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India has a total area of 3,287,263 sq km. The north of the country is decisively bordered by the long sweep of the Himalaya, the highest mountains on earth. They run from south-east to north-west, separating India from China. Bhutan in the east and Nepal in the centre actually lie along the Himalaya, as does Sikkim, Darjeeling, the northern part of Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and sJammu & Kashmir.

The Himalaya are not a single mountain range but a series of ranges with beautiful valleys wedged between them. The Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh and the Vale of Kashmir in Jammu & Kashmir are both Himalayan valleys, as is the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Kanchenjunga (8598 metres) is the highest mountain in India, although until Sikkim (and Kanchenjunga) were absorbed into India that honour went to Nanda Devi (7817 metres). Beyond the Himalaya stretches the high, dry and barren Tibelan plateau; in Ladakh, a small part of this plateau actually lies within India's boundaries.

The final southern range of the Himalaya, the Siwalik Hills, ends abruptly in the great northern plains of India. In complete contrast to the soaring mountain peaks, the northern plain is oppressively flat and slopes so grad- ually that all the way from Delhi to the Bay of Bengal it drops only 200 metres. The mighty Ganges River, which has its source in the Himalaya, drains a large part of the northern plain and is the major river in India. The Brahmaputra, flowing from the north- east of the country, is the other major river of the north. In the north-west, the Indus River starts flowing through Ladakh in India but soon diverts into Pakistan to become that country's most important river.

South of the northern plains, the land rises up into the high plateau known as the Deccan. The Deccan plateau is bordered on both sides by ranges of hills which parallel the coast to the east and west. The Western Gnats are higher and have a wider coastal strip than the Eastern Ghats. The two ranges meet in the extreme south in the Nilgiri Hills. The southern hill stations are in these hills: Matheran and Mahabaleshwar, near Bombay in the Western Ghats; Ooty and Kodaikanal in the Nilgiri Hills. The major rivers of the south are the Godavari and the Krishna. Both rise on the eastern slope of the Western Ghats and flow across the Deccan into the sea on the eastern coast.

The north-eastern boundary of India is also defined by the foothills of the Himalaya, which separate the country from Myanmar (Burma). In this region, India bends almost entirely around Bangladesh, a low-lying country at the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra, and almost meets the sea on the eastern side.

On the western side, India is separated from Pakistan by three distinct regions. In the north, in the disputed area of Kashmir, the Himalaya forms the boundary between the two countries. The Himalaya drop down to the plains of the Punjab, which then merge into the Great Thar Desert in the western part ofRajasthan. This is an area of great natural beauty and extreme barrenness. Finally, the Indian state of Gujarat is separated from the Sind in Pakistan by the unusual marshland known as the Rann of Kutch. In the dry season, the Rann dries out, leaving isolated slat islandon an expansive plain: in the west season, it floods to become a vast island sea.

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The midi titled "Tabi no Totyu de" playing is performed by Yuko Ohigashi and used with permission. Click below to visit her website.

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