Rivers of India for PSC

Rivers of India

The Himalayas-Hindu Kush region known as the Water Tower of Asia is a part of the Tibetan plateau, which provides water to the entire continent of Asia.

It is sometimes referred to as the "Third Pole" of the Earth. As it has vast amounts of water locked in the form of snow and ice in thousands of glaciers. It (after the two poles – the Arctic and the Antarctic glaciers) alone account for an estimated 14.5 per cent of the worldwide total.

Nearly 48 percent of the 718 billion cubic metres of surface water that comes out of the Tibetan plateau flows directly into India.

On the basis of their origin, the rivers flowing through the Indian Subcontinent are broadly classified into two. They are:

    1. Himalayan Rivers
    2. Peninsular rivers

This post gives an overview of the major rivers in India for Kerala PSC degree level examinations. We will discuss each river system in detail in the upcoming posts.

Major Rivers of India

Himalayan Rivers

The Himalayas are crisscrossed by 19 major rivers. The largest river systems in India, namely the Ganga, Indus, Yamuna, and the Brahmaputra, originate from there.

The Himalayan rivers are perennial in nature, fed by the melting water from the glaciers and the rains. They are longer than the Perennial rivers and have larger basins.

  • Ganga (2525 Km)
  • Ganga, the most sacred river of Hindus has its origin from Gangotri, near Gaumukh in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand from the southern slopes of the Himalayas. It is the most revered river in India (worshipped as the goddess Gaแน…gฤ) yet it is also one of the most polluted rivers too.

    Megasthenes was the first European to mention Ganga in his book Indika.

    • Largest River in India.
    • National River of India.
    • Third Largest River in the World (by discharge, length-wise: 34th).
    • Fourth longest river in Bangladesh.
    • Highest population of any river basin in the world.
    • River with the largest basin in India (approx. 861,452 sq. km.).
    • Origin – Gangotri Glacier (Himalayas, Uttarakhand).
    • Depth – 17m (56 ft).
    • Flows through
      • Countries – India & Bangladesh.
      • States – 11 states (Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh & West Bengal).
      • Union Territory – Delhi.
      • Cities – Allahbad, Badrinath, Chakeri, Farrukhabad, Fatehgarh, Haridwar, Kanpur, Kannauj, Kashi, Kolkata, Patna, Patliputra, Varanasi.
        • Largest City on the banks of GangaKanpur.
    • Ganga covers the longest distance in the state of – Uttar Pradesh.
    • Five types of Prayag
      • Devprayag Confluence of Bhagirathi & Alaknanda.
      • Rudraprayag Confluence of Mandakini & Alaknanda.
      • Nandaprayag Confluence of Nandakini & Alaknanda.
      • Vishnuprayag Confluence of Dhauliganga & Alaknanda.
      • KarnaprayagConfluence of Pinder River & Alaknanda.
    • At Bangladesh, Ganga merges with Brahmaputra at Goalundo Ghats.
    • Merges into – Sagar Island, Bay of Bengal.
    • Epithets – Bhagirathi, Jahnavi, Vishnupadi, Padma & Keertinasini (in Bangladesh).
    • Major Tributaries – Barakar, Bhagirathi, Chambal, Damodar, Gandak, Gomti, Ghaghra, Kosi, Mahananda, Punpun, Ramganga, Sarda, Son, Tamsa, Yamuna.
      • Largest Tributary (by volume) – Ghaghara (Karnali, 2,991 m³/s ).
      • Largest Southernmost Tributary – Son.
      • Longest Tributary – Yamuna.
      • Westernmost Tributary Bhagirathi& Hoogly.
      • Tehri Dam Bhagirathi River.
      • Bansagar Dam Son River.
      • Tons Tamsa.
      • Major Tributary that originates from Peninsular Plateau – Son.
      • Major Tributary that originates from Amarkantak Plateau – Son.
      • Tributaries that flows through Jim Corbett National Park – Kosi & Ramganga.
    • World's Largest Delta – Sundarbans (West Bengal), UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
    • Kumbh Mela, the largest religious human gathering in the world.
    • Pilgrimage Sites Haridwar, Rishikesh, Allahabad, Varanasi & Kolkata.
    • Endangered Species – 10 (Ganga River Dolphin, Gharial, Ganges shark etc).
    • Nuclear Power PlantNarora (Uttar Pradesh).
    • National ParksNanda Devi National Park, Valley of Flowers National Park
    • Mahatma Gandhi Setu, the third-longest river bridge of India connecting Patna (south) & Hijiapur (north).
    • Farakka Barrage Dam (1975) West Bengal (to protect Kolkata Port).
    • Ganga River Agreement of 1996 (Dec. 12), 30-year water-sharing bilateral treaty.
      • Between H. D. Deve Gowda (India) & Sheikh Hasina Wajed (Bangladesh).
    • Projects
      • 1905 Ganga Mahasabha was founded by Madan Mohan Malviya in the year 1905, for the conservation of the river.
      • 1986 Ganges Action Plan (GAP) – Rajiv Gandhi.
      • 2009 National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA).
      • 2014 Namami Gange Programme / National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG).

  • Indus (3180 Km)
  • The Indus River gave rise to one of the most ancient human civilizations, the Indus Valley Civilization, and has immense historical significance. Only 709 kilometres of the overall length of the Indus run within India, while the remainder flows through China and Pakistan.

    The "Indus" river is mentioned several times in the Rigveda as "Sindhu."

    • National River of Pakistan.
    • Only west-flowing Himalayan river.
    • Length  2880 Km (for Kerala PSC).
    • Origin Bokharchu Glacier, Kailash Mansarovar Range near Mansarovar Lake, Tibetan Plateau.
    • Flows through
      • Countries – India (5%), China (2%) & Pakistan (93%).
      • Union Territory – Leh (Ladakh).
    • Merges into – Arabian Sea, Rann of Kutch, Pakistan.
    • Enters India through the Shipki La pass & Ladakh.
    • Enters Pakistan near the Nanga Parbat.
    • Epithets – Lifeline of Pakistan, Singi Khamban (in Tibet), Meghna.
    • Major Cities – Leh, Sukkur & Hyderabad (Pakistan).
    • Major Tributaries – Balram, Beas, Chenab, Dras, Suru, Gilgit, Jhelum, Ravi, Sutlej, Shyok, Zaskar.
      • Largest Tributary – Chenab.
      • Longest Tributary of Indus in India – Sutlej.
      • Smallest Tributary – Beas.
      • Southernmost Tributary – Sutlej.
      • Only tributary that originates from Tibet – Sutlej.
      • Only tributary that flows fully through India – Beas.
    • Also known as the Sindhu river.
    • Archaeological sitesMohenjo-Daro (Sindh, Pakistan).
    • DamsTarbela Dam (Pakistan), the largest earth-filled dam in the world.
    • Indus Water Treaty of 1960 (Sept. 19) – Between India (Jawaharlal Nehru) & Pakistan (Ayoob Khan), by which India can use 20% of water from Indus river.  
    • Pass has been created by Indus river – Banihal Pass (Jammu & Kashmir).

  • Yamuna (1376 Km)
  • The Yamuna is the longest and the second largest tributary of river Ganga. It joins the Ganga at Triveni Sangam in Allahabad, which hosts the Kumbh Mela, a Hindu religious event and pilgrimage that alternates between four sacred rivers every 12 years.

    • Longest river in India which does not flow directly into the sea.
    • Origin – Yamunotri Glaciers (Banderpoonch peak, Uttarkashi, Uttarakhand).
    • Flows through
      • States Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana.
      • Union Territory Delhi.
      • Cities – Agra, Etawah (UP), Auraiya (UP), Mathura, Delhi.
    • Merges into – Ganga (Prayag / Allahabad).
    • Epithets – Kalindi (Puranas).
    • Major Tributaries – Betwa, Hanuman Ganga, Rishiganga, Ken, Sharda, Chambal, Hindon, Giri, Sasur.
      • Largest Tributary – Tons.
    • Triveni Sangam of Ganga, Yamuna & Saraswathi Allahabad.
    • Historic Monuments – Taj Mahal.
    • 70% of the water to Delhi is from the Yamuna.

  • Brahmaputra (2900 Km)
  • Only 916 kilometres of the Brahmaputra's overall length of 2900 kilometres flows within India, the rest of it lies in China, Tibet and Bangladesh. Brahmaputra's delta is home to 130 million people and 6, 00, 000 people living on its riverine islands.

    It is the only river in India that is said to have a masculine gender.

    • Least Polluted Himalayan River.
    • Origin – Angsi Glacier (Tibet).
    • Flows through
      • Countries – India, Bangladesh & Tibet.
      • States – Assam & Arunachal Pradesh.
      • Cities – Dibrugarh (Assam), Guwahati
    • Merges into – Bay of Bengal.
    • The place where Brahmaputra takes a “U” turn and enters India – Namcha Barwa Peak, Sadiya town (Arunachal Pradesh).
    • Epithets – Red River, Sorrow of Assam, Jamuna (Bangladesh), Tsang Po (Tibet), Yarlung Zangbo (China), Siang & Dihang (Arunachal Pradesh), Dibang (Assam).
    • Major Tributaries – Teesta, Meghna, Subanasiri, Lohit, Sikang, Kameng, Manas, Sankosh, Dhansari, Raidak and Kalang.
      • Largest Tributary – Subanasiri.
      • Life line of Sikkim – Teesta.
      • Fastest River in India – Teesta.
      • River of Blood / The Bleeding River – Lohit.
    • National Parks – Kaziranga National Park (Assam).
    • Majuli (Assam), the first island to become a district in India.
      • Largest River Island in the world.

      Peninsular rivers

    While the Himalayan rivers are fed from the meltwater from glaciers, the Peninsular rivers get maximum water from the Monsoon rainfall. 

    The major Peninsular rivers are Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna, Kaveri, Narmada and Tapti.


    • Fixed course, absence of meanders and is non-perennial in nature.
    • East flowing Peninsular rivers – Godavari, Mahanadi, Krishna & Kaveri.
    • West flowing Peninsular rivers – Narmada, Tapti & Sabarmati.
    • Largest west-flowing Peninsular river – Narmada.
    • Narmada & Tapti drains into – the Arabian Sea.
    • The Godavari, Mahanadi, Kaveri & Krishna drains into – Bay of Bengal.
    • East flowing rivers form delta whereas the west-flowing rivers don’t form any delta.

    East flowing Peninsular rivers

    1. Godavari (1465 Km)
    2. After the Ganga, Godavari is India's second-largest river. For millennia, the river has been honoured in Hindu texts, and it continues to harbour and sustain a rich cultural history.

      • Longest River in South India.
      • Second Longest River in India.
      • Largest Peninsular river in India
      • Longest river in the Deccan region.
      • Origin Tryambakeshwar Hills (Nasik, Maharashtra).
      • Epithets – Dakshina Ganga, Vridha Ganga, Lifeline of Andhra Pradesh.
      • Merges into – Bay of Bengal.
      • Flows through
        • States – Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh.
        • Union Territory – Puducherry (Yanam).
        • Cities – Rajahmundry, Nashik, Nanded, Nizamabad.
          • Largest city on the banks of Godavari – Rajahmundry.
      • Major Tributaries – Indravati, Manjira,Veinganga, Sabari, Penganga, Purna, Pranhita, Pravara, Bindusara, Wardha.
        • Largest Tributary – Pranhita.
      • Dams /Hydroelectric Projects – Gangapur Dam, Sriram Sagar project (Pochampadu Project).
      • Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (Telangana).
      • The Krishna Godavari Basin is one of the main nesting sites of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle.
      • The holy festival held on the banks of the river Godavari once every 12 years Pushkaram.

  • Mahanadi (858 Km)
  • The river was named after the Sanskrit words 'Maha,' which means "great," and Nadi, which means "stream." It is Chattisgarh and Odisha's biggest and longest river.

    • Largest & Longest river in Odisha.
    • Origin Sihawa, Dhamtari, Dandakaranya, Raipur, Chhattisgarh.
    • Epithets – Sorrow of Odisha, Ruin of Orissa, Mahashweta.
    • Flows through
      • States – Odisha, Chhattisgarh.
      • Cities – Cuttak, Sambalpur.
    • Merges into – False point, Bay of Bengal.
      • Paradip Port is at the mouth of Mahanadi.
    • Major Tributaries – Ib, Tel, Sheonath, Mand, Ong, Jonk, Hasdeo, Devi.
      • Largest Tributary – Sheonath.
      • First privatized river in IndiaSheonath.
      • The tributary that serves as a nesting ground for Olive Ridley Turtles – Devi.
    • Dams /Hydroelectric Projects Hirakud dam.

  • Krishna (1400 Km)
  • The Krishna River is the fourth-biggest river in terms of water inflows and river basin area in India, after the Ganga, Godavari and Brahmaputra. Krishna Bai Temple, an ancient Shiva shrine in the Old Mahabaleshwar is believed to be the birthplace of the river Krishna.

    It is an important irrigation supply for Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. This river's delta is one of the most fertile areas in India, and it was home to ancient Satavahana and Ikshvaku dynasties.

    • Fourth Longest River in India.
    • Second Largest East flowing Peninsular River.
    • Origin Mahabaleshwar Hills (Sahyadri, Maharashtra).
    • Epithets – Krishnaveni.
    • Flows through
      • States – Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana & Andhra Pradesh.
      • Cities – Vijayawada, Sangali, Konya.
        • Largest city on the banks of Krishna – Vijayawada.
    • Merges into – Hamasaladeevi, Bay of Bengal.
    • Major Tributaries – Bhima, Paleru, Malaprabha, Tungabhadra, Koyna, Venna, Dindi, Musi.
      • Largest Tributary – Tungabhadra River.
    • Dams /Hydroelectric Projects Nagarjuna Sagar Dam (Andhra Pradesh & Telangana), Dhom Dam (Maharashtra), Basava Sagar Dam (previously Narayanpur Dam, Karnataka), Alamatti Dam (Karnataka), Srisailam Dam (Telangana).
      • Largest Masonry Dam in the world – Nagarjuna Sagar.
    • Waterfalls – Gokak Falls (Ghataprabha river), Manikyadhara Falls, Ethipothala Falls, Kalhati Falls, Mallela Theertham Waterfalls.
    • Wildlife Sanctuaries Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary, Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary, Nagarjuna-Srisailam Tiger Reserve.
    • Mallikarjuna temple situated on the banks of the river Krishna.
    • Archaeological sites – Hampi, UNESCO World Heritage Site 1986.

  • Kaveri (765 Km)
  • It is the sacred river of South India that flows mostly through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Kaveri and its fertile lands are described in several classics, including Kamba Ramayanam and Silappadhikaram.

    • Origin Brahmagiri Hills (Western Ghats, Coorg, Karnataka).
    • Epithet Dakshin Ganga, Ponni, Lifeline of Karnataka & Tamil Nadu.
    • Merges into – Poompuhar, Bay of Bengal.
    • Flows through
      • States – Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala.
      • Cities – Kumbakonam, Srirangapatna, Kushalnagar, Karur, Tiruchirapalli, Mayiladuthurai.
    • Major Tributaries – Hemavati, Amaravati, Arkavathi, Bhavani, Kabani, Shemsha, Noyyal.
      • The tributary that provides drinking water to Bangalore cityArkavathi.
    • Islands Srirangapatna, Srirangam & Shivanasamudra.
    • Dams /Hydroelectric Projects Grand Dam & Krishna Raja Sagara Dam (Karnataka), Kallani Dam (Tamil Nadu), Shivasamudram Hydroelectric Project.
      • First Dam in India – Grand Dam.
      • Second Hydroelectric power plant in India – Shivasamudram (Karnataka, 1902).
      • Kallani Dam – Previously known as Grand Anicut, was originally a stone dam built by the Chola King, Karikala Cholan and the term, "Grand Anicut" was coined by the famous British engineer Sir Arthur Thomas Cotton.
    • Waterfalls – Shivasamudram Waterfalls, Hogenakal falls
      • Niagara of India – Hogenakkal falls.
    • Wildlife Sanctuaries – Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary.
    • Endangered Species – Blue Finned Mahseer.
    • The delta formed by the Kaveri river before emptying into the Bay of Bengal is popularly known as – The Garden of Southern India.

    West flowing Peninsular rivers

    1. Narmada (1312 km)
    2. One of the seven sacred rivers that run through the heart of India. The river referred to as Nammadus in the Erythraean Sea Periplus. Ptolemy, a Greek geographer from the second century CE, called it as river Namade.

    • Third largest river that completely flows within India.
    • Longest west flowing river in India
    • Longest rift valley river in India.
    • The river that flows between Vindhya and Satpura ranges.
    • The river that flows in between Deccan & Malwa plateau.
    • The river that forms the traditional boundary between North India & South India.
    • Origin Amarkantak Hills (Madhya Pradesh).
    • Epithet Life Line of Madhya Pradesh & Gujarat, Rewa, River between two mountains, Nerbudda.
    • Merges into Gulf of Cambay, Arabian Sea.
    • Flows through
        • States – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat.
        • Cities – Harda, Mandla, Bharuch, Jabalpur, Omkareshwar.
    • Major Tributaries – Hallon, Banjar, Sher, Tawa, Ganjal, Hiran, Kolar, Orsang.
      • Biggest Tributary – Tawa.
    • Dams /Hydroelectric Projects – Indira SagarDam (Punasa Dam), Narmada Valley project, Sardar Sarovar project
      • Second Largest Concrete Dam in the world – Sardar Sarovar Project.
      • The social movement organised against Sardar Sarovar project – Narmada Bachao Andolan.
      • Leader of Narmada Bachao Andolan – Medha Patkar.
    • Waterfalls Dhuandhar falls, Dugdhdhara, Dhardi falls, Kapildhara, Niani Waterfall (Gujarat).
    • Wildlife Sanctuaries Kanha National Park, Bandhavgarh National Park.
    • Fossils remains of Dinosaurs are found on the banks of the Narmada.
    • First Canal-Top 1 MW solar project in the world Narmada Branch Canal Network (Gujarat).
    • Marble Rocks of Jabalpur.
    • Largest island in the estuary of Narmada Aliabet.

  • Tapti (724 km)

    Legend has it that the river Tapti is the daughter of Surya, the Sun god and Chhaya, the goddess of shadow.

    • Second longest west flowing river in India.
    • Second largest river that flows through rift valley in India.
    • The river that flows between the Godavari and Narmada river.
    • Origin Multai, Betul district (Madhya Pradesh).
    • Epithets The Twin of Narmada & The Handmaid of the Narmada.
    • Flows through
      • States – Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat.
      • Cities – Surat, Bhusawal, Betul, Multai, Burhanpur.
    • Merges into Gulf of Cambay, Arabian Sea.
    • Major Tributaries – Purna, Girna, Panjhra, Bori, Waghur, Aner.
    • Dams /Hydroelectric Projects Ukai Dam, Kakrapar Dam.
    • Melghat Tiger Reserve in Amravati district.


    • Land of Rivers – Bangladesh.
    • Land of Five Rivers – Punjab.
    • Land of Thousand Lakes – Finland.
    • Science of rivers – Potomology.
    • Largest Drainage Basin in the World – Amazon Basin.
    • Ganga River Dolphin – National Aquatic animal of India, City Animal of Guwahati.
    • Ganga Talao ("Lake of Ganga"), the crater lake is situated in – Mauritius.
    • Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary is located in – Bihar.
    • Most dangerous river in India – Kosi.
    • Sapta Sindhu – The seven Rigvedic rivers namely Saraswati, Shutudri (Sutlej), Parushni (Ravi), Asikni (Chenab), Vitasta (Jhelum), Vipasha (Beas), & Sindhu (Indus).
    • River of Lahore – Ravi.
    • Turmeric City of Maharashtra – Sangli.
    • Author of Periplus of the Erythraean Sea – Arrian of Nicomedia (believed to be).
    • Mahakali Treaty (1996) – India and Nepal jointly agreed to share the water of the river Mahakali (also known as river Sarada).
      • Other rivers shared between India & Nepal – Kosi & Gandhak.
    • Tomb of Noor Jahan is on the banks of – River Ravi.
    • The first hydroelectric power plant in India – Sidrapong hydroelectric power plant (Darjeeling, West Bengal, 1897).
    • Salt RiverLuni.
      • The major river of Rajasthan – Luni.
    • The river which is known as Sagarmati at its originLuni.
    • The river that flows through the Thar Desert Luni.
    • The Indian River that empties into the Palk Strait – Vaigai.
    • The only river in India that cuts the Tropic of Cancer twice – Mahi.
    • The highest waterfall in India, the Joy falls (Gersoppa falls) is on the river – Sharavati.
    • Doodh-Ganga river is located in – Srinagar (Jammu & Kashmir).
    • Humayun, on his ascension to the throne constructed a new city called Din Panah which was on the banks of – Yamuna.
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