Ghost Towns in India
India is nothing short of incredible. The world’s seventh largest country by area but the second most populous it is home to almost every kind of geography and climate you could imagine and this has given it a rich and diverse ecology.
India has been shaped by diverse factors, its history, its geography, its climate and its people and the India the visitor sees today is virtually unique amongst tourist destinations across the world. It has a coastline of nearly 5,000 kilometres and boasts the highest mountain range in the world.
Aside from this India has hundreds of ghost towns and villages now laying deserted by many reasons; wars, where large areas of disputed territory is uninhabited as the former residents feared reprisals from both sides, religion, where warring religions, especially between Muslims and Hindus in Northern India have left many towns and villages uninhabited and climate, where extreme weather and the high risk of repetition has made people wary of living in coastal villages or where landslides have been commonplace.
Industry has also brought about many ghost towns where natural resources have been exhausted and the towns and villages inhabited by the workers have been left to wither. Disaster has accounted for the depopulation around the city of Bhopal, where the Union Carbide factory suffered an explosion, releasing tonnes of poisonous dioxin into the air making the area uninhabitable and the list goes on.
Originally colonised by the Indus Valley Civilisations, the country grew to prominence on the back of its position on trade routes from the east and for its wealth of natural resources.
Four of the world’s main religions originated here, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism whilst others came in the first millennia to add to the cultural mix.
Seen as a large prize, the country was annexed by Britain from the 18th century and was known as the ‘Jewel in the Crown’ of the Empire. It finally gained independence as a Commonwealth republic in 1947.
Over 400 different languages are spoken here and the country is one of the fastest growing world economies. However, despite the economic boom, hundreds of millions of Indians live in poverty.
The early centuries of the first millennia saw the foundations laid for what was to become the Golden Age of India.
In the third century Ashoka the Great united smaller empires into the Maurya Empire and left the empire strong in readiness for the rule of the Gupta dynasty. During this time many disciplines such as science, mathematics and literature flourished and the knowledge and learning spread to the west from visiting academics.
The progress continued for many centuries right up until the 16th century. In these times a period of peace and prosperity abounded and religious harmony ruled.
Then from the 16th century, the rise of other powers in India saw the empires split and cities and states became ruled by local sultans, moguls and kings.
Western powers had begun to realise the trading importance of India by this time and established trading posts around the coasts. Soon, internal conflicts gave the East India Company the opportunity to establish colonies, setting ruler against ruler in a bid to weaken local opposition. By 1856 most of India was controlled by the company but within a few years and the catalyst of the failed Sepoy Rebellion, the Crown felt it in the best interests of all to take over the country from The East India Company.
India remained in the Empire for nearly a hundred years before independence after the end of World War II. Since then, although faced with internal conflicts and conflicts with their neighbours, Pakistan and China, India has introduced massive reforms to the increasing benefit of its population.
The landscape of India is quite simple. Mountains to the north stretch from the Arabian Sea in the form of the Satpura and Vindhya ranges and from the east in the form of the Himalayas.
South of this stretches the Deccan Plateau, flanked on either side by the coastal plains of the Western and Eastern Ghats. India has two of the longest rivers in the world flowing from sources high in the Himalayas, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra.
The climate is predominantly monsoon but with alpine, tropical and desert depending on the area. Two key geographical features shape the weather, the Himalayas, that prevent cold Siberian winds moving south and the Thar Desert which encourages moist air that powers the monsoons.
Ecologically, India is one of the most important of the seventeen megadiverse countries with 33% of its plant species endemic as well as having high percentages of other life forms.
It would take a lifetime to properly explore India and many visitors only see a small part of its splendours. Many happen upon the ghost towns or memorials to villages that have suffered tragedy leading to depopulation and it is a sobering thought comparing the hustle and bustle of cities such as Mumbai or Kolkata with the silence of the wind blown streets of the hundreds of ghost towns dotted over the vast sub continent.