Reformist Movements

Reformist Movements

This article deals with ‘Reformist Movements – UPSC.’ This is part of our series on ‘Modern History’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Main reason why Britain emerged as powerful nation was it accepted modern civilization first among all nations . But in India , intentionally they followed the policy to stall the change in society . Changes did occur & Indian society did try to change but not due to British policies but due to efforts by some progressive Indians
  • These efforts happened first in Bengal  because it came under British control first . First lot of Indians who studied in Western English knowledge were also created  in Bengal at the end of 18th Century. New intellectual stirrings created reformed mentality . They didn’t reject Indian tradition but sought to change certain unreasonable aspects of Hindu society which didn’t conform to their rationalist ideas. Later , British officials also joined the race &  this provided legitimacy to the reform agenda of the Utilitarian reformers like Bentinck .
  • But problem was , this mentality was confined to a small circle of English Educated elite.  Series of reforms followed but they remained on paper . They faced problem because they never attempted to develop modern social consciousness from below . They should have followed ‘bottom up approach’ instead of ‘top down approach’ .  Reform forced from above remained ineffective .
  • Untouchability  as an issue of social reform had to wait until the beginning of the twentieth cen­tury and the arrival of Mahatma Gandhi in Indian  public life  after World War One .
  • Lacking in a broad social base, the reformers of the early nineteenth century thus exhibited an intrinsic faith in the benevolent nature of colonial rule and relied more on legislation  for imposing reform  from above. There was very little or no attempt to create a reformist social conscious­ness at the grass-roots level, where religious revivalism later found a  fertile ground.

The reform movement broadly fell under two categories

Reformist Movement Eg : Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj & Aligarh Movement
– Relied on reason & conscience. They wanted to purge outdated elements from the religion which didn’t pass on the scale of  reason .
Revivalist Movement Eg : Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission & Deoband Movement
– Relied upon traditions & wanted to go back to their self made golden past
Reformist Movements

Side Topic : Why Britishers tried to reform Indian Society in 19th Century? 

There were various reasons for this

  • Several ideological influences in Britain, such as Evangelicalism, Utilitarianism and free trade thinking.
  • For renewal of Charter of company
  • Pro socio-religious reform thrust in contemporary England => because Progressive Whig Party came into power back in Britain. 
  • Role of Christian missionaries was also noticeable.

But the Company’s government was still tentative about interfering for fear of adverse Indian reaction unless a section of the Indian society was prepared to support reform. Such a group was soon to emerge through the introduction of English education

Status of Woman  & Civilizational Critique

Status of Woman  & Civilizational Critique
  • Status of woman became the main focus of the reforming activities of colonial state as well as educated Indians
  • At that time, way in which  civilisations were ranked , position of woman was one of the important criteria & here Indians were increasingly under attack by western observers from missionaries to civilians . Indian civilisation was  despised because it assigned such a low status to women .
  • Hence, Indian Intelligentsia responded to this civilisation critique by advocating & supporting reforms to improve status of woman in Indian society.
  • But such reforms remained very restricted to only few women belonging to high class because women remained  recipient of male patronage & never became involved in these reformist projects as conscious subjects of their own history .

Upper Class Women vs Peasant Women

  • Peasant woman were better compared to Upper caste woman during that time
  • They didn’t practice Purdah System , Right to Remarry was there  & Sati was also not that widespread among Peasant class unlike Higher caste

Reformist Movements

We have seen the reasons why Social Reform movements were started in India. Now we will look in detail into one strand of these movements known as Reformist Movements .

Features of reformist social  movements

a. Confined only to narrow social group

  • Reformist spirit appealed only to a small elite group who were primarily the economic & cultural beneficiaries of the colonial  rule .
In Bengal – Small number of western educated elite known as Bhadralok
– Socially they were mostly Hindus &  although caste wasn’t a major criteria for membership, they were mostly higher caste  Brahmin, Kayastha & Baidya   
Western India – Members of Prarthna Samaj were mainly English educated Chitpavan & Saraswat Brahmins along with Merchants from Gujarat
  • Indeed the high caste  character of the early 19th century explains to a large extent the relative silence on caste question & untouchability which had to wait till Gandhi

b. Faith in benevolent nature of colonial rule

  • They had great faith in the benevolent nature of colonial rule & infact existence of these classes depended on Colonial rule .
  • Because of faith , they relied more on legislation for imposing reform from the above

c. Colonial Character of the reforms

  • Dominant colonial assumption was religion was the basis for Indian society &  this religion was encoded in the scriptures . Social evils were thought to be result of the distortion of scriptures by self seeking people , in this case the cunning Brahmins who had the monopoly over this textual knowledge .
  • Civilising mission of the colonial state thus seen to lie in giving back the natives the truth of their own little read & even less understood shastras .
  • Whole debate over Sati was grounded in scriptures & its abolition was not based on fact that it is  morally & ethically wrong but when government was convinced that custom was not enjoyed by the scriptures .
  • As the colonial rulers gave supreme importance to scriptures, the Indian reformers too, as well as their detractors, referred to ancient religious texts to argue their respective cases. The brutality or the irrationality of the custom, or the plight of women, whom the reform was intended for, were lesser concerns in a debate

Note : The intellectuals did not however attacked the social system as a whole; their attack centred only on the perversions and distortions that had crept into it. They did not advocate a sharp rupture in the existing social structure of the country. They did not stand for structural transformation; changes were sought within the framework of the very structure. They were advocates of reform and not revolution.

Social problems and Reformist efforts to reform them

Social Reforms in India Modern History

a. Female Infanticide

  • It was most common in Western & Northern India .
  • There landowning high caste families , practising hypergamy found it difficult to find suitable grooms for their daughters or pay high demands of dowry . Hence, they killed their female offsprings at birth .
  • British authorities tried to persuade them & after 1830 sought to coerce them to desist from practice but  no tangible effect was observed. 
  • In  1870,  Female Infanticide Act was passed . But even after that, condition didn’t change because abject neglect of female children resulted in high mortality .

b. Sati Abolition

Sati Abolition
  • Sati Abolition was the greatest achievement of Lord Bentinck .
  • Sati is self immolation of wife on funeral pyre of dead husband. 
  • According to social reformers , it has always been there much the exception rather than a rule in Hindu life & during Mughal period, it was practiced in Rajputs & Kingdom of Vijayanagara . But during British period, it revived on much larger scale & experienced highest rate of development.

Reasons for practice of Sati

  • Earlier it was practiced by Upper Caste Hindus but during British rule, it started in peasant families of lower & intermediate  caste who achieved social mobility & then sought to legitimize their new status by imitating their caste superiors.
  • Greed of the relatives –   Child marriage was widespread at that time & many a times bride who has not even lived with groom was forced to perform Sati in order to get property of that man.
  • Sati was widespread in areas where Dayabhaga school of personal Hindu law was applicable  . Areas where ] Mitakshara school was applicable, it was less prevalent because Mitakshara school gives lesser rights to wife to inherit property

Campaign against it

  • First started by Christian Missionaries
  • But very strong campaign under Raja Rammohan Roy gave real momentum
  • Finally  in 1829 , Governor General Bentinck prohibited Sati by Govt Regulation Act XVII. Pressure was also put by the Court of Directors because they wanted to present credible image of Company’s rule in India in the British Parliament before renewal of Charter pending in 1833.

Although it reduced very much after that but the idea & myth of Sati persisted in popular culture & was continually reaffirmed through epics, ballads & folktales . Case of surfaced even in 1987 ( Roop Kanwar Case of village Deorala in Rajasthan).

c. Widow Remarriage

  • Main protagonist was Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar . But he too, like Raja Rammohan Roy looked to colonial state for piece of legislation for this .
  • In 1856 , Hindu Remarriage Act was passed but this couldn’t make the practice socially acceptable . Along with that, Act was intrinsically conservative in nature because on remarriage , widow disinherited her deceased husband’s property .
  • Movement ended with its unavoidable death . Vidyasagar failed to see widows remarried because this needed social consent which could not be generated by piece of legislation .  Practise of Widow Remarriage  remained rare & exceptional among the educated class & within few years taboo universalised & penetrated to lower castes.

Western India

  • 1860s : Movement to promote widow remarriage spread among educated class & debate  became sharp between reformers & detractors.
  • 1866 : Vishnushastri Pandit started a Society for Encouragement of Widow Remarriage while opponents started rival organisation .
  • Movement ended in whimper . By end of century only 38 such marriages happened & in that cases too couples were subjected to enormous social pressure & ostracism .

Madras Presidency

  • In Telegu speaking areas , movement was started by Veersalingum Pantulu . In 1878 , Society for Social Reforms was founded by him for this.
  • 1881 : first widow remarriage officiated by him in 1881 in face of stiff opposition but till 1891 , support increased & he formed Widow Remarriage Association with patronage of prominent citizens .

North India : Haryana

  • Here practice of widow remarriage was already there& new act provided  such marriage with legitimacy & further social acceptance

d. Child Marriage

  • Vidyasagar continued his campaign against Polygamy & later Child Marriage .
  • In 1860 , finally he was able to secure an Age Of Consent Act, 1860 that fixed age of consent for consummation of marriage at 10 years which was raised to 12 years in 1891.
  • But census showed that it continued to be practiced widely among all castes. 

e. Thugee

  • Various  peripatetic groups were stereotyped into the colonial construct called Thugs who were believed to have been members of a fraternity traditionally involved in robbery & ritual killings in the name of religion
  • Campaign against thugee was initiated in 1830s  by Lord Bentinck
  • Thugee Act (XXX) , 1836 was passed & Thugee Dept. was created for prosecuting gangs seen as perpetrating a crime in the name of religion but it’s elimination proved to be a difficult task. 
  • In 1839 , Sir William Sleeman as head of Department claimed that thugee had been exterminated but in reality he begun to realise difficulty in doing this and it was just a face-saving measure.

f. Slavery

  • Laws were even more ineffective against less organised social customs that remained part of everyday life from centuries .  Slavery  was such an example .
  • Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1820 & in India too Charter of 1833 instructed government to abolish slavery & Parliamentary pressure continued till it was abolished .
  • But problem was, they tried to see slavery in India through lens of their British idea of Slavery but in India where agrarian relations were complex & marked by numerous structures of labour dependencies it was almost impossible to stop it
  • Process was failure in India

Bengal Renaissance

  • Renaissance literally means ‘rebirth’. It refers to the revival of Graeco-Roman (classical) learning in 15th-16th century after long winter of dark ages. In Indian context , intellectual revolution that took place in the nineteenth century in the fields of philosophy, literature, science, politics and social reforms is often known as Indian Renaissance. An important part of this Renaissance was reforming Hinduism from within on the basis of Post Enlightenment Rationalism.
  • Very much like the Italian Renaissance, it was not a mass movement; but instead restricted to the upper classes. 
  • Response of the educated Indian elite to civilisational critique was to reform  Hinduism from within,  in  the boundary  of post enlightenment rationalism . Such phenomenon is known as Bengal Renaissance
  • Movement was started in Bengal by Raja Rammohan Roy who is often described as Father of Modern India .
Bengal Renaissance

Raja Rammohan Roy (1772-1833)

Raja Rammohan Roy

Personal life 

  • He was Hindu Brahmin and was born  in Hooghly ,Bengal
  • He fought against the stagnant society .
  • He was one of those upper caste gentry whose power & position had been enhanced by Permanent Settlement & other opportunities opened by the Colonial rule.
  • He studied Persian and Arabic at  a Madrasah in Patna . He was proficient in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit & European languages like English, French, Latin , Greek & Hebrew
  • At a time when Bengali youth under the influence of western learning was drifting towards Christianity, Roy proved to be the champion of Hinduism . Although, he defended Hinduism against the hostile criticism of the missionaries , he sought to purge Hinduism of the abuses that had crept into it.
  • Then he studied Vedantic monism & after his migration to Calcutta in 1815, he  was exposed to the Christian Unitarianism . Such intellectual influences motivated him to contest the missionary claim of superiority of Christians . His  answer to this was to reform Hinduism using  reason by going back to its purest form as enshrined in Vedanta texts
  • Raja Rammohan Roy accepted the concept of ‘One God’ as propounded by Upanishads . For him God was shapeless , invisible & omnipresent but the guiding shape of the universe . He declared his opposition to idol worship & was of view that worship to be performed through prayers & meditation & readings from Upanishads . He translated Upanishads into Bangla to demonstrate that ancient Hindu scriptures themselves propagated monotheism
  • He published his first  philosophical work, Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhiddin in 1805 in which he analysed the major religions of the world wrt ‘reason’ and ‘social comfort’. He denied that religion was merely a matter of faith outside reason and attempted to expose the  myth of miracles associated with it.
  • Later, he started English Hindu college at Calcutta in 1816
  • He was great exponent of the Bengali language .
  • He also started Persian newspaper  MIRAT UL AKHBAR ( mirror of news)  and Bengali newspaper Samvad Kaumudi.
  • He was given the title of Raja by Mughal Emperor Akbar II ,  who sent him to England in 1831 as Ambassador of the king to ensure that Bentinck’s Regulation of banning the practice of Sati is not overturned and also to overturn the  decision to make Mughals Princes & taking royal titles from them
  • He died there at Stapleton ,Bristol in 1833 (due to Meningitis)

Social ideas

  • Worked for the emancipation of the women
  • Sati System was abolished on account of his efforts . Government passed Anti Sati legislation in 1829 declaring sati as a criminal offence
  • He condemned polygamy, early marriage and opposed the subjugation of women and their inferior status in society. He related their problems to the root cause of absence of property  rights. To him, female education was another effective method to free Indian Society from social stagnation
  • To propagate his message against Sati he started a Bengali newspaper SAMVAD KAUMUDI (moon of intelligence )
  • Worked against the rigidity of the Caste System


  • He favoured maximum age of Civil services to be 22 years
  • Favoured Jury system
  • Founded Hindu College(1817)  along with David Hare , Radhakant Deb, Maharaja Tejchandra Ray of Burdwan , Prasan Kumar Tagore , Babu Budhinath Mukherjee & Justice Sir Edward Hyde ( Hindu College  later became Presidency College( in 1855) &  Presidency University  (in 2010)
  • He supported Macaulay in favouring English language
  • In 1825 , he started Vedanta College which offered both Indian &  western knowledge
  • He also compiled Bengali Grammar

Political views

  • He raised not only social issues but political and economic issues too
  • He stood for 
    1. Indianisation of services
    2. Trial by jury
    3. Separation of Powers between the executive and the judiciary
    4. Freedom of the Press
    5. Judicial equality between Indians and Europeans
    6. Criticised the Zamindari System for its oppressive practices
  • He was progenitor of nationalist consciousness, and ideology in India. His every effort of social and religious reform was aimed at nation-building.
  • In particular, he attacked the rigidities of the caste system which, according to him, had been the source of disunity among Indians. He held that the monstrous caste system created inequality and division among the people on the one hand, and ‘deprived them of patriotic feeling‘ on the other.
  • Rammohan was an internationalist, libertarian and democrat in his orientation. He took active interest in international affairs and wanted amity among nations. His concern for the cause of liberty, democracy and nationalism led him to cancel all his social engagements when he came to know of the failure of the Revolution in Naples in 1821. By giving a public dinner, he celebrated the success of the Revolution in Spanish America in 1823.

Newspaper and Books

Roy started following newspapers and pamphlets

  • Sambad Kaumudi – Bengali Newspaper
  • Mirat ul Akhbar –  Persian Newspaper
  • Pamphlet –  An Exposition of Revenue & Judicial System in India (urged government that administration & judiciary should be separated among other things ) 

Along with that , he wrote following books

  • Gift to Monotheists (1809)
  • Percepts of Jesus (1820)
  • Tuhfat-ul-Muwahhiddin in 1805
  • Mahanirvana Tantra (1797)

Religious ideas

  • Propagated MONOTHEISM   and Vedantic Monism.
  • He opposed the idol worship


a. Atmiya Sabha – Calcutta

  • Started in 1815
  • It was a philosophical discussion circle
  • Discussed monotheism in Hindu Vedantism
  • It was also attended by Dwarkanath Tagore (Grandfather of Rabindranath)
  • Opposed worship of idols
  • Against rigidity of caste & meaning less religious rituals
  • He blamed the Brahman priests for perpetuating religious evils by keeping people ignorant about the true teachings of the  scriptures.

b. Brahmo Samaj

  • Started as Brahmo Sabha in 1828 (later became Brahmo Samaj)
  • Founded by Dwarkanath & Raja Rammohan Roy
  • Main Theme – rid Hinduism of its evils & preach monotheism 
  • Purpose was  to purify Hinduism of all evils which had crept into it
  • Opposed idolatry
  • It vehemently opposed Sati System.

Brahmo Samaj

Started at Calcutta
Year 1828
By Raja Ram Mohan Roy   & Dwarkanath Tahore
Brahmo Samaj

Works done by Brahmo Samaj

  • It propagated Monotheism (discarded the faith in divine Avataras) .
  • It was against  idolatry and idol worship
  • It attacked Casteism & Untouchability
  • Any scripture could enjoy the status of ultimate authority transcending reason & conscience .
  • It took no definite stand on the Doctrine of Karma & Transmigration of soul & left it to the individual Brahmos to believe either way.
  • Worked for respectable position of the women in the society and for this
    1. Condemned Sati
    2. Favoured abolition of Purdah System
    3. Discouraged Child Marriages & Polygamy
    4. Crusaded for widow remarriage etc
  • After Roy’s death in 1833, the leadership of the Brahmo movement was taken over by Debendranath Tagore who provided the movement with a better organisational structure and ideological consistency
  • But the movement was actually taken out of the limited elite circles of Calcutta literati into the district towns of east Bengal by Bijoy Krishna Goswami and Keshub Chandra Sen in the 1860s.
    1. Goswami bridged the gap between Brahmoism and the popular religious tradition of Vaishnavism
    2. Sen’s specific focus was to reach larger numbers of non-Westernised Bengalis in the eastern Gangetic plains and to take the movement outside Bengal to other provinces of India

Schisms & other Developments

First schism in the Samaj in 1866

Brahmo Samaj for India Led by more radical Keshav Chandra Sen, Anandamohan Bose & Shiv Narayan Shastri .
Reverted away from the Hindu components and accepted the teachings of all religions
Adi Brahmo samaj Under Debendranath Tagore (Father of Rabindranath) 
Remained in a more inclusive and Hindu sphere of influence

Basically, as Meredith Borthwick has shown, it was a schism between Keshav’s followers, for whom social progress and reform were more important than anything else, and the followers of Debendranath, who preferred to maintain their identification with Hindu society.This rift was, as it became clear soon, more about an identity crisis than about any fundamental difference of ideology: while some of the Brahmos wanted to define themselves as separate from the Hindus, others began to seek a position within the great tradition of Hinduism.

Second Schism in 1878

  • A band of Keshub Chandra Sen followers left him
  • On account of
    1. Marriage of Sen’s minor daughter to Prince of Cooch Bihar
    2. Also because he became devout follower of Ramakrishna and tried to bridge Brahmanism and Brahmo Samaj.
  • They Started  Sadharan Brahmo Samaj and worked mainly for the social work & female education and famine relief . Consisted of Anand Mohan Bose & SN Shastri
  • Thus Brahmo samaj also contributed prominent nationalists who later formed the backbone of the moderate phase of congress

In 1881, Sen formed his Naba Bidhan (New Dispensation) and started moving towards a new universalist religion. But by this time , successive ideological rifts and organisational divisions had weakened the Brahmo movement, confining it to a small elite group.


  • Limited to urban areas only
  • Lot of internal rivalries

Achievements of Brahmo Samaj

  • Abolition of Sati : Pressure was  put by the samajis & as a result Anti Sati legislation was passed  by Lord William Bentinck in 1829
  • Worked for
    1. Abolition of the caste system and dowry system
    2. Emancipation of the women
    3. Improving educational system
  • Brahmo Samaj ultimately failed and emerged as sectarian religious order after continuous schisms but nevertheless , its achievements were huge
    1. Rabindranath Tagore  admitted the failure of Samaj but also recognised the very important role played by Samaj of providing a shock to static Indian society and made it to think on rationalist lines.
    2. According to Bipin Chandra Pal , main impact of Samaj  was on Political Culture . It was from Brahma Samaj that idea of free thinking individual emerged who would be able to absorb democratic & western ideals.

Henry Vivian Derozio & Young Bengal Movement

  • Derozio (Anglo-Indian Teacher at Hindu College) started Young Bengal Movement
  • At age of 17, he started Young Bengal Movement.
  • He was much more modern than Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
  • He was a free thinker and a rationalist, helped promoting  a radical & critical outlook among his students who questioned authority, loved liberty and worshipped truth.
  • Most radical at that time & was inspired by French Revolution
  • First nationalist poet of Modern India
  • Derozians, the followers of Derozio, were staunch rationalists; they measured everything on the yardstick of reason. He organised debates where ideas and social norms were freely debated. In 1828, he motivated them to form a literary and debating club called the Academic Association.
  • In  1838, they formed ‘Society for the Acquisition of General Knowledge‘, where they discussed various aspects of Western science, and stood for a number of social reforms, such as the prohibition of caste taboos, child marriage,  polygamy etc.
  • Young Bengal followed classical economics, and was composed of free traders who took inspiration from Jeremy Bentham, Adam Smith, and David Ricardo.
  • They were passionate advocates of women’s rights and demanded education for them.
  • He  was dismissed from the Hindu College in 1831 because of his radical views, and shortly afterwards he died of Cholera at the young age of 22.
  • Derozians carried forward Rammohan’s tradition of educating the people in social, economic and political questions through newspapers, pamphlets and public associations. They carried on public agitation on public questions such as the revision of the Company’s Charter, the Freedom of the Press, better treatment for Indian labour in British colonies abroad, Trial by Jury, Protection of the Ryots from oppressive Zamindars, and Employment of Indians in the higher grades of government services

Why they didn’t succeed?

  • Social conditions were not yet ripe for their ideas to flourish. The common people , who were not acquainted  with those ideologies, considered those young as arrogant. 
  • Their total faith in the British and in English education, their rationalism and scientism derived from the west, set them apart from the masses of Indians and they never succeeded in organising any social movement in support of their proposed reforms.

Book by Derozio (GK for prelims)

To India – My Native Land In this , he wrote about pain given by British  rule

Debendranath Tagore

  • He was son of Dwarkanath Tagore , father of Rabindra Nath Tagore and a close friend of Raja Ram Mohan Roy .
  • In 1839 , he started Tattvabodhini Sabha to disseminate the knowledge of the Upanishads
  • Tattvabodhini Patrika was the principal organ of the Sabha to propagate the ideas .
  • After death of Raja Rammohan Roy, he became the main organiser of Brahmo Samaj.
  • In 1850 , he wrote  book called Brahmo Dharma where he
    • Emphasised on monotheism
    • Supported rationality and reject scriptural infallibility
    • Rejected Caste distinctions and idolatry
  • Inspired his sons into reform movement ,most famous being Rabindranath Tagore
  • He was part of Landholders Society and played important role in formation of British India Association

IC Vidyasagar

Ishwarachandra Vidyasagar


  • His original name was Ishwarachandra Bandopadhyay.
  • He was born on 26 September 1820 in the Paschim Midnapore District of West Bengal to impoverished Brahmin parents.
  • During the period from 1829 to 1841, Ishwar Chandra studied Vedanta, Vyakaran, Literature, Rhetorics, Smriti and Ethics in Sanskrit College. And in 1839 the title ‘Vidyasagar’ was conferred on him for his unusual talent.
  • In 1841, at the age of twenty one years, Ishwar Chandra joined the Fort William College as a head of the Sanskrit department. In 1851 , Vidyasagar became a professor and later on the Principal of the Sanskrit College

Works toward Education

  • He firmly believed that the regeneration of India was possible only through education.
  • His work was aimed at extending the benefits of learning to common people. He stressed upon instruction through vernacular language.
  • He also opened the doors of the colleges and other educational institutions to lower caste students, which was earlier reserved only for the Brahmins. For his immense generosity and kind-heartedness, people started addressing him as “Daya Sagar” (ocean of kindness).
  • Having spent his early life in village Ishwar Chandra could realize the sorrowful condition of the womenfolk. He rightly believed that the emancipation of women was not possible as long as they remained ignorant. Ishwar Chandra, therefore, took upon himself the task of promoting the cause of female education.

Pioneer in the women upliftment

  • Started girls schools in Bombay and Calcutta
  • Encouraged women to study in the colleges
  • He also collaborated with Drinkwater Bethune in establishing the Hindu Female School (at present known as Bethune School and College) in 1849.
  • Took initiative in pushing the Widow Remarriage Act ,1856
  • Instrumental in passing the Special Marriages Act of 1872.
  • Wrote book for women emancipation titled BAHUVIVAH

Social Reforms

  • He initiated the concept of widow remarriage and raised concern for the abolition of child-marriage and polygamy. He demonstrated that the system of polygamy  was not sanctioned by the ancient Hindu Shastras.
  • He took the initiative in proposing and pushing The Hindu Widow Remarriage Act XV of 1856 in India during Governor-Generalship Lord Canning.

Bengali Connoisseur

  • He brought a revolution in the education system of Bengal. In his book, “Barno-Porichoy” (Introduction to the letter), Vidyasagar refined the Bengali language and made it accessible to the common strata of the society.
  • Vidyasagar invented Bengali prose through translation as well as own writings. 

Social Reform Movements in western India

Main reform movements in western India were as follows :-

Reform Movements in Western India

Paramhans Mandali / Samaj

  • It was started in 1849
  • By Dadoba Pandurang . Other important leader was  (Lokhitwadi) Gopal Hari Deshmukh
  • It was first socio religious movement of Maharashtra
  • Paramhansa Sabha’s principal objective was the demolition of all caste distinctions. Each new recruit to the Sabha had to undergo initiation ceremony, and take the pledge that he would not observe any caste distinctions. He had to eat a slice of bread baked by a Christian and drink water at the hands of a Muslim.
  • The Sabha was, however, a secret society; its meetings were conducted in the strictest secrecy for fear of facing the wrath of the orthodox. The challenge to the caste system and other social evils thus remained limited to the participation of its few members only.

Prarthana Samaj

  • Paramhans Mandali’s transformation into Prarthana Samaj was the direct consequence of two visits of KC Sen to Bombay in 1864 & 1867
  • It was founded by Atmaram  Pandurang in 1867 inspired from the Brahmo Samaj & the main spirit behind formation was MG Ranade who was ably assisted by KT. Telang & Bhandarka
  • All leading members were Western educated Maratha Chitpavan Brahmins .
  • It’s ideology was almost similar to Brahmo Samaj
    • Preached Monotheism
    • Denounced idolatry & priestly domination
    • Denounced caste distinctions
    • Favoured Widow Remarriage & raising age of marriage for both males & females . 
  • Later they connected themselves with Maharshtrian Bhakti Tradition .
  • Prarthana Samaj maintained distinction from Brahmo Movement of Bengal & the most notable distinction was they were moderate & more accommodative. They didn’t signal a sharp break & this gradualist approach made it more acceptable
  • It’s branches were opened in Surat, Ahmedabad , Poona & reached even in South India where leader was Veerasalingum Pantulu
  • It faced crisis in 1875 when  Swami Dayanand visited Gujarat & Maharashtra & offered possibilities of a more radical & self assertive religious program .  A group of Samaj members under SP Kelkar broke & felt attracted to Arya Samaji ideology of Dayanand .

Side Topic : MG Ranade

  • He was co-founder of Prarthana Samaj
  • He was a product of the Elphinstone College, Bombay & was Judge of the Bombay High Court during 1891- 1901.
  • He held that the caste distinction was the main blot on Indian social system. 
  • Under his guidance the Paramhans Sabha was reorganised in 1867 under the name Prarthana Samaj. 
  • He was the founding member of Indian National Congress , member of Bombay Legislative Council and founding member of Indian Social Conference (1887)
  • He was the editor of the Anglo Marathi paper – Induprakash

Jyotirao Phule and Satyashodak Samaj

  • He was from Satara , Maharashtra
  • In 1873, Phule established the Satyashodhak Samaj, an organization for challenging Brahmanic supremacy.
  • He promoted  women education along with his wife Savitribai Jyotirao Phule  by opening women schools.
  • He also worked for widow remarriage and to prevent female infanticide, he opened homes for newborn infants.
  • He wrote book titled  GULAMGIRI

Ideology of Satyashodak Samaj

  • It was against  untouchability & caste system  
  • It opposed idolatry and  Brahmin’s role as intermediary between person and god 
  • Promotion of rational thinking
  • It also rejected Vedic supremacy

Servants of India Society

  • Started by Gopal Krishna Gokhale in 1905
  • Aims
    • Create a band of dedicated workers for nation building
    • Carry out activities for the upliftment of Indians 

Sri Narayan Guru & SNDP Yogam

Sri Narayan Guru and SNDP
  • Sri Narayan Guru was social reformer born in 1854 in Kerala into Ezhava family
  • He championed
    • bhakti for spiritual freedom
    • social equality
    • rejected casteism
    • Rejected divisiveness based on caste, religion etc
  • He was a pioneer reformer who rejected the caste system and stressed on the equality of man. He gave the universal message, “One caste, one religion, one God”
  • He was influenced by Vedanta.
  • He supported Temple entry  movements.
  • Sri Narayana Guru  condemned animal sacrifice
  • He urged the Ezhavas to leave the toddy tapping profession and even to stop drinking liquor.
  • Dr. Palpu, a devotee of Guru established the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP Yogam) in 1903 to further Narayana Guru’s message



This article deals with ‘Money.’ This is part of our series on ‘Economics’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Barter System

  • People have been trading with each other even before the advent of money, coin, cash, currency, rupee, dollar, euro or Yuan. They simply exchanged goods and services with each other through barter system. Eg
    • 1 kg rice for a 200 grams tomatoes
    • 1 kg tomatoes for 50 gm almonds and so on

Problems with Barter System

  • It can happen  only with Double Coincidence of wants
  • Search Cost / Cost of Transaction is high.
  • Don’t favour Division of Labour / Specialization : Due to above problems, all persons  will try to become Jack of all trades but master of none.
  • Don’t favour Industrialisation : Industrialist will have to find large supply line with every person having double coincidence of demands 
  • Don’t favour Concentration of wealth : Since all the wealth is perishable. Cant store tomatoes  for long period of time
  • Problem of Divisibility of Value : In Barter System , you cannot always divide the value to buy whatever you want to.
  • Not always Fungible

(Fungible items = Division & Mutual substitution possible e.g. Gold bars, Currency Notes & Coins . Eg : if diamond is cut into smaller pieces , summation of all the smaller parts will not be equal to one bigger diamond . Hence, diamond isn’t fungible)


Benefits of Barter System

  • Promotes Joint Family
  • Food Inflation will be lower in Barter Economy compared to Money Economy.


  • To answer above limitations of Barter System, Money System was invented
  • Money serves following functions
Functions of Money

a. Primary Functions

Measure of Value Money serves as measure of value.

Eg :
1. Labour’s value in Money System is Wage
2. Land’s value in Money System is Rent etc
Medium of Exchange It is the medium of exchange.
Eg : Person earns money from his labour and that money is used to buy food 

b. Secondary Functions

Due to above Primary Functions, it can be used for various Secondary Functions as well

Store of Value Value of labour paid in form of money => person can store the value for later use 
Eg : Person can store value of his labour ie wage for later use.
Transfer of Value Value paid in form of money   can be transferred to other place as well
Eg : Person earning in Bangalore can transfer it to his Parents in Punjab
Deferred Payment We can make deferred payments like paying in advance (like Paying Rent of Dish TV at once) or Paying later (eg taking car on loan)
This is possible because we can measure the time value of Money using Interest Rate

Benefits of Money Economy

  • Due to Money’s Primary and Derivative Functions, it can be used for Social Empowerment, Dalit Entrepreneurship etc. Labour and Service of each kind can be paid which wasn’t possible in Barter Economy.
  • It also helps in Redistribution of National Income (via System of Taxation)

Evolution of Money

Evolution of Money

1 . Commodity Money

  • This is the first stage in Evolution of Money
  • In this, a particular commodity is used to measure the value .
  • Eg : Cocoa Beans (used by Aztecs) . Cowry Shells (in India) , Cigarettes (in Jails) etc
  • Note – Commodity Money has Intrinsic Value too

Different Examples of Commodity Money 

Examples of Commodity Money

2. Metallic Money

  • In this, Traders and Kings used to stamp their marks on Coins to ensure that metal is of uniform quantity and quality.


  • It has Intrinsic Value
  • It is Non Perishable
  • It is divisible & fungible
  • Even Foreign Trade possible

Full Bodied Coin vs Token Coin

Full Bodied Coin In this , Intrinsic Value of Coin is equal to or greater than face value
Eg : One Rupee Coin of British India (shown below) had face value of 1 ₹ but if somebody melted the Silver and sold that silver in the market, it was of greater than 1 ₹ .
Token Coin In this, Intrinsic Value of Coin is lower than its face value
Eg : Present 1 ₹ Coin
FUll Bodies Coin vs Token Coin

Issues with Full Bodied coin

  • Full Bodied coins result in various problems . People start to melt metal from Coin and use it for other things.
  • Same thing was seen in recent past in Indian Coinage too. Indian ₹5 Coins were send to Bangladesh where cost of  metal was more . They used to melt the coin and make blades out of that.  To tackle this, Cupro-Nickel coins were introduced so that such activities can be stopped .
  • Apart from that, in order to adjust to inflation, government keep on reducing the metal content in the coins to keep the intrinsic value of coin lesser than its face value. Along with that, Melting Coins to use it for other purpose is punishable offence .

Issue of Debasement in Coins

  • In historical studies of coinage system , issue of Debasement is important. 
  • Eg: During the regime  of Akbar , 1 Dam (copper coin) had 20 gram of metallic copper . But due to economic problems of empire during the times of Aurangzeb, Dam consisted of  just 13 grams of metallic copper.
Debasement of Coins
  • But debasement leads to other problems. Since in those times, people had confidence in the Coinage System because of the intrinsic value of the coin , reduction in Metallic content  reduces the confidence of people in the coinage system and they start to move towards Barter System of payment. As a result, state’s tax income decreases. Along with that, state used to take commission for minting coin. Reduction in use of coinage system further weakens the economy and vicious circle ultimately leads to collapse of whole economy 

3. Paper Currency

  • Genesis of paper currency can be found in Hundis in which traders used to pay metal at one place and take Hundi in order to avoid any theft while carrying metal during large voyage. Later , State started to do the same work and introduced Paper Currency.
  • Hence, it is called Fiduciary Money i.e. although paper has no intrinsic value of its own but it is circulated because of trust in issuing authority.

Types of Fiduciary Money

a. Non-Legal Tender

  • Not issued by the Government
  • Eg : Bill of Exchange , Cheque , Bank Draft, Postal Orders
  • Also called Optional Money because its acceptance is optional

b. Legal Tender / Fiat Money

  • It is issued by the Government
  • Can be classified as Coin and Currency
  • It’s acceptance is not optional (have to accept) within the boundary of nation

Types of Legal Tender

b.a Limited Legal Tender (coin)

  • It can be used to settle limited amount of Debt
  • According to Coinage Act , 2011
    • Using 50 paisa Coins , maximum debt of ₹10 ( can be settled)
    • Using ₹1 coin or above, maximum debt of ₹1,000 can be settled.
    • All coins below 50 paisa are not legal tenders now (since 2011) (asked in UPSC – CDS)

b.b Unlimited Legal Tender (Currency)

  • Can be used to settle unlimited amount of debt binding by the command of Government
  • Every Bank Note is legal tender in India.

Who Issues what ?

Government – All coins are issued by Government. Government can issue any amount of Coin (even 1,000 ₹ coin)
– ₹ 1 Note is issued by Government with sign of Finance Secretary on it
‘Anna system’ was changed to ‘Decimal system’ by amending Coinage Act in 1955 
RBI Under RBI Act , all Notes except ₹1 can be issued by RBI with sign of RBI Governor on it

How Fiat Money is issued ?

a . Earlier Times

  • Gold Standard System : Earlier , Bank Notes were  backed by equivalent amount of gold . Notes amounting to equivalent reserve of gold were issued. Eg
    • 1 US dollar was issued against 22 grain gold
    • 1 British Pound was issued against 113 grain gold
Gold Standard System
  • If this note was taken to Central Bank, it paid equivalent amount of Gold in return. 
  •  But later due to various problems like printing more cash during wars, cold war and depressions,  this system was discarded.

b . Indian System

1935 to 56 RBI used to maintain 40% gold to value of currency issued .  
1956 to 95 India abandoned old system and moved to ‘Minimum Foreign Reserve System
Under this, RBI was required to maintain 115 crore worth of gold and Rs. 400 Crore worth of Foreign Currency Security.  
1995 to Present India is following ‘ Managed Paper Currency Standard‘ .
It means that, if any person with any bank note issued by RBI goes to RBI to exchange that note, RBI is bound to give him other notes and Token coins of equal face value.  
Managed Paper Currency Standard

Side Note : Mahatma Gandhi New Series Notes and portraits on them

₹ 10 Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha.
₹20 Ellora Caves
₹50 Humpi Chariot of Vittala Temple 
₹100 Rani ki Vav on Saraswati river, Patan
₹200 Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
₹500 Red Fort, Delhi
₹2000 Mangal Yaan / Mars Orbiter Mission

(In Arts and Culture, prepare about these sites with care)

Other Information about Indian Currency

  • ₹ sign designed by  D.Udaya Kumar (Associate Professor @IIT Guwahati)
  • While 8th Schedule has 22 languages, but currency note has only 17


  • Wholesale withdrawal of currency from the circulation
  • Every bank note is a “legal tender” . But on RBI Board’s recommendation, Government of India notifies that Specific Bank Notes (SBN) are no longer legal tender (ie Demonetized)
  • 8/Nov / 2016 : ₹500 & ₹1000 notes were demonetised
  • Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act 2017: Government passed this Act to give legislative backing to Demonetisation .RBI was not required to honour the promise written on old bank notes. Limited number of Old notes can’t be kept except for research or numismatics or museum

4. Bank Money

  • Backend of Bank Money too has Fiat Money .
Bank Money

Examples of Bank Money

  • Cheques
  • Demand Draft : can’t be dishonoured because amount is prepaid.
  • Overdraft : When person’s bank account has  insufficient balance, still he is  allowed to draw more money than available in his bank (as a loan).
  • Debit and Credit Cards
  • Net Banking System
  • Unified Payment Interface (UPI) System

Advantages of Bank Money

  • Easy to transfer over long distance
  • Exact amount can be transferred
  • Hard to counterfeit
  • Can freeze if stolen
  • Leave behind digital trail
  • Legally recognised for high value payment

5. Crypto Currency

Genesis of Crypto Currency

  • During Sub-prime crisis, Central Bank of US & other developed countries adopted Easy Money Policy & as a result purchasing power of $ decreased. Main cause of Subprime Crisis was Banks who had given loans to Subprime Borrowers. Hence, anarchists argued that Banks who were earning by charging fees , after their failure made common people to suffer by reducing the purchasing power of their hard earned money.
  • Cyber Anarchists decided to withdraw from Banking System and start currency of their own which will not depend on Central Bank of any country .


  • 2008 : Satoshi Nakamoto (name of online user but no body know who he is) issued Online Paper .
  • 2009 : Operation of Bitcoins started
  • 2016: Australian businessman Craig Wright claimed he is Satoshi Nakamoto (but majority don’t believe this)
  • 2020 : Price of Bitcoin started to rise amidst Corona crisis due to fear that governments will print money in excessive amounts to cover the fall in tax collections and to cover unemployment benefits.

What is Crypto-Currency

  • Cryptocurrency is a digital currency created, stored and transacted using blockchain technology.
  • Examples : Bitcoin, Digicoin, Litecoin, Etherium, Laxmicoin etc.
  • Bitcoin invented by  Satoshi Nakomoto (anonymous) is the most popular.

How Bitcoins work ?

a. Technically Incorrect Example

  • Suppose there is gold mine and person started to mine it with  tools. All the gold that is mined is converted to coin with serial number on it by person sitting at exit of mine and registered  in Ledger
  • The Coin that is produced can be broken into smaller coins in order to pay for smaller transactions. But each time bigger coin is broken to smaller coins, separate Registration number is given to it and it is registered in Ledger again.
working of bitcoin

b. Working of Bitcoin

  • Instead of Gold Mine , Satoshi Nakamoto has generated Cryptographic ‘Data Cube’  with algorithm . This Cube can be mined using computer . When whole of ‘Data Cube’ will be mined, total of 21 million bitcoins will be generated .
  • Basic condition is same here as well. Each and every coin that is generated has to be registered in Public Ledger.
  • Bitcoin is divisible upto 10^8 Satoshi. But each time Bitcoin is divided, it has to be registered in Public Ledger. Hence. every transaction is registered in Public Ledger. For updating Ledger, Blockchain Technology is used (more on this later)
Working of Bitcoins

Bitcoin Wallet

  • Bitcoin Wallet looks like other Wallets (like PayTM Wallet)
  • One can send money to any person using his Bitcoin-wallet’s Address and Password (Wallet address is random alpha-numeric)
  • But there is no requirement of Name, Mobile Number and KYC Norms. One can send Bitcoins to other person without knowing identity of other. Hence , it is very anonymous .
Bitcoin Wallet

Benefits of Cryptocurrency

  • Cost-effectiveness in International Use : Electronic transactions to other countries are expensive due to currency conversion & processing fee levied by banks. Cryptocurrencies solve this problem, as they have single valuation globally
  • Privacy Protection: The use of pseudonyms conceals the identities, information and details of the parties to the transaction
  • They are difficult to counterfeit compared to physical currency because they use Blockchain Technology
  • Immunity from Government’s Financial Retribution:  For citizens in repressive countries, where governments can easily freeze or seize the bank accounts, cryptocurrencies are immune to any such seizure by the state.

Problem with Bitcoins

  • Used in carrying Illegal Activities because of Anonymity it offers
    • Various sites selling Drugs and other banned substances through Bitcoins like Silk Road came up 
  • Bitcoins are used by criminals in case of cyber attacks . Eg Wannacry episode
  • Bitcoins also started to be used for Tax Evasion and Terror Finance etc
  • Government is deprived of it’s taxes. Eg :On selling gold , government charges Capital Gains Tax  but Bitcoin transactions are difficult to trace
  • Climate Change  : Experts estimate that cryptocurrency mining related electricity consumption generates 20 megatonne CO2 annually
  • Due to Bitcoin mining, demand of  Graphic cards has increased and consequently price of graphic card has been doubled . Along with that, this is resulting of generation of tons of e-waste bad for ecology.
  • Uncertain Regulatory Environment
  • Uncertainty over Consumer Protection and Dispute Settlement Mechanisms: as Cryptocurrencies are decentralised
  • Highly Volatile : Explained Below
  • No intrinsic value : Explained below

Bitcoin Bubble / High Volatility ?

Bitcoin Bubble

Whether this is Bubble or not ?

  • Enthusiasts argue that cryptocurrencies like bitcoin are rapidly transforming into mainstream money that will offer serious competition to national currencies issued by central banks. Therefore they see bitcoin’s current price rise as merely a reflection of its bright future as a stateless currency. 
  • Skeptics have pointed to the Tulip Bubble of the 17th century and Internet stocks of the late 1990s as cautionary examples.  Bitcoins have no intrinsic value and their exponential rise is driven by emotion rather than value .

India and Bitcoin

  • Budget 2018 on Cryptocurrencies
    • Finance Minister clarified  that Crypto-currencies are not legal tenders in India. 
    • Government will eliminate the use of cryptocurrencies as part of the payment systems. 
    • BUT, India will use block-chain technology on which cryptocurrencies are based for encouraging the digital economy.
  • 2019 : Draft bill made by Finance Ministry wrt Cryptocurrencies
    •  Finance Ministry has made Draft bill called ‘Banning of Cryptocurrency and Regulation of Official Digital Currency Bill, 2019’ which bans the use of all types of cryptocurrencies issued by private operators and has provision of jail upto 10 years.
    • However, it permits RBI to launch Blockchain based digital currency
  • RBI on Cryptocurrencies
    • RBI has notified all the regulated entities (like Banks, Card Companies etc) that they can’t help anyone to buy/sell bitcoins or any other Virtual Currency
    • April 2018 Monetary Policy update : Cryptocurrencies  are dangerous wrt consumer protection and can be used for money laundering.

Virtual Currencies  & World

Different countries have different stance

Some countries have restricted and prohibited the use of Virtual Currencies (India, China, Bolivia etc)  while others allow it’s use in regulated form (Japan, US, Australia, South Africa etc)

Virtual Currencies and Blockchain Based things started by various countries

Bond-i Bond issued by the World Bank in Australia which is based on Blockchain technology .  
UNICEF and Bitcoins In October of 2019 , UNICEF announced that they will accept donations through Bitcoins along will all the other sovereign currencies of the world .  
China October 2019 : People’s Bank of China announced that they will launch their own Crypto-currency  
Petro In 2018 – January, President Nicolas Maduro announced the following: 1. Government of Venezuela decided to issue 100 million Petro coins – a type of cryptocurrency.
2. Price of 1 Petro coin = market price of one oil barrel from Venezuela.
SOV  – Marshall Island’s legal tender is US Dollar.
In 2018-February, they launched a sovereign cryptocurrency, called “Digital Sovereign” or SOV. However, unlike BITCOINS, this SOV will not have any anonymity.
Libra Cryptocurrency announced by Facebook .
Unlike other Cryptocurrencies, Mark Zuckerberg has announced that it will be backed by assets in reserve. But countries like France have openly rejected Libra as it will set precedent of currencies of MNCs and challenge the sovereignty of nation states .  

Side Topic : Stable Coins
Cryptocurrencies backed by assets like Libra

Karst Topography

Karst Topography

This article deals with ‘Karst Topography.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Limestone is sedimentary rock of organic origin . Chemically it is  Calcium Carbonate (but where Magnesium is also present , it is known as Dolomite).
  • Limestone is soluble in rain water with Carbon dioxide (weak acid.)
  • A region with large stretch of limestone therefore posses a very distinct topography termed as Karst (name derived from Karst District of Yugoslavia where such topography is particularly well developed)

There is absence of surface drainage as most of the surface water goes underground and form underground channels. When this water meets non-porous rocks, it re-emerges onto the surface as spring or resurgence.


  • Karst region is in Dinarik Alps in Yugoslavia.
  • Such topography is also found in regions of Himalayas, Rockies, Andes, Atlas , Shan Plateau , Belo Horizonte etc.
  • In India this is found in Chirapoonji, Jammu-Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Panch Marhi (M.P.), Bastar (Chattisgarh and Coastal areas near Vishakhapatnam


Erosional Landforms

1 . Lapies

  • Lapies are the irregular grooves and ridges formed when most of the surfaces of limestone are removed by solution process.

2. Swallow Hole /Sink Holes

  • A sinkhole is an opening more or less circular at the top and funnel-shaped towards the bottom. 
  • On the surface of limestone, there are numerous small depressions carved out by solution at a point of weakness.  Holes size grow through continuous solvent action to form Sink Hole .

3. Limestone Gorge

  • When the roof of an underground tunnel collapses , a  limestone gorge is formed .
Limestone Gorge

4. Karst Window/ Karst fenster

  • It is spring that emerges from underground , discharge it’s water and then then abruptly disappears underground through a nearby sink-hole.

5. Doline

  • Due to high chemical activity on swallow holes, their size and depth increases. Its diameter may extend upto some kilometres and depth may run upto 100 meters.
  • It can be cylindrical, conical, bowl or dish shaped.
  • The name doline comes from dolina, the Slovenian word meaning valley.

6. Uvala

  • Series of smaller sinkholes coalesce into a compound sinkhole is called uvala.

7. Polze

  • Polje is an elongated basin having a flat floor and steep walls.
  • It is formed by the coalescence of several sinkholes. The basins often cover 250 square km and may expose “disappearing streams.”

8. Cave

  • In areas where there are alternating beds of rocks (shales, sandstones, quartzites) with limestones or dolomites in between or in areas where limestones are dense, massive and occurring as thick beds, cave formation is prominent.
  • Water percolates down  through the cracks and joints and moves horizontally along bedding planes. It is along these bedding planes that the limestone dissolves to form wide gaps called caves  .

9. Tunnel

  • Caves having openings at both the ends are called tunnels.

Depositional landforms

  • Where subterranean streams descend  to underground passages, the region may be honeycombed with caves
  • Most important features in limestone caves are Stalactites, Stalagmites and Pillars .

1 . Stalactites

  • Formed on roof of caves .
  • As rainwater seeps through the limestone, the water dissolves Calcium Carbonate in it. When from roof, water drips down, it leaves behind Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3) forming Stalactite .
  • They are thinner, long and pointed.

2. Stalagmite

  • They are formed on the floor.
  • All the dripping water has to land somewhere . When a drop finally hits cave floor , it deposits even more Calcite there in unassumed mound .
  • They are shorter , fatter and more round.

3. Cave Pillars

  • Over a long time, stalactites hanging from roof is eventually joined to Stalagmite growing from floor to form pillar.

Fluvial Landforms

Fluvial Landforms

This article deals with ‘Fluvial Landforms.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • When rain falls , part of it sinks into ground , some of it is evaporated back into the atmosphere & rest runs off as rivulets , streams and tributaries of rivers . This running water is potent agent of erosion  .
  • The river performs three types of work. They are erosion, transportation and deposition.

Materials transported/carried by river

When a river flows , it carries eroded material in four forms

  • Solution – Material dissolved in water.
  • Suspension – Sand, Silt & mud  carried in suspended form.
  • Saltation: Some of the fragments of the rocks move along the bed of a stream by bouncing continuously.
  • Traction Load – This includes coarser materials such as pebbles , stones & boulders which are rolled along river bed .

Rivers carry great amount of material => Eg : Mississippi river removes 2 million tons to Gulf of Mexico daily .

River Erosion 

In rivers, erosion  comprise of following  processes :-

  • Corrasion / Abrasion : Mechanical grinding by river’s traction load against banks & beds of river . 
    • Lateral Corrasion : sideways erosion which widens  V-Shaped valley.
    • Vertical Corrasion : downward action which deepens the river channel.
  • Corrosion or Solution : chemical  action of water on soluble or partly soluble rocks. Eg Calcium Carbonate in limestone is  dissolved & removed in solution .
  • Attrition : This is wear and tear of transported material themselves when they  collide against one another. 
  • Hydraulic Action :  This refers to mechanical action of water. Eg when water splashes against river banks , surges into cracks & disintegrate the rocks .

River deposition

  • When the velocity of the stream decreases, the stream deposits sand, silt and other fragments
  • When a river moves in a gentle slope, its speed reduces and river begins to deposit its load.
  • The river starts depositing larger materials first and smaller and finer materials are carried further down to the mouth of the river.

Course of a River

Course of River

Upper or Mountain Course /Youthful Stage

In this stage

  • Predominant Work = Erosion
  • Predominant action = vertical corrasion.

Landforms formed in this stage

1. Valleys

1.1 V-Shaped Valley

  • In upper course, vertical corrasion is at work . Downward cutting takes place so rapidly that lateral corrasion can’t keep pace. After some time, the loosened material slowly creeps downward and takes shape of V.
  • The valley thus developed is deep , narrow & distinctively V-Shaped.

1.2 Gorges / I-shaped Valley

  • In some cases,  rocks are very resistant and hence afterward loosening don’t take place (because of resistant rock). The  valley formed is so narrow & sides are so steep that gorges are formed .
  • Eg : Indus Gorge in Kashmir .

1. 3 Canyons

  • Canyons are extended form of gorges.
  • In arid regions, where there is little to widen the valley sides and river cuts deep into the valley floors , precipitous valleys called Canyons are formed.
  • Eg Grand Canyon of Colorado river in Arizona state of USA .
Grand Canyon

2. Falls

2.1 Rapids

  • These can form in any part of river course but are more numerous in mountain course.
  • They are formed when there are different layers of hard rock and soft rocks . Due to unequal resistance of hard & soft rocks , there is unequal erosion of both set of rocks . The hard rocks will make river to jump and fall down 

2.2 Cataract

  • Falls similar to rapids but of greater dimensions are referred to as Cataracts.
  • There are 5 along the Nile that interrupt the smooth navigation.

2.3 Waterfalls

  • When rivers plunge down in a sudden fall of some height , they are known as waterfalls. Their force usually wears out a plunge pool beneath .
  • They can be formed in various ways
    • When a bar of resistant rock lies transversely across a river valley . Eg Niagara Falls in US
    • At fault line across river. Eg Victoria falls on River Zambezi
    • When river plunges down the edge of a plateau like River Congo .

3. Entrenched /Incised Meanders

  • These are formed when downcutting process is slow & river cause lateral erosion leading to asymmetric valley formation .
  • Note : These are different from meanders which occur due to both erosion and deposition. In this, only erosion  takes place. 
Incised Meanders

Middle or Valley Course /Mature Stage

In Middle Course,

  • In Middle Course, Erosion  , Transportation and deposition is done by the river .
  • But amount of erosion is very lower than Youthful stage and in that too, Lateral Corrasion tends to replace vertical corrasion.
  • The volume of the water increases with the confluence of many tributaries & this increases the river’s load.
  • Predominant work of the river =  predominantly transportation with some deposition (main deposition happen in Oldage Stage).

Landforms formed in Middle Stage

1 . Alluvial Fans

  • Alluvial fans  are formed when streams flowing from higher levels break into foot slope plains of low gradient. Normally very coarse load is carried by streams flowing over mountain slopes. This load becomes too heavy for the streams to be carried over gentler  gradients and gets dumped and spread as a broad low to high cone shaped deposit called alluvial fan.
  • Examples : Alluvial fans are found in Kosi river when it enters Bihar just after exiting Himalayas
Alluvial Fans

2. Alluvial Cone

  • As the velocity of river decreases, its transportation capacity also decreases. Due to this decline deposition starts in Foot Hills. This deposition forms Alluvial Cones.
  • It is same as alluvial fan but slope is more (between 10 to 50 degree)

3. Flood Plains

  • Rivers in their course carry large quantities of sediments . During annual or sporadic floods, these materials are spread over the low lying adjacent areas.
  • A layer of sediment is thus deposited during each flood , gradually building up a fertile flood plain.
Flood Plains

4. Levees

  • With the continuous deposition of soil on the banks by the river, the level of banks rises and they look like natural dams known as levees . 
  • During flooding as the water spills over the bank, the velocity of the water comes down and large sized and high specific gravity materials get dumped in the immediate vicinity of the bank as ridges. They are high nearer the banks and slope gently away from the river

Lower or Plain Course /Old Age stage

In Lower/Oldage Course,

  • River moving downstream across a broad and level plain is heavy with debris brought down from the upper course . Hence, work of the river is mainly deposition, building up its bed & forming extensive flood plains.
  • Vertical corrasion has almost ceased though some lateral corrasion still goes on to erode its bank (like in Meanders).

Landforms formed in Later Stage

1 . Meanders

  • A meander is a winding curve or bend in a river.
  • Meanders are the result of both erosional and depositional processes.(explained in diagram below)
  • The irregularities of the ground , force the river to swing in loops.  Once the channel begins to flow in sinusoidal path , the amplitude & concavity of loop increases rapidly due to dense erosion occurring at the outside and deposition occurring inside .
  • Note : Meanders can be found in Middle as well as Later Stage

2. Ox-bow Lakes

  • An oxbow lake is U-shaped body of water that forms when a wide meander from the main stream of river is cut off creating free standing body of water.
  • It has different nomenclature at different places – Billabong in Australia, Rasacas in Texas etc
  • Both meanders and ox bow lakes are formed both in middle and lower course. Ox Bow is more commonly found in lower course .
Oxbow Lake

3. Braided Streams

  • A braided stream is one which does not flow in a single definite channel but rather a network of everchanging, branching and reuniting channels.
  • Thread-like streams of water rejoin and subdivide repeatedly to give a typical braided pattern

4. Delta

  • When a river reaches the sea , the fine material it has not yet dropped are deposited at its mouth , forming a fan shaped alluvial area known as Delta .
  • This alluvial tract is , infact , a seaward extension of the flood plain.
  • Delta extend sideways and seaward at an amazing rate . The River Po extends its delta by over 40 feet a year
  • (GK) Ganges Brahmaputra delta is the largest delta in the world.

Deltas differ in their size , shape , growth & importance. A number of factors such as the rate of sedimentation , the depth of the river  & sea bed and character of  tides , currents & waves greatly influence formation of Delta.

Different type of Deltas

a. Bird’s foot Delta

  • Deposited alluvial material divides the river into smaller distributaries. Several distributaries look like the foot of a bird.
  • Example : Mississippi is example.
Bird Foot Delta

b. Arcuate shaped Delta

  • Delta  look fan shaped with numerous distributaries
  • Examples are Amazon, Ganga & Mekong.
Arcuate Delta

c. Estuarine Delta

  • When river has their deltas submerged in coastal waters (mainly due to submerged coast like India’s western coast) or don’t have much deposition to form delta.
  • Most of India’s west flowing rivers originating in Western Ghats.
Estuarine Delta

d. Cuspate Delta

  • Have tooth like projection at their mouth.
  • Example : Ebro of Spain.
Cuspate Delta

Conditions favourable for formation of deltas are

  • Active vertical & lateral erosion in upper course to provide  sediments to be eventually deposited as Deltas.
  • The sea adjoining the delta should be shallow or else the load will disappear in the deep waters.
  • The coast should be sheltered, preferably tideless.
  • There should be no large lakes in the river course to filter off the sediments.
  • There should be no strong current running at right angle to the river mouth.

Importance of Deltas

a. Ecological importance

  • Deltas absorb runoff from both floods (from rivers) and storms (from lakes or the ocean), filter water and thus reduces the impact of pollution flowing from upstream.
  • Deltas are also important wetland habitats. They support extremely diverse and specialized flora and fauna and are areas of dense forests.  

b. Economic importance

  • Deltas are important places for trade and commerce, and major ports.
  • Deltas due to rich accumulation of silt are fertile agricultural areas. World’s largest delta is the Ganges–Brahmaputra delta in India and Bangladesh,  is densely populated supporting livelihood of millions. Fish, other seafood, and crops such as rice and tea are leading agricultural products of the delta.
  • Deltas possess well sorted sand and gravel which is quarried.
  • Due to their diversity they are centres of tourism and recreation.

Threat to Deltas

  • Diversion of water for irrigation and creation of dams reduce sedimentation, which can cause delta to erode away.
  • Climate change and rising sea level – rising sea level flood deltas bringing in saline water and threatening wetland ecosystem. For example nearly 31 square miles of Sundarbans have vanished entirely due to sea level rise.
  • Use  of water upstream can greatly increase salinity levels as less fresh water flows to meet salty ocean water. 

While nearly all deltas have been impacted to some degree by humans, the Nile Delta and Colorado River Delta are some of the most extreme examples of ecological devastation

Weathering and Mass Movements

Weathering and Mass Movements

This article deals with ‘Weathering and Mass Movements.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Weathering is the action of elements of weather  over earth materials  to reduce them to fragmental state.
  • Very little or no motion take place in them & process is in-situ.
  • There are three major groups of weathering processes :
    1. Chemical
    2. Physical or mechanical
    3. Biological  weathering processes.

1. Chemical Weathering

a. Solution

  • When something is dissolved in water  , it is called solution.

b. Hydration

  • Hydration is the chemical addition of water. Minerals take up water and expand
  • Calcium sulphate takes in water and turns to gypsum, which is more unstable  

c. Oxidation & Reduction

  • Oxidation means a combination of a mineral with oxygen to form oxides or hydroxides.  Eg : Oxidation of  iron to form rust
  • When oxidised minerals are placed in an environment where oxygen is absent, reduction takes place. Such conditions exist usually below the water table, in areas of stagnant water and waterlogged ground. 

d. Carbonation

  • Carbonation leads to dissolution of Carbon Dioxide into water to form Carbonic Acids which will dissolve calcium and magnesium compounds

2. Physical Weathering

Physical Weathering is the disintegration of rock mainly induced by elements of weather and natural forces.

Physical weathering can be further divided into following categories :-

  • Gravitational forces such as overburden pressure, load and shearing stress.
  • Expansion forces due to temperature changes => Rocks expand during day and contract during night in arid and semi-arid regions=> the rocks  crack and eventually splits up.
  • Exfoliation : Rocks generally heat or cool more on the surface layers. The alternate changes in temperature could cause their outer layers to peel off from the main mass of the rock in concentric layers just as the skin of an onion.
  • Frost wedging : when water freezes, it expands. As water expands between the rock wedges expand, it puts great pressure on rocks resulting in weathering.
  • Water  pressures controlled by wetting and drying

3. Biological Weathering

Weathering due to growth or movement of organisms.

  • Burrowing &wedging by organisms like earthworms, termites, rodents etc. => exposing  new surfaces to chemical attack  
  • Human beings by disturbing vegetation, ploughing and cultivating soils=> this creates  new contacts 
  • Plant roots exert great pressure breaking rocks apart.

Importance of Weathering

Ecological Importance

  • Weathering is the initial stage in the formation of soil. It breaks down the initial rock mass into smaller fragments thus preparing the rock material for the formation of soil.
  • Trees are able to ‘mine’ essential nutrients such as calcium through their association with symbiotic mycorrhizae through small pores in the mineral soil, which is possible only due to weathering.
  • Erosion, with the aid of weathering, helps in mass wasting and reduction of relief. This leads to modifications in various landforms.

Economic Importance

  • It leads to the formation of various natural resources such as clay used in making bricks.
  • Placer deposits are formed due to weathering . These placer deposits are source of rare earth metals, thorium etc
  • It weakens the rocks, thus facilitating the mining and quarrying activities

Hence, we can say that although weathering is a disintegrating process yet it plays an integral role in sustaining life on earth.

Mass Movement

  • These movements transfer the mass of rock debris down the slopes under the direct influence of gravity ( happens only under influence of gravity & no other geomorphic agent is involved)
  • Weathering is not a prerequisite for mass movement although it aids mass movements. Mass movements are very active over weathered slopes .

Mass Movement can be grouped under two classes

1 . Slow Movement

  • Creep : Occur on moderately steep, soil covered slopes.  Movement of materials is extremely slow and imperceptible except through extended observation.
  • Solifluction : Slow downslope movement of soil mass  saturated  with water.  Quite common in moist temperate areas

2. Rapid Movement

Mostly prevalent in humid climatic regions with gentle to steep slopes.

  • Earthflow : Movement of water-saturated earth materials down hillsides. Arcuate scarps at  heads & accumulation bulge at the toe are observed in this.
  • Mudflow : Mudflow is a liquid mass of soil, rock debris and water that moves quickly down a well defined channel. Mudflow  originating on a volcanic slope is called a lahar.
  • Debris avalanche  : characteristic of humid regions with steep slopes. These are rapidly  churning mass of rock debris, soil, water, and air that moves down steep slopes. The trapped air may increase the speed of an avalanche by acting as a cushion between the debris and the underlying surface. They are much faster and deadlier than Earthflow & Mudflow
  • Rock falls : Rock falls occur when pieces of rock break from a cliff. It may result due to Frost wedging . Accumulation  of rock debris at the base of a steep slope is called talus.
  • Landslides : Landslides occur when a large piece of rock breaks off and slides down hill. It can be initiated by heavy rainfall or earthquake.
  • Slump : Great mass of bed rock moves downward by rotational slip from a high cliff
Mass Movement

Question – Why more Landslides & Debris Avalanches occur in Himalayas compared to Western Ghats?

  • There are many reasons for this. 
    • One, the Himalayas are tectonically active. 
    • They are mostly made up of unconsolidated and semi-consolidated deposits
    • The slopes are very steep.

Question : Compared to the Himalayas, the Nilgiris bordering Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Kerala and the Western Ghats along the west coast are relatively tectonically stable and are mostly made up of very hard rocks; but, still, debris avalanches and landslides occur although not as frequently as in  the Himalayas, in these hills.  Why? 

  • Many slopes are steeper with almost vertical cliffs and escarpments in the Western Ghats and Nilgiris.
  • Mechanical  weathering due to temperature changes and ranges is pronounced. 
  • They receive heavy amounts of rainfall over short periods. So, there is almost direct rock fall quite frequently in these places along with landslides and debris avalanches.

Rocks and Minerals

Rocks and Minerals

This article deals with ‘Rocks and Minerals.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Naturally occurring organic and inorganic substance, having an orderly atomic structure and a definite chemical composition and physical properties.
  • Composed of two or more elements. But, sometimes single element minerals like sulphur, silver, gold, graphite etc. are found
  • Magma is the source of almost all minerals.

Types of Minerals

a. Metallic Minerals

These minerals contain metals and can be sub-divided into

Precious Metals gold, silver, platinum
Ferrous Metals iron and other metals often mixed with iron to form various kinds of steel.
Non-Ferrous Metals include metals like copper, lead, zinc, tin, aluminium etc.

b. Non-Metallic Minerals

  • These minerals do not contain metal content.
  • Sulphur, phosphates and nitrates are examples of non-metallic minerals.
  • Cement is a mixture of non-metallic minerals.


  • A rock is an aggregate of one or more minerals.
  • Rocks do not have definite composition of mineral constituents.
  • Petrology is the science of rocks.
  • The age of the rock is determined based on Carbon-14 dating.

Type of rocks

a. Igneous Rocks

  • Igneous rocks (Ignis in Latin means ‘Fire’) are formed when magma cools and solidifies.
  • They  are known as primary rocks
  • Igneous rocks are classified based on texture. 
    1. If cooled slowly at great depths : Large grains  
    2. Sudden cooling (at the surface) :  small grains.
    3. Intermediate  cooling : intermediate size of grains .
  • Granite, gabbro, pegmatite, basalt, volcanic breccia and tuff are some of the examples of igneous rocks.

b. Sedimentary Rocks

  • Formed by lithification of sediments
  • They are also known as detrital rocks
  • Examples : sandstoneshale, loess , chalk, coal , limestone etc

c. Metamorphic Rocks

  • Metamorphic rocks are formed when already consolidated rocks undergo reorganization in structure due to excessive pressure (through the process called Metamorphism)
  • Eg : Gneiss, syenite, slate, schist, marble, quartzite, anthracite, diamond  etc.

Igneous  and metamorphic rocks together account for 95 percent of the earth while rest 5% are sedimentary rocks.

Rock Cycle

Rocks do not remain in their original form for long but may undergo transformation.  Rock cycle is a continuous process through which old rocks are transformed into new ones.

Rock Cycle



This article deals with ‘Volcanoes.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

What are volcanoes?

A volcano is an opening in the earth’s crust through which magma, gases and ash are released to the earth’s surface.

Related terminology

Magma The molten rock material found in the interior of the earth is called magma.
Lava When magma reaches the earth’s surface, it is known as lava.
Vent Vent is an opening or mouth of a volcano.
Fumaroles Fumaroles are the gushing fumes (fume = smoke) through the gap in the vicinity of volcano.
Fumaroles are often in the neighbourhood of volcanoes.
Crater Crater is a saucer shaped depression in the mouth of a volcano.
Caldera When the crater is widened, it is called as Caldera
Volcanic Ash Volcanic ash consists of fragments of pulverized rock, minerals and volcanic glass, created during volcanic eruptions.

Causes of Volcanism

  • Weak Zones in the Earth Crust: The parts of the earth where two tectonic plates collide against or drift apart from each other are considered very weak. Volcanoes may erupt in such zones, for example, African and Eurasian plates.
  • Magma Saturated with Gases : The magma, in the interior of the earth, is often found saturated with gases like carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulphide. These gases together with water vapour make the magma highly explosive. Magma is forced out as lava on the surface of the earth due to the pressure exerted by these gases.

Basaltic Eruption vs Andesitic Eruption

Basaltic Eruption Andesitic Eruption
Occur at mid oceanic ridge & Hotspot volcanism Occur at Volcanic Island arcs & volcanic mountains
Basalt is highly fluid & mobile Andesite is less fluid & less mobile
Spread across easily Solidifies at short distance
Quite eruption Explosive eruption
Form plateaus and island groups. Forms volcanic peaks

Types of Volcanoes

1 . Classification on basis of form developed

Volcanoes are classified on the basis of nature of eruption and the form developed at the surface.

a . Shield Volcanoes

  • These are made up of basalt, a type of lava that is very fluid when erupted. Since Basalt is very fluid , it make these volcanoes less steep.
  • Eg : Hawaiian volcanoes are the most famous examples.
  • They become explosive if water gets into the vent; otherwise, they are characterised by low-explosivity.
Shield Volcano

b. Composite Volcanoes

  • Composite volcanoes are  cone-shaped volcanoes composed of different layers of lava, ash and rock debris.
  • Magma which erupt in this case is Andesitic in nature . Hence, eruption is violent and explosive. Along with that, Andesitic lava is less fluid making the Composite volcanoes very steep.
  • Along with lava, large quantities of pyroclastic material also comes out.
  • Examples include Mt Stromboli , Mt Vesuvius, Mt St Helens, Mt Fuji etc.
Composite Volcanoes

c. Caldera

  • These are the most explosive of the earth’s volcanoes.
  • They are usually so explosive that when they erupt they tend to collapse on themselves .The collapsed depressions are called calderas.

d. Flood Basalt Provinces

  • These volcanoes out-pour highly fluid lava that flows for long distances. 
  • There can be a series of flows with some flows attaining thickness of more than 50 m. 
  • Deccan Traps from India,  covering most of the Maharashtra plateau, are a  flood basalt province. 

e. Mid Oceanic Ridge Volcanoes

  • These volcanoes occur in the oceanic areas at points where Oceanic – Oceanic tectonic plates diverges. 
  • There is a system of mid-ocean ridges more than 70,000 km long that stretches through all the ocean basins.
  • The central portion of this ridge experiences frequent but peaceful eruptions.
Mid Oceanic Ridge

2. Classification on Basis of Periodicity of eruption

a. Active Volcanoes

  • Volcanoes which erupt frequently.
  • Generally, their vent remains open.
  • Examples : Mount Etna of Italy, Cotopaxi in Ecuador (highest volcano) and many others situated in Pacific ring of fire .

b. Dormant Volcanoes

  • These volcanoes may not have erupted in the recent past but there is a possibility of eruption at any time.
  • Examples : Mt. Vesuvius of Italy , Mt. Fujiyama of Japan and Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

c. Extinct Volcanoes

  • These volcanoes have exhausted their energy and have  not erupted during the known geological period.
  • Their Crater is generally filled with water making it a lake.
  • Examples : Popa in Myanmar and Mt. Kenya in eastern Africa

Recent Volcanic Activities

Barren Island Barren Island is in Andaman .
It again became active in 2017
Earlier, it became active in  1991 and 1995.  
Anak Krakatau   It is in Indonesia
Latest eruption happened in April 2020
Note : greatest volcanic explosion known to humans is  Mt. Krakatau in August 1883.  
Vulcan de Fuego Volcanic eruption happened in June 2018
Here , Cocos plate is subducting under Caribbean plate.
It lies in the Pacific Ring of Fire in Guatemala    
Kilauea Volcano Kilauea Volcano is situated in Hawaii .
It erupted in May 2018  
Mount Agung and Mount Sinabung – They are in Bali
– Eruption happen due to Oceanic -Oceanic Convergence of Indo-Australia and Sunda Plates
– Volcanic eruptions happened in whole of 2018

Distribution of Volcanism

a. Ring of Fire

  • Pacific Ring of Fire is the Circum-Pacific region that has the greatest concentration of active volcanoes. Two-third of world’s volcanoes lie here.
  • Volcanoes are found here due to Oceanic -Oceanic & Oceanic-Continental Plate convergence .
Oceanic – Oceanic Convergence Results in formation of Volcanic Island Arcs.
Oceanic -Continental  Convergence. Volcanoes are formed

b. Mid Atlantic Region

  • Formed due to Oceanic -Oceanic plate divergence .
  • Basaltic Eruptions  happens here which  are peaceful in nature .
  • Mid Oceanic Ridge Volcanoes are found here.
Mid Oceanic Ridge

c. Great Rift Valley

  • In Africa some volcanoes are found along the East African Rift Valley. 
  • Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya are extinct volcanoes. The only active volcano in West Africa is Mt. Cameroon.
Great Rift Valley

d. Mediterranean Volcanism

  • Volcanoes of the Mediterranean region are mainly associated with the Alpine folds.
  • Examples : Mt. Vesuvius,  Mt. Stromboli (known as the Light House of the Mediterranean Sea

e. Hotspot  Volcanoes

  • These have to do with plate tectonics .
  • In these volcanoes, magma from  the deep mantle come outside directly through plume  .
  • Lava is of Basaltic nature => Shield Volcanoes are formed in this activity which are not explosive.
  • Their location remains fixed but plates on them can move leading to formation of island arcs or plateau depending upon conditions .
In Oceans Island Arc
On Continents Volcanic Plateau 
  • Eg Hawaii, Reunion Island , Kurile, Aleutian island , Iceland , Yellowstone (US Continental)

Lava / Volcanic Plateaus

  • When Lava  is basaltic (like in case of hotspots) , it can  flow easily . It will keep on forming layer above layer.
  • When this process goes on for large amount of time ,Lava Plateau is created .
  • Eg: Deccan Plateau was formed in this way when Indian plate passed over Reunion Island hotspot during the cretaceous period.
Location of Volcanic Plateaus

Side Topic : Formation of Deccan Plateau

  • During Cretaceous Period , Indian Plate was moving northward and passed over Reunion islands (near Madagascar island in Indian Ocean)
  • Hotspot  volcanism was active over there which resulted in outpour of highly basaltic lava at that point . As the plate movement was extremely slow, India remained over the Reunion hotspot for a considerable long time which led to Basaltic deposits in Deccan area  . Hence , Deccan Basaltic Plateau formed.
  • 16-17 percent of India is under Deccan traps.

Intrusive Volcanic Landforms

We have studied about various landforms made by the volcanoes on the surface of earth. But volcanoes make large number of landforms inside the earth’s crust. These are called Intrusive Volcanic Landforms.

Intrusive Volcanic landforms are formed when magma  fails to come out and solidifies under the Earth’s crust . Some of the landforms formed are as follows :-

a. Batholiths

  • Batholiths are large rock domes formed due to cooling and solidification of hot magma inside the earth.
  • They appear on the surface only after the denudational processes remove the overlying materials
  • They are granitic in origin.

b. Laccoliths

  • Laccoliths are formed when magma solidifies in cracks of sediments and take concave shape/ dome like shape
  • Karnataka plateau is spotted with dome hills of granite rocks. These are exposed Laccoliths .

c. Phacoliths

  • Phacoliths are formed when magma is filled in anticlines and synclines of folded mountains.

d. Sills

  • Sills are parallelly solidified lava layers in  sedimentary rocks in the interiors of Earth.

e. Dykes

  • Longitudinally solidified magma in rocks is known as dyke.

Importance of Volcanic Activity

  • Volcanism creates new landforms (all the landforms we have seen above)
  • Volcanic rocks yield very fertile soil upon weathering and decomposition. For example black soil of Deccan Plateau in India is made for volcanic rocks and it is best suited to grow cotton .
  • Source of Diamonds :  Eg – Kimberlite rock of South Africa, the source of diamonds, is the pipe of an ancient volcano.
  • Geothermal Energy : In the vicinity of active volcanoes, waters in the depth are heated from contact with hot magma giving rise to springs and geysers. The Puga valley in Ladakh region and Manikaran (Himachal Pradesh) are promising spots in India for the generation of geothermal electricity.
  • Volcanism has also helped in the formation of atmosphere in the past. (How? – explained below)

Importance of Volcanic Activity in atmosphere formation in the past

  • Degassing : Volcanic activity released essential gasses such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, ammonia and very little free oxygen from the interior of the earth through a process called degassing.  
  • Volcanic eruptions injected ash and sulphur-rich aerosol clouds into the atmosphere which shaded sunlight and reduced the amount of solar radiation reaching the Earth’s surface thus cooling the planet. As the earth cooled, water vapor condensed to form rain dissolving carbon dioxide and other gases.

Side Topic : Impact of Volcanic eruptions on Climate Change

  • Volcanic eruptions pour sulfur dioxide and other particles into the stratosphere. Gases react with water to form aerosols that linger in the stratosphere, reflecting sunlight and heat from the sun and thus lowering temperatures in the troposphere
  • Intense volcanism has significantly increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and causes global warming. Volcanic eruptions produce more than 100 million tons CO2 each year.   For Example: The 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helena vented approximately 10 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in only 9 hours. 
  • Dark lava flow absorbs more of the solar energy (low albedo) , so a large enough lava flow could warm a local region. 

—> Volcanoes can have both a cooling and warming effect on climate. However, in the long term frequent volcanic eruptions will have a net effect of cooling the earth and counter global warming.



This article deals with ‘Plains.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


  • Plain is an extensive tract of flat and or a gently undulating terrain without prominent hills or depressions.
  • They are formed both by internal forces of the Earth and by external processes of aggradation and degradation.
  • They range in size from very small to a very large areas.
  • The great centres of population of the world are on plains. Development of means of communications and transportation facilities is easier in the plains. Hence, these are best known areas for human habitation. 

Types of Plains

Plains are best classified according to their origin

1 . Diastrophic Plains

  • Plains formed on regions that were once submerged under ocean or sea. 
  • Example : Great plains of U.S.A which extend till Canada were  formed due to upliftment submerged landmasses under epicontinental seas and were uplifted at the end of Cretaceous period to due tectonic movements . They have deposits of horizontal thick beds of Marine sediments

2. Peneplains

  • Undulating  surface of low relief, interspersed with occasional residual hills and claimed to have been formed due to erosion by rivers and rain.
  • Example include East Central Africa

3. Flood Plains

  • Flood Plain is that part of river valley adjacent to the channel, over which a river flows in times of floods.
  • Floodplain is composed of Alluvium
  • Examples : Indo-Gangetic plain and the plains of Mississippi, Amazon, Nile, Hwang-Ho, Yangtze Ob, , Lena, Volga rivers 

4. Delta Plains

  • As rivers draw near seas to disappear in them, their flow goes dead slow. It necessities the waters to deposit all types of materials being carried by it. Such depositions are made in triangular shape which resembles to Greek word ‘Delta’.
  • These plains are the most fertile plains of the world.
  • Examples : Sundarbans of Ganga and Brahmaputra, Deltas of Nile and Mississippi etc.

5. Aeolian Plains

  • Aeolian plains are plains formed by either erosive or depositional action of winds
  • Examples
    1. Sahara and Thar
    2. Plains formed by filling of lakes in Kashmir and Manitoba (Canada)
    3. Lava plains of Idaho (U.S.A.)
    4. Plains of Mecca & Medina

Importance of Plains

  • Plains are the ‘cradles of civilizations’ and the ‘food baskets’ of the world with 80% of population living in plains, i.e., Prairies (U.S.A), Steppes, Pustaz (Europe), Veld (South Africa), Great Indo-Gangetic Plains of India, Downs (Australia), Canterbury plains of New Zealand
  • Undulating and fertile land of plains is beneficial for conducting agricultural activities and irrigation
  • Developing means of transport like building roads, lying railways, preparing air strips etc. is  easy in plains.
  • Industry and other commercial activities are more easy to be carried out in plains.



This article deals with ‘Mountains.’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Folding and Faulting

Process of mountain formation involves concepts of Folding and Faulting. Hence, we will first learn about these concepts.

1 . Folding

  • Folding is the bending of rock strata due to compression.
  • Folding on a large scale results in mountain building referred to as orogeny
  • Up thrown part of a fold is called anticline. Down thrown part of a fold is syncline. The side of the fold is a limb

Types of folding

Symmetrical fold When compressional force is equal from both sides, the angle of the limb is same on both sides.
Asymmetrical fold When compressional force is more from one end, one limb is steeper than the other.
Isoclinal folds similar to symmetrical folds, but these folds both have the same angle and are parallel to each other
Over turned fold When one limb of the fold is pushed over the other limb of the fold, it is called as over turned fold.
Recumbent fold When one side of the fold is pushed so much that it lies positioned over the other
A. Open (Symmetrical) 
D. Recumbent 
B. Asymmetrical 
E. Isoclinal

2. Faulting

A fault is a break in earth’s crust where blocks of rock crust slide past each other.

Types of Faults

2.1 Normal Fault

  • Vertical displacement of the crust is called a normal fault.
  • Normal fault is caused by tensional forces where plates diverge.
  • One block lies above and  other block lies below the fault
Normal Fault

Landforms made by Normal fault are:

  1. Rift Valley or Graben : When a narrow block of land drops or subsides between two parallel normal faults, rift valley (Graben) is formed. Eg : River Rhine Rift valley between Black Forest and Vosges, Narmada Rift Valley between Satpura and Vindhya and Great African Rift Valley
  2. Horst : When a block of land between two faults is pushed up, block mountain or horst is formed. In this case, the central block is not only up thrown but the side blocks are also relatively downthrown . Eg : Mountains Vindhya and Satpura.
Horst and Graben
Horst and Graben

2.2. Reverse Fault

  • Reverse fault is a horizontal displacement of the crust.
  • It is caused by compressional forces
Reverse Fault

2.3 Shear Fault

It is created by shearing along transform boundaries. Rocks on either side of fault slip past each other sideways with little up or down motion

Shear Fault

Classification of Mountain Ranges of the world

Mountains can be categorised in different ways

1 . Classification of Mountains on the basis of height


2. Classification on basis of location


3. On basis of period of formation

We have to note the fact that Mountains are born & have finite life span like

Young mountains High, steep & growing upward (like Himalayas and other Alpine mountains).
Middle aged mountains Cut by erosion
Old mountains Deeply eroded & often buried (like Aravalli, Appalachians etc)

Types of Mountains on basis of formation

 Based on difference in process of their formation, there are following types of mountains :-

  1. Fold Mountains
  2. Bock Mountains
  3. Volcanic Mountains
  4. Domed Mountains

1 . Fold Mountains

Fold Mountains

Folded mountains are formed due to folding of crustal rocks by compressive forces generated by the convergence of tectonic plates. Eg :

  • Convergence of Indo-Australian and Eurasian plate leads to the formation of Himalayas.
  • Convergence of American and Pacific plate leads to formation of Rockies
  • Convergence of South American and Nazca  plate leads to formation Andes 

Process of their formation is known as Orogeny. It is not a continuously happening process in the geological past but it happens intermittently. In whole of the geological past, total 9 Orogenies have happened of which last four are important for us

  1. Pre-Cambrian Orogeny ( Laurentian , Algoma etc)
  2. Caledonian (Aravallis, Appalachian etc )
  3. Hercynian Orogeny (mountains include Mountains of Iberian Peninsula, Spanish Messeta etc )
  4. Alpine Orogeny (they are the youngest and are still rising. Mountains include Andes, Rockies, Himalayas, Alps, Atlas etc)

Characteristics of Fold Mountains

  • Extensive mountain chain spread over  large area .
  • They are of great height .
  • Formed along unstable parts of earth and plates are active there . Hence, earthquakes are quite common in this region.
  • Sedimentary deposits of marine origin are also found in this    .

Fold Mountains also have age – 

  • Himalayas are one of the youngest ranges & that is why they are so high .
  • Aravalli is one of  oldest mountain range . After million of years Aravalli is still standing , this vouches for its great heights during youthful stage ( which might be even higher than Himalayas ) 

Side Topic : Phases in formation of Mountain Ranges

1st Stage : Oceanic-Continental Collision

  • Convergence of Ocean & Continental Plate.
  • This will lead to formation of mountains on the Continent-Ocean margin.
  • Examples include Andes Mountain at convergence of Nazca and South American plate.
Oceanic-Continental Collision

2nd Stage : Development of Geo-Syncline

  • This is developed between Mountains & Trench .
  • In this , sediments from river as well as from ocean keep on accumulating
  • And geo-syncline is formed

3rd Stage : Continental -Continental Collision

  • Ultimately whole of ocean plate will be subsumed . 
  • Then continental continental plates will collide  and compressive forces cause folding of  Continental Crust along with  squeezing and folding of sediments and material at the Geo-Syncline (reason why Marine Sediments are found in Fold mountains)
Continental -Continental Collision

2. Block Mountains

Block Mountain formation
  • Block mountains are formed due to faulting in the ground surface. In this case, the central block is not only up thrown but the side blocks are also relatively downthrown
  • Block Mountains represent the Horst with Rift valley or Graben on either sides.
  • Examples include
    1. Sierra Nevada mountains of California (USA)
    2. Salt range of Pakistan,
    3. Rhine rift valley in Europe
    4. Vindhya and Satpura in India

3. Volcanic Mountains

  • Volcanic Mountains are formed due to Volcanic Activities
  • Examples include Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa, Mount Fujiyama etc
  • They are formed with the consolidation of Andesitic  magma coming out of earth’s crust

4. Upwarped (domed) Mountains

  • Formed by  upwarding of surface due to pressure on crust from below
  • Example : Adirondack mountains of New York.
Upwarped Mountains

Side Topic : Isostasy

It is seen that heavily snow covered glacial regions in the Polar belts (eg Norway, Greenland) tend to rise up over long period with the melting of the snow (rebound). Why?

Isostasy is the phenomenon of rebound of the earth’s crust in regions where elevation is reduced due to degradation and relative erosive processes. Here , the rebound compensates reduction in height

Since, Tectonic Plate is floating on Asthenosphere , when mountain is eroded or snow melts there is lowering of mass and hence rebounding of the tectonic plate upwards happen


Importance of Mountains

  • Mountains cover 27% of earth’s continents and 20% of population resides here making it an important part of human civilization
  • Mountains are great source of resources like Hydroelectricity, Wood, Medicinal plants, wild animals/insects, fruits etc.
  • Most of the perennial rivers of the world originate in mountains like Ganga, Brahmaputra, Rhine, Hwang Ho , etc.  Human civilizations were made possible by the rivers originating in mountains since most of the old civilizations like Indus valley civilization, Mesopotamian Civilisation (Euphrates) , Egyptian Civilization (Nile) etc flourished on the banks of these rivers
  • Mountains are source of attraction for tourism related activities. Large number of people visit mountainous regions as tourists and also helps in generation of employment in those regions.
  • They have religious and cultural significance as well. For example, Himalayas are abode to many Hindu gods like Shiva.
  • Mountains have their lasting effect over climate of any region. In India, the Himalayas contribute very importantly for rainfall not only through Monsoon winds but through cyclones also.



This article deals with ‘Earthquakes .’ This is part of our series on ‘Geography’ which is important pillar of GS-1 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here


Sudden release of energy in Earth’s crust, which leads to series of motions due to  waves created by the released  energy is called Earthquake. Hence , it is nothing but release of energy.


Hypocentre/ Focus Point inside surface where earthquake is generated by first rock displacement & fault is created.
Epicentre Point on earths surface which is directly above hypocentre. Most destruction occurs here.

Earthquakes occur in three forms of clusters

Foreshocks Occur before a larger one at same location.
Mainshocks Are of highest magnitude & occur within an hour of foreshock.
Aftershocks Are smaller quakes that occur at same general geographic location for days & even years after the larger main shock

Types of Earthquake

1 . Types  based on causes

a. Tectonic Earthquake

  • Most common type are the tectonic earthquakes.
  • These are generated due to sliding of rocks along a fault plane.

b. Volcanic Earthquake

  • Due to volcanic eruption.
  • But confined to areas having active volcanoes .

c. Collapse Earthquakes

  • In the areas of intense mining activity, sometimes the roofs of underground mines collapse causing minor tremors.

d. Explosion Earthquake

  • Ground shaking may also occur due to the explosion of chemical or nuclear devices.

e. Human Induced Earthquake

  • Earthquakes that occur due to human activities
    1. Reservoir induced seismicity
    2. Mining related seismicity
    3. Groundwater extraction related earthquake

Types on basis of depth

a. Shallow focus

  • Hypocentre is upto 70 km
  • Not felt away from epicentre
  • Cause maximum destruction in the region near epicentre (energy released is close to surface)

b. Medium focus

  • Hypocentre is from 70 to 300 km
  • Distance of impact and destruction potential between deep focus and shallow focus.

c. Deep Focus

  • Hypocentre is below 300 km
  • Felt upto large distance from epicentre
  • Cause low destruction

Side Topic : Why maximum destruction is near the epicentre?

As one moves away from the epicentre, wavelength of surface wave will increase. Hence, building situated near the epicentre will fall on both crest and trough of wave causing building to collapse while building situated away from the epicentre will either fall entirely on crest or trough not doing much damage.

maximum destruction near epicentre

Effects of Earthquake

Earthquake is a natural hazard. The following are the immediate hazardous effects of earthquake:

  • Ground Shaking
  • Land and mud slides.
  • Soil liquefaction.
  • Ground lurching .
  • Avalanches.
  • Ground displacement
  • Floods from dam and levee failures .
  • Fires.
  • Structural collapse.
  • Falling objects
  • Tsunami.
  • Change in course of river
  • Human and property loss
  • Cracks in building

Earthquake Belts in World

Three major earthquake belts in this world :-

Earthquake belts of the world

a. Circum-Pacific  Belt

  • Along a patch surrounding the Pacific ocean
  • Region of great seismic activity eg Japan, Philippines, Chile etc lies here
  • Coincides with Pacific Ring of Fire.

b. Alpine Himalayan Belt

  • Runs through mountainous region that flank Mediterranean Sea extend through Iran & Himalayan mountains
  • Frequent & destructive earthquakes occur here.

c. Other areas

  • Northern Africa
  • Rift Valley areas of the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.

Earthquakes In India

  • India has high frequency of great earthquakes (greater than 8.0) .


  • Tectonic setting of India .
  • Indian plate is moving at a speed of one cm/ year towards the north & north-eastern direction and this movement of plates is being constantly obstructed by the Eurasian plate from the north. As a result of this, both the plates are said to be locked with each other resulting in accumulation of energy .  Excessive accumulation of energy results in building up of stress, which ultimately leads to the breaking up of the lock & sudden release of energy causing earthquake

Region has remained seismically quiet for more than 600-700 years => enormous buildup of strain => Earthquake of magnitude 8.5 or more can hit region in near future

Some Great Earthquakes occurred in India.

1819:Gujarat 8.3  
1897:Assam 8.7 Extensive liquefaction in alleviated plains of Brahmaputra.
1934:Bihar-Nepal 8.4 Extensive liquefaction —-> buildings tilted & slumped bodily into ground.
1967:Koyna 6.5 – 1962 —-> Koyna Dam built —> earlier area was aseismic but after this seismic activity increased—-> dam induced earthquake
– Revision of Indian Seismic was done and in Zone map, Koyana was moved from Zone I to  zone IV & Bombay to Zone III.

Question : What are the reasons for occurrence of earthquakes in geologically inactive regions like Peninsular India ?

  • It is possible that collision of Indian and Eurasian plate has generated stresses not only at boundaries but also inside plate. As a result zones of weakness have formed on the plate.  There is possible breaking up of Indian plate, which is most evident along river Bhima near Latur and Osmanabad, regions experiencing disturbances in the past.
  • Peninsular India is home to some grand dams and reservoirs which have resulted in reservoir induced earthquakes (eg. Koyna Dam).

Measuring the Earthquake

  • The earthquake events are scaled either according to the magnitude or intensity of the shock.
    • The magnitude scale is known as the Richter scale. The magnitude relates to the energy released during the quake. The magnitude is expressed in absolute numbers, 0-10.
    • The intensity scale is named after Mercalli, an Italian seismologist. The intensity scale takes into account the visible damage caused by the event. The range of intensity scale is from 1-12.

1 . Richter Scale

  • Concept of Earthquake magnitude was developed by Richter who invented Richter scale   .
  • It is Base 10 logarithmic scale obtained by calculating logarithm of shaking amplitude of largest displacement from zero Anderson Torsion seismometer at 100 kms from epicenter.
  • Increase in 1 means 10 times more shaking amplitude.
  • Earthquakes with magnitude more than 6 are destructive

2.  Mercalli Scale 

  • Intensity scale is named after Mercalli, an Italian seismologist.
  • Intensity scale takes into account the visible damage caused by the event.
  • The range of intensity scale is from 1-12.
Indian Earthquake Zones

Side Topic: Shindo scale

  • Known as Japanese Meteorological Agency(JMA) seismic intensity scale.
  • Used in Japan & Taiwan.
  • JMA scale tells us about degree of shaking at a point on earths surface .
  • Ranges between Shindo 0(no shaking)  to Shindo 7(most devastating).
  • Same earthquake has different Shindo number at different locations.


  • Earthquake Early warning system will issue warnings 1-40 seconds before earthquakes 
  • Based on detection of  waves generated during an earthquake.
    • P wave is harmless but travels faster than the Surface and S waves which cause maximum destruction
    • This system works on detection of P wave  for advance warning.

India has already installed it in Dehradun .