Ganga, Indus & Brahmaputra – Himalayan Rivers

Ganga river Brahmaputra Indus Chambal

Drainage Systems Based on Origin

Himalayan Rivers

  • Those are Perennial rivers
  • Indus, the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, and their tributaries.

Peninsular Rivers

Drainage Systems Based on Orientation to the sea

Bay of Bengal drainage

  • Rivers that drain into the Bay of Bengal
  • East flowing rivers
  • 77% of the drainage area of the country is oriented towards the Bay of Bengal
  • 90% of the water drains into the Bay of Bengal

Arabian sea drainage

  • Rivers that drain into the Arabian sea
  • West flowing rivers
  • 23% of the drainage area of the country is oriented towards the Arabian sea
  • Less than 10% of the water drained into the Arabian Sea

Himalayan River systems

  • The Indus, the Ganga, and the Brahmaputra comprise the Himalayan river systems.
  • Himalayan Rivers existed even before the formation of Himalayas (Antecedent Drainage)
  • They were flowing into the Tethys Sea.
  • These rivers had their source in the now Tibetan region.
  • The deep gorges of Indus, Satluj, Brahmaputra, etc. indicate that these rivers are older than the Himalayas.
  • They continued to flow throughout the building phase of the Himalayas
  • Their banks rising steeply while the beds went lower and lower due to vertical erosion
  • In upper reaches (Youthful stage) they form Gorges, V-shaped valleys, rapids, waterfalls, truncated spurs, etc.
  • In plain areas or middle part (Mature stage) they form depositional features like flat valleys, ox-bow lakes, flood plains, braided channels, and deltas near the river mouth.
  • Over the plains, they display a strong meandering tendency and shift their courses frequently
Ganga river Brahmaputra Indus Chambal

Evolution of the Himalayan Drainage System

  • A mighty river called Shiwalik or Indo-Brahma traversed the entire longitudinal extent of the Himalaya from Assam to Punjab and onward to Sind
  • It discharged into the Gulf of Sind near lower Punjab
  • It was during the Miocene period some 5-24 million years ago.
  • Evidence – The remarkable continuity of the Shiwalik and its lacustrine origin and alluvial deposits consisting of sands, silt, clay, boulders, and conglomerates support this viewpoint.
  • It is opined that in due course of time Indo–Brahma river was dismembered into three main drainage systems
    1. Indus and its five tributaries in the western part;
    2. Ganga and its Himalayan tributaries in the central part
    3. Stretch of the Brahmaputra in Assam and its Himalayan tributaries in the eastern part.
  • The dismemberment was probably due to the Pleistocene upheaval in the western Himalayas
  • It includes the uplift of the Potwar Plateau (Delhi Ridge)
  • Potwar Plateau acted as the water divide between the Indus and Ganga drainage systems.
  • Malda gap is the area between the Rajmahal hills and Meghalaya plateau
  • It diverted the Ganga and the Brahmaputra systems to flow towards the Bay of Bengal.
  • During the mid-Pleistocene period, it came into excessed

Indus River

  • India got her name from Indus.
  • Source – Lake Manasarovar (5180 m) of Kailas Range, Tibet
  • Length is about 2,880 km
  • Right Tributaries – Shyok, Hunza, Gilgit, Kabul, Kurram, Gomal
  • Left Tributaries – Zanskar, Suru, Soan, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, Sutlej, Panjnad
  • It is joined by Dhar River near Indo-China border

Right Bank Tributaries

Shyok River

  • It means The River of Death
  • Source – Rimo Glacier
  • Length – 550 km
  • It  joins Indus at Keris, to the east of the town of Skardu
  • statue of Maitreya Buddha facing down the Shyok River
  • Tributaries – Chang Chen Mo, Galwan, Nubra, Saltoro

Hunza River

  • Principal river of Gilgit–Baltistan

Gilgit River

  • Source –  Shandur Lake
  • Joins the Indus River at the junction point of three mountains ranges near the town of Juglot

Kabul River

  • Source – Hindu Kush,  Afghanistan
  • Joins Indus near Attock

Gomal River

  • Source – Katawaz Region, Afghanistan

Left Bank Tributaries

Zanskar River

  • Joins the Indus near “Nimmu” in Ladakh

Suru River

  • Source – Panzella glacier, Pensi La Kargil
  • Join with the Indus River at Nurla
  • Kargil town is situated on the banks of it
  • A branch of the ancient Silk Road ran alongside the Suru River

Jhelum River (Vitasta / Hydaspes)

  • Source Verinag Spring in the south-eastern part of the Kashmir Valley
  • It flows northwards into Wular Lake
  • It forms steep-sided narrow gorge through Pir Panjal Range below Baramula.
  • Jhelum forms the IndiaPakistan boundary for 170 km
  • It joins the Chenab at Trimmu.
  • Kishanganga is a tributary

Chenab River (Chandrabhaga River)

  • SourceBara Lacha Pass, Himachal Pradesh
  • It formed by the confluence of two rivers, Chandra and Bhaga

Ravi River (Iravati )

  • SourceKullu hills near Rohtang Pass, Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh.
  • It debouches into the Chenab a little above Rangpur
  • Ujh is a tributary of Ravi

Beas River (Vipasa)

  • Source – Beas Kund, near Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh
  • It meets the Satluj river at Harike in Punjab.
  • It lies entirely within the Indian territory
  • Beas River marks the eastern-most border of Alexander the Great’s conquests

Sutlej River (Shatadrum)

  • SourceManasarovar-Rakas Lakes in Tibet at a height of 4,570 m within 80 km of the source of the Indus.
  • Tibetan name Langqên Zangbo mean Elephant River
  • It forms the boundary between India and Pakistan for nearly 120 km.

Panjnad River

  • Jhelum and Ravi join Chenab, Beas joins Sutlej, and the Sutlej and Chenab join to form Panjnad 10 miles north of Uch Sharif in Muzaffar Garh district
  • Length – 71 km
  • Sources – Chenab River, Sutlej, Ravi River, Jhelum River, Beas River
  • It joins the Indus a few kilometers above Mithankot.
Ganga river Brahmaputra Indus Chambal

Indus water treaty

  • Water-distribution treaty between India and Pakistan, brokered by the World Bank
  • Signed in Karachi on Sept 19, 1960, by Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan
  • Eastern rivers of India – the Beas, the Ravi, and the Sutlej has given to India
  • Western rivers of India – the Indus, the Chenab, and the Jhelumgiven to Pakistan
  • India can use nearly 20% of the total water carried by the Indus System

Ganga River

  • Source – Gangotri glacier (7,010 m), Uttar Kashi District, Uttarakhand
  • Length is 2,525 km in India
  • Alaknanda River joins Bhagirathi at Devaprayag
  • From Devapryag the river called as Ganga
  • Ganga enters the plains at Haridwar
  • The Ganges is one of the most polluted rivers of the world
  • Pollution threatens many fish species and amphibian species and the endangered Ganges river dolphin (Blind Dolphin).
  • Near Rajmahal Hills it turns to the south-east.
  • At Farraka, it bifurcates into Bhagirathi-Hugli in West Bengal and Padma-Meghna in Bangladesh
  • The Brahmaputra joins Padma-Meghna at Bangladesh
  • Gangetic dolphin is the National Water Animal of India
  • Left Tributaries – Alaknanda, Ramganga, Gomti, Ghaghara, Gandak, Kosi, Mahananda
  • Right Tributaries – Yamuna, Tamsa, Son, Punpun


  • Source – Satopanth Glacier
  • Several rivers in the Garhwal region merge with the Alaknanda at places called Prayag or ‘holy confluence of rivers
    • Vishnuprayag – met by the Dhauliganga River
    • Nandaprayag – met by the Nandakini River
    • Karnaprayag – met by the Pindar River
    • Rudraprayag – met by the Mandakini or Kali Ganga
    • Devprayag – meets the Bhagirathi River

Yamuna River

  • Largest and the most important tributary
  • Source – Yamunotri glacier (6330 m) Bandarpunch Peak in the Garhwal region, Uttarakhand
  • Length – 1,376 km
  • It unites with Ganga near Triveni Sangam, Allahabad
  • Its main affluent in the upper reaches is the Tons which also rises from the Bandarpunch glacier.
  • It joins the Yamuna below Kalsi before the latter leaves the hills.
  • Left bank tributaries – Hindon, Sharda, Giri, Rishiganga, Hanuman Ganga, Sasur Khaderi
  • Right bank tributariesChambal, Betwa, Ken, Sindh, Tons

Important Tributaries of Yamuna

Tons River

  • Source – Bandarpunch, Uttarakhand
  • Join Yamuna at Dehradun, Uttarakhand
  • Length – 150 km

Betwa River

  • SourceVindhyan Range, Bhopal, MP
  • It joins the Yamuna in Hamirpur, Uttar Pradesh
  • Runs over the Malwa Plateau

Ken River

  • SourceKaimur Range, Vindhya Range, MP
  • Join in Yamuna near Chila, UP

Chambal River

  • SourceJanapav Hills (700 m), Vindhyan Range, MP
  • It flows through the Malwa Plateau.
  • Chambal river joins the Yamuna in Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh.
  • The river flows much below its banks due to severe gully erosion
  • Chambal Valley, giving rise to badland topography
  • Keoladeo National Park is supplied with water from the Chambal river irrigation project.
  • Left tributary – Banas, Mej
  • Right tributary – Parbati, Kali Sindh, Shipra

Important tributaries of the Chambal

Banas River

  • SourceAravalli Range
  • It joins the Chambal river on Rajasthan – Madhya Pradesh border near Sawai Madhopur.

Shipra River

  • Source – Kakri Bardi Hills
  • Kumbh Mela takes place on Ujjain riverside ghats

Other Right Bank Tributaries of Ganga

Son River

  • Source  Amarkantak Plateau.
  • Join Ganga near Danapur in Patna, Bihar.
  • Tributaries – Ghaghar, Johilla, Gopad, Rihand, Kanhar and North Koel.

Damodar River

  • SourceChotanagpur plateau
  • Flows through a rift valley.
  • Tributaries –  Barakar, Konar, Bokaro, Haharo etc.
  • Barakar is the most important tributary of the Damodar.
  • Damodar valley is called “the Ruhr of India”.
  • It called ‘Sorrow of Bengal’
  • It joins the Hugli River 48 km below Kolkata.

Left Bank Tributaries of The Ganga River

  • These rivers originate in the Himalayas.

Ramganga River

  • Source – Namik Glacier, Garhwal, Uttarakhand
  • It enters the Ganga Plain near Kalagarh.
  • It joins the Ganga at
  • Ganga Dassahra is organized on its banks near Bareilly.

Ghaghra River

  • SourceMapchachungo Glacier, Manasarovar, Tibet
  • River of the trans-Himalayan origin
  • Known as the Karnali in Western Nepal.
  • Tributaries – Kai or Sarda, Sarju (Ayodhya is located on its bank), Rapti
  • Joins the Ganga a few km downstream of Chhapra in Bihar.
  • It has a high flood frequency and has shifted its course several times.

Important Tributary of Ghaghara

Kali River

  • Rises in the high glaciers of trans-Himalaya.
  • Forms the boundary between Nepal and India
  • It is known as the Sarda after it reaches the plains near Tanakpur.
  • It joins Ghaghra River in Uttar Pradesh

Gandak River

  • SourceNhubine Himal Glacier, Tibet (7,620 m)
  • Tributaries – Kali Gandak, Mayangadi, Bari and Trishuli.
  • It joins Ganga at Hajipur in Bihar.

Burhi Gandak

  • Source – Chautarwa Chaur, Bihar
  • It joins the Ganga near Khararia town.

Kosi River

  • The Kosi river consists of seven streams namely Sut Kosi, Tamba Kosi, Talkha, Doodh Kosi, Botia Kosi, Arun, and Tamber and is popularly known as Saptakoshi
  • Seven streams mingle with each other to form three streams named the Tumar, Arun and Sun Kosi.
  • They unite at Triveni north of the Mahabharata Range to form the Kosi.
  • It joins the Ganga near Kursela, Bihar
  • It is often termed as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’.
  • Embankments for flood control have been constructed as a joint venture of India and Nepal.

Ganga water treaty

  • Signed between India and Bangladesh
  • 1st time in 1977
  • 2nd time in 1996
Ganga river Brahmaputra Indus Chambal

Brahmaputra River

  • SourceChemayungdung glacier, Kailas Range (5,150 m)
  • length – 2,900 km
  • Left TributariesDibang River, Lohit River, Dhansiri River, Kolong River
  • Right tributaries – Kameng River, Manas River, Beki River, Raidak River, Jaldhaka River, Teesta River, Subansiri River (antecedent river)
  • Its source is very close to the sources of Indus and Satluj.
  • Mariam La separates the source of the Brahmaputra from the Manasarovar Lake.
  • Its name is Tsangpo in Tibet
  • Its takes a southward turn around Namcha Barwa and enter in Arunachal Pradesh
  • Here it first flows under the name of Siong and then as the Dihang.
  • It is joined by two tributaries Dibang from the north and Lohit from the south.
  • From Sadiya (Assam Valley) onwards, it is known as the Brahmaputra
  • The river is nearly 16 km wide at Dibrugarh and forms many islands, the most important of which is Majuli
  • The Brahmaputra bends southwards and enters Bangladesh near Dhubri.
  • Its called Jamuna river in Bangladesh
  • The united stream of the Jamuna and Ganga flows further in the name of Padma
  • The Padma is joined on the left bank by the Meghna,
  • The confluence of Padma and Meghna, the combined river is known as the Meghna
  • Tsangpo Grand Canyon in Namcha Barwa is regarded by some as the deepest canyon in the world at (5,500 m)
  • Other people consider the Kali-Gandaki Gorge in Nepal to be the deepest canyon, with a 6400 m

Important Tributaries

Lohit River ( Zayu River)

  • Source  Kangri Garpo range, Tibet
  • It joins the Siang (Brahmaputra) at the head of the Brahmaputra valley
  • Longest bridge of India Dhola–Sadiya Bridge (Bhupen Hazarika Setu) 9.15 km constructed on Lohit river

Subansiri River

  • Source – Himalayas, in China
  • The largest tributary of the Brahmaputra
  • Joins the Brahmaputra River in Lakhimpur district and Majuli island created on the mouth of it
Ganga river Brahmaputra Indus Chambal

Manas River

  • It joins Brahmaputra River at Jogighopa
  • the largest river system of Bhutan

Teesta River

  • Source  Zemu Glacier, Kangchenjunga, Sikkim
  • Tista was a tributary of the Ganga prior to the floods of 1787 after which it diverted its course eastwards to join the Brahmaputra