Indian Deserts – The Great Indian Desert (Thar Desert)

India is a country with diverse physiographic features and ecosystems. It constitutes rich and dynamic geographical elements such as the mountains, the plateaus, the plains, the deserts, etc. And each of these divisions impacts the country in multifarious ways. Let’s learn about the Indian Deserts. This particular article discusses the Thar Desert in India. In fact, it lays special emphasis on Its location, climate, soil, biodiversity, population, etc.

The Great Indian desert, famously known as the Thar Desert is the primary objective of this article. Additionally, the word Thar is derived from the word thul, meaning “sand ridges.”

Therefore, the desert is much more than arid lands unsuitable for habitation. Similar to other land and aquatic forms, deserts also play a pivotal function for the Indian population. This article shall unravel the importance of deserts in the Indian subcontinent.

Indian Deserts - The Thar Desert

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Geographical Location of Thar Desert

The Thar Desert is located to the north-west of the Aravallis, in western Rajasthan with certain parts in Punjab and Sindh. A concrete and arid land of mass, the desert came into existence in the Pleistocene age. Moreover, known by names like Marustali (the dead land) and Bagar, the desert features:

  • Area coverage of 77,000 square km.
  • Comprises of aeolian wind deposits
  • Witnessed the run of Kachchh to its south
  • Indus River flows west to the desert
  • Dry climate and alluvial deposits
  • Low vegetation cover
  • Sand dunes with an elevation of 150 m
  • Composed of Metamorphic Rocks
  • Short seasonal streams originating from Aravallis
  • Oasis in its southern part

Originally a part of the Peninsular plateau, but it still looks like a dry piece of unprotected and unpopulated land.

During the ancient era, most of the desert area lay submerged under the sea. However, this region got uplifted due to heavy deposits of wood fossils some 180 million years back.

More to this, there was a time when this region was fertile for growing food and cash crops. The presence of a dry river bed, especially of the river Saraswati validates this fact.


Composed of sedimentary (2.5 billion 50 540 million years old) and metamorphic (4 billion to 2.5 million years old) rocks, the great Indian desert has aeolian sand deposits as old as 1.8 million years ago.

Having an undulated surface, the desert land witnesses sand dunes moving in considerable shapes and sizes. The average elevation of these dunes remains 150 cm over the surface area. These dunes are also referred to by the name of dhands spread widely throughout the region.

Climate of Thar Desert

The Thar Desert experiences a subtropical desert climate and high pressure. However, the monsoon winds in the southwest bring rainfall in the summer seasons.

But still, this arid region receives a low annual rainfall (4-20 inches) as compared to the other parts of India. Also, July to September feature as the likely monsoon months for the Indian desert.

The coldest month of the year is January while May and June are the hottest.

In short, the average temperature in the desert ranges between 75-70 degrees Celsius in summers and 39-50 degrees Celsius in winters.

Soil in Thar Desert

The Thar Desert comprises of different divisions of soil such as:

  • Desert soil
  • Red desertic soil
  • Sierozems (brownish-gray soil)
  • Red and yellow soils
  • Saline soils
  • Lithosols (shallow weathered soils)
  • Regosols (soft loose soils)

Additionally, all the aforementioned soils are predominantly coarse, well-drained, and intense in calcium and lime. However, these soils are infertile and easily vulnerable to erosion due to overblown sands.


Despite its concrete surface, the Indian Desert still constitutes decent biodiversity and vegetation. Some of its features pertaining to vegetation and biodiversity are hereby mentioned:

  • Drought-resistant scrub trees like khajri and proposis
  • Animals like blackbucks, gazelle, and partridges
  • Migratory birds such as ducks, geese, and grouse

Population and People

The Thar desert has a fairly high population density of 83 persons per square km. Overall, it has a total population of 16,600,000.

Most of the people residing in the desert area practice Islam and Hinduism. Besides, these people speak Sindhi, Marwari, and lahnda and Rajasthani as their primary languages.

Next, the population preoccupies itself in animal husbandry, trade, and crafts. Rajputs and Marwaris are the two most prominent groups in this area.

Economy in Thar Desert

The grass in the desert has multi-purpose medicinal features. Further, there are five key breeds of cattle in this desert and each breed is used for a different purpose. Basically, camels are used for ferrying people for one place to another.

The terrain of Thar desert facilitates the growth of cotton and wheat. Despite water scarcity, the desert utilizes ground water to fulfill its domestic, agricultural and energy needs. For example, the Indira Gandhi canal is used for irrigation in this desert area.

Moreover, the convergence of rivers Satluj and Beas is used for generating hydropower in the desert region.

Finally, there are few roadways and railway transports available in this portion connecting people within and beyond Rajasthan.

Other Facts and Features of Thar Desert

  • On 18 May 1974, India carried out its first nuclear weapon explosion test in the Thar Desert
  • The desert is the 18 largest subtropical desert on Earth
  • It is also the largest wool-producing region of India.
  • Lakhs of tourists visit the desert each year.
  • Famous for its camel safari around the world

Other Minor Indian Deserts

Despite Thar being the major desert of India, the country features few minor deserts as well. Though not as much popular as the Thar deserts, still these minor deserts add to India’s geographical division. These deserts are:

Spiti Valley Cold Desert

  • This desert is located in Himachal Pradesh.
  • To point out its exact location, it is somewhere between between Tibet and India
  • One of the least populated deserts in India, it features around 35 people to a single village under tremendously cold temperatures.
  • Experiencing a blend of snow and bleak sunshine, Spiti valley cold desert is the northernmost region of the country.
  • This Makes it isolated from the rest of India, in general.

White Salt Desert of Kachchh

  • It is also referred to as While Rann or Great Rann of Kachchh.
  • It covers an area of 2898 square miles landscaping the states of Gujarat while touching the Sind region in Pakistan.
  • The desert has an overall covering of white salt furnishing it a snow-covered aura.
  • It experiences extreme temperatures, with 50 degree celsius in summers while winters go down below the freezing point of 0 degree celsius.

The Deccan Thorn Scrub Forests

  • It is located primarily in the Deccan Plateau and runs across the states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra.
  • It also includes some northern areas of Srilanka.
  • The desert receives an annual rainfall of less than 750 mm keeping its terrain moist from November to April.
  • Suring summers, the desert experiences a temperature around 40 degree celsius.


Altogether, we saw major Indian deserts. The Great Indian desert is the pride of our nation. No matter how arid or infertile its land cover is, it is nonetheless an essential physiographic element, worthy of respect.

However, the government must undertake strict measures to save the desert its people from untimely droughts. This can include:

  • Different management strategies
  • Livestock production
  • Improving water quality
  • Crops efficiency
  • Other environmental issues

In a crux, the people residing in this region should not think of themselves as backward. This mainly because tourists from different parts of India and the world come to explore this region.

And finally, the desert has everything unique and extraordinary for Indian citizens to think and cherish about. It could indeed furnish hundreds of beautiful memories of its waving sand, warm winds, and chilly nights.

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