What Is The Indian Subcontinent?

A map showing the Indian subcontinent and its countries.

What Is The Indian Subcontinent?

A subcontinent is a large area of land that is separated from a larger continent by either geography, politics, or culture. The term was originally used to describe North and South America before the two were classified as separate continents. Today, the Indian subcontinent is an example of this feature. It is a peninsula located in south-central Asia that is surrounded by the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. This area is primarily centered on the Indian Plate, a tectonic plate located along the equator in the eastern hemisphere. There is no widely accepted definition of the exact perimeters of the Indian subcontinent, although many researchers agree that it encompasses India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, and the Maldives. Recently, the area has increasingly been referred to as South Asia.

Geography Of The Indian Subcontinent

The Indian subcontinent encompasses several distinct geographical features. Along the northern border are the Himalayan mountains, which create a natural border between India, Pakistan, and Nepal. The western region of the Indian subcontinent consists of the Hindu Kush mountain range, separating Pakistan from Afghanistan. This mountain range is the dividing line between the Indus river valley and the Amu Darya river. The Arakan Mountains are located along the eastern border. The middle of the subcontinent is full of lakes, plains, rivers, forests, and deserts. The previously mentioned mountain ranges help isolate the Indian subcontinent from the rest of Asia, giving it a distinct cultural and political identity.

Flora And Fauna Of The Indian Subcontinent

Because of the unique positioning of the Indian subcontinent, the area is home to a wide variety of plants and animals. From Asia came descendants of elephants, monkeys, and wild pigs. In addition, the Indian subcontinent gave the rest of the world the ancestors of cows and antelope. Today, the subcontinent is home to mangroves, orchids, and bamboo as well as long-eared hedgehogs, noctule bats, king cobras, and camel spiders (to name a few).

History Of The Indian Subcontinent And Its Changing Culture

The earliest known civilization within the subcontinent dates back to between 2300 BC and 1750 BC, known the Indus Valley Civilization. The Aryan culture eventually migrated to and conquered the area from 1750 BC to 1000 BC. With this culture came the beginning of the caste system wherein the society was separated among various social standings ranging from priests to laborers. Around 900 BC, the roots of Hinduism were established as Brahmans sought the true meaning of existence. The class system continued, and Hinduism has continued to influence life on the subcontinent to this day.

Sometime between 500 BC and 600 BC, Buddhism and Jainism were born with messages of nonviolence and equality of all humans. This belief caught the attention of many people treated unfavorably in the caste system. The Indian subcontinent was later invaded by Alexander the Great, who brought a Persian influence to the culture. This was around the same time that the Maurya Empire was established, which ruled the subcontinent from 322 BC to 185 BC. Both left their marks on art, sculptures, and architectures throughout the region.

The subcontinent underwent a cultural revival period under the rule of the Gupta Empire between 320 AD and 510 AD. The emperors of this dynasty were patrons of the arts and literature. From 650 until 1350, the subcontinent was split between the Rajput Empire of the north and the Chalukyas and Pallavas Empires in the south. During this time, painting, dance, and music became important forms of religious expression, and great temples were built. The north eventually broke into smaller, conflicting empires which provided a window of opportunity for Muslim invaders, who began arriving in the 8th century, to slowly gain control.

The Mughal Empire took control around 1526 until 1858 and resulted in widespread conversions to Islam, particularly in the northern region of the Indian subcontinent. This period of the rule also had a lasting influence on the art, music, literature, and architecture of the region. Some of the emperors even promoted the idea of religious tolerance between Muslims and Hindus.

European explorers began to influence and colonize the Indian subcontinent between 1700 and 1900, with the British gaining significant control. They brought with them specific architectural styles that can still be seen throughout the region today. In 1947, India and Pakistan gained their independence from England.

All of these invading cultures significantly influenced the present-day culture found throughout the Indian subcontinent.


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