Rivers in India

The rivers play important role in the economic development of any country. In India, the rivers play an important role in irrigation, transportation, fishing. Due to this, the rivers in India are tightly bounded to Indian tradition and culture. Since ancient times, rivers are worshipped as God/Goddess since they are considered very sacred. India has a rich resource of rivers and in almost every part of India, there is a nearby river.

Classification of Rivers of India

  1. Perennial and Non- Perennial River: If a river is originating from mountains or they get water throughout the year then they are considered as Perennial River. On the other hand, rivers originating from plateau region are called as Non- Perennial Rivers. Non- Perennial Rivers do not have enough waters for the whole year. Perennial rivers of India includes Ganga, Yamuna, Indus, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Mahanadi, Tapti, Ghagra(Saraswati), Sutlej and Thamiraparani(only perennial river from the south).
  2. (Peninsular Rivers ) East flowing & West Flowing Rivers: The Peninsular Rivers originate in the Western Ghats. They have a large seasonal fluc­tuation in volume as they are solely fed from rain­fall. These rivers flow in valleys with steep gradi­ents. Major rivers of the Peninsula such as Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery flow eastwards on the plateau and drain into the Bay of Bengal. The rivers which end in the Bay of Bengal are called “East flowing” rivers. If the river empties into the Arabian Sea, it is called “West Flowing” rivers. In India, all major rivers are “east-flowing” rivers. The west flowing rivers of India includes Narmada River, Tapti River, Mahi River and Sabarmati River.
  3. Inland Drainage River: The river which does not empty itself into any sea, and ends with any lake or any other water body is known as Inland Drainage River. The best example of Inland Drainage River in India is Luni River which does not fall into the Arabian Sea but ends up in Rann of Kutch.
  4. On the basis of their origin.
    1. The Himalayan mountain range.
    2. From Satpura and Vindhya range.
    3. From Western Ghats region.
    4. The Indus River System

List of Major Rivers in India

The length of some important Indian Rivers
Sl. No. River Length (km) Origin End
1. Indus 2,900  Originates in Tibetan plateau, Enters India in J&K  Merges into Arabian sea near Sindh
2. Brahmaputra 2,900  Himalayan Glacier in Tibet, but enters India in Arunachal Pradesh  Merges with Ganga and ends in the Bay of Bengal
3. Ganga 2,510  Gangotri Glacier (Bhagirathi), Uttarakhand  Bay of Bengal
4. Godavari 1,450  Starts in Maharashtra and passes through 7 Indian states  Empties in the Bay of Bengal
5. Narmada 1,290  Starts from Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh  Drains into Arabian sea via Gulf of Cambay
6. Krishna 1,290  Originates in the Western Ghats near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra  Ends in the Bay of Bengal near Andhra Pradesh
7. Mahanadi 890  Originates from Dhamtri, Chhattisgarh  Ends in the Bay of Bengal in Odisha
8. Kaveri 760  Talakaveri in the Western Ghats in Karnataka Ends in the Bay of Bengal

State-Wise Rivers

State-Wise details of Rivers Covered

 S. No.                 State River
1 Andhra Pradesh Godavari & Musi
2 Bihar Ganga
3 Delhi Yamuna
4 Goa Mandovi
5 Gujarat Sabarmati
6 Haryana Yamuna
7 Jharkhand Damodar, Ganga & Subarnarekha
8 Karnataka Bhadra, Tungabhadra,Cauvery, Tunga & Pennar
9 Kerala Pamba
10 Madhya Pradesh Betwa, Tapti, Wainganga, Khan, Narmada, Kshipra, Beehar, Chambal & Mandakini.
11 Mahrashtra Krishna, Godavari, Tapi and Panchganga
12 Nagaland Diphu & Dhansiri
13 Orissa Brahmini & Mahanadi
14 Punjab Satluj
15 Rajasthan Chambal
16 Sikkim Rani Chu
17 Tamil Nadu Cauvery, Adyar, Cooum, Vennar, Vaigai & Tambarani
18 Uttar Pradesh Yamuna, Ganga & Gomti
19 Uttranchal Ganga
20 West Bengal Ganga, Damodar & Mahananda

Peninsular Rivers India – Flowing East to West

Rivers Length (KM) Details
  • Also known as the Sagarmati
  • Rises from the western slopes of the Aravalli Range near Ajmer
  • Ends in the marshy lands of Rann of Kutch in Gujarat
  • Rises from Dhebar lake in Aravalli Range of the Udaipur (Rajasthan)
  • Ends in the Arabian Sea via Estuary
  • Rises from Vindhya range (MP)
  • Drains in Gulf of Cambay
  • Origin: Amarkantak, Shahdol, MP
  • Ends: The Arabian Sea via Estuary
  • Flow Route: MP – Bharuch (Gujrat) – Gulf of Khambat (Gujrat) – The Arabian Sea via Estuary
  • Famous projects: S →Sardar Sarovar Dam, Maheshwar Dam, Indira Gandhi Sagar Dam
  • Important Facts:
    • Longest among all east to west flowing rivers
    • Known as Lifeline of MP
    • Forms Duandhar falls at Jabalpur
    • Only tributary → Hiran River
    • Aliabet is the Largest Island in Estuary
  • Rises in the Satpura Range of Betul (MP)
  • Narmada’s longest tributary
  • Origin: Mahadev hills, Satpura range, Betul district, MP
  • Flow Route: MP – Maharashtra – Gulf of Khambat or Cambay – Arabian Sea via Estuary
  • Famous projects: Kakrapar Dam & Ukai Dam
  • Rises from Western Ghats in Kerala
  • Flows towards west & drains in Arabian Sea via an estuary

Peninsular Rivers India – Flowing West to East

Rivers Length (KM) Details
  • Origin: Dandakaranya Hills, Raipur
  • Flow Route: Chhattisgarh – Orissa – EGs – BOB
  • Famous Project: Hirakund Dam
  • Origin: Triambakeshwar Plateau, Nashik, WGs
    – Largest Peninsular River
    – Known as Dakshina / Vriddha Ganga
  • Flow Route: Nashik – Andhra Pradesh – BOB
  • Famous Tributaries: Penganga, Sabri, Wardha & Indravati
  • Famous Projects: Poochampad, Jayakwadi, Polavaram
  • Rises from Ajanta hills (Maharashtra)
  • a tributary of River Wardha which finally merges into Godavari
  • Origin Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra, WGs
  • Flow Route: Maharashtra Andhra Pradesh BOB
  • Famous Projects Koyna, Tugrabhdra, Srisailam & Nagarjuna Sagar Dam
  • a major tributary of Krishna
  • Rises from Western Ghats
  • Rises from Balaghat range (Maharashtra)
  • Tributary of Krishna
  • Origin Brahamgiri hills, Karnataka, WGs
  • Flow Route: Karnataka Kaveripatnam (TN) BOB
  • Perrenial River
  • Forms Shivasundaram Waterfalls
  • Famous projects Krishnaraja sagar & Mettur
  • Rises from Karnataka
  • Flows b/w Krishna & Kaveri
  • Drains into BOB
  • Rises from Palni hills (TN)
  • A seasonal river flows through TN
  • Drains in Gulf of Mannar

The Ganga River System

The Ganga River System includes the following rivers (10 major rivers plus Damodar river and Hugli river):

Rivers Length (KM) Origin End
Ganga 2,525 Gangotri Glacier (Bhagirathi), Uttarakhand Bay of Bengal
Yamuna 1,376 Yamunotri Glacier, Uttarakhand Merges with Ganga at Allahabad (Triveni Sangam – Kumbh Mela spot
Brahmaputra 1,800 Himalayan Glacier in Tibet, but enters India in Arunachal Pradesh Merges with Ganga and ends in Bay of Bengal
Chambal 960 Tributary of Yamuna river, starting at Madhya Pradesh Joins Yamuna river in UP
Son 784 Tributary of Ganga, starting at Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh Joins Ganga just above Patna – also considered part of Vindhya river system
Gandak 630 Nepal; Ganges tributary at Indo-Nepal border (Triveni Sangam) Joins Ganga near Patna
Kosi 720 Starts from Bihar near Indo-Nepal border Joins Ganga near Katihar district of Bihar
Betwa 590 Tributary of Yamuna, rises at Vindhya region, MP Joins Yamuna at Hamirpur in UP
Gomti 900 Tributary of Ganga, starting at Gomat Taal, UP Joins Ganga in Varanasi district
Ghaghra 1080 Himalayan Glacier in tibet, tributary of Ganga Joins Ganga in Bihar
Hugli (Hooghly) 260 Tributary of Ganga near West Bengal Merges with Ganga at the Bay of Bengal
Damodar 592 Tributary of Hugli near Chandwar, Jharkhand Merges with Hugli in West Bengal

Although Hugli and Damodar rivers are not considered as the most important rivers of the Ganga river system.

The Indus River System

The Indus River System includes the following 6 major rivers: 
Rivers Length (KM) Origin End
Indus 3180 Originates in Tibetan plateau, Enters India in J&K Merges into Arabian sea near Sindh
Chenab 960 Upper Himalayas in the Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh Merges with Indus
Jhelum 725 Tributary of Chenub river, Punjab Merges with Chenab at Jhang (Pakistan)
Ravi 720 Starts from Bara Bhangal, Kangra district, Himachal Pradesh Joins Chenab in Pakistan
Sutlej 1500 Tributary of Indus river, originates at Rakshastal, Tibet Meets Beas river in Pakistan and ends at Arabian sea
Beas 470 Rises at Himalayas in central Himachal Pradesh Joins Sutlej river in Punjab, India

Western Ghats Rivers

Western Ghats Rivers: 

Rivers Length (KM) Origin End
Kaveri 765 Talakaveri in the Western Ghats in Karnataka Ends in the Bay of Bengal
Krishna 1400 Originates in the Western Ghats near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra Ends in the Bay of Bengal near Andhra Pradesh
Godavari 1465 Starts in Maharashtra and passes through 7 Indian states Empties in the Bay of Bengal
Tungabhadra 531 Tributary of Krishna river staring at Karnataka Joins Krishna river along the border of Telangana and Andhra Prades

Vindhya and Satpura Ranges rivers

Vindhya and Satpura Ranges rivers:

Rivers Length (KM) Origin End
Tapti 724 Rises in Eastern Satpura Ranges, Madhya Pradesh Empties into Gulf of Khambat, Gujarat
Mahi 580 Rises in Madhya Pradesh Flows into Arabian sea from Gujarat
Narmada 1315 Starts from Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh


Other Important Notes on Indian rivers to remember:

  • River Saraswati was considered to be a mythical river and is part of the Hindu Triveni Sangam mythology of the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati rivers. Recent studies have shown that the Saraswati river was flowing under the ground and meeting Ganga and Yamuna at the Kumbh Mela spot.
  • Meghna a major river in Bangladesh is a tributary if Indian Brahmaputra river and also empties into the Bay of Bengal.

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