by the southern edge of the Himalayas in the north and by the Peninsular Plateau to the south.

Formation: The plain was formed over millions of years through the deposition of sediments brought down by rivers from the Himalayas. The Ganges, Yamuna, Brahmaputra, and their tributaries have played a significant role in shaping and enriching the soil of the plain through sediment deposition.


  1. Fertility: The Northern Plain is known for its incredibly fertile soil, making it one of the most agriculturally productive regions in India. This fertility is a result of the constant replenishment of nutrients by the rivers' alluvial deposits.

  2. Agriculture: The plain supports a wide variety of crops, including wheat, rice, sugarcane, cotton, and various fruits and vegetables. It is often referred to as the "Granary of India" due to its role in food production.

  3. Population Density: The Northern Plain is densely populated due to its fertile soil and the availability of water resources. Major cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Lucknow, and Kanpur are located in this region.

  4. River Systems: The Ganges, Yamuna, and Brahmaputra are the major river systems in this region. These rivers, along with their tributaries, provide water for irrigation and contribute to the economic activities of the plain.

  5. Climate: The climate of the Northern Plain varies from subtropical in the northwest to tropical in the eastern parts. Summers are hot and winters are generally cold, although temperatures can vary widely.

  6. Alluvial Soil: The soil in the Northern Plain is predominantly alluvial, which means it's rich in nutrients and ideal for agriculture. This soil is highly productive and supports a wide range of crops.

  7. Urbanization: The Northern Plain has witnessed rapid urbanization due to its economic importance and fertile land. Major urban centers have grown as hubs of commerce, industry, and services.

  8. Cultural Significance: The Northern Plain has been a historical and cultural center of India for centuries. It's the birthplace of several ancient civilizations, and its rivers hold immense spiritual significance in Hinduism.

Overall, the Northern Plain of India is a region of great economic, agricultural, and cultural significance. Its fertile soil, abundant water resources, and strategic location have contributed to its importance in India's development and growth.

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