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How Has the Map of India Changed Throughout History?

Professor of Financial Economics and Part-time Value Investor, Transfin.
Nov 1, 2019 9:20 AM 2 min read

Today, many Indian states celebrate the day their borders were drawn. A look back at the long, eventful history of India's political map.


Cartography is King: Maps are beautiful things. A picture speaks a thousand words; a cartographic projection can speak a million. Indeed, maps are treasure troves of information, especially if you're trying to understand history.


Take India, whose history runs into thousands of years and involves countless rulers, dynasties, eras, and events. The simplest way of keeping track of millennia of complicated developments is by drowning yourself in maps.


And the map of India has changed frequently throughout its history. From the earliest instances of settlements along the Indus Valley Civilisation and city-states along the Ganga to the Mauryan Empire to the Kushan era to the Gupta Dynasty to the years of the Delhi Sutanate and then the Mughals and then the British Raj before independence set in.


Today is a Present: But what we might forget is that post-1947 too India's map has been changing. Before independence, India comprised over 500 princely states. These were combined into 17 provinces to the Union (before we became a Republic in 1950). In 1956, state borders began to be drawn along linguistic lines under the States Reorganisation Act, which came into effect on November 1 of that year.


Over the years, not only were state borders redrawn, but so were international ones - think Sikkim and Goa. The most recent change in India's political map, of course, was the bifurcation of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories - J&K and Ladakh.


This constant state of cartographic flux throughout India's long history represents not only the country's rich and eventful past but also its staggering and enduring diversity.


Extra: Here's an interesting video that shows the transformation of India's map since the 2800 BCE.



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