With more than 400 rivers in total, it isn’t all that surprising that India is referred to as the land of rivers.
India has eight major river systems that play an essential role in the livelihood of the Indian population and Hindu mythology, as they are considered sacred to Indians.
Indus, Brahmaputra, Narmada, Tapti, Godavari, Krishna, Ganges, and Mahanadi are the eight major rivers that make up the river system of India.
A river is a large water body that naturally flows toward a larger water body such as a lake, sea, or ocean.
All the country’s rivers are classified under two categories
- Himalayan Rivers (such as the Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra river systems)
- Peninsular Rivers (Narmada, Tapti, Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna, Mahanadi Rivers, and others)
A river can originate from a mountain when snow or ice melts to form rivulets, such as the case of the Himalayan Rivers, whereas the Peninsular Rivers are more or less dependent on the rain.
The longest river in India:
Also known as Ganga in India, the Ganges is the longest river in India and the most sacred for the Hindus. Ganga River harbors more than 140 fish species and around 90 amphibians species.
It is a Himalayan river originating at Bhagirathi from the Gangotri Glacier in the Western Himalayas in Uttarakhand. After its confluence with Alaknanda at Dev Prayag, it is known as Ganga.
Ganga is a 2,525-kilometer journey through the Gangetic plains and states, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal, before draining into the Bay of Bengal.
The principal tributaries of Ganga include the Yamuna, Son, Gomti, Gandak, Ghaghara, and Koshi. Thus, the river Ganga, and its arms, are known as Ganges River System.
Other river systems in India
India is endowed with river systems like no other on the Asian continent. The following rivers are just as interesting as the longest and worth reading.
Also known as the Sindhu, the Indus River, which originates from the Kailash range, is one of the longest rivers in India, with a total length of 3180 km.
In the Tibetan Plateau near Lake Manasarovar, this Himalayan River flows through western Tibet, Jammu and Kashmir, and Pakistan before draining into the Arabian Sea.
The Indus River and its streams form the Indus Basin, crossing into four countries; India, China, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Even though several tributaries join it, its main tributaries include the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej.
The name Punjab which means “land of Five Rivers,” is derived from the five tributaries that join Indus from the eastern Plain that India and Pakistan share. The river system also includes Shyok, Zanskar, Hunza, and Nubra.
The Brahmaputra River flows a total length of 916 kilometers through Indian regions, Arunachal Pradesh and Assam, even though a significant portion of the river is situated outside the territorial boundaries of India.
The primary source of this River system is the Angasi Glacier in the Mansarovar ranges near Mansarovar Lake in Tibet, China. It is referred to as the Yarlung Tsangpo in China, where it originates before entering India via Arunachal Pradesh and Assam before it finally reaches Bangladesh.
It is also referred to as Siang, Lohit, and Dihang in India and Jamuna in Bangladesh. The rivers major tributaries include Burhi Dihing, Dhansari (South) and Kalang, Kameng, Manas, Sankosh, and Subansiri.
Also known as the Rewa and previously Nerbudda, the 1,312 kilometers long Narmada originates from the Amarkantak. The Narmada River System represents a boundary between India’s northern and southern parts.
The river channels into the Arabian Sea in the Bharuch district of Gujarat in contrast to all the other rivers that flow east. Considered one of several holiest water bodies, the Narmada is also known as the “Life Line of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh” for its massive contribution to the state of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
It is one of the seven heavenly waterways of India. The other six are Ganges, Godavari, Yamuna, Saraswati, Sindhu, and Kaveri.
The 724-kilometer Tapti River system originates from the eastern Satpura Range of Madhya Pradesh and drains into the Gulf of Cambay of the Arabian Sea, Gujarat.
Tapti is one of only three rivers in India that run from east to west. It rises in the Betul district (Satpura Range) and drains off into the Gulf of Khambhat (Arabian Sea).
It runs through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat and has six tributaries. Purna, Girna, Waghur, Panzara, Aner, and Bori Rivers are known tributaries.
Also known as the Vriddhi Ganga or the Dakshin Ganga River, the Godavari River originates from Trambakeshwar in Maharashtra and drains into the Bay of Bengal.
India’s second-longest river stretches 1,465 kilometers and is mostly dry during the summers and flows during the monsoon. Godavari River’s major tributaries are Indravati, Pranahita, Bindusara, Sabari, and Manjira Rivers.
The stream is sacred to Hindu culture and has a few spots on its banks considered for pilgrimage dating several years back.
Covering 1290 kilometers, the Krishna River is the country’s fourth longest river in terms of inflows and river basin area, rising from Mahabaleshwar through the states; of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh before draining into the Bay of Bengal. The river’s major tributaries include Koyna, Tungabhadra, Mallaprabha, Ghataprabha, Bhima, Warna, Dindi, Yerla, Dudhganga, and Musi Rivers. It serves as one of the conspicuous sources of irrigation for the states through which it flows.
The Mahanadi River is a river in Eastern India that originates from the Satpura Range. The hills of the Raipur district of Chhattisgarh flow through Orissa falls and drain into the Bay of Bengal. Its total length is 851 km, with 494 km in Odisha and 357 km is in Chhattisgarh. Following devastating floods in the past, the river was once referred to as the distress of Odisha.
However, the situation improved after constructing the Hirakud Dam thanks to a network of waterways, check dams, and blasts that keep the river flow in control.
The Mahanadi River spreads over 141589 sq. km. Its major tributaries include Mand, Seonath (the longest tributary), Hasdeo, Jonk, Telen, etc.