Geographical features played a pivotal role in shaping the development of Ancient India. It profoundly influenced human economic and technological activities and trade interaction with distant regions from the Harappa to the Satavahanas period.
Geographical Factors towards the Development of Ancient India
Rivers: Rivers have been central to the establishment of various civilisations and some of the mighty empires.
- Indus Valley civilisation was based on the Indus and its tributaries.
- Vedas mention ancient rivers like Saraswati and Ganga. Vedic civilisation flourished around the rivers of Punjab and later shifted eastwards along the Ganga-Yamuna river system.
- The fertile plains of the Ganga River System led to a surplus of agriculture, which led to social, political and economic developments.
- The rivers were used for transportation as well, making them useful for the mobilisation of the army and economic goods. For example, Pataliputra was known as Jaladurga (water fort) due to transportation through rivers.
- In later periods, rivers proved to be important in trade and transportation.
- The mountain ranges, such as the Himalayas, acted as natural barriers for foreign invasions as well as a natural cultural divide.
- According to Kautilya’s Arthashastra, the mountain systems were used for the extraction of resources.
- The Vindhyas acted as a natural cultural divide between the North and South, which led to a flourishing culture in both areas.
Land and Sea trade routes:
- Trade routes such as Uttarapatha and Dakshinapatha facilitated economic as well as cultural contacts.
- The vast oceans connected the ports, thus influencing trade and economic, cultural, and political contacts.
- These land and sea routes also paved the way for the spread of various ideas, philosophies, and religions.
- For example, Buddhism spread through silk routes to Central Asia and China and to Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia through sea trade routes.
Forests: The forest system provided vast timber, which was used in the construction of palaces, leading to political growth.
Passes: There are some important passes through which interaction with western, central and northern Asia has been maintained since time immemorial.
- These passes facilitated foreign invasions into India, especially from Northwest India.
- Examples: Persians, Graeco-Romans, etc.
Monsoon: The monsoon helped in establishing trade relations with Arabs and the Graeco-Romans. The trade, in turn, helped in developing cultural relations as well.
Thus, we can say that the Indian subcontinent, with its well-defined natural barriers, exemplifies how geography influenced the evolution of this ancient civilisation.