India River Map

River map of India
*India River Map showing the Major Rivers of India. Disclaimer

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
Peninsular River System or Peninsular Drainage emerges mainly from the Western Ghats. Since the Western Ghats form a ‘water divide’, these rivers either flow eastwards into the Bay of Bengal or into the Arabian Sea towards the west. Peninsular Rivers are ‘rain-fed’ rivers.

The major Peninsular River Systems are:
  • Mahanadi
  • Godavari
  • Krishna
  • Cauvery
They drain into the Bay of Bengal as they flow eastwards on the plateau and make ‘deltas’ at their mouths; whereas the Narmada, Tapti - the west-flowing rivers fall into the Arabian Sea and make ‘estuaries’.

These do not originate in glaciers but are rain-fed rivers. These rivers reduce considerably or dry up during summers.


Indus River System

The reference to the Indus River or Sindhu River is found in the early Hindu Scriptures and mythological texts. It is known as the ‘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, and Kosi are some left bank tributaries. The Ganges flows through the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal 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, and 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 India in Arunachal Pradesh and is called the Dihang River. It is joined by many other tributaries; the Dibang, the Lohit, and the Kenula to form the main Brahmaputra River and flow its longest course through Assam, enter Bangladesh and finally fall into the Bay of Bengal. The Brahmaputra has the greatest volume of water of all the rivers in India.



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.

Krishna River

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 major tributaries of river Krishna are Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Bhima and Tungabhadra.

Kaveri River

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 Tala Kaveri. 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 805 kilometres across the three states, Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, 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 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 their 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, the Hindu religion and its mythology regard rivers as sacred. There are nine important rivers of India and are The Ganges, Yamuna (a tributary of the 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. The 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).

  River Systems of India 

NameLength (km)AreaOriginates FromEnds inPlaces Benefited
Indus3180/ 1114 in India3,21,289 Tibet in northern slopes of Mount KailashArabian seaIndia and Pakistan
Ganga (Bhagirathi)25251.08 million Sq.Km.Gangotri in UttrakhandBay of BengalUttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Bihar, West Bengal
Yamuna (Jamuna)1376366223 Sq.Km. Yamunotri in Garhwall Bay of BengalDelhi, Haryana and UP
Brahmaputra916 - in India194413 Sq.Km. - in IndiaAngsi glacier in TibetBay of BengalAssam, Arunachal Pradesh
Kaveri (Dakshina Ganga or Ganges of the south)76581155 Sq.Km.Brahmagiri hills in Kogadu, KarnatakaBay of BengalKarnataka and Tamil Nadu
Godavari14653,12,812 Sq.Km.Triambakeshwar in MaharashtraBay of BengalSouth-eastern part of Andhra Pradesh
Krishna1400258948 Sq.Km.Mahabaleshwar in MaharashtraBay of BengalMaharashtra & Andhra Pradesh
Narmada131298,796 Sq.Km.Amarkantak in Madhya PradeshArabian SeaMadhya Pradesh and Maharashtra
Tapti72465,300 Sq.Km.Betul district of Madhya Pradesh in the Satpura rangeArabian SeaMadhya Pradesh and Maharashtra
Mahanadi8581,41,600 Sq.Km.Sihava mountains of ChhattisgarhBay of BengalJharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa
Vaigai2587,741Sq.Km.Varusanadu HillsBay of BengalMadurai in Tamil Nadu
Periyar2445,398 Sq.Km.Sivagiri peaks of Sundaramala, Tamil Nadu.Bay of BengalTamil Nadu and Kerala
Thamirabarani1854,400 Sq.Km.Agastyarkoodam peak of Pothigai hills of the Western Ghats,Gulf of MannarTamil Nadu

Last Updated on: April 28, 2022