Rivers of Kerala – Part I

Rivers of Kerala - Part I

The entire Malabar coast is blessed by nature in abundance with its rivers, lakes, lagoons, long beaches, estuaries and backwaters. 

These incredibly beautiful formations are a result of its geographical location (Coastal Emergence – upward displacement of the land relative to sea level, ie, currently rising above sea level) and Coastal erosion or Marine erosion. The strong waves in the Arabian sea and southwest monsoon play an important part in the coastal erosion of the Kerala coast.

According to the government of Kerala, a water body that is more than 15 km in length can be considered as a river. 

In that essence, there are 44 rivers in Kerala, of which 41 are west–flowing rivers and 3 are east–flowing rivers. The majority of these rivers originate from the Sahyadri hills in the Western Ghats and end up in the Arabian ocean.

This is going to be a vast topic and a sure question for all PSC examinations, so we will have a detailed discussion on the topic in a two–part series.

Basic Facts  

  • Total No. of rivers in Kerala – 44.
  • West flowing rivers – 41.
  • East flowing rivers – 3 (Kabani, Bhavani & Pambar).
  • Longest river in Kerala  – Periyar (244 km).
    • Second–longest river – Bharathapuzha.
  • Shortest river in Kerala – Manjeswaram River (16 km, Origin: Balappooni hills).
  • Northernmost river – Manjeswaram River.
  • Southernmost river – Neyyar (56 km, Origin: Agasthyamala).
  • District with the maximum number of rivers – Kasargod (12).
  • The Sabarigiri hydroelectric project is located on – Pamba.
  • Kerala's largest hydro–electric project, Idukki dam is located on – Periyar.
  • The Mullaperiyar Dam is located on – Periyar.
  • The river flowing through the Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad – Kunthipuzha.
  • Thusharagiri waterfalls are on – Chalippuzha.
  • Aluva Mahadeva Temple is located on the banks of which river – Periyar.
  • Thirunavaya, the holy site of medieval festival Mamankam was on the banks of – Bharathapuzha.

East flowing rivers:

All the east–flowing rivers in Kerala are the tributaries of the Kaveri river.
  • Kabani (58 km) – originates from Pakramthalam hills in Wayanad district and flows towards eastwards to join the Kaveri River at Tirumakudalu Narasipura, Karnataka state.

    It is the only river that flows out of the state to the Karnataka state. Makkiyad river, Periya river, Mananthavady river, Panamaram river, and Kalindi river joins with Kabani on its way. Panamaram river joins Kabani near Payyampally at Koodal Kadavu.

    Kuruva islands are situated on the banks of the Kabani River. The Kabini dam is built on the River Kabani in the district of Mysore. Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka is also located on the banks of the Kabini river.
    • Longest east–flowing river in Kerala – Kabani.
    • Banasura sagar and Kuruva island are located on the banks of – Kabani river.
    • The largest earthen dam in India located across the Karamanathodu River, a tributary of River Kabini in Wayanad district – Banasura Sagar dam.
    • District through which Kabani river flows – Wayanad.
    • The only river that flows into Karnataka – Kabini.
    • Kabani also is known as – Kapila.

  • Bhavani (45 km) – originates from the South West Corner of the Nilgiri Hills of the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu.

    It enters Kerala through Palakkad district between two high forested ridges about 20 km up to Mukkali, after the abrupt turn in the northeast direction through a totally degraded and denuded catchment about 25 km where the whole population of the Attappady valley lies up to Koodappatti.

  • Bhavanisagar dam and Kodiveri dam are also located on the Bhavani river.
    • Major tributaries – Shiruvani, Varagar. 
    • The largest tributary of River Bhavani – Varagar. 
    • The river that flows through Attappadi plateau – Siruvani.
    • Mukkali check dam is located on – Bhavani.
    • The tributary of Bhavani that has the sweetest water in India – Shiruvani.

  • Pambar (29 km) originates from the Benmore Tea Estate of Devikulam in Idukki district. It is at Anaimudi Hills the highest peak of Kerala of the Western Ghats. It flows eastward through Kerala state and enters into Tamil Nadu.

    It flows through Eravikulam National Park and the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary, which houses one of Kerala's most beautiful waterfalls, Thoovanam waterfalls.

    • Major tributaries  – Thenar, Iravikulam, Myladi, Thirthmala & Chengalar.
    • River Pambar  is also known as – Sarpanadi & Thalayar.
    • The smallest river flowing eastwards in Kerala – Pambar (25 km).
    • The river that flows through the Chinnar Wildlife Sanctuary – Pambar.
In short: Kabani is flowing eastwards through Wayanad and into Karnataka. Bhavani and Pambar are flowing into Tamil Nadu. Bhavani river originated from Tamil Nadu Nilgiris eastwards and runs towards the western side into Kerala state.


  • The river with the longest estuary in India – Ganges.
  • The river with the longest estuary in the World – Ob (Russia).
  • First River Museum in Kerala – Ponnani (on the banks of Bharathapuzha).
  • First hydropower project of CIAL is on – Iruvazhinjippuzha.
    • CIAL is on – Cochin International Airport Ltd.
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