Home General Studies Geography of India

The "Ganga" River System

N.K. Chauhan in Geography of India
Share this
Aug 09, 2020 , Updated: Jun 08, 2022 · 11 min read

The Ganga river originates as Bhagirathi from the Gangotri Glacier of western Himalayas in the Uttar Kashi District of Uttarakhand.

The true source of the Ganges, however, is considered to be at Gaumukh, about 21 km southeast of Gangotri.

The Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers unite at Devaprayag to form the main stream known as the Ganga, which cuts through the Siwalik Range to emerge from the mountains at Rishikesh, it then flows onto the plain at Haridwar.

The Alaknanda has its source in the Satopanth glacier near Badrinath, it consists of the Dhauli and the Vishnu Ganga which meet at Joshimath or Vishnu Prayag.

The other tributaries of Alaknanda such as the Nandakini joins it at Nanda Prayag, the Pindar join it at Karna Prayag and Mandakini (Kali Ganga) meets it at Rudra Prayag.

Ganga ceases to be known as the Ganga after Farraka(WB) and bifurcates into Bhagirathi-Hugli in West Bengal and Padma (Entry)-Meghna (Empties in Bay of Bengal) in Bangladesh.

Padma is joined by Brahmaputra river and the confluence is known as "Jamuna", further it meets "Meghna" river and is commonly known as "Meghna" which empties in the Bay of Bengal.

The important cities and towns situated on the banks of the Ganga are Haridwar, Kanpur (Biggest), Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Bhagalpur etc.

Right Bank Tributaries: Yamuna, Son, Karmanasa, Punpun and Kiul
Left Bank Tributaries: Ramganga, Gomti (Gumti), Ghaghara (Gogra), Gandaki (Gandak), Kosi (Kusi) and Mahanada etc..

Right Bank Tributaries (W-E)

Major right-bank tributaries include: Yamuna (Jumna), Son, Karmanasa, Punpun and Kiul etc.

1) Yamuna River

Yamuna River originates from the Yamnotri glacier on the Bandarpunch Peak in the Garhwal region in Uttarakhand, it is the western most and the longest tributary of Ganga.

It unites with the Ganga near Triveni Sangam, Allahabad.

Right Bank Tributaries (W-E): Chambal, Sindh, Betwa and Ken, Left Bank Tributaries (W-E): Hindan, Rind, Sengar and Varuna.

1.1) Chambal River

The perennial Chambal River originates at janapav, south of Mhow town, near manpur Indore, on the south slope of the Vindhya Range in Madhya Pradesh.

It joins the Yamuna River in Jalaun District at an elevation of 122 metres.

The tributaries of the Chambal include Shipra, Choti Kalisindh, Sivanna, Retam, Ansar, Kalisindh, Banas, Parbati, Seep, Kuwari, Kuno, Alnia, Mej, Chakan, Parwati, Chamla, Gambhir, Lakhunder, Khan, Bangeri, Kedel and Teelar.

Chambal river is an example of superimposed drainage (आरोपित जल निकासी).

1.2) Sindh River

The Sindh originates on the Malwa Plateau in Vidisha district and flows through the Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh to join the Yamuna River in Jalaun district, Uttar Pradesh.

The major tributaries of the Sindh are the Parbati, Pahuj, Kwari (Kunwari), and Mahuar.

1.3) Betwa River

Betwa river rises in the Vindhya Range (Raisen) just north of Hoshangabad in Madhya Pradesh and flows through Madhya Pradesh and Orchha to Uttar Pradesh.

The confluence of the Betwa and the Yamuna rivers is Hamirpur district in Uttar Pradesh, in the vicinity of Orchha.

The Betwa River is being linked with the Ken River as a part of the river linking project in Madhya Pradesh.

Rajghat Dam is an Inter-state Dam project of the Government of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh being constructed on Betwa River in Madhya Pradesh.

1.4) Ken River

The Ken River originates near the village Ahirgawan on the north-west slopes of Barner Range in Katni district and flows through two states, Madhya Pradesh before merging with the Yamuna at Chilla village, district Banda in Uttar Pradesh.

1.5) Hindon River

The Hindon River originates in the Saharanpur district, from the Upper Sivaliks in Uttar Pradesh.

It flows between Ganges and Yamuna rivers through Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Baghpat, Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar before it joins Yamuna river just outside Delhi.

Kali river, which originates in the Rajaji Range of Sivalik Hills merges with Hindon River, before it merges with the Yamuna River.

1.6) Rind River

It origins from Karri near Etawah in Uttar Pradesh and meets with Yamuna in Gagauli Near Jafarganj in District Fatehpur in Uttar Pradesh.

It carries relatively clean water and creates a very rough hinterland besides it's bank hence makes a graceful landscape.

1.7) Sengar River

Sengar river originates near Adhawan lake in Aligarh district and drains Etawah, Mainpuri and Kanpur districts before it confluences with the Yamuna between Kalpi and Hamirpur.

1.8) Tons River (Right Bank)

The Tons River is the largest tributary of the Yamuna and flows through Garhwal region in Uttarakhand, touching Himachal Pradesh.

It originates from the Bandarpunch Mountain in Garwal region of Uttarakhand.

It is the largest tributary of Yamuna River and meets it below Kalsi, near the town of Dehradun in Uttarakhand.

2) Son

Son River (also spelt Sone) of central India is the second largest of the Ganges' right bank tributaries after Yamuna River.

The Son originates near Amarkantak in Shahdol district of Madhya Pradesh, flowing east-northeast through Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Bihar states to join the Ganges just west of Patna at Arrah.

3) Karmanasa

The Karmanasa River is a tributary of the Ganges, it originates in Kaimur district of Bihar and flows through the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

Along the boundary between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar it has the districts of Sonbhadra, Chandauli, Varanasi and Ghazipur on its left (UP side) and the districts of Kaimur and Buxar on its right (Bihar side).

4) Punpun

It originates on the Chota Nagpur Plateau in Palamu district of Jharkhand and flows through Chatra, Aurangabad, Gaya and Patna districts of the Indian states of Jharkhand and Bihar.

On the bank of punpun people cerlebrate Chath Puja.

Punpun joins the Ganges at Fatuha, 25 kilometres downstream of Patna.

The main tributaries of the Punpun are - the Butane, the Madar and the Mohar.

5) Kiul

The Kiul River originates from the Tisri Hill Range in Giridih of Jharkhand and flows through Lakhisarai, Sheikhpura and Jamui districts of the Indian state of Bihar and joins Harohar river in the Diara region.

Left Bank Tributaries (W-E)

Major left-bank tributaries of Ganga include: Ramganga, Gomti (Gumti), Ghaghara (Gogra), Gandaki (Gandak), Kosi (Kusi) and Mahanada etc.

1) Ramganga

Ramganga River originates from the high altitude zone of Namik Glacier(Diwali Khal) in Doodhatoli ranges in the district of Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand state of India.

Ramganga flows by the Corbett National Park near Ramnagar of Nainital district from where it descends upon the plains.

Bijnor, Moradabad, Bareilly, Badaun, Shahjahanpur and Hardoi cities of Uttar Pradesh are situated on its banks.

Ramganga Dam is constructed 3 km upstream of Kalagarh village; it is also known as Kalagarh Dam.

The river passes through Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh only and joins Ganga near Kannauj in Fategarh district.

2) Gomti

The Gomti, a monsoon and groundwater-fed river, originates from Gomat Taal (formally known as Fulhaar jheel) near Madho Tanda, Pilibhit, India.

It extends through Uttar Pradesh and meets the Ganges near Saidpur, Kaithi, 27 kilometres from Varanasi district.

It is the only tributary river of Ganga that rises in the plains and not in hills.

3) Ghaghara

Ghaghara, also called Karnali (in Nepal) is a perennial trans-boundary river originating in the glaciers of Mapchachungoon near Lake Manasarovar (Tibet).

It cuts through the Himalayas in Nepal and joins the Sharda River at Brahmaghat in India, together they form the Ghaghara River.

Ghaghara is the largest tributary of the Ganges by volume and the second longest tributary of the Ganges by length after Yamuna.

It flows through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states to join the Ganges downstream of the town of Chhapra (Bihar).

Lower Ghaghara is also known as Sarayu river and finds mention in Ramayana, Ayodhya is situated on its right bank.

4) Gandak

Gandak River is formed by the union of the Kali and Trisuli rivers, which rise in the Great Himalaya Range in Nepal.

The Gandak flows across the Gangetic plain of Bihar state and joins the Ganges in Munger, near Patna, Bihar.

The Gandak river source is at the border with Tibet at an elevation of 6,268 metres at the Nhubine Himal Glacier in the Mustang region of Nepal.

5) Kosi

The Koshi drains the northern slopes of the Himalayas in Tibet and the southern slopes in Nepal.

From a major confluence of tributaries north of the Chatra Gorg onwards, the Koshi River is also known as Saptakoshi for its seven upper tributaries.

The seven upper tributaries include the Tamor River originating from the Kanchenjunga area and Arun River and Sun Koshi from Tibet.

The Saptakoshi crosses into northern Bihar where it branches into distributaries before joining the Ganges near Kursela in Katihar district, Bihar.

Koshi river has shifted its course - or avulsed - numerous times.

6) Mahanada

The Mahananda River is a trans-boundary river that flows through the Indian states of Bihar and West Bengal, and Bangladesh.

It joins the Ganges at Godagiri in Nawabganj district in Bangladesh.

The Mahananda originates in Paglajhora Falls on Mahaldiram Hill near Chimli, east of Kurseong in Darjeeling district.

It flows through Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary and descends to the plains near Siliguri.

Related Rivers

1) Damodar

Damodar River rises with its many tributaries, notably the Bokaro and Konar, in the Chota Nagpur plateau of south-central Bihar state.

It follows a generally eastward course through West Bengal to join the Hugli (Hooghly) River southwest of Kolkata (Calcutta).

The Damodar valley along the Bihar-West Bengal border includes India's most important coal- and mica-mining fields and has long been an area of active industrial development.

Damodar River is a tributary of the distributary of River Ganga, i.e. Hooghly.

The Damodar is famous for its fault valley drainage.

Damodar river has rift valley due to down warping.

2) Jalangi River

Jalangi River is a branch of the Ganges river in Murshidabad and Nadia districts in the Indian state of West Bengal.

It flows into the Bhagirathi river and strengthens its lower channel, the Hooghly.

3) Ajay River

Ajay is a river which flows through the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

It originates from the hills of Munger in Bihar, flows through the Deoghar District in Jharkhand and proceeds on its journey through Dumka district to West Bengal.

It meets the Bhagirathi river at Katwa in Murshidabad (West Bengal).

Sundarbans (Bengal Delta)

Sundarbans is a mangrove area in the delta formed by the confluence of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna Rivers in the Bay of Bengal.

It spans from the Hooghly River in India's state of West Bengal to the Baleswar River in Bangladesh's division of Khulna.

The Sundarbans mangrove forest covers an area of about 10,000 km2, of which forests in Bangladesh extend over 6,017 km2 and in West Bengal, they extend over 4,260 km2.

Conforming to the occupation of several river courses and shifting depocentres, the total deltaic coastline can be generalised as the western inactive delta and the eastern active Meghna deltaic plain.

While the western inactive delta is relatively old, the Meghna deltaic plain is geologically very young. However, the western inactive delta can be further subdivided into moribund delta, mature delta and tidally active delta (saline-tidal delta).

In fact the area that lies in the west of the gorai-madhumati river is the western inactive delta and the area that lies in the east of the river is the eastern active delta.

Four protected areas in the Sundarbans are enlisted as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, viz. Sundarbans National Park, Sundarbans West, Sundarbans South and Sundarbans East Wildlife Sanctuaries.

The most abundant tree species are sundri (Heritiera fomes) and gewa (Excoecaria agallocha).

The forests provide habitat to 453 fauna wildlife, including 290 bird, 120 fish, 42 mammal, 35 reptile and eight amphibian species.

The Indian Sundarbans were considered endangered in a 2020 assessment under the IUCN Red List of Ecosystems framework.

The Sunderbans are under threat from both natural and human-made causes.

Teesta river

Teesta River rises in the Pauhunri Mountain of eastern Himalayas, flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal through Bangladesh and enters the Bay of Bengal.

It joins Brahmaputra River at Phulchhari Upazila in Bangladesh. 305 km (190 mi) portion of the river lies in India and rest in Bangladesh.

Teesta is the largest river of Sikkim and second largest river of West Bengal after Ganges.

In Bangladesh, the Teesta joins the Brahmaputra on its right bank, from where the river is known as the Jamuna.

Then, it finally merges with the river Padma, which falls in the Bay of Bengal.

Tista River is a tributary of the Jamuna River (Brahmaputra River).

Historically, the Teesta river system was considered the major tributary of the Ganges.

• • •

The Indus, Satluj, Ganga, Sarju (Kali), Arun (a tributary of Kosi), Tista and Brahmaputra are some of the important antecedent (पूर्ववर्ती) rivers, originating from beyond the Greater Himalayas.

An antecedent stream is a stream that maintains its original course and pattern despite the changes in underlying rock topography.

• • •

Badrinath was originally established as a pilgrimage site by Adi Shankaracharya in the ninth century.

At the age of 32, Adi Shankaracharya decided to attain moksha (freedom from body) at Kedarnath and merged under the land near Kedarnath temple. Hence this place called as Shankaracharya Samadhi place.

Related MCQs
Read next

Major Local Winds around the World

World Geography
Jun 11, 2022 · 3 min read

"Major Dams in India" - related River name and State

Geography of India
Jun 11, 2022 · 5 min read

Major Valleys in India and their Location

Geography of India
Jun 11, 2022 · 5 min read