The term river system refers to the ‘river along with its tributaries’.
Based on their source, the Indian River system is classified into - Himalayan Rivers and Peninsular Rivers.
The Himalayan Rivers, as the name suggests, originate from the Himalayas and flow through the Northern Plains.
The major Himalayan River systems are
- The Indus River System
- The Ganga River System
- The Yamuna River System
- The Brahmaputra River System
The major Peninsular River Systems are:
These do not originate in glaciers but are rain-fed rivers. These rivers reduce considerably or dry up during summers.
THE HIMALAYAN RIVERS
Indus River System
The reference of Indus River or Sindhu River is found in the early Hindu Scriptures and mythological texts. It is known as ‘Puranik River’. The river originates in Tibet near Mansarovar Lake. Flowing westwards, it enters India in Jammu and Kashmir, further flows through Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and enters Pakistan. Flowing further westwards, it reaches the Arabian Sea near Karachi. Indus is the largest river in Pakistan and is the country's national river. Its tributaries in India are Zanskar, Nubra and Shyok, and Hunza in Pakistan. Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Chenab and Jhelum are its other tributaries after which the state of Punjab is named.
Ganga River System
Ganga (Ganges) River system is the largest river system in India. It originates in the Gangotri glaciers. The upstream Bhagirathi joins the other stream named Alaknanda at Devprayag to form River Ganga. Ganga has tributaries on both banks; its right bank tributaries are the Yamuna (which is a major river), and Son. While Gomti, Ghaghara, Gandak, Kosi are some left bank tributaries. The Ganges flows through Indian states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. It finally reaches the Bay of Bengal.
Yamuna River System
The Yamuna is a major river system in Northern India. The river rises from Yamnotri and flows through Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. It passes through Delhi, Mathura, Agra and meets the rivers Chambal, Betwa and Ken to finally join the Ganga at Allahabad. Major tributaries of Yamuna are Tons, Chambal, Hindon, Betwa and Ken.
Brahmaputra River System
The Brahmaputra, one of the major rivers in India, originates in the Angsi glacier of the Himalayas in Tibet. There it is known as the Tsangpo River. It enters into India in Arunachal Pradesh and is called the Dihang River. It is joined by many other tributaries; the Dibang, the Lohit, the Kenula to form the main Brahmaputra River and flows its longest course through Assam, enters Bangladesh and finally falls into the Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra has the greatest volume of water of all the rivers in India.
THE PENINSULAR RIVERS
The Mahanadi is a major river in East-central India. It originates in the Sihava mountains of Chhattisgarh and flows its major course through the state of Orissa (Odisha). This river deposits more silt than any other river in the Indian subcontinent. Mahanadi flows through cities Sambalpur, Cuttack and Banki.
The Godavari River covers the second-longest course in India after the Ganga. The river originates at Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra, and together with its tributaries (Pravara, Indravati, Maner Sabri etc.,) flows through the states of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa (Odisha), Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Puducherry, to finally flow into the Bay of Bengal. Thanks to its long course, the river is described as Dakshina Ganga.
The Krishna is the third-longest river in India with a length of about 1,300 km. Originating from Maharashtra's Mahabaleshwar region, it flows through Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh to finally pour into the Bay of Bengal.
The Kaveri (Cauvery) is a major river in Southern India and originates in Kogadu, Karnataka in the form of a spring at Brahmagiri Hill at Talakaveri. Also known as the Ganges of the South, it is one of the holiest rivers in South India. Kaveri River widens as many tributaries such as Hemavati, Moyari, Shimsha, Arkavati, Honnuhole, Kabini, Bhavani, Noyill and Amaravati join it. It slithers about 800 kilometres across the three states, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamilnadu, slightly touching Pudducherry and drains into the Bay of Bengal.
Narmada and Tapi or Tapti
The Narmada and the Tapti are the only major rivers that flow into the Arabian Sea. The total length of the Narmada flowing through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat equals to 1,312 km. Amarkantak in Shahdol, Madhya Pradesh is the place of origin of Narmada. Flowing mainly through Central India, from eastward direction to westward, Narmada merges into the Arabian Sea.
The Tapti follows a parallel course to the South of Narmada, flowing through the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat on its way into the Gulf of Khambhat. Its three major tributaries are Purna, Girna and Panjhra.
Almost all the major Indian cities are situated on the banks of its rivers. Indian rivers also play a crucial role in the lives of its people, economically as well as culturally. Indian agriculture is dependent on irrigation of water drawn from its network of rivers. Most of its religious, cultural and harvest festivals are celebrated on the banks of rivers. Like most ancient religions, Hindu religion and its mythology regard rivers as sacred. There are nine important rivers of India, and they are The Ganges, Yamuna (a tributary of Ganges), Brahmaputra, Mahanadi, Narmada, Godavari, Tapi, Krishna, and Kaveri. Parts of the Indus River also flow over Indian soil.
Eight important rivers, together with their various tributaries, comprise the River System of India. Majority of the rivers discharge their waters into the Bay of Bengal; nevertheless, a number of the rivers whose itineraries take them across the western end of India and in the direction of the east pour into the Arabian Sea. Northern portions of the Aravalli range, portions of Ladakh, and the barren areas of the Thar Desert have Inland Drainage. (Refers to drainage where the rivers do not reach an ocean or sea but empty their waters in a lake or an inland sea).
|Name||Length (km)||Area||Originates From||Ends in||Places Benefited|
|Indus||3180/ 1114 in India||3,21,289 Sq.Km.||in Tibet in northern slopes of Mount Kailash||Arabian sea||India and Pakistan|
|Ganga (Bhagirathi)||2525||1.08 million Sq.Km.||Gangotri in Uttrakhand||Bay of Bengal||Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Bihar, West Bengal|
|Yamuna (Jamuna)||1376||366223 Sq.Km.||Yamunotri in Garhwall||Bay of Bengal||Delhi, Haryana and UP|
|Brahmaputra||916 - in India||194413 Sq.Km. - in India||Angsi glacier in Tibet||Bay of Bengal||Assam, Arunachal Pradesh|
|Kaveri (Dakshina Ganga or Ganges of the south)||765||81155 Sq.Km.||Brahmagiri hills in Kogadu, Karnataka||Bay of Bengal||Karnataka and Tamil Nadu|
|Godavari||1465||3,12,812 Sq.Km.||Triambakeshwar in Maharashtra||Bay of Bengal||South-eastern part of Andhra Pradesh|
|Krishna||1400||258948 Sq.Km.||Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra||Bay of Bengal||Maharashtra & Andhra Pradesh|
|Narmada||1312||98,796 Sq.Km.||Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh||Arabian Sea||Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra|
|Tapti||724||65,300 Sq.Km.||Betul district of Madhya Pradesh in the Satpura range||Arabian Sea||Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra|
|Mahanadi||858||1,41,600 Sq.Km.||Sihava mountains of Chhattisgarh||Bay of Bengal||Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa|
|Vaigai||258||7,741Sq.Km.||Varusanadu Hills||Bay of Bengal||Madurai in Tamil Nadu|
|Periyar||244||5,398 Sq.Km.||Sivagiri peaks of Sundaramala, Tamil Nadu.||Bay of Bengal||Tamil Nadu and Kerala|
|Thamirabarani||185||4,400 Sq.Km.||Agastyarkoodam peak of Pothigai hills of the Western Ghats,||Gulf of Mannar||Tamil Nadu|
Last Updated on: October 14, 2020