Page:A Brief History of the Indian Peoples.djvu/22

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country on the eastern shores of the Bay of Bengal. The whole territory thus described contains over 1½ millions of square miles, and 288 millions of inhabitants. India, therefore, has an area almost equal to, and a population in excess of, the area and population of all Europe, less Russia.

The Four Regions.—This noble empire is rich in varieties of scenery and climate, from the highest mountains in the world to vast river-deltas, raised only a few inches above the level of the sea. It teems with the products of nature, from the fierce beasts and tangled jungles of the tropics, to the stunted barley crop which the hillman rears, and the small furred animal which he traps, within sight of the eternal snow. But if we could look down on the whole from a balloon, we should find that India is made up of four well-defined tracts. The first includes the Himálayan mountains, which shut India out from the rest of Asia on the north; the second stretches southwards from their foot, and comprises the plains of the great rivers which issue from the Himálayas; the third tract slopes upwards again from the southern edge of the river-plains, and consists of a high, three-sided tableland, dotted with peaks, and covering the southern half of India; the fourth is Burma on the east of the Bay of Bengal.

First Region: The Himálayas.—The first of these four regions is composed of the Himálayas and their offshoots to the southward. The Himálayas (meaning, in Sanskrit, the Abode of Snow) form two irregular mountain walls, running nearly parallel to each other east and west, with a hollow trough or valley beyond. The southernmost of these walls rises steeply from the plains of India to over 20,000 feet, or four miles in height. It culminates in Mount Everest, 29,002 feet, the highest peak in the world. The crests then subside on the northward into a series of dips, lying about 13,000 feet above the sea. Behind these dips rises the inner range of the Himálayas, a second wall of mountains and snow. Beyond the double wall thus formed, is the great trough or line of valleys in which the Indus, the Sutlej, and the Brahmaputra gather their waters. From the northern side of these valleys rises the table-land of Tibet, 16,000 feet above the sea. The Himálayas shut