Tag: Geography

The Geography of India’s History

One of the topics that’s interested me for a while is the interplay of Geography and History. So it is with great pleasure that I am presently reading Sanjeev Sanyal’s “Land of Seven Rivers“.

I am still only about 25% into the book, but it’s already been a fascinating read. The book starts with the Harappan civilisation and then moves on to explore the geography behind India’s great epics – The Ramayana and The Mahabharata.

My interest being more in the geography, I started a project to map a few of these historical places on to a map of modern India. Thanks to the features in Google Maps, I was able to place some of these locations on to my map. Here it is:

The places highlighted in blue are key locations from the Harappan civilisation. It is also called The Indus Valley Civilisation, but as places such as Rakhigarhi and Lothal indicate, the civilisation covered a vast area, extending well beyond the Indus Valley. The following image indicates the true spread of this ancient civilisation.

Harappan civilisation
By Avantiputra7Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Moving on from that civilisation, we enter the age of the great Indian Epics – The Ramayana and The Mahabharata.

Places marked in green on my first map indicate the places described in the Mahabharata while places marked in orange have been mentioned in the Ramayana.

There is some doubt on which came first. Though many feel it is the Ramayana, Sanjeev Sanyal makes some interesting points that are worth reflecting on.

If we look at the map, it is clear that most of the key places mentioned in the Mahabharata are located immediately to the east of the places we know of from the Harappan civilisation. While The Ramayana makes mention of places spread further towards the east, such as Ayodhya, and south, extending all the way to Sri Lanka via Chitrakoot, Panchavati and Kishkinda (near modern-day Hampi). If we assume that ‘civilisation’ spread outwards from the Indus (and Saraswati) valley civilisations, does that indicate that the Mahabharata possibly came before the Ramayana?

The next phase of the book talks about the birth of Buddhism, which pushes the narrative even further to the East. But that’s a topic for later!

Key Cultural Eras of the last 100 years


Outside of Digital Marketing, traveling and bird-watching, my interests include reading and learning more about the history (and geography) of key cultural movements. It has always fascinated me as to why the Renaissance took place in Italy, the Industrial Revolution kicked off in Britain and so on. Moving forward, the counter-culture of the 1960’s was one of the first ‘key cultural movement’ that I became aware of, largely due to my choice of music leading me to bands such as Jefferson Airplane, Yardbirds and more. So it just felt right that the first place I visited outside of India was San Francisco where I went to the famous ‘Haight-Ashbury’ district.

However, as I write the above, I realise that it’s strictly not true. The first international cultural movement I was aware of was the hippie movement. This was because I had close family living in Goa in the 1990s. We used to visit them regularly and could still come across stragglers of the movement on the beaches of North Goa.

I recently read a book about Ernest Hemmingway’s time in Paris, and that piqued my curiosity about that era. It was while reading more about this era that I learned more about the Roaring 20’s. It was the age of significant and unprecedented change in culture, music, fashion and more. Paris seemed to have been the place where all the action took place.

Other movements of the past century include the Beat Generation of the 1950s and 60s. Interestingly, one of the places where key figures of this movement lived in was Tangier in Morocco.

It will be fascinating to read more about these movements, understand why, where and how they evolved and why did they peter out. That’s my reading list for the next few weeks and months!

Photo Credit:Vasilios Muselimis

The Geography of Culture

No sooner had I finished writing my previous article on the Geography of History than I came across a few articles that explore the Geography of Culture:

  1. A Painter on a Paris Pilgrimage – This article wonderfully explores the key role of Paris in the art movement of the last 19th and early 20th Centuries. I wish I had read about this before my visit to this City of Light. I had stayed very close to Montparnasse and would have loved to visit some of the places mentioned in this article.
  2. Sleuthing Through Feluda’s Kolkata – While Satyajit Ray is more famous globally as a cinema director, his books are equally famous in India. In this article, the author explores the different places in Kolkata mentioned in Satyajit Ray’s books about Feluda, the detective.
  3. Where James Bond Was Born – Though I cannot really be considered a fan of the famous British spy, I did not know till I read this article about the Portuguese connection that led to Ian Fleming creating the famous character.





The Geography of History

Historical Map

As a school student, Geography was my favourite subject. I used to (and still like to) spend time poring over a map, locating geographical features, studying the various places, etc. More recently, I have started developing a greater interest in History. And one of the topics that fascinates me is trying to understand the geographical features of places that feature prominently in History.

Is there anything in the geography of Italy that inspired the Renaissance? Or the Industrial Revolution in Western Europe? Going further back, what about all the great historical kingdoms of Southern India that spread their influence right across South East Asia? These are some of the questions that fascinate me.

So it was interesting to come across this interview with William Dalrymple, the historian who has written a series of books about the recent history of India. In this interview, he speaks about why it is important for him to visit the places that are to feature in the books he is working on.

I believe it will be an interesting topic to explore further and intend to dedicate some time on this. Let’s see how far I get!