Sample Essay Paper on History of Geography in India

History of Geography in India

Indian Geography has developed quickly in the past decades. Extensive thinking about it is popular with us today. A large number of expert geographers show contentment over the pattern of development; in any case, many people appear to be disappointed (Karan, 1992). All such considerations are communicated in distinctive works distributed in a number of journals and volumes some in popular and others in less well-known scholarly geographic spaces.

Indian geography guarantees a significant section of the national scholarly space. In the event that one goes by the numerical quality of the geographical group as far as scholars enrolled in different geography programs in distinctive colleges and universities and the quality of the department, Indian geography has surely made great additions throughout the previous eight decades. More geographers now go to summits, workshops, symposia, and meetings in geography at the national and worldwide levels. Yet, Indian Geography does not feature unmistakably in the global enclosure. This is regardless of endeavors to incorporate each conceivable change in the advancement of the subject into the geography educational program (Karan, 1992). Geographers in India have been alive to each new apparatus and strategy that has shown up on its doorstep. Yet, the geographical undertaking has not procured profits nationally or globally.

Research in Geography has been channelized through an expansive number of geography offices spread everywhere throughout the nation. The period under survey has seen the foundation of many people’s new branches of geography especially in the Northeastern district of India (Rana, 2011). At the same time, the innate dichotomy in nature of geography keeps on influencing its position in the exceedingly organized college framework that treats the subject either as natural science or as a social science. The position of geography in the college framework keeps on baffling eras of people. Geography keeps on being put under the workforce of sciences in numerous colleges empowering them to procure finances and ventures from subsidizing offices and also to make research facilities (Rana, 2011). Then again, divisions, which are set under social sciences, keep on being interminably starved of finances for their insignificant needs. This has made an imbalance between branches of geography, as well as influences the nature of exploration. Private colleges which have come up in huge numbers as of late have to a great extent overlooked geography as a genuine area of research and learning.

India is a nation with astounding geographical assorted qualities together with majority in dialect, religion, society, and ethnicity (Heitzman & Rajagopal, 2004). It is a nation with the second-biggest human resources in the world with a populace of more than 1027 million individuals supporting almost 16.8 for every penny of the world’s populace. From the mountains of the Himalayas in Kashmir to the ocean banks of Kanyakumari and from the That deserts of Rajasthan to the sticky backwoods of the northeast, India shows her abundance of differences in societies, religions fairs, and celebrations.

Ancient Indian Geography

Ancient Indian commitment to geography delivered different fields of learning as Cosmology, Mathematics, Philosophy, Astrology & Astronomy,  Chemistry & Metallurgy, Physics, Science & Technology,  and Medicine,. The Indian scientists such as Acharya Kapil, Baudhāyana, Acharya Charak, Acharya Kanad, and Sushrut helped essentially in the development and advancement of geography as well as its allied sciences. Despite the fact that the established Indian researchers have luxuriously helped the different geographical study as scientific geography, climatology, physical geography, numerical and pragmatic geography, their information, especially in stargazing (Khagol-Shashtra), was entrancing (Heitzman & Rajagopal, 2004).

Despite the fact that geography was not then created as a formal subject, ancient Indian researchers had a well-established topographical sense and plainly comprehended spatial connections. The initial mention of geography as a subject is connected to Bhagwat Purana, the eighth-century puranic content when Bhugol, or Bhoogol, a vernacular term for geography in most Indian dialects, is determined from Sanskrit (Heitzman & Rajagopal, 2004). A vast volume of data is held in the Mahabharata and Ramayana: the two extraordinary sagas still unsurpassed in the traditional Indian expression

The earth investigations of ancient Indian scientist deal with its source, shrouds, size and measurements, longitudes and local time, bearings or cardinal focuses, quakes and volcanoes, environment and seasons, and physical segments. As far as the inception of the earth is concerned, a considerable number of facts as set forward by the antiquated Indian researchers were much exactly known (Rana, 2011). They believe in the solidification of the earth from vaporous matters. The earth’s crust, as stated by them, is made of hard substances (sila), sandy stuff (asma), and clayey substance (bhumih). The Puranas notice the earth to be obviously floating on the water like a cruising watercraft on the stream. They were likewise knowledgeable of the fact that there is a land surface in the Northern Hemisphere.

The idea of Prithvi was the most essential in geographical learning. It has been abundantly utilized as a part of the Vedas and Puranas. The utilization of the term Bhugol for the order of Geography is the most proper and it unmistakably proposes that the ancient Indian scientists embraced the earth being spherical, and not a flat plate as accepted by some of their parallel civilizations. The certainties identified with the size and measurement of the earth were close to exactness. It was well known to the ancient Indian researchers that the earth is an oblate spheroid marginally leveled at the poles. Around 1000 AD, Deshantar and Akshansh were the terms utilized for “longitudes” and “latitudes” respectively in the ancient Indian literary works. Puranas have an orientation of three imaginary lines of latitudes passing through the Equatorial cinch, North Pole, and South Pole (Karan, 1992).  The North Pole has been known as Zenith and the South Pole as Nadir. The South Pole was acknowledged as the antipode of the North Pole, that is, oppositely inverse to it. On the other hand, the world was not accepted to exist past the Equator, as the area here was contrasted with the damnation of the earth.

In ancient times, information about different parts of the world was constrained. It was because of the poor method for correspondence and transportation. Still, after all that, the endeavors were made to segment the world into a few locales, on the groundwork of accessible data. Such depictions exist in Puranas. Although inaccurate, the term Dwipa has been utilized to designate different domains (mainlands) of the earth. The geographical information of the ancient period concerning the Indian Sub-Continent is identified with its distinguishing proof, individuals and society, and drainage & relief (Dikshit, 2006). In Puranic and Vedic writing, the whole nation from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari has been alluded to as Bharatvarsha. This name has both historical and geographical significance.

Middle ages to 20th century

Throughout the Middle Ages, the land range known to Indians stretched out into Southeast Asia. Hindu wanderers brought civilization to Cambodia, Burma, and Champa, and in the East Indies set up the strong sea states of Majapahit and Sri Vijaya. India denoted the powerful limits of trade endeavor from China in the east to the Greek-Roman world in the west. Throughout this period, the Indians productively connected the information of geography to business, trade, and colonization. India came into contact with the Arabs in 712 AD when they came into Sind.

Geography, like any other social science, was socially and historically molded throughout the colonial period (Ginsburg, 1994). During the milieu, geography developed to meet the needs of colonists in the process of consolidation and development of the colonial realm (Husain, 1988). One of the significant objectives of geographic exploration carried on in India under the defensive umbrella of provincial powers was to give clear records of the area, individuals, and results of diverse parts of the Indian subcontinent to colonial directors (Mittal & Dua, 2005). Gazetteers and maps were prepared to familiarize the pilgrim civil administration with essential geographic facts. Geography was brought into Indian colleges throughout the 1920s. Throughout this decade, various Indian geographers including Subramanyam, Tahir Rizvi, and S.C. Chatterjee pioneered in making geography a scholastic discipline and took the activity to organize geographical social orders to push exploration and publication.

The conceptual framework of the discipline has undergone changes during the last hundred years. A comparison of recent geographical research publications with those of the 1920s reveals a progressive change in the conceptual framework. During the 1920s and 1930s, the discipline was concerned mainly with descriptions of regions. Its objective was to provide factual information about areas to colonial administrators. The scientific publications in Indian geography in those years revealed a reluctance to explore conceptual and hence epistemological premises, and there was far too much reliance on descriptive methodology, and relationships sometimes latent, sometimes unaware with deterministic approaches (Mittal & Dua, 2005).

The entry of the Europeans on the Indian scene denoted a novel and lively approach to the geography of this area. Europeans were strangers to this area and after the introductory skirmishes with the provincial rulers; they were fit to build their decent foothold in India. As the possibilities of regional development showed up insight, the best of the European powers, the British, battled to know and learn more about India, its areas, places, region, physical characteristics, and its assets from one perspective and its kin, and their social and monetary life, on the other (Singh, 2009).

A similar investigation of the idea, sources, and philosophy of geographical studies in the pre-colonial and provincial period indicates that the aspects basic to the perspectives of both periods are the centrality of place or area as a topic (Dikshit, 2006). The portrayal of the earth has been the sheer grapple of both periods. The Colonial geography had, further bolstering its good fortune, much more true data of spots and individuals based as this data was and precise surveying, in view of far-reaching fieldwork and reports. Furthermore, the idea and content of geography additionally transformed from one of insignificant aggregation of actualities and their depiction to one of efficient portrayal and interpretation¸ a plan in which the character of the area and pattern of dissemination of particular components in the scene needed clarification (Chatterjee, 2004). At first in the colonial period, the attention in Indian geographical study was on the gathering and presentation of data to light up the different locales of the nation, and to a much lesser degree, the proceeding topographical examination of traditional Indian writing.

Throughout the 1960s the significant preoccupation of the Indian geographers was Economic geography (agrarian and area use, mechanical and geography of transport and commerce); Human geography (urban, rural settlements, populace, and political topography); Physical geography (geomorphology, climatology, and hydrology, biogeography and pedology); Regionalization and territorial planning; Cartography; Geographical thought and technique; and Historical geography. To get geography more established, to make geography more attractive for social sciences and humanities, and to make geography handy for others, the Indian geographer S.P. Chatterjee took lead towards an inter-disciplinary frame and the outcome was noteworthy and appreciable (Singh, & Rana, 1992). This tendency has proceeded in the progressive decades

Since the 1970s, R. Ramachandran took Indian geography into entered the reformative stage, that is, the phase of maturity. It seems, by all accounts, to be laid open to winds of methodological change, which have swept over the global geography. Throughout the most recent five decades, a few national and worldwide occasions and a few summer/winter Institutes in geography have progressed the reason for geography in a huge manner and have given numerous chances to Indian partners (Chatterjee, 2004).

The 1980s phase is seen as the ‘phase of theory’; denote the arena of certainty among Indian geographers through the legitimate determination of methodologies, procedures, and wordings, obviously stemming basically from the American and British sources. It is noted that ‘a a concise and to a great extent insufficient fascination with strategies of Marxist philosophy happened in the 1970s and 1980s and remained focused around JNU in Delhi (Mittal & Dua, 2005).  Indian geographer, A.B. Mukherjiis, is known for his contribution from this time onwards.  By 1992, more than 60 colleges of higher learning offered courses in geography (Noble, 2004). For the most part, the leading bureaus of geography in India today are those of long-standing.

The reformative stage started with a challenge without precedent for the historical backdrop of Indian geography in 1991 when the voices were raised that Indian geography must achieve its identity and roots (Dikshit, 2006). Phase 2000 onwards is the ‘prospective stage in seeking the roots’ and may be acknowledged as a rule; this stage is at the outset.  Geography, in the same way as the environment, is concerned with the dissemination, organization, and morphology of phenomena on the surface of the earth and has created comparable ideas and systems to handle comparative issues. The improvement of ecology as a formal branch of study has prompted the utilization of the term ‘human ecology’ as an investigative substitute for human geography (Kumar, 2008).

From the very beginning, modern geography as a field of scientific learning has occupied an anomalous status between natural and physical sciences- focused on particular types of natural processes or circle of facts on the one hand, and the social sciences – focused on particular types of societal functions and phenomena on the other (Noble, 2009). Thus, as a discipline focused on the study of man’s relationships with nature in particular segments of the earth’s surface, geography represented a crossbreed discipline that belonged neither to one nor to the other. The result was that geography remained completely isolated from the mainstream intellectual discourse in both natural and social sciences since the intellectual climate of 18th and 19th century Europe was dominated by a fragmented perspective on a natural vis-à-vis social reality (Dikshit, 2001).

By the mid-1950s, geography in India started with a strong physical bias. In fact, most of the geographers of yesteryears came from geology and physical streams. During this time, geographers such as H. Chhibber, S. Chatterjee, R. Dubey, M. Pithawalla, G. Kuriyan, K Ahmad, S. Ali, N. Bose, and C. Deshpande played a significant role in the evolution of Indian geography. Perhaps as a reaction against the deterministic approach, as also in conformity with the shift in the discipline in England, (most Indian geographers then were products of British universities), Indian geography moved from its physical bias and ultimately changed over to economic stream (Eswaramma, 2004). Moreover, within the economic stream, emphasis came to be laid on British-style urban geography. In addition, Indian geography tried to become a purely social science.

Scientists and discoveries in the development of geography in India

Indian astrochemists propounded the hypothesis that the earth is spherical. The ancient Indian researchers were adepts in every field known to humanity. Some of these scientists are recorded below with their significant field of study. This interdisciplinary information lies at the base of geographic improvement. Acharya Kapil helped the exploration of cosmology. Acharya Bharadwaj is known for exceptional revelations in avionics science. Baudhāyana was an Indian mathematician, noted for composing the initial Sulba Sutra, the writings involving geometry and numerical standards. Acharya Charak delegated as the ‘father of Medicine’, prepared Charak Samhita as his most prestigious work, in which he has depicted the capacities and medicinal properties of about a hundred thousand plants (Noble, 2004).

Geographers who made major contributions to the development of the discipline are S.P. Chatterjee, H.L. Chibber, M. Shafi, and S.L. Kayastha, among others. Geographic studies during this time reflected an awareness of the association between geography and other social and physical sciences. Chatterjee approached the study of geography from the point of view of a natural scientist (Mittal & Dua, 2005). His methods and approach were essentially of a physical scientist – fieldwork, observation, mapping and the elucidation of the principals.

Jasbir Singh and N. Reddy are among the few Indian geographers to study agricultural geography. Amongst the contemporary Indian geographers, Mukherji has set exclusive expectations of grant that has become fabulous among scholars who studied with him and other people who know him and his work. His commitments to the geographic expositive expression are wide ranging from geomorphology to historical and cultural Moonis Raza has made vital contribution to the improvement of geography learning in India.

As far as the medicinal geography is concerned, Akhtar and Learmonth have made substantive commitments to this branch in India. Furthermore, two different researchers likewise pioneer in this field and they are A. Ramesh and Rias Akhtar. Their work is closely connected with the scientific upsurge of therapeutic geography. Their exploration on the environment of ailment in India uncovers fascinating associations with ecological and behavioral components (Akhtar, 2007).

Geographers such as Nath, Misra, Sundaram, and Roy contributed to the expansion of strategies for eliminating fiscal disparities between regions, energy issues, ecological disasters, problems of urban living, land use, industrial decentralization, economic restructuring, and many other issues related to development. During this decade, many Indian geographers pioneered in establishment of geography as an academic discipline and took the initiative to organize geographical societies to encourage research and publication (Mittal & Dua, 2005). India’s great achievers during this period were N. Subramanyam (Chennai), K.S. Ahmad (Lahore), R.N. Dubey (Allahabad), S.C. Chatterjee (Patna), and Tahir Rizvi (Aligarh


Akhtar, R. (2007). Health and Climate in Kashmir, Tiempo – A Bulletin on Climate and Development, 63: 19-21.

Chatterjee, M. (ed.) (2004). Explorations in Applied Geography, Prentice Hall, Delhi, pp. 354-364.

Dikshit, K. (2006). The Changing Western Perspective on geography and the Indian Context. Transactions, Institute of Indian Geographers, 28 (2): 123-155.

Dikshit, R. (2001). Indian geography: An encounter with reality. Transactions, Institute of Indian Geographers, 23 (1 & 2).

Eswaramma, F., et al., (2004). Socio-Economic Dimensions of Slums in Tirupati, A.P. India, The Indian Geographical Journal, 79(2): 110-115.

Ginsburg, N. (1994). Task of Geography: As a Social Science. in R.D. Dikshit (ed.), The Art and Science of geography, Prentice Hall of India, New Delhi, 41-45.

Heitzman, J., & Rajagopal, S. (2004). Urban Geography and Land Measurement in the Twelfth Century: The Case of Kanchipuram, Indian Economic & Social History Review, 41 (3): 237-268. (Sage, New Delhi)

Husain, M. (1988) Evolution of Geographical Thought, Second Revised Edition, Rawat Publications, Jaipur.

Karan, P.P. (1992). “Development of geographic Thought in India”, National Geographic Journal of India, Vol. 38, 179-193.

Kumar, M. (2008). Historical Geography of Imperialism, in International Encyclopaedia of Human Geography, R. Kitchin and N. Thrift (eds.), Sage, Boston.

Mittal, P. & Dua, Geeta (Compiled), (2005). Historical Geography of India, 2 Vols. (Collection of Articles from the India Historical Quarterly), Eastern Book Corp., New Delhi.

Nisbett, R. (2004). The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently… and Why!, Free Press, New York.

Rana, L. (2011). Ancient Tradition in Geography: The Western & Oriental Perspective, Project Report (unpublished), ICSSR, New Delhi.

Singh, R. (2009). Indian Geography: Perspectives, Concerns & Issues, Rawat Publications.

Singh, R.L. & Rana P.B. (eds.) (1992) “The Roots of Indian Geography: Search and Research, NGSI, pub. No. 39, Varanasi