The Indus Valley civilization, one of the world’s oldest civiliza- tions, began in South Asia. The region was invaded many times throughout history. The invaders introduced new ideas and beliefs to the region, which became influential in the shap- ing of South Asia’s culture. South Asia is a subconti- nent, or large landmass forming a distinct part of a continent, in the southern part of Asia. The Himalayas, a mountain system with many of the world’s highest moun- tains, separate South Asia from the rest of Asia. Climate within the region depends on altitude and distance from the Indian Ocean. Portions of the region are season- ally affected by monsoons, winds that bring dry air in winter and rain in sum- mer. Other areas, like the Thar Desert, receive very little precipitation. South Asia’s various ecosystems sup- port its plentiful and diverse wildlife. However, poaching and the loss of habitat threaten several species. South Asia has one of the most densely settled populations on earth. The popula- tion is becoming more urban as more peo- ple move to the cities in search of work. Many languages are spoken in South Asia, but about half the population of India speaks Hindi. The dominant religions are Hinduism and Islam, except in Bhutan, where Buddhism is the dominant religion. Agriculture dominates South Asia’s economy. Faced with an ever-increasing population, however, South Asia has had difficulty producing enough food. A large film industry boosts the economy of India. In some areas, women have found economic opportunity in the technologi- cal and business fields.

Review Questions
  1. What landform separates South Asia from the rest of Asia?
  2. Map Skills Does the east coast or west coast of India get the summer monsoon rains?