The Ganga River System

Ganga Rivers

  • The Ganga is the most important river of India from the point of view of its basin and cultural significance.
  • It rises in the Gangotri glacier near Gaumukh (3,900 m) in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. Here, it is known as the Bhagirathi.
  • At Devprayag, the Bhagirathi meets the Alaknanda; hereafter, it is known as the Ganga.
  • The Alaknanda river has its source in the Satopanth glacier, which is located above Badrinath.
  • The following are some of the most important Prayags where other rivers meet the Alaknanda River.
  • Five revered sites in Uttarakhand where five rivers merge into River Alaknanda to ultimately form the holy River Ganges (Ganga) is called Panch Prayag.
  • These five places, in descending order of river convergence, are Vishnuprayag, Nandaprayag, Karnaprayag, Rudraprayag and Devprayag.
  • Formed by the confluence of the impetuous Vishnu Ganga (known after this point as Alaknanda) and the Dhauliganga river.
  • The next confluence happens in Nandaprayag where Rivers Alaknanda and Nandakini meet.
  • Karnaprayag is located on the way to Badrinath and is the site of the confluence of two holy rivers Alaknanda and Pindar.
  • Rudraprayag is a small pilgrim town located on the holy confluence of river Alaknanda and Mandakini.
  • The last prayag or confluence, Devprayag (850 m) is a pilgrimage town in the Tehri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand. Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers merge to form the holy River Ganga at Devprayag.

The Ganga River system

  • The Ganga enters the plains at Haridwar. From here, it flows first to the south, then to the south-east and east before splitting into two distributaries, namely the Bhagirathi and the Hugli.
  • The river has a length of 2,525 km. It is shared by Uttarakhand (110 km) and Uttar Pradesh (1,450 km), Bihar (445 km) and West Bengal (520 km).
  • The Ganga basin covers about 8.6 lakh sq. km area in India alone.
  • The Ganga river system is the largest in India having a number of perennial and non-perennial rivers originating in the Himalayas in the north and the Peninsula in the south, respectively.
  • The Ganga river continues into Bangladesh, its name changing to the Padma. It is then joined by the Jamuna at Goalundo, the lower stream of the Brahmaputra, and eventually the Meghna, forming the major estuary of the Ganges Delta, and emptying into the Bay of Bengal.
  • The river finally discharges itself into the Bay of Bengal near the Sagar Island.
The right-bank tributaries of Ganga:
  • Yamuna, Chambal, Betwa, Ken, Son, Damodar.
The left-bank tributaries of Ganga:
  • Ramganga, Ghaghra, Gomati, Kali, Gandak, Burhi and Kosi.

1. Ramganga River

  • The Ramganga River originates in the southern slopes of Dudhatoli Hill in Chamoli district of the Indian state of Uttarakhand.
  • The source of the river, known as “Diwali Khal”, is located in the Gairsain tehsil.
  • It changes its course to the southwest direction after crossing the Shiwalik and enters into the plains of Uttar Pradesh near Najibabad.
  • The Ramganga receives several tributaries in Moradabad, almost all on its left bank, most of which are Tarai streams flowing towards south or south-west. They are Phika, Khalia, Dhela river and Koshi rivers.
  • It also flows through the dun valley of Corbett National Park.
  • There is a dam built across the Ramganga at Kalagarh.
  • Bareilly city is situated on its banks.
  • Finally, it joins the Ganga near Kannauj.

2. Ghaghra River

  • Ghaghara, also called Karnali (in Western Nepal) is a perennial trans-boundary river originating on the Tibetan Plateau near Lake Manasarovar.
  • The Karnali cuts through the Himalayas in Nepal and joins the Sharda River at Brahmaghat in India. Together they form the Ghaghara River, a major left bank tributary of the Ganges
  • With a length of 507 kilometers (315 mi) it is the longest river in Nepal.
  • The total length of Ghaghara River up to its confluence with the Ganges at Revelganj in Bihar is 1,080 kilometers (670 mi).
  • It is the largest tributary of the Ganges by volume and the second longest tributary of the Ganges by length after Yamuna..
  • The Karnali River Basin lies between the mountain ranges of Dhaulagiri in Nepal and Nanda Devi in Uttarakhand.
  • This river is the main source of water in Bara-Banki District of UP.
  • Rapti, Chhoti Gandak, Sharda, and Sarju are the major tributaries of this river.

3. Gomati River

  • The Gomti, a monsoon- and groundwater-fed river, originates from Gomat Taal formally known as Fulhaar jheel near Madho Tanda, Pilibhit, India.
  • It extends 900km through UP and meets the Ganges River in Saidpur.
  • The Markandey Mahadeo temple is situated at the confluence of the Gomti and the Ganga rivers.
  • The most important tributary is the Sai River, which joins near Jaunpur
  • The cities of Lucknow, Lakhimpur Kheri, Sultanpur and Jaunpur are located on the banks of Gomti river.
  • The river cuts the Jaunpur city into equal halves and becomes wider in Jaunpur.

4. Gandak River

  • It is formed by the union of the Kali and Trisuli rivers, which rise in the Great Himalayan Range in Nepal.
  • From this junction to the Indian border the river is called the Narayani.
  • It enters the Ganga river opposite Patna in a place called Sonepur after a winding course of 765 km.
  • The Burhi Gandak flows parallel to and east of the Gandak River.
  • The upper catchment area of the river is bleak and desolate lying in the rain shadow area of the Himalayan range.
  • The middle and the lower courses of the river flows through the V-shaped. valleys, incised meanders, and have paired and unpaired terraces on either sides.
  • Chitwan National Park of Nepal and Valmiki National Park of India are adjacent to each other in the vicinity of Valmikinagar around the Gandak River.
  • Its important tributaries are the Kali Gandak, the Mayangadi, the Bari and the Trishuli.

5. Kosi River

  • It is a trans-boundary river which flows through China, Nepal and India.
  • The Kosi river consists of seven streams namely and is popularly known as Saptkaushiki.
  • These streams flow through eastern Nepal which is known as the Sapt Kaushik region.
  • The sources of seven streams of the Kosi are located in snow-covered areas which also receive heavy rainfall.
  • Consequently, a huge volume of water flows with tremendous speed.
  • 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.
  • The joins the Ganga near Kursela.
  • Soon after debouching onto the plain the river becomes sluggish.
  • Large scale deposition of eroded material takes place in the plain region.
  • The river channel is braided, and it shifts its course frequently.
  • This has resulted in frequent devastating floods and has converted large tracts of cultivable land into wasteland in Bihar. Thus, the river is often termed as the ‘Sorrow of Bihar’.
  • In order to tame this river, a barrage was constructed in 1965 near Hanuman Nagar in Nepal.
  • Embankments for flood control have been constructed as a joint venture of India and Nepal.


          1. Yamuna
  • Largest and most important tributary of Ganga.
  • It originates from the Yamunotri glacier on the Bandarpunch Peak in the Garhwal region in Uttarakhand at an elevation of about 6,000 meters.
  • It cuts across the Nag Tibba, the Mussoorie and the Shiwalik ranges.
  • It emerges out of the hilly area and enters plains near Tajewala.
  • Its main affluent in the upper reaches is the Tons which also rises from the Bandarpunch glacier.
  • At this site, the water carried by the Tons is twice the water carried by the Yamuna.
  • It unites with the Ganga near Triveni Sangam, Prayagraj (Allahabad).
  • The total length of the Yamuna from its origin till Allahabad is 1,376 km.
  • It creates the highly fertile alluvial, Yamuna-Ganges Doab region between itself and the Ganges in the Indo-Gangetic plain.
        2. Chambal River
  • The Chambal rises in the highlands of Janapao Hills (700 m) in the Vindhyan Range.
  • It flows through the Malwa Plateau.
  • It joins the Yamuna in the Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh.
  • The river flows much below its banks due to severe erosion because of poor rainfall, and numerous deep ravines have been formed in the Chambal Valley, giving rise to badland topography.
  • The total length of the river is 1,050 km.
       Dams on the Chambal
  • The Gandhi Sagar dam is the first of the four dams built on the Chambal River, located on the RajasthanMadhya Pradesh border.
  • The Rana Pratap Sagar dam is located downstream of Gandhi Sagar dam.
  • The Jawahar Sagar Dam is located downstream of Rana Pratap Sagar dam.
  • The Kota Barrage is the fourth in the series located upstream of Kota City in Rajasthan.
  • Keoladeo National Park is supplied with water from the Chambal river irrigation project.
      3. Betwa River
  • The Betwa river a tributary of the Yamuna.
  • It rises in the Vindhya Range (Raisen) just north of Narmadapuram in Madhya Pradesh.
  • Nearly half of its course, which is not navigable, runs over the Malwa Plateau.
  • The confluence of the Betwa and the Yamuna rivers is in Hamirpur district in Uttar Pradesh, in the vicinity of Orchha.
  • Vetravati was also known as Shuktimati. The capital of Chedi Kingdom was on the banks of this river.
  • The length of the river from its origin to its confluence with the Yamuna is 590 kilometers (370 mi), out of which 232 kilometers (144 mi) lies in Madhya Pradesh and the balance of 358 kilometers (222 mi) in Uttar Pradesh.
  • The Betwa River is being linked with the Ken River as a part of the river-linking project in Madhya Pradesh.
      4. Son River
  • The Son River rises in the Amarkantak Plateau.
  • Its source is close to the origin of the Narmada.
  • It passes along the Kaimur Range.
  • It joins the Ganga near Danapur in Patna district of Bihar.
  • The important tributaries of the Son are the Johilla, the Gopat, the Rihand, the Kanhar and the North Koel.
  • Almost all the tributaries join it on its right bank.
      5. Damodar River
  • The Damodar river rises in the hills of the Chotanagpur plateau and flows through a rift valley.
  • Rich in mineral resources, the valley is home to large-scale mining and industrial activity.
  • It has a number of tributaries and sub-tributaries, such as Barakar, Konar, Bokaro, Haharo, etc.
  • The Barakar is the most important tributary of the Damodar.
  • Several dams have been constructed in the valley, for the generation of hydroelectric power. The valley is called “the Ruhr of India”.
  • The first dam was built across the Barakar River, a tributary of the Damodar river.
  • It used to cause devastating floods as a result of which it earned the name ‘Sorrow of Bengal’. Now the river is tamed by constructing numerous dams.
  • It joins the Hugli River 48 km below Kolkata.