Himalayan Rivers

The Himalayan mountain range or the Himalayas or Himalaya is a mountain range located in Asia, segregating the Tibetan Plateau from the Indian subcontinent. The Himalayan mountain range broadly includes the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram and other small mountain ranges that branch out from the Pamir Knot. Himalayan rivers are famous all over the world for their scenic beauties and tourist attractions located on their banks.

Himalayan Rivers: An overview

The Himalayan mountain range is home to the eight-thousanders (14 separate mountains that are 8,000 meters or above sea surface and include K2 (also known as the Savage Mountain or Godwin-Austen) and Mount Everest. Some of the famous rivers of the world including the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze, Brahmaputra, Salween, Mekong, Xunjiang Red River (Asia), Irrawaddy River, Chao Phraya, Syr Darya, Amu Darya, Tarim River and Yellow River have their sources in the Himalayas.

The collective catchment area of the Himalayan Rivers houses around 3 billion people (nearly 50% of the population of the world) in Bangladesh, Afghanistan, People's Republic of China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, Cambodia, Burma, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam, Laos, Pakistan, and Malaysia.

Himalayan rivers are rich for their tourist attractions and cultural aspects. The mountain range covers approximately 15,000 glaciers, which function as the storehouse of approximately 12,000 km3 of freshwater. The Siachen Glacier located at the border of India and Pakistan is the second longest glacier in the world away from the glacial region of South Pole and North Pole. The length of Siachen glacier is 70 km. The forests on the banks of the Himalayan Rivers include Deodar, Pine, Oak, Fir, Birch, and Rhododendron.

Some of the other well-known glaciers include the Yamunotri and Gangotri (Uttarakhand), Baltoro and Biafo (Karakoram region), Nubra, Khumbu (Mount Everest region), and Zemu (Sikkim) glaciers.

The elevated areas of the Himalayan mountain range experience snowfalls round the year, regardless of their closeness to the tropical zones, and they are the sources for various big perennial rivers, majority of which merge into two big river systems:

(1) The western rivers merge into the Indus river basin and the Indus is the biggest among those rivers. The Indus originated in Tibet at the meeting point of Gar and Sengge rivers and runs towards the southwest across India and subsequently across Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. The river is fed by the Chenab, the Jhelum, the Beas, the Ravi, and the Sutlej rivers, among others.

(2) The majority of other rivers of the Himalayas sap the Ganges-Brahmaputra plains. The two major rivers are the Brahmaputra and the Ganges and the Yamuna, among other tributaries. The Brahmaputra starts off in the form of the Yarlung Tsangpo River in the western part of Tibet, and runs to the east across Tibet and west across the plateaus of Assam. The Brahmaputra and the Ganges join in Bangladesh, and pour into the Bay of Bengal across the biggest river delta in the world.

The eastern-most rivers of the Himalayas supply water to the Ayeyarwady river, which has its source in eastern Tibet and runs toward the south across Myanmar to pour into the Andaman Sea.

The Mekong, Salween, Huang He (Yellow River) and Yangtze, all have their sources in various areas of the Tibetan highland that are geographically separate from the Himalaya mountains, and are consequently not regarded as genuine rivers of the Himalayas. A number of geologists denote all the rivers jointly as the circum-Himalayan rivers.

Lately, geological scientists have observed a significant growth in the frequency of glacier retreat throughout the area due to universal weather variations. In spite of the fact that the outcome of this will not be identified for several years, it possibly could indicate calamity for the hundreds of millions of inhabitants who depend on the glaciers to provide for the north Indian rivers throughout the dry seasons.

The major Himalayan rivers are the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Beas, Ravi, Saraswati, Sutlej, Ganga (or the Ganges), Yamuna, and Brahmaputra. All these rivers collectively cover an area of 2,250 km. The average width of these rivers is 200 km.

Five Sisters

Jhelum, Chenab, Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej are also known as The Five Sisters. Prior to the partition of India and creation of Pakistan, this system of rivers was one of the most spectacular aspects of the Indian subcontinent. Following the partition of India, approximately two third of the span of this river system was handed over to Pakistan. However, the rivers still gush through the Himalayas to form some of the most magnificent backdrops to be seen at any place in the world.

The Indus

The Indus River is one of the most important Himalayan rivers. The river originates from a place close to the Mansarovar Lake in Tibet. It joins River Gurtang at an elevation of 4,200 meters in the southeastern part of Ladakh. The picturesque Mansarovar Lake is the perfect instance of spectacular splendor. The Indus can be referred to as a trans Himalayan river. The river flows as per a north by northwest itinerary amid the lofty Ladakh mountain range to the north and the Zanskar Range to the south. Many urban colonies are located beside the Indus River in Ladakh such as Marol, Leh, Bunji, and Skardu.

The Jhelum

This river originates from a spring known as Verinag, which is located at a distance of 80 km to the south of Srinagar. The Jhelum River is famous all over the world for its scenic features and nine bridges. It is noted for its width and its water is mucky. The river runs across Srinagar.


Two rivers – Chandra and Bhaga join to form this river. The river is located in the Lahaul area of the state of Himachal Pradesh. The source of this river is situated at the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range in the Lahaul and Spiti districts of Himachal Pradesh. The picturesque lake of Chandra Tal has its origin in these rivers.


The Ravi River runs through both India and Pakistan. The source of the river is located in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. The town of Chamba is situated on a hill ridge on the right bank of the river. The area is popular for handiworks such as leather craft, embellished handkerchiefs, wooden sculptures, and silver.


The Beas River played a key role behind the formation of the Kullu and Kangra basins. It is known for its picturesque features. However, the Beas River primarily originates from an igloo like formation in the vicinity of Rohtang Pass in the north of Kullu in Pir Panjal range. The key thrust of the Beas River is to the south of Larji and subsequently to the west. In this area, it moves into the Mandi district and into Kangra valley. All the tributaries of the river are snow fed and perennial. The water level of Beas rises significantly at the time of monsoon and it results in floods in the adjoining regions. The Pong Dam has been built on the river to produce hydroelectric power. The water of the river has been redirected with a 53 km long passageway to the Sutlej at an area named Pandoh, located in the Mandi district.


The Sutlej River originates on the southern sides of the most consecrated mountains – Kailash, close to the most sacred lake of Mansarovar. After flowing extensively parallel to the Himalayan mountain ranges, it ultimately enters these ranges at the Shipki pass. Afterward, it flows through the Zanskar range, creating an oblique plunge through the mountains and discharges at a deep canyon at the foothills of the Kinner Kailash rocky formation. In Kinnaur district, the river flows side by side with the Hindustan-Tibet Road. At Karcham in Kinnaur, the Baspa River meets the Sutlej with its blue and crystal clear waters.


The Saraswati River is another name of the Ghaggar-Hakra River. This river flows partly in Pakistan and partly in India only during the monsoon. The Saraswati River is named as Ghaggar ahead of the Ottu Dam and the downriver from the dam is known as Hakra. Majority of researchers recognized the Ghaggar-Hakra River as the Sarasvati River in the Vedas. However, it is debated whether all citations of the Sarasvati should be accepted to denote this river. The recognition of the Sarasvati River in the Rig Vedas as the present-day Ghaggar-Hakra River was acknowledged by scholars like Max Müller, Christian Lassen, C.F. Oldham, Marc Aurel Stein, and Jane Macintosh.

The Hakra River is the dried-off waterway of a river in Pakistan, which is the extension of the Ghaggar River in India. On many occasions, yet not always, it transported the water of the Satluj during the Bronze age era. A number of urban colonies of the Indus Valley Civilization were discovered beside and within the riverbeds of the Ghaggar and Hakra Rivers.

India has a huge network of rivers, which are the lifeline of Indian society from time immemorial. Nearly all metropolitan regions in India or small towns are situated on the banks of these rivers.

From the prehistoric era, some of the rivers in India are regarded as holy and revered like god. Countless devotees from different parts of the world gather at their banks every year to pay respect. Himalayas, the house of snow, is known to be the source of some of the most sacred and longest rivers in India. These rivers can be categorized into perennially rain-fed and snow-fed rivers and therefore, incessantly flow round the year. The rivers of Himalaya outpour around 70% of their waters into the sea. A number of the rivers of the Himalayas join with the Bay of Bengal and at the same time, some rivers meet the Arabian sea.

The Himalayan mountain range is the origin of several major rivers. The rivers of the Himalayas offer a new attribute to the picturesque splendor of the Himalayan range. All the rivers form an important part of the life of the common people in those regions. These rivers assist in the process of afforestation and cultivation in these areas.

Last Updated on 02 February 2011