These rivers are again subdivided into two groups. Trans Himalayan and Himalayan. The Trans-Himalayan Rivers originate beyond the Great Himalayas. These are the Indus, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra rivers. Himalayan rivers are those which originate in the Himalayas and flow through the Northern Plains, e.g., the Ganga, the Yamuna and their tributaries. These rivers are useful for irrigation and navigation and the lowlands drained by them have fertile alluvial deposits.
The Indus (2,900 km)
The Indus originates from the springs of Sengge Khabal near Lake Manasarovar and enters in India in Ladakh. It cuts through the Himalayas in a deep gorge near Nanga Parbat and then leaves Kashmir to enter Pakistan. It finally drains into the Arabian Sea.
The mighty five tributaries on the left bank of the Indus are:
- The Sutlej (Shatadru),
- The Beas (Bipasha),
- The Ravi (iravati),
- The Chenab (Chandrabhaga) and
- The Jhelum (Vitasta).
All these tributaries have their sources in the snowy regions of the Himalayas. These five rivers have made the fertile plains of the Punjab. Only about 700 km of the Indus flows through the Indian territory. Srinagar, the Capital of Jammu and Kashmir, stands on the bank of the Jhelum River. The Bhakra-Nangal Project on the Satluj supplies water for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation.
The river Jhelum originates from a spring called Verinag, which is 80 km south of Srinagar. It is known worldwide for its pictorial beauty and nine bridges. It is a very wide river and has muddy water. It flows through Srinagar.
The two rivers Chandra and Bhaga merge to form the Chenab River. The Chenab is found in the Lahaul region of Himachal Pradesh. It originates from the snows found at the foot of the main range of Himalaya in the Spiti and Lahaul district. The beautiful lake of Chandra Tal originates from these rivers.
With this river lots of love legends are associated. The town of Chamba is situated on a mountain shelf on the right bank of the river. The region is famous for handicrafts like embroidered handkerchiefs, silver and leather craft and woodcarving.
The valley of Kullu and Kangra is formed by river Beas. It is famous for its beauty. But the river mainly originates from a structure like igloo near Rohtang Pass in Pir Panjal range to the north of Kullu. The main force of this river is towards south of Larji and then towards the west. There it enters the Mandi district and further still into Kangra. All its tributaries are perennial because it is snow fed. Its water increases to a great extent during the monsoon season so much so that it causes floods in its surrounding areas. The Pong Dam is constructed on the river to generate hydroelectric power supply. At a place called Pandoh in the Mandi district the water of the Beas River have been diverted through a 53 km long tunnel to the Sutlej.
River Sutlej originates from the southern slopes of the holy mountain Kailash, near the lake of Mansarovar. It flows parallel to the Himalayas and finally penetrates to the Shipki pass. It cuts through the Zanskar range, and makes a deep gorge at the base of the Kinner Kailash massif. Within Kinnaur district, it runs parallel to the Hindustan-Tibet Road. Later at Karcham, in Kinnaur, it is joined by river Baspa that drains the Sangla valley.
The Brahmaputra System:
The Brahmaputra rises in the glacier about 100 kms south east of Mansarovar Lake. In Tibet it is known as Tsangpo and runs parallel to the Himalayas. Its two important tributaries Dehang and Luhit meet near Sadiya. Its tributaries are the Subansiri, the Kameng. The Tista, and Manas on the right bank and Burri Dihang, Disang, Kapila and Dhansiri on left bank. Tista was about 200 years ago a tributary of Ganga but in 1787 the great flood changed its direction and it became a tributary of the Brahmaputra.
The Brahmaputra flows through the Assam Valley from the east near Sadiya to the west up to Dhubri. The Subansiri, Manas, Bhareli, Buridihang, Kopili, Lohit and Dhansiri are the main tributaries of the Brahmaputra.
After a few kilometers westwards from the Dhubri, the Brahmaputra takes again a sharp bend towards the south and enters into Bangladesh as Jamuna river; it joins the Padma and finally drains into the Bay of Bengal forming a great delta on its mouth.
Descending on the plain, the Brahmaputra gets a gentle slope and receives innumerable tributaries; they bring a lot of sediments and debris which fill up the river-bed. Thus innumerable sand bars and islands are found on the river. The Majuli Island is such an island on the river Brahmaputra and is famous for its great size which covers an area of 1,260 sq. km; it is the largest river-island in the world. Due to heavy siltation river-bed is getting shallow; it cannot hold excess water of the rainy season; consequently devastating floods occur.
The Brahmaputra is navigable up to 1,250 km upstream from the mouth. Though it is 2,900 km long, its small length comprising 800 km is in India and the rest goes to China and Bangladesh. In Assam Valley Dibrugarh, Tezpur, Guwahati, Goalpara and Dhubri are the important towns on the Brahmaputra River.
The Ganga System:
The Ganga rises in the Up Himalayas (now in the state of Uttaranchal). The river acquires its name after its head-streams – Alaknanda and Bhagirathi unite at Devprayag. Right bank tributaries of the Ganga in the region of the plain include the Yamuna and the Son besides the minor streams of the Tons and the Purpun.
On its left the tributaries includes Ramganga, Gomati, Ghaghara, Gandak, Kosi and the Mahananda. The total length of the river is 2,525 kms and is shared by Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, (1,450), Bihar (445), West Bengal (520). Beyond Falaka, the mainstream of Ganga flows east-south eastwards into Bangladesh and is known as Padma. Before falling into Bay of Bengal, the Padma receives the Brahmaputra known here as Jamuna and Meghna.