South Asia Overview


  1. Physical Characteristics
  2. Development Through Time
  3. Questions

Physical Characteristics

To the south, east, and north, South Asia is marked by coastlines, forests, and mountains and marks one of the best-defined physiographic regions in the world. This area consists of five regions: (1) India (2) southern islands of the Maldives and Sri Lanka (3) northern mountain area from Kashmir to Nepal and Bhutan (4) the east, Bangladesh (5) the west, Pakistan. The Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, defines the northern border of this region, which divides India and China.

The major rivers in South Asia are the Ganges, the Indus, and the Brahmaputra Rivers. The Ganges River flows across northern India into Bangladesh. The Brahmaputra flows through the Assam region of northeastern India and also into Bangladesh. Here you will find the great double delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra Rivers. The Indus River runs through Pakistan.

The climate of this region can be described as an "A" climate. South Asia can be best described as a humid equatorial or a tropical climate in most regions. It is appropriately referred to as the monsoon climate in India and sections of eastern South Asia. During the monsoon season, rain falls everyday. Other times the region is very dry. The warm conditions of the area are a result the regions close proximity to the equator.

The quality of the soil in South Asia has a lot to do with the amount of rainfall. The soil in the northern part is nutrient rich and blessed by what is brought down by the rivers. The major agricultural product of the area is rice, but compared to other parts of the world, yields are low. Pakistan is drier and produces products that reflect this, such as corn.

Development Through Time

South Asia is the home of some of the oldest civilizations in the world. The Southern stretch of the Indus River was an early site of civilization. There is evidence that the people of this area interacted with the Mesopotamian civilization to the west in present day Iraq. After most of the area near the rivers was settled, people began to settle near the coast. Karachi, a town in southern Pakistan along the Indus River, is an example of an ancient city.

The development of religion is traced back to India. Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam are rooted in northern India. Hindu was strong in the interior of India. In India, issues related to religion were identified as private and did not require the attention of the state. Private issues in South Asia have always been highly politicized.

In search of markets, raw materials, and political influence, European powers wanted control of Southern Asia. In the 1600's, the British began its intrusion. The merchants gained control over trade with Europe in silk goods, spices, and cotton. The East India Company took control and divided India into small regions and maintained this power by giving recognition to small regions. The East India Company was important to India's economy because Britain could not let trade with the company die. In 1857, the a widespread uprising against British rule began in India called the Sepoy Rebellion. The East India Company lost control of India's government and the people of India were becoming free from feudal domination.

This led to the colonial period of India. Britain was to maintain all treaties and agreements that were made by the East India Company. India was made up of more than 600 "sovereign" territories that were put under deferment rule. This meant that the state had to answer to a local official who then reported to the viceroy in India, who then in turn had to answer to Parliament and the monarch in Britain.

There were both positive and negative aspects of the colonial era. Some positive aspects of this period were: (1) railroad system that linked the coastal areas to the interior (2) irrigation system (3) education system. The British brought medical schools to India along with medicine. (However, today India's best and brightest are leaving to pursue more lucrative careers in better developed countries.) (4) Britain worked to stop female infanticide, burning of widows, child marriages, and the caste system.

Partition: The British government withdrew from all power in the 1940's and divided the area by religion. East and West Pakistan were Muslim and India was now a Hindu State. They were formally independent on August 15, 1947.


The total population of the five regions of South Asia is 1,244.8 million. India currently has 949.6 million people with a fairly high growth rate of 1.9%. Bangladesh and Pakistan have similar populations and growth rates. Bangladesh has a population of 119 million and a growth rate of 2.0% while Pakistan has a population of 133.5 million and a growth rate of 2.9%. Bangladesh has the highest population density.

There are more rural dwellers than urban dwellers within these five regions. The majority of the population still lives along the river and coastal areas, but the interior of India still has high population densities. The three major cities of India are: (1) Bombay with a population of 12 million (2) Calcutta with a population of also 12 million (3) Madras with a population of 6 million. In the last fifty years, India has doubled its population.


South Asia is the home of many major religions: Hindu, Islam, and Buddhism. Approximately 85% of India is Hindu, with the remaining 15% being Muslim. Pakistan and Bangladesh are Islamic nations and Sri Lanka is primarily Buddhist. A mixture of these three religions can be found in Nepal and Bhutan.


South Asia is an extremely poor region. Many families rely on subsistence farming, growing only enough food to feed themselves. 60% of India's population makes less than $12,000 a year. The Maldives has the highest GNP per capita with $900. India has one of the lowest GNP per capita with only $310 per year. This is not a good number considering they are the largest democratic country in the world and their population is rising. In this area, there is no potential for more capital to better their lives.


1) What climate can best describe South Asia: A.A; B.B; C.C; D.D; E. none of the above.

2) What mountain range defines the northern border of this region: A. Alps; B.Himalayas; C.Pyrenees; D.Caucuses; E. none of the above>

3) Which region of South Asia has the highest population: A. India; B. Pakistan; C. Bangladesh; D. Nepal; E. China

4) Which country does not share a border with one of the South Asian Countries: A. Bangladesh; B. China; C. Myanmar (Burma); D. Laos; E. Iran

5) Which South Asian country emerged after a 1971 civil war: A. Afghanistan; B. Pakistan; C. India; D. Sri Lanka; E. Bangladesh.

6) Which two South Asian countries lie mostly in the Himalayas and their foothills: A. Bangladesh, Pakistan; B. Bhutan, Pakistan; C. Bhutan, Nepal; D. Nepal, Myanmar; E. Bhutan, Pakistan >

7) Foreign exports from easternmost India would most likely use which port: A.Calcutta; B.Bombay; C.New Dehli; D.Madras; E.Dhaka.

8) Which South Asian Country is essentially a low lying, flat river plain and delta: A.Sri Lanka; B.Pakistan; C.India; D.Bangladesh; E.Burma

9) Which religion is not the majority in at least one South Asian state: A.Hinduism; B.Buddhism; C.Christianity; D.Islam; E.none of the above

10) Kashmir is a territory disputed by which two South Asian countries: A.India, China; B.India,Pakistan; C.India, Nepal; D.India, Bangladesh; E.Pakistan, China >

11) South Asian countries generally: A.have a moderately high population growth of 2-3.1% per year; B.have high population growth rates of over 3.1% per year; C.have moderately low population growth of 1-1.9% per> year; D.have low population growth of less than 1% per year; very diverse in population growth rates and can not be generalized into any one of these categories>

12) It is projected that by the year 2020 the population of the following country will be the largest in the world: A.Russia; B.Brazil; C.India; D.Japan; E.United States >

13) Agriculture in South Asia, in general, is: A. very productive because of adequate rainfall throughout the entire year; B. is inefficient because farming has been collectivized; C.more productive and efficient than China D. comparitively inefficient and not as productive as it is in other parts of Asia; E. concentrated on the southern part of the Indian peninsula.

14) The great majority of South Asia's population: A. follow the Buddhist religion; B. are urbanized; C. live in cities and work in factories; D. migrate annually due to the influence of the monsoons; E. live in villages and > subsist directly from the land.

15) The two river systems form crucial lifelines for hundreds of millions of people in South Asia: A. the Indus and the Dehli; B. the Ganges-Brahmaputra and the Indus; C. the Ganges-Brahmaputra and the Dehli; D. the Ganges and Bangladesh; E. the Ganges-Brahmaputra and the Bengali.

16) The second largest South Asian country in population: A. India; B. Pakistan; C. Sri Lanka; D. Bangladesh; E. Nepal.

Resubmitted by Jennifer Nosek on June 15, 1997. Submitted by Chandra Legenza on March 23, 1997. Originally submitted by Amy Golden on November 19,1996.