The Himalayan Mountains
The Himalayan Mountains are situated on the north of India. Starting from the Pamir in the extreme northwest of India, the mighty Himalayan range extends towards northeast. It has a length of nearly 2560 kilometres with an average breadth of 240 to 320 kilometres. The highest peak of the Himalayas is known as Mount Everest with its height being 8869 metres. It acts as a natural wall and protects the country against the cold arctic winds blowing from Siberia through Central Asia. This keeps the climate of northern India fairly warm throughout the year. The Himalayan region is mostly inhospitable in winter and generally covered with snow.
It was considered for a long time that the Himalayas stood as a natural barrier to protect India against invasions. But, the passes in the northwest mountains such as the Khyber, Bolan, Kurram and Gomal provided easy routes between India and Central Asia. These passes are situated in the Hindukush, Sulaiman and Kirthar ranges. From prehistoric times, there was a continuous flow of traffic through these passes. Many people came to India through these passes as invaders and immigrants. The Indo-Aryans, the Indo-Greeks, Parthians, Sakas, Kushanas, Hunas and Turks entered India through these passes. The Swat valley in this region formed another important route. Alexander of Macedon came to India through this route. Apart from invading armies, missionaries and merchants came to India using these routes. Therefore, these passes in the northwest mountains had facilitated trade as well as cultural contacts between India and the Central Asia.
In the north of Kashmir is Karakoram Range. The second highest peak in the world, Mount Godwin Austen is situated here. This part of the Himalayas and its passes are high and snow-covered in the winter. The Karakoram highway via Gilgit is connected to Central Asia but there was little communication through this route.
The valley of Kashmir is surrounded by high mountains. However, it could be reached through several passes. The Kashmir valley remains unique for its tradition and culture. Nepal is also a small valley under the foot of the Himalayas and it is accessible from Gangetic plains through a number of passes.
In the east, the Himalayas extend up to Assam. The important mountains in this region are Pat Koi, Nagai and Lushai ranges. These hills are covered with thick forests due to heavy rains and mostly remain inhospitable. The mountains of northeast India is difficult to cross and many parts of this region had remained in relative isolation.