The Deccan Plateau in Southern India

The Fortress of Dowlatabad in the Deccan Plateau,
Print Collector/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The Deccan Plateau is an extremely large plateau located in Southern India. The plateau covers a vast majority of the Southern and central parts of the country. The plateau extends over eight separate Indian states, covering a wide range of habitats, and it is one of the longer plateaus in the world. Deccan’s average elevation is around 2,000 feet.

The word Deccan comes from the Sanskrit word of ‘Dakshina’, which means 'south'.

Location and Characteristics

The Deccan Plateau is located in Southern India in-between two mountain ranges: the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats. Each rise from their respective coasts and eventually converge to produce a triangle-shaped tableland atop the plateau.

The climate on some parts of the plateau, especially the Northern areas, is much drier than that of the nearby coastlands. These areas of the plateau are very arid, and do not see much rain for periods of time. Other areas of the plateau however are more tropical and have distinct, different wet and dry seasons. The river valley areas of the plateau tend to be densely populated, as there is ample access to water and the climate is conducive to living. On the other hand, the dry areas in-between the river valleys are often largely unsettled, as these areas can be too arid and dry.

The plateau has three principal rivers: the Godavari, the Krishna, and the Kaveri. These rivers flow from the Western Ghats on the western side of the plateau eastward toward the Bay of Bengal, which is the largest bay in the world.


The history of the Deccan is largely obscure, but it is known to have been an area of conflict for much of its existence with dynasties fighting for control. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

The Deccan’s early history is obscure. There is evidence of prehistoric human habitation; low rainfall must have made farming difficult until the introduction of irrigation. The plateau’s mineral wealth led many lowland rulers, including those of the Mauryan (4th–2nd century bce) and Gupta (4th–6th centuryce) dynasties, to fight over it. From the 6th to the 13th century, the Chalukya, Rastrakuta , Later Chalukya , Hoysala , and Yadava families successively established regional kingdoms in the Deccan, but they were continually in conflict with neighboring states and recalcitrant feudatories. The later kingdoms also were subject to looting raids by the Muslim Delhi sultanate, which eventually gained control of the area.

In 1347 the Muslim Bahmanī dynasty established an independent kingdom in the Deccan. The five Muslim states that succeeded the Bahmanī and divided its territory joined forces in 1565 at the Battle of Talikota to defeat Vijayanagar, the Hindu empire to the south. For most of their reigns, however, the five successor states formed shifting patterns of alliances in an effort to keep any one state from dominating the area and, from 1656, to fend off incursions by the Mughal Empire to the north. During the Mughal decline in the 18th century, the Marathas, the nizam of  Hyderabad , and the Arcot nawab vied for control of the Deccan. Their rivalries, as well as conflicts over succession, led to the gradual absorption of the Deccan by the British. When India became independent in 1947, the princely state of Hyderabad resisted initially but joined the Indian union in 1948.”

The Deccan Traps

The northwestern area of the plateau consists of many separate lava flows and igneous rock structures known as the Deccan Traps. This area is one of the largest volcanic provinces in the world.

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Gill, N.S. "The Deccan Plateau in Southern India." ThoughtCo, Sep. 7, 2021, Gill, N.S. (2021, September 7). The Deccan Plateau in Southern India. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "The Deccan Plateau in Southern India." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 9, 2023).