Vindhyas near Mandu, Madhya Pradesh
|Peak||(Sadbhawna Shikhar / Kalumar Peak)|
|Elevation||752 m (2,467 ft)|
|Etymology||"Obstructor" or "Hunter" (Sanskrit)|
|States||Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar|
|Borders on||Satpura Range|
Technically, the Vindhyas do not form a single mountain range in the geological sense. The exact extent of the Vindhyas is loosely defined, and historically, the term covered a number of distinct hill systems in central India, including the one that is now known as the Satpura Range. Today, the term principally refers to the escarpment that runs north of and roughly parallel to the Narmada River in Madhya Pradesh, and its hilly extensions. Depending on the definition, the range extends up to Gujarat in the west, and Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the east.
The Vindhyas have a great significance in Indian religions and history. Several ancient texts mention the Vindhyas as the southern boundary of the Āryāvarta, the territory of the ancient Indo-Aryan peoples. Although today Indo-Aryan languages are spoken to south of the Vindhyas, the range continues to be considered as the traditional boundary between North India and South India. The former Vindhya Pradesh was named after the Vindhya Range.
Etymology and names
According to the author of a commentary on Amarakosha, the word Vindhya derives from the Sanskrit word "Vaindh" (to obstruct). A mythological story (see below) states that the Vindhyas once obstructed the path of the sun, resulting in this name. According to another theory, the name "Vindhya" means "hunter" in Sanskrit, and may refer to the adivasi (tribal) hunter-gatherers inhabiting the region.
The Vindhya range is also known as "Vindhyachal", achal being a Sanskrit word for mountain. In the Mahabharata, the range is also referred to as Vindhyapadaparvata. The Greek geographer Ptolemy called the range Vindius or Ouindion, describing it as the source of Namados (Narmada) and Nanagouna (Tapti) rivers. The "Daksinaparvata" ("Southern Mountain") mentioned in the Kaushitaki Upanishad is also identified with the Vindhyas.
The Vindhyas do not form a single range in the proper geological sense: the hills collectively known as the Vindhyas do not lie along an anticlinal or synclinal ridge. The Vindhya range is actually a group of discontinuous chain of mountain ridges, hill ranges, highlands and plateau escarpments. The term "Vindhyas" is defined by convention, and therefore, the exact definition of the Vindhya range has varied at different times in history.
Earlier, the term "Vindhyas" was used in a wider sense, and included a number of hill ranges between the Indo-Gangetic plain and the Deccan Plateau. According to the various definitions mentioned in the older texts, the Vindhyas extend up to Godavari in the south and Ganges in the north.
In certain Puranas, the term Vindhya specifically covers the mountain range located between the Narmada and the Tapti rivers; that is, the one which is now known as the Satpura Range. The Varaha Purana uses the name "Vindhya-pada" ("foot of the Vindhyas") for the Satpura range.
Several ancient Indian texts and inscriptions (e.g. the Nasik Prasasti of Gautamiputra Satakarni) mention three mountain ranges in Central India: Vindhya (or "Vindhya proper"), Rksa (also Rksavat or Riksha) and Pariyatra (or Paripatra). The three ranges are included in the seven Kula Parvatas ("clan mountains") of Bharatavarsha i.e. India. The exact identification of these three ranges is difficult due to contrasting descriptions in the various texts. For example, the Kurma, Matsya and Brahmanda Puranas mention Vindhya as the source of Tapti; while Vishnu and Brahma Puranas mention the Rksa as its source. Some texts use the term Vindhyas to describe all the hills in Central India.
In one passage, Valmiki's Ramayana describes Vindhya as being situated to the south of Kishkindha (Ramayana IV-46. 17), which is identified with a part of the present-day Karnataka. It further implies that the sea was located just to the south of the Vindhyas, and Lanka was located across this sea. Many scholars have attempted to explain this anamoly in different ways. According to one theory, the term "Vindhyas" covered a number of mountains to the south of the Indo-Aryan territories at the time Ramayana was written. Others, such as Frederick Eden Pargiter, believe that there was another mountain in South India, with the same name. Yet another fringe theory places the location of Lanka in Central India.
Today, the definition of the Vindhyas is primarily restricted to the Central Indian escarpments, hills and highlands located to the north of the Narmada River. Some of these are actually distinct hill systems.
The western end of the Vindhya range is located in the state of Gujarat, near the state's border with Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, at the eastern side of the Gujarat peninsula. A series of hills connects the Vindhya extension to the Aravalli Range near Champaner. The Vindhya range rises in height east of Chhota Udaipur.
The principal Vindhya range forms the southern escarpment of the Central Indian upland. It runs roughly parallel to the Naramada river in the east-west direction, forming the southern wall of the Malwa plateau in Madhya Pradesh.
The eastern portion of the Vindhyas comprises multiple chains, as the range divides into branches east of Malwa. A southern chain of runs between the upper reaches of the Son and Narmada rivers to meet the Satpura Range in the Maikal Hills near Amarkantak. A northern chain of the Vindhyas continues eastwards as Bhander Plateau and Kaimur Range, which runs north of the Son River. This extended range runs through what was once Vindhya Pradesh, reaching up to the Kaimur district of Bihar. The branch of the Vindhya range spanning across Bundelkhand is known as the Panna range. Another northern extension (known as the Vindhyachal hills) runs up to Uttar Pradesh, stopping before the shores of Ganga at multiple places, including Vindhyachal and Chunar (Mirzapur District), near Varanasi.
Different sources vary on the average elevation of the Vindhyas, depending on their definition of the range. MC Chaturvedi mentions the average elevation as 300 m. Pradeep Sharma states that the "general elevation" of the Vindhyas is 300–650 m, with the range rarely going over 700 m during its 1200 km extent.
The highest point of the Vindhyas is the Sad-bhawna Shikhar ("Goodwill Peak"), which lies 2,467 feet (752 m) above the sea level. Also known as the Kalumar peak or Kalumbe peak, it lies near Singrampur in the Damoh district, in the area known as Bhanrer or Panna hills. Historical texts include Amarkantak (1000+ m) in the Vindhyas, but today, it is considered a part of the Maikal Range, which is considered as an extension of the Satpuras.
The Vindhyas have a distinguished status in both mythology and geography of India. In the ancient Indian mythology, the Vindhyas are seen as the demarcating line between the territories of the Indo-Aryans and that of the others. The most ancient Hindu texts consider it as the southern boundary of Aryavarta. The Mahabharata mentions that the Nishadas and other Mleccha tribes reside in the forests of the Vindhyas. Although the Indo-Aryan languages (such as Marathi and Konkani) spread to the south of Vindhyas later, the Vindhyas continued to be seen as the traditional boundary between Hindustan proper (North India) and Deccan (South India).
Vindhyas appear prominently in the Indian mythological tales. Although the Vindhyas are not very high, historically, they were considered highly inaccessible and dangerous due to dense vegetation and the hostile tribes residing there. In the older Sanskrit texts, such as the Ramayana, they are described as the unknown territory infested with cannibals and demons. The later texts describe the Vindhya range as the residence of fierce form of Shakti (goddess Kali or Durga), who has lived there since slaying the demons. She is described as Vindhyavasini ("Vindhya dweller"), and a temple dedicated to her is located in the Vindhyachal town of Uttar Pradesh. The Mahabharata mentions the Vindhyas as the "eternal abode" of Kali.
According to one legend, the Vindhya mountain once competed with the Mount Meru, growing so high that it obstructed the sun. The sage Agastya then asked Vindhya to lower itself, in order to facilitate his passage across to the south. In reverence for Agastya, the Vindhya lowered its height and promised not to grow until Agastya returned to the north. Agastya settled in the south, and the Vindhya mountain, true to its word, never grew further.
The Kishkindha Kanda of Valmiki's Ramayana mentions that Maya built a mansion in the Vindhyas. In Dashakumaracharita, the King Rajahamsa of Magadha and his ministers create a new colony in the Vindhya forest, after being forced out of their kingdom following a war defeat.
Several tributaries of the Ganga-Yamuna system originate from the Vindhyas. These include Chambal, Betwa, Dhasan, Ken, Tamsa, Kali Sindh and Parbati. The northern slopes of the Vindhyas are drained by these rivers.
Narmada and Son rivers drain the southern slopes of the Vindhyas. Both these rivers rise in the Maikal hills, which are now defined as an extension of the Satpuras, although several older texts use the term Vindhyas to cover them (see Historical definitions above).
Geology and paleontology
The earliest known multicellular fossils of eukaryotes (filamentous algae) have been discovered from Vindhya basin dating back to 1.6 to 1.7 billion years ago. Shelled creatures are documented to have first evolved at the start of the Cambrian 'explosion of life', about 550 million years ago.
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