The Southern Peninsula
The Vindhya and Satpura mountains along with Narmada and the Tapti rivers form the great dividing line between northern and southern India. The plateau to the south of the Vindhya Mountains is known as the Deccan plateau. It consists of volcanic rock, which is different from the northern mountains. As these rocks are easier to cut into, we find a number of rock-cut monasteries and temples in the Deccan.
The Deccan plateau is flanked by the Eastern Ghats and Western Ghats. The Coramandal Coast stands between the Eastern Ghats and the Bay of Bengal. The Western Ghats runs along the Arabian sea and the lands between these are known as Konkan up to Goa and beyond that as Kanara. The southernmost part is known as Malabar Coast. The passes in the Western Ghats like Junnar, Kanheri and Karle linked the trade routes to the western ports. The Deccan plateau acted as a bridge between the north and south India. However, the dense forests in the Vindhya Mountains makes this region isolated from the north. The language and culture in the southern peninsula are preserved in tact for a long time due to this geographical isolation.
In the southern end remains the famous Palghat Pass. It is the passage across the Ghats from the Kaveri valley to the Malabar Coast. The Palghat Pass was an important trade route for the Indo-Roman trade in the ancient times. The Anaimudi is the highest peak in the southern peninsula. Doddapetta is another highest peak in the Western Ghats. The Eastern Ghats are not very high and have several openings caused by the eastward flow of the rivers into the Bay of Bengal. The port cities of Arikkamedu, Mamallapuram and Kaveripattanam were situated on the Coramandal coast.
The major rivers of the southern peninsula are almost running parallel. Mahanadhi is at the eastern end of the peninsula. Narmadha and Tapti run from east to west. Other rivers like the Godavari, Krishna, Tungabhadra and Kaveri flow from west to east. These rivers make the plateau into a fertile rice producing soil. Throughout history, the region between Krishna and Tungabhadra (Raichur Doab) remained a bone of contention between the major kingdoms of the south. The deltaic plains formed by these two rivers at their mouths became famous under the Satavahanas. A number of towns and ports flourished in these plains in the beginning of the Christian era.
The Kaveri delta constitutes a distinct geographical zone in the far south. It became the seat of the Chola power. The Kaveri basin with its rich tradition, language and culture has flourished from the ancient times.
As the southern peninsula is gifted with a long coastline, the people of this region took keen interest in the maritime activities. A great deal of trade and commerce went on through the seaways from the earliest times. In the east, mariners reached countries like Jawa, Sumatra, Burma and Cambodia. Apart from trade, they spread Indian art, religion and culture in these parts of the world. The commercial contacts between south India and the Greco-Roman countries flourished along with cultural relations.
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