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Migration, Settlement, and State Formation in the Ganga Plain: A Historical Geographic Perspective

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By a consideration of geography and environment, this essay raises questions about migration, settlement, and state formation in the Ganga plain from the first millennium bce to the early second millennium ce. It asks why Indo-Aryan speakers continued to migrate from north-western parts of South Asia towards the Ganga plain during the first millennium bce and precisely what route they followed. To understand better these largely misunderstood historical problems related to migration and settlement, the essay casts doubt on the utility of geographers’ tripartite division of the Ganga plain, proposing instead a division based on aridity and rainfall. Such a division helps explain why the transitional zone between the drier and the more humid areas of the Ganga plain became the linchpin of migratory movements, state formation, and urban development since at least the middle of the first millennium bce.

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