Map-A Guide to Users and Art of Reading

--Major Md Zulfikar Haider, Assistant Surveyor General

02. Julfikar

What is a map? What is the purpose of it and how does it help us? All these simple questions have a simple answer-Map is an omnipotent guide who interacts with the map reader. It interprets the contents in different angles to different minds. One having very little knowledge of reading and writing or even completely illiterate can also enjoy the magic power of map. Map guides the reader in a way that he or she comprehends. The unique tool is the inquisitiveness or sheer curiosity. This edifying write-up endeavors to explain this beauty of map in little exulted fashion.

Maps are the bearers of history, cultures and emotions of a nation or race. It also speaks about the merits and achievements of their time. Map enriches one’s knowledge about the people of a nation of that time about how did they live and how did they brave to survive. All developments we see at this digital era are based on accumulated maps since time immemorial. We owe a great extent to maps and map makers.

Simply speaking, Map is the combination of art and science. But it demands the curiosity of the readers to extract the fruits of hybrid produce. Firstly, the whole surface of the earth or part of it is brought down to a small piece of paper. The earth in not flat or a perfect sphere, rather an ellipsoid or a spheroid. It is a 3-dimensional celestial body and we cannot see the whole of it at a time. It needs to be flattened on a plane surface to see all on its surface. Moreover, the shape of the earth is not regular rather irregularly undulated, rugged and uneven. For this, cartographers need to sketch a regular shaped body that can be represented by Ellipsoids and different ellipsoids have different mathematical models. Again, an ellipsoid cannot be made truly flat without distortion. With all these inevitable problems that introduce errors, cartographers minimize all these errors with style and techniques. For example, in globe a traveler can reach a place by travelling on a grate circle in either direction but that is not the case on a map since it is flat and bounded by the edges.


The natural and cultural features on a map need to be explained with direction, symbols, texts, attributes, etc. This is an art that demands skilled experienced cartographers to make maps attractive and useful. Combined these two branches produce good maps to be useful because a reader is virtually blind to the land of unknown voyage.

Ellipsoid : The Mathematical Shape of Earth Showing Lat & Long

In short we can say a map needs a scale to be fitted to a desired piece of paper, a plane surface where projection of curved surface of earth can be done and cartographic symbols can be used to represent the features of the earth surface. Once these criteria are fulfilled we get a map of desired class and type. Maps are of different types basing on scales, purpose and use.

The Guide map of Town falls under Thematic map, the world with very small scale on a sheet showing topographic information falls under Geographical Map and the height information falls under geospatial data. Digital maps or maps in digital formats have another interesting caracteristic to read in.

Inquisitive Spectators in Queues – Seeing is Believing


You can go through layer by layer or even by group of geographical features of interest. The scale is variable as one can enjoy the map according to his/her viewing. Another interesting characteristic is that all features are embedded with attributes which is known as Geographic Information System (GIS) database. One interested mind can extract this enormous information for further brain storming.  The trick is ‘select and click’-result is obvious. Using seamless map one can fly over inaccessible areas and dream lands.

The reader may interpret any point of his/her interest according to the rules of uses given in the map. A curious mind would be able to extract more than one fact at a time. Once someone is accustomed with it he/she enters the paradise of knowledge.