Important Notes on Indian Rivers

Indian Rivers are classified on these basis:

1. On the basis of discharge of waters
(a) Arabian Sea Drainage: 23% of drainage falls into the Arabian Sea. e.g. Indus, Narmada, Tapi, Mahi and Periyar.

(b) Bay of Bengal Drainage: 77% of drainage in India falls into the Bay of Bengal. e.g. Ganga, Brahmaputra, Mahanadi, Krishna, and Kaveri.

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2. Based on mode of Origin, Nature and Characteristics:

(A) Himalayan Drainage : This drainage is perennial river system, fed by snow and precipitation. Makes deep gorges, V-shaped valleys, rapids and waterfalls. In plains, they form flat valleys, ox-bow lakes, flood plains, braided channels, deltas near the river mouth.


(i) Indus River System:  It is one of the largest river basins of the world.

Indus rivers image

Origin is from the glacier near Mansarovar lake in Tibet in Kailash Mountain Range. It has a total length of 2880 km (709 km in India). The Indus river moves between Zaskar and Ladakh ranges, passes through Ladakh and Baltistan. It cuts Ladakh range, forming a gorge near Gilgit in Jammu and Kashmir.It enters Pakistan near Chillar in dardistan region.

The Tributaries of Indus are: Shyok, Gilgit, Zaskar, Hunza, Nubra, Shigar, Gasting, Dras. Near hills of Attock, receives Kabul, Khurran, Tochi, Gomal, Viboa, Sangar on the right bank. Above Mithankot, it receives “Panjnad” – 5 rivers of Punjab: Satluj, Beas, Ravi, Chenab, Jhelum. Discharge into the Arabian Sea, east of Karachi. In India, Indus only flows through Leh district.

Jhelum(725 km): Arises from spring at Verinag, at the foot of Pir Panjal(SE Kashmir). It flows through Srinagar and Wular Lake. It then enters Pakistan through the deep narrow gorge. It then joins Chenab near Jhang in Pakistan.

Chenab(1800 km): It is the largest tributary of Indus. It originates from Bara Lacha Pass (Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh). Two streams Chandra and Bhaga join to form Chenab near Keylong in Himachal Pradesh.

Ravi(720 km): It origins near west of Rohtang pass and flows through Chambal valley from Kullu hills. It then drains area between South-eastern Pir Panjal and Dhauladhar ranges. Ravi then joins Chenab in Pakistan at Sarai Sindhu.

Beas(470 km): It origins near Beas Kund near Rohtang pass. It passes through Kullu valley, gorges at Kati and Largi in Dhauladhar range. It enters Punjab then, meets Satluj at Harike.

Satluj(1050 km): It originates in Rakas lake near Mansarovar in Tibet, there it is called Langchen Khambab. Satluj flows parallel to Indus for 400 km, enters India at gorge in Rupar. through Shipki La it enters Punjab plains. It is a Bhakra Nangal project feeder.

(ii) Ganga River System: It originates Gangotri glacier near Gaumukh in Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand. There it is called Bhagirathi.

Alaknanda origin- Satopanth glacier above Badrinath formed by combination of Dhauli and Vishnu Ganga at Joshimath(Vishnu Prayag). At Karna Prayag, Pindar joins Alaknanda. At Rudra Prayag, Mandakini (origin-Kedarnath) or Kali ganga meets Alaknanda. At Devprayag, Alaknanda meets with Bhagirathi to form Ganga. It is 2525 km long of which 1450 km is in Uttarakhand and UP, 445 km in Bihar and 520 km in West Bengal.

ganga rivers image

Apart from Yamuna(1375 km), other tributaries of Ganga are Ghaghra (1080 km), Son (780 km), Gandak(425 km), Kosi (730 km), Gomti (805 km), Damodar (541 km).

Kosi is infamous as ‘Sorrow of Bihar’, while Damodar gets the name ‘Sorrow of Bengal’ as these cause floods in these regions.

Right Bank tributaries: Yamuna and Son.

Left Bank tributaries: Ramaganga, Gomati, Ghagghara, Gandak, Kosi, Mahananda.

Yamuna(1375 km): It is the longest and westernmost tributary. It originates from Yamunotri glacier on Bunderpunch range in Uttarakhand. It runs parallel to Ganga for 800km and joins it at Allahabad. Its own tributaries are Chambal (1050 km), Sind, Betwa (480 km) and Ken (all from south) on right. Hindan, Rind, Sengar, Varuna from left bank.

Chambal: It originates at Mhow in Malwa plateau of MP. Flows through gorge to Kota (Gandhisagar dam) to Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, Dholpur and joins Yamuna. Chambal ravines are badland topography.

Gandak: Kali gandak and Trishulganga combine to form Gandak. It originates from Nepal Himalayas between Dhaulagiri and Mt. Everest. It drains central Nepal, enters Ganga plain in Champaran district of Bihar. Gandak joins Ganga at Sonpur near Patna.

Ghaghara: It originates from Mapchachuno glacier in trans-Himalayan and comes out from a deep gorge at Shishapani. At Chhapra it joins Ganga.

Kosi: It is an antecedent river which originates from North of Mt. Everest in Tibet. Kosi joins Ganga at Bhagalpur.

Ramganga: It originates from Garhwal Hills and joins Ganga near Kannauj.

Damodar: It originates at Chotanagpur Plateau and flows through rift valley. Damodar joins Hugli. It is also known as “Sorrow of Bengal” earlier, now it is a boon to WB due to the Damodar Valley Corporation Multipurpose Project.

Mahananda: It originates from Darjiling hills and joins Ganga as last left bank tributary in West Bengal.

Son: It is a large south bank tributary which has its origin at Amarkantak plateau. Son joins Ganga at Arrah, west of Patna.

(iii) The Brahmaputra System:  It has a total length of 2900 km. It rises in Tibet (from Chemayungdu glacier in Kailash range near Mansarovar lake), where it is called Tsangpo, and enters the Indian territory (in Arunachal Pradesh) under the name Dihang.

Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna_basinsLeft Bank tributaries: Burhi Dihing, Dhansari

Right Bank tributaries: Subansiri(origin in Tibet, antecendent river), Kameng, Manas, sankosh.

Brahmaputra enters Bangladesh near Dhubri and flows south. Thereafter Testa joins on its right bank and goes by the name Yamuna. and falls into Bay of Bengal after meeting Padma.

In Bangladesh, Brahmaputra is known by the name of Jamuna while Ganga gets the name Padma. Their combined stream is known as Padma only.

The combined stream of Ganga and Brahmaputra forms the biggest delta in the world, the Sundarbans, covering an area of 58,752 sq. km. Its major part is in Bangladesh. On Brahmaputra is the river island, Majuli in Assam, the biggest river island in the world.

 (B) Peninsular Drainage System:  The Peninsular rivers of India are older than the Himalayan rivers. They are broad, largely graded shallow valleys and mature rivers and have a fixed course, absence of meanders, non-perennial water flow. The water divide occurs at Western Ghats along western coast. Except Narmada and Tapi, most rivers flow from west to east into Bay of Bengal.


i) Narmada: It originates in western flank of Amarkantak plateau and flows in rift valley between satpura in south and Vindhyan ranges in north. Narmada forms a gorge in marble rocks and Dhunadhar waterfall near Jabalpur. Sardar Sarovar Project has been built in Narmada. It meets Arabian Sea south of Bharuch forming a 27 km long estuary.

ii) Tapi: It originates at Multai in betul in Madhya Pradesh and drains Maharashtra, MP and Gujarat. Tapi flows in rift valley does not have much alluvial deposits.

iii) Luni: It is ephemeral and largest in Rajasthan in west of Aravali. Luni originates near Pushkar in two branches of Saraswati and Sabarmati. Join each other at Govindgarh and from here it is called Luni and drains into Rann of Kuchchh.

iv) Mahanadi: It originates from Sihawa in Raipur, Chattisgarh through Orissa into Bay of Bengal. It covers MP, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

v) Godavari/ Dakshin Ganga: Godavari is the largest Peninsular river system. It originates fron Nasik, Maharashtra. It drains into Bay of Bengal. Godavari runs through Maharashtra, MP, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh. In lower reaches to south of Polavaram, heavy floods forms gorge.

vi) Krishna: It is a second largest east flowing peninsular river. Krishna originates from Mahabaleshwar in Sahayadri. Its tributaries are Koyna, Tungabhadra and Bhima. It drains into Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh.

G) Kaveri: It origins from Brahmagiri hills of Kogadu district in Karnataka. Kaveri receives water through southwest monsoon and northeast monsoon also. So less fluctuations in water levels than other peninsular rivers. Drains Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Kabini, Bhavani, Amaravati are its tributaries.