LIST OF MAJOR RIVERS OF INDIA

The rivers of India play an important role in the lives of the Indians. They provide potable water, cheap transportation, electricity, and the livelihood for a large number of people all over the country. This easily explains why nearly all the major cities of India are located by the banks of rivers. The rivers also have an important role in Hindu Dharma and are considered holy by all Hindus in the country.

Seven major rivers along with their numerous tributaries make up the river system of India. The largest basin system of the rivers pour their waters into the Bay of Bengal; however, some of the rivers whose courses take them through the western part of the country and towards the east of the state of Himachal Pradesh empty into the Arabian Sea. Parts of Ladakh, northern parts of the Aravalli range and the arid parts of the Thar Desert have inland drainage.

All major rivers of India originate from one of the three main watersheds:

  1. The Himalaya and the Karakoram ranges
  2. Vindhya and Satpura ranges and Chotanagpur plateau in central India
  3. Sahyadri or Western Ghats in western India

The Indo-Gangetic Plains

Known as Ganga-Satluj Ka Maidaan , this area is drained by 16 major rivers. The major Himalayan Rivers are the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra. These rivers are long, and are joined by many large and important tributaries. Himalayan rivers have long courses from their source to sea.(in India Arabian sea and Bay of Bengal)

Ganges River System

The major rivers in this system are (in order of merging, from west to east)

  • Ganga – Starting from Gangotri Glacier, Uttarakhand
  • Chambal -Flows through Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and merges into Yamuna in Uttar Pradesh
  • Betwa – Not Himalayan river, covers Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh before merging into Yamuna
  • Yamuna – Yamuna runs its most of the course parallel to Ganga before contributing its water to Ganga at Allahabad
  • Gomti – Starts near the junction of three borders viz. Nepal, Uttarakhand and UP
  • Ghaghra – Starts in Nepal near Uttarakhand
  • Son – Not Himalayan river, covers MP, UP, Jharkhand and Bihar. Largest of Ganga’s southern tributaries
  • Gandak – Starts from Nepal
  • Kosi – Starts from Bihar, near Indo-Nepal border
  • Brahmaputra – Merges with Ganga to form the grand river (but short in length) – Padma in Bangladesh. By now, flow velocity of both rivers slow down to considerable extent as they are in plains now.

Before entering Bangladesh, Ganga leaves a distributary Hugli, which provides water for irrigation in West Bengal

Indus River System

The ‘Indus River originates in the northern slopes of the Kailash range near Lake Mansarovar in Tibet. Although most of the river’s course runs through neighbouring Pakistan, as per as regulation of Indus water treaty of 1960, India can use only 20 percent of the water in this river. A portion of it does run through Indian territory, as do parts of the courses of its five major tributaries, listed below. These tributaries are the source of the name of the Punjab of South Asia; the name is derived from the punch (“five”) and aab (“water”), hence the combination of the words (Punjab) means “land with the water of five rivers”. The Indus is 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi) long.

The major rivers in Indus river system are (in order of their length):

  • Indus – 3,202 kilometres (1,990 mi)
  • Chenab – 960 kilometres (600 mi)
  • Jhelum – 813 kilometres (505 mi)
  • Ravi – 720 kilometres (450 mi)
  • Sutlej – 529 kilometres (329 mi)
  • Beas – 460 kilometres (290 mi)
  • Shyok
  • Zanskar

 

 

The Peninsular River System

The main water divide in peninsular rivers is formed by the Western Ghats, which run from north to south close to the western coast. Most of the major rivers of the peninsular such as the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna and the Kaveri flow eastwards and drain into the Bay of Bengal. These rivers make delta at their mouths. The Narmada, Periyar and Tapti are the only long rivers, which flow west and make estuaries.

The Ganga River System includes the following rivers (10 major rivers plus Damodar river and Hugli river):

Rivers

Length (KM)

Origin

End

Ganga 2,525 Gangotri Glacier (Bhagirathi), Uttarakhand Bay of Bengal
Yamuna 1,376 Yamunotri Glacier, Uttarakhand Merges with Ganga at Allahabad (Triveni Sangam – Kumbh Mela spot
Brahmaputra 1,800 Himalayan Glacier in Tibet, but enters India in Arunachal Pradesh Merges with Ganga and ends in Bay of Bengal
Chambal 960 Tributary of Yamuna river, starting at Madhya Pradesh Joins Yamuna river in UP
Son 784 Tributary of Ganga, starting at Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh Joins Ganga just above Patna – also considered part of Vindhya river system
Gandak 630 Nepal; Ganges tributary at Indo-Nepal border (Triveni Sangam) Joins Ganga near Patna
Kosi 720 Starts from Bihar near Indo-Nepal border Joins Ganga near Katihar district of Bihar
Betwa 590 Tributary of Yamuna, rises at Vindhya region, MP Joins Yamuna at Hamirpur in UP
Gomti 900 Tributary of Ganga, starting at Gomat Taal, UP Joins Ganga in Varanasi district
Ghaghra 1080 Himalayan Glacier in tibet, tributary of Ganga Joins Ganga in Bihar
Hugli (Hooghly) 260 Tributary of Ganga near West Bengal Merges with Ganga at Bay of Bengal
Damodar 592 Tributary of Hugli near Chandwar, Jharkhand Merges with Hugli in West Bengal

Although Hugli and Damodar rivers play a very important role in shaping the local civilisation and local economy, they are not considered as the most important rivers of the Ganga river river system.

 

The Indus River System includes the following 6 major rivers: 

Rivers

Length (KM)

Origin

End

Indus 3180 Originates in Tibetan plateau, Enters India in J&K Merges into Arabina sea near Sindh
Chenab 960 Upper Himalayas in the Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh Merges with Indus
Jhelum 725 Tributary of Chenub river, Punjab Merges with Chenab at Jhang (Pakistan)
Ravi 720 Starts from Bara Bhangal, Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh Joins Chenab in Pakistan
Sutlej 1500 Tributary of Indus river, originates at Rakshastal, Tibet Meets Beas river in Pakistan and ends at Arabian sea
Beas 470 Rises at Himalayas in central Himachal Pradesh Joins Sutlej river in Punjab, India

 

Western Ghats Rivers: 

Rivers

Length (KM)

Origin

End

Kaveri 765 Talakaveri in Western Ghats in Karnataka Ends in Bay of Bengal
Krishna 1400 Originates in the Western Ghats near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra Ends in Bay of Bengal near Andhra Pradesh
Godavari 1465 Starts in Maharashtra and passes through 7 Indian states Empties in Bay of Bengal
Tungabhadra 531 Tributary of Krishna river staring at Karnataka Joins Krishna river along the border of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh

 

 

Vindhya and Satpura Ranges rivers:

Rivers

Length (KM)

Origin

End

Tapti 724 Rises in Eastern Satpura Ranges, Madhya Pradesh Empties into Gulf of Khambat, Gujarat
Mahi 580 Rises in Madhya Pradesh Flows into Arabian sea from Gujarat
Narmada 1315 Starts from Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh Drains into Arabian sea via Gulf of Cambay

Other Important notes on Indian rivers to remember:

  • River Saraswati is a mythical river and is part of the Hindu triveni Sangam mythology of the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers. Saraswati river is thought to be flowing under the ground and meeting Ganga and Yamuna at the Kumbh mela spot.
  • Meghna a major river in Bangladesh is a tributary if Indian Brahmaptura river and also empties in Bay of Bengal.
  • River Tapi is a river in Thailand and is not to be confused with Indian river Tapti (Tapati).