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Geography

India and the South Indian Peninsula:

The story takes place in South India and allows for the study of Indian geography more generally. Many contrasts with the northern part of North America can be highlighted, included differences in the length of day and night, temperature contrasts, and the influence of two major sea coasts.

Story Location is in an Upland Alluvial Bowl:

The actual story takes place in an inland region which was largely forested and inhabited largely by hunters and gathers until about the tenth century. Tigers were common and there are many folk monuments to brave men who encountered them and fought bravely to defend their small communities.

The Surround is Mostly Dry Scrublands:

This upland area is a recognized and semi-independent region called Kongu. The land is fertile but water is scarce, making agriculture challenging. The farmers traditionally used very deep wells to access the major aquifer that underlies the area. Because of the advent of tube wells and electric pumps, that aquifer is now showing signs of drying up.

Mountains and Monsoons:

The story locale presents an opportunity to discuss the importance of the mountains that surround the story area on all sides. The mountains to the west are those of the Western Ghats and they are very significant for understanding monsoon rain patterns. There is one significant gap in these Ghats where strong winds are common.

A Major River Thoroughfare:

The Kongu region is blessed with one major river: the Kaveri. Its waters arise in a neighbouring state, making for political tussles. The river valley was settled early and there are a number of fine, old temples located along its banks. Canal irrigation using the river as the source was established early on, and so agriculture on lands bordering the river is distinctive. There crops like rice and sugarcane predominate, while away from the river the farmers grow mostly maize, millets and pulses.

An Important Trade Route Crossed the Area For Thousands of Years:

Boats from the Middle East used the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea to access the West Coast of India as early as two thousand years before the birth of Christ. Active trading continued well into the 17th century A.D.. However, because navigation around the tip of India was difficult for sailing ships (due to complex winds and shallow waters) most boats coming from the Middle East stopped near Cochin and then arranged for the portage of their goods using land routes. The Palghat gap allowed easy trail-based access to the Kongu area and from there down the Kaveri to the Coromandel coast. Many finds of Roman coins in the Kongu region attest to the importance of this business activity.