Paragraph on the Himalayan Ranges

Here is your paragraph on the Himalayan ranges of India:

The Himalayas are not a single chain or range of mountains, but a series of several, more or less parallel or converging ranges.


These ranges are separated by deep valleys. As in all young fold mountains, we find a densely dissected “ridge-and-valley- topography” in the Himalayas.

The most outstanding valleys in the Himalayan region are the value of Kashmir and the Karewas, the Kangra and Kulu valley in Himachal Pradesh; the Dun valley; the Bhagirathi valley (near Gangotri) and the Mandakini valley (near Kedarnath) in Uttaranchal and the Kathmandu valley in Nepal.

The individual ranges have very steep gradient towards the south but they present a much gentler slope towards the north. In the eastern section the Himalayas rise abruptly from the plains or Bengal and Oudh and suddenly attain great elevations within a short distance from the foot of the mountains.

Thus the peaks of Kanchenjunga and Everest are only a few kilometres from the plains and are clearly visible from there. In contrast, the western Himalayas rise gradually from the plains through a series of ranges. Their peaks of perpetual snow are 150 to 200 km away from the plain areas.


Most of the Himalayan ranges fall in India, Nepal and Bhutan, but the northern slopes are partly situated in Tibet while the western extremity lies in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. A succession of at least three parallel ranges from the Indo-Gangetic plain to the Tibet plateau may be recognised in the Himalayas.

(a) The Shiwalik Range:

The Shiwalik comprises the outermost range of the Himalayas and is also known as the Outer Himalayas. With its southern steep slopes, it assumes hogback appearance. Flat scarps, anticlinal crests and synclinal valleys are the chief characteristic features of this range.

Overlooking the Great Plain, this chain of hills runs almost parallel to the lesser Himalayas for a distance of about 2,400 km from the Potwar Plateau to the Brahmaputra valley. The width of the Shiwaliks varies from 50 km in Himachal Pradesh to less than 15 km in Arunachal Pradesh. It is an almost unbroken succession of low hills except for a gap of 80-90 km which is occupied by the valley of the Tista River.

The gorges of the Tista and the Raidak have jointly formed a gap 80-90 km wide in the Shiwalik range. The altitude varies from 600 to 1500 metres. The Shiwaliks are formed of great thickness of Mio-Pleistocene sands, gravels and conglomerates which have been brought by the rivers flowing from the higher ranges of the Himalayas.

These have been folded, faulted and indurated by the earth movements from the Middle Miocene to the lower Pliestocene ages. Obviously the Shiwaliks were formed last of all the ranges. The Shiwaliks are known by different names in different areas.

They are called Jammu Hills in Jammu and Dafla, Miri, Abor and Mishmi Hills in Arunachal Pradesh. The Dhang Range, Dundwa Range (Uttaranchal) and the Churia Ghat Hills of Nepal also form parts of the Shiwalik range.

As the Shiwalik Hills were formed after the formation of the Himalayas, they obstructed the courses of the rivers draining from the higher reaches of the Himalayas and formed temporary lakes. The debris brought by those rivers was deposited in these lakes. After the rivers had cut their course through the Shiwalik Range, the lakes were drained away leaving behind plains called ‘duns’ or ‘doons’ in the west and ‘duars’ in the east.

Dehra Dun. In Uttaranchal is the best example of such a plain which is 75 km long and 15-20 km wide. It is covered with boulder and clay deposits. Kotah, Patli Kothri, Chumbi, Kyarda and Chaukhamba are other duns. In the Jammu hills the extensive picturesque duns of Udhampur and Kotli are quite typical.

The eastern part of the Shiwalik range upto Nepal is covered with thick forests but the forest cover becomes thin in the west. The southern slopes of this range are almost completely devoid of forest cover in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh and are highly dissected by several seasonal streams locally called Chos.

(b) The Middle or the Lesser Himalaya:

In between the Shiwaliks in the south and the Great Himalayas in the north is the Middle Himalaya running almost parallel to both the ranges. It is also called the Himachal or Lower Himalaya. It has an intricate system of ranges which are 60-80 km wide having elevations varying from 3,500 to 4,500 m above sea level.

Locally linear longitudinal ranges have also developed, with steep, bare southern slopes and more gentle forest covered northern slopes, they give these ranges typical hogback look, more pronounced here in the Shiwalik. Many peaks are more than 5,050 m above sea level and are snow covered throughout the year.

The important ranges included are the Pir Panjal, the Dhaola Dhar, the Mussoorie Range, the Nag Tiba and the Mahabharat Lekh. The Pir Panjal range in Kashmir is the longest and the most important range. It extends from the Jhelum River to the upper Beas River for 300-400 km and is separated from the Zaskar Range by the valley of Kashmir. It rises to 5,000 metres and more in elevation and contains mostly volcanic rocks.

The best known passes of the Pir Panjal range are the Pir Panjal Pass (3,480 m), the Bidil (4,270 m), Golabghar Pass (3,812 m) and Banihal Pass (2,835 m). The Banihal Pass is used by the Jammu- Srinagar highway.

The Kishanganga, the Jhelum and the Chenab cut through this range. South-east of the Ravi, the Pir Panjal is continued by the Dhaola Dhar range, passing through Dalhousie, Dharmshala, and Shimla. This is the southernmost range of the Middle Himalayas and rarely attains elevations higher than 4,000 metres.

Between the Pir Panjal and the Zaskar Range of the main Himalayas, lies the famous valley of Kashmir running over a distance of about 135 km in a south-east to north-west direction. This valley is about 40 km broad in its middle. Its total area is 4921 sq km and its average elevation is 1,585 m above mean sea level.

Geographers and geologists have divergent views regarding the origin of this valley. Wadia thinks that the valley of Kashmir is the synclical basin enclosed between the Pir Panjal to the south and an offshoot of the central axial range to the north while de Terra feels that it is a recently depressed intermont basin pointing to evidence of faulting on the Himalayan flank.

However, it is generally believed that this basin was occupied by a lake in the Pleistocene age. This was filled with sediment and uplifted to form the Kashmir valley. The synclinal basin of the valley is floored with a variety of alluvial deposits, lacustrine, fluvial and fluvioglacial, through which the Jehlum River meanders majestically before entering the deep gorge it has cut through the Pir Panjal. In Himachal Pradesh there is Kangra Valley. It is a strike valley and extends from the foot of the Dhaola Dhar Range to the south of Beas. On the other hand, the Kulu Valley in the upper course of the Ravi is transverse valley.

Further east, the Middle Himalayas are marked by the Mussoorie and the Nag Tibba ranges. The Mussoorie range has an average elevation of 2,000-2,600 m and runs over a distance of 120 km from Mussoorie to Lansdowne. Mussoorie, Nainital, Chakrata and Ranikhet are important hill stations situated between 1,500 to 2,000 metres above sea level. The Mahabharat Lekh, in southern Nepal is a continuation of the Mussoorie Range.

Its summits rise to 3000 m and its average elevation varies from 1,500 to 2,000 m above sea level. The Kathmandu valley to its north is a very important feature of this area. East of the Sun Kosi River, the Sapt Kosi, Sikkim, Bhutan, Miri, Abor and Mishmi hills represent the lower Himalayas.

On the whole, the Middle Himalayan ranges are less hostile and more friendly to human contact. Majority of the Himalayan hill resorts like Shimla, Mussoorie, Ranikhet, Nainital, Almora and Darjeeling, etc. are located here.

(c) The Great Himalaya:

This is also known as Inner Himalaya, Central Himalaya or Himadri. This is the northernmost or the innermost of all the Himalayan ranges. With an average elevation of 6,100 m above sea level and an average width of about 25 km, this is the loftiest and the most continuous mountain range of the world. It is about 150 km away from the northern edge of the plains of Northern India.

It is mainly formed of the central crystallines (granites and gneisses) overlain by metamorphosed sediments. The folds in this range are asymmetrical with steep south slope and gentle North Slope. This mountain arc, convex to the south, terminates abruptly in the Nanga Parbat in north-west and in the Namcha Barva in the north-east.

The Himalayas

This mountain range boasts of the tallest peaks of the world, most of which remain under perpetual snow. There are several peaks over 8,000 m in altitude. The highest is the Mount Everest which is 8,850 m above sea level. Its Nepalese name is Sagarmatha which means.

The Goddess of the Sky. The Tibetans call it Chomlungma. Located at 27° 59′ 16″ N latitude and 86° 55′ 46″ E longitude this sky touching peak was first located by George Everest, the then Surveyor General of India in 1841 and in 1852 it was established as the highest peak of the world by the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India.

In 1865 it was named as Mount Everest as a tribute to Sir George Everest. Before that, it was known as Peak XV. However, Chinese want the peak to be named as Qomolangma, meaning the “Mother of the World”. China claims that this peak was mapped by Qing dynasty officials in 1717.

The other important peaks in descending order of altitude are, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu, Cho Oyu, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna, Gosainthan or Shisha Pangma. The number of known peaks rising over 7,000 m in elevation exceeds forty. Some of the important peaks between 7,100 and 8,000 m elevation are Nanda Devi, Kamet, Namcha Barwa, Gurla Mandhata, Badri Nath, Trisul, etc. (See Table 3.1 and Figures 3.6 and 3.8).

Table 3.1

Some Important Peaks and their Heights of the Great Himalayas: 

Name of the PeakHeight above sea level (in metres)
1. Mount Everest8,850
2. Kanchenjunga8,598
3. Lhotse l8,501
4. Makalu8,481
5. Dhaulagiri8,172
6. Manaslu8,156
7. ChoOya8,153
8. Annapuma8,078
9. Gosainthan or Shisha Pangma8,013
10. Nanda Devi7,817
11. Kamet7,756
12. Namcha Barwa7,756
13. Gurla Mandhata7,728
14. Trisul7,140
15. Badarinath7,138

This range is so formidable that it cannot be easily crossed even through the passes because they are generally higher than 4,570 m above sea level and are snowbound for most of the year. The Burzil Pass and the Zoji La in Jammu and Kashmir, the Bara Lacha La and the Shipki La in Himachal Pradesh, the Thaga La, the Niti Pass and the Lipu Lekh pass in Uttaranchal and the Nathu La and the Jelep La in Sikkim are the important passes through the Great Himalaya.

The Hindustan-Tibet Road connecting Shimla with Gartok in Western Tibet passes through the Shipki La. Another important trade route connecting Kalimpong (near Darjeeling) with Lhasa in Tibet passes through Jelep La (4,386 m).

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