Major Rivers in India - Civil Services Preparation Online! UPSC & IAS Study Material

Major Rivers in India

by Devender 09-Oct-21

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There is 3 prime Watershed of River Origin in India namely:

  • Himalayas and Karakoram ranges
  • Vindhya, Satpura ranges, and Chota Nagpur Plateau
  • Western Ghats
  • Major Rivers in India

  • Indus River System:
  • The Indus river system consists of 7 rivers namely:

    1 Indus

    Its ancient name is Sindhu and it originates from Bokharchu Glacier, Near Mansarovar in Tibet which is called Singi Khamban/Lion's mouth.

  • It enters India from Ladakh and flows only in J&K
  • It then enters Pakistan from the hairpin bend of Nanga Parbat
  • It finally discharges in the Arabian sea
  • Its total length is 2880 Km out of which, it flows 709 Km in India and India uses only 20 % of its water according to the India-Pak treaty of 1960.


    2 Shyok

    It originates from Rimo Glacier and is known as the river of death. It flows through Ladakh in India and it is a tributary of the Indus River.


    3 Jhelum

    Its ancient name is Vitasta and it originates from Verinag Spring in Kashmir. It flows Northward to Wular lake.

  • It is tributary of Chenab
  • It flows only in J&K
  • It cut through a gorge in Pir- Panjal range to reach Muzzafarabad (POK)

  • 4 Chenab

    Its ancient name is Akshani/Iskmati and it originates from Bara Lacha Pass in Himachal. It is known as Chandra-Bhaga in Himachal.

  • Chandra River - Water flowing south from the pass
  • Bhaga River - Water flowing north from the pass
  • It flows Northward and parallel to Pir –Panjal Range for some distance
  • It cut through a gorge in Pir – Panjal and turns southward
  • It is the largest tributary of Indus and it flows through Himachal and J&K. There are some famous projects on this river such as - Duhasti, Baglihar, and Salal hydroelectric project


    5 Ravi

    Its ancient name is Purushni and it originates from the Kullu hills near Rohtang Pass in Himachal.

  • It is a tributary of Chenab
  • It is the smallest river among the 5 rivers
  • It flows through Indo – Pak border
  • It flows northward between Pir – Panjal and Dhauladhar Ranges and cuts through the Dhauladhar range. It flows southward.


    6 Beas

    Its ancient name is Vipasha and it originates from Beas Kund near Rohtang Pass, Himachal.

  • It is a tributary of Satluj
  • It is the only river that flows entirely in India
  • It flows southward and cut a deep gorge in Dhauladhar and turns west to meet Satluj near Harike (Punjab). The famous project on this river is: Pong Dam


    7 Satluj

    Its ancient name is Shatadru and it originates from Rakas lake, Tibet, near Mansarovar.

  • It enters India from Himachal at Shipki La Pass
  • It collects water from Ravi, Chenab, Jhelum, and Beas to join Indus near Mithalkot (Pak). Some famous projects on it are: Naptha Jhakri Project and Bhakra Nangal Dam with Govind Sagar Reservoir


  • River Ganga system
  • The Ganga river system consists of many rivers. The tributaries of the river Ganga have their own tributaries. For example -

  • Ganga Tributaries - Yamuna, Gomti, Ghaghara, Gandak, Kosi, Son, Tons and Punpun
  • Ghaghara Tributaries- Sarda and Rakti
  • Kosi Tributaries - Arun, Tamur and Sun Koshi
  • Yamuna Tributaries - Chambal, Sind, Betwa, and Ken
  • Chambal Tributaries - Kali Sindh, Parvati and Banas
  • The river Ganga originates as Bhagirathi from Gangotri Glacier, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand. It then unites with Alakananda at Devprayag, Uttarakhand, and henceforth known as Ganga.

  • It then passes through Rishikesh and Haridwar
  • After Haridwar, it flows Southward to get to Allahabad where it meets the Yamuna
  • Near Rajmahal Hills, it turns southeast and gets divided into two parts at Farraka which are: Hoogly (Kolkata) and Padma (Bangladesh).

    In Bangladesh, Ganga merges with Brahmputra which is known as Jamuna in Bangladesh. The mixture becomes Padma River.

  • It finally merges with Meghna and falls in the Bay of Bengal
  • Meghna is known as the Barack river in India
  • 1 Ghaghara

    It originates from Bharchachungar Glacier (Rakas lake) near Mansarovar. It joins Ganga at Chhapra.

  • It is known as Manchu or Karnali in Nepal
  • It is known as Saryu or Ghaghra in UP
  • It is a Perennial river
  • Its tributaries are - Sarda and Rakti.


    2 Son

    It originates from the Amarkantak Plateau (Near the north of the origin of Narmada). It flows through Kaimur Range to meet Ganga at Patna.


    3 Gandak

    It originates from Sino – Nepal Boundary (Dhaulagiri range) and it is known as Kalyani in Nepal.

  • It is a major river of Nepal
  • It joins Ganga at Sonpur, Bihar

  • 4 Kosi

    It originates from Gosainath peak (Tibet). It consists of 7 streams and is known as Saptakoshi in Nepal.

  • Mainstream - Arun, Tamur, and Sun Koshi
  • It joins Ganga at Bhagalpur (Bihar)
  • It was formerly known as Sorrow of Bihar
  • A major project over this river is - Kusha Dam


    5 Gomti

    It originates from Gomat Taal / Fulhaar jheel – Pilibhit.

  • It is a tributary of Ganga

  • 6 Yamuna

    It originates from Yamunotri Glacier (Uttarkashi – Uttarakhand). It cuts deep gorge across Shivalik and then enters into plains near Tajewala.

  • It is the largest tributary of Ganga
  • It flows southward up to Agra and then turns southeast to meet Ganga at Allahabad
  • Its Famous tributaries are - Chambal, Sind, Betwa, and Ken


    7 Betwa

    It is a tributary of Yamuna and it rises from the Vindhya range, MP.

    Its major projects are: Matatila dam and Rajghat dam


    8 Ken

    It is a tributary of Yamuna and it rises from Kaimur hills in Satna (Madhya Pradesh).

  • It is famous for its Shajar stone and Raneh waterfalls

  • 9 Chambal

    It originates from Vindhya Range (Mhow, MP). It passes through Kota and Dhaulpur (Rajasthan).

  • It merges with Yamuna at Etawah (UP)
  • It forms the boundary between Rajasthan and MP
  • Its major tributaries are - Kali Sindh, Parvati, and Banas

    Its major power projects are: Gandhisagar, Rana Pratap Sagar, and Jawahar Sagar


    10 Banas

    It originates from the eastern slopes of Aravali and is a tributary of Chambal.


    11 Damodar

    It originates from the eastern part of Chhota Nagpur Plateau and meets Hoogli at Falta.

    Its power projects are - Talaiya, Maithan, Barakar, and Panchet


  • Brahmaputra River System:
  • It originates from Chemayungdung Glacier (Kailash Range, Tibet). It forms Grand Canyon in Tibet and it turns southward near Namcha – Barwa.

  • It is known as TSANG – PO in Tibet
  • It is known as YARLUNG ZANBO in China
  • It enters Arunachal Pradesh as Dihang River at Sadiya, emerging from the mountains. Then, it is joined by the Dibang river from the north and the Lohit river from the south and came to be called the Brahmaputra.

  • It turns at Dhubri to enter Bangladesh
  • It is known as Jamuna in Bangladesh after joining Teesta
  • It joins with Ganga and Meghna and merges with the Bay of Bengal
  • It forms many river islands out of which Majuli is the world 2nd largest one
  • Its Major tributaries are - Dihang, Lohit, Subansiri, Teesta, Meghna (Barack in Assam), Manas

    1 Teesta

    It is a major tributary of the Brahmaputra. It rises from Sikkim.

  • It is known as the lifeline of Sikkim

  • 2 Lohit

    Another major tributary of Brahmaputra. It flows through Arunachal Pradesh.

  • It along with river Dihang merges into the Brahmaputra, at Sadia town (Arunachal Pradesh)

  • Peninsular Rivers India – Flowing East to West
  • 1 Luni

    It is a Desertic river and is also known as the Sagarmati. It rises from the western slopes of the Aravalli Range near Ajmer and ends at the marshy lands of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat.

  • It is a major river in this region despite its high salinity
  • It also serves as a primary source of irrigation

  • 2 Sabarmati

    It rises from the dhebar lake in the Aravalli Range of the Udaipur (Rajasthan).

  • It flows from Udaipur to the Gulf of Khambat to the Arabian Sea via Estuary

  • 3 Mahi

    It rises from the Vindhya range (MP) and flows through MP, Rajasthan, and Gujrat.

  • It finally drains in the Gulf of Cambay
  • Famous projects on this river - Banswara Dam and Kadana dam


    4 Narmada

    It originates from Amarkantak, Shahdol, MP, and is known as Rewa River. It flows through the rift valley of the Vindhya and Satpura ranges.

    It flows from MP to Bharuch (Gujrat) to the Gulf of Khambat (Gujrat) and finally to the Arabian Sea via Estuary.

  • It is the longest East to West flowing river
  • It is known as the lifeline of MP
  • It forms Duandhar falls at Jabalpur
  • Aliabet formed by it is the largest Island in Estuary
  • Its tributaries are - Hiran River, Tawa River, Kolar River

    Major projects on this river are - Sardar Sarovar Dam, Maheshwar Dam, Indira Gandhi Sagar Dam


    5 Tawa

    It rises from the Satpura Range of Betul (MP) and is the longest tributary of the Narmada river.


    6 Tapi

    Tapi originates from Mahadev hills, Satpura range, Betul district, MP. It flows from MP to Maharashtra to the Gulf of Khambat or Cambay and finally to the Arabian Sea via Estuary.

    Some famous projects on it are - Kakrapar Dam and Ukai Dam


    7 Periyar

    It rises from the Western Ghats in Kerala and flows towards the west. It finally drains in the Arabian Sea via an estuary.


  • Peninsular Rivers India – Flowing West to East
  • 1 Mahanadi

    It originates from Dandakaranya Hills, Raipur and flows from Chhattisgarh to Orissa to the Eastern Ghats, and finally falls in the Bay of Bengal.

    A famous project on this river is - Hirakund Dam


    2 Godavari

    It originates from the Triambakeshwar Plateau, Nashik, Western Ghats.

  • It is the largest Peninsular River
  • It is known as the Dakshina/Vriddha Ganga
  • It flows from Nashik to Andhra Pradesh and finally to the Bay of Bengal
  • Its major tributaries are - Penganga, Sabri, Wardha, and Indravati

    Major projects on this river are - Poochampad, Jayakwadi, Polavaram


    3 Penganga

    It rises from Ajanta hills (Maharashtra) and is a tributary of River Wardha which finally merges into the Godavari.


    4 Krishna

    It originates from Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra, Western Ghats and it flows through Maharashtra to Andhra Pradesh and finally to the Bay of Bengal.

    Major projects on this river are - Koyna, Tugrabhdra, Srisailam, and Nagarjuna Sagar Dam


    5 Tungabhadra

    It is a tributary of the Krishna river and it rises from the Western Ghats.


    6 Bhima

    It originates from the Balaghat range (Maharashtra) and is a tributary of the Krishna river.


    7 Kaveri

    It originates from the Brahamgiri hills, Karnataka, WGs, and flows from Karnataka to Kaveripatnam (TN) to BOB.

  • It is a Perrenial River
  • It forms Shivasundaram Waterfalls
  • Some famous projects on this river are - Krishnaraja Sagar and Mettur


    8 Penner

    It rises from Karnataka and flows between Krishna and Kaveri.

  • It finally drains into BOB

  • 9 Vaigai

    It rises from Palni hills (TN).

  • It is a seasonal river flowing through TN
  • It finally drains in the Gulf of Mannar



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