The Major River Systems in India

River system in India UPSC/Indian rivers and their tributaries UPSC/Indian river system IAS/Rivers of India UPSC

The rivers of India play a significant role in the lives of the Indian society. The river systems provide irrigation, drinking water, economical transportation, power, as well as grant livelihoods for a large number of population. This straightforwardly demonstrates that why all the major cities of India are positioned by the banks of the river.

Most of the rivers discharge their waters into the Bay of Bengal. Some of the rivers flow through the western part of the country and towards the east of the state of Himachal Pradesh merges into the Arabian Sea. The northern parts of the Aravalli range, some parts of Ladakh, and arid regions of the Thar Desert have inland drainage. All major rivers of India originate from one of the three main watersheds-

  • The Himalaya and the Karakoram range
  • The Chota Nagpur plateau and Vindhya and Satpura range
  • The Western Ghats

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The major river systems are

  1. The Indus River System
  2. The Brahmaputra River System
  3. The Ganga River system
  4. The Yamuna river System
  5. The Narmada River System
  6. The Tapi River System
  7. The Godavari River System
  8. The Krishna river system
  9. The Cauvery River System
  10. The Mahanadi River System

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The Indus River System

The Indus arises from the northern slopes of the Kailash range in Tibet near Lake Manasarovar. It has a large number of tributaries in both India and Pakistan and has a total length of about 2897 km from the source to the point near Karachi where it falls into the Arabian Sea. It enters Indian Territory in Jammu and Kashmir by forming a picturesque gorge. In the Kashmir region, it joins with many tributaries – the Zaskar, the Shyok, the Nubra and the Hunza. It flows between the Ladakh Range and the Zaskar Range. It crosses the Himalayas through a 5181 m deep gorge near Attock, which is lying north of the Nanga Parbat. The major tributaries of the Indus River in India are Jhelum, Ravi, Chenab, Beas, and Sutlej.


The Brahmaputra River System

The Brahmaputra originates from Mansarovar Lake, which is also a source of the Indus and Sutlej. It is a little longer than the Indus River. The most of its course lies outside India. It flows parallel to the Himalayas in the eastward direction. When it reaches Namcha Barwa, it takes a U-turn around it and enters India in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Here it is known as Dihang River. In India, it flows through the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam and is connected by several tributaries. The Brahmaputra has a braided channel throughout most of its length in Assam.

The river is known as the Tsangpo in Tibet. It receives less volume of water and has less silt in the Tibet region. But in India, the river passes through a region of heavy precipitation and as such, the river carries large amount water during rainfall and a significant amount of silt. It is known for creating the calamity in Assam and Bangladesh.

Ganga River System

The Ganga originates as Bhagirathi from the Gangotri glacier. Before it reaches Devaprayag, the Mandakini, the Pindar, the Dhauliganga and the Bishenganga rivers merge into the Alaknanda and the Bheling drain into the Bhagirathi. The Pindar River rises from East Trishul and Nanda Devi unite with the Alaknanda at Karan Prayag. The Mandakini meets at Rudra Prayag. The water from both Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda flows in the name of the Ganga at Devaprayag.

The concept of Panch Prayag

  1. Vishnuprayag: where the river Alaknanda meet river Dhauli Ganga
  2. Nandprayag: where river Alaknanda meet river Nandakini
  3. Karnaprayag: where river Alaknanda meet river Pinder
  4. Rudraprayag: where river Alaknanda meet river Mandakini
  5. Devprayag: where river Alaknanda meet river Bhagirathi -GANGA

The principle tributaries of the Ganga are Yamuna, Damodar, Sapt Kosi, Ram Ganga, Gomati, Ghaghara, and Son. The river after traveling a distance of 2525 km from its source meets the Bay of Bengal.


Yamuna River System

The Yamuna River is the largest tributary of the Ganga River. It originates from the Yamunotri glacier, at the Banderpoonch peak in Uttarakhand. The main tributaries joining the river include the Sin, Hindon, Betwa Ken and Chambal. The Tons is the largest tributary of the Yamuna. The catchment of the river extends to the states of Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.


The Narmada River System

The Narmada is a river located in the central India. It rises to the summit of the Amarkantak Hill in Madhya Pradesh state. It outlines the traditional frontier between North India and South India. It is one of the major rivers of peninsular India. Only the Narmada, the Tapti, and the Mahi rivers run from east to west. The river flows through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. It drains into the Arabian Sea in the Bharuch district of Gujarat.


The Tapi River System

It is a central Indian river. It is one of the most important rivers of peninsular India with the run from east to west. It originates in the Eastern Satpura Range of southern Madhya Pradesh state. It flows in a westward direction, draining some important historic places like Madhya Pradesh’s Nimar region, East Vidarbha region and Maharashtra’s Khandesh in the northwest corner of the Deccan Plateau and South Gujarat before draining into the Gulf of Cambay of the Arabian Sea. The River Basin of Tapi River lies mostly in eastern and northern districts Maharashtra state. The river also covers some districts of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat as well. The principal tributaries of Tapi River are Waghur River, Aner River, Girna River, Purna River,  Panzara River and Bori River  .  


The Godavari River System

The Godavari River is the second longest course in India with brownish water. The river is often referred as the Dakshin (South) Ganga or Vriddh (Old) Ganga. It is a seasonal river, dried during the summers and widened during the monsoons. It river originates from Trimbakeshwar, near Nasik in Maharashtra. It flows southeast across south-central India through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, and drains into the Bay of Bengal. The river forms a fertile delta at Rajahmundry. The banks of this river have many pilgrimage sites, Nasik, Bhadrachalam, and Triyambak. Some of its tributaries include Pranahita (Combination of Penuganga and Warda), Indravati River, Bindusara, Sabari, and Manjira. The Asia’s largest rail-cum-road bridge which links Kovvur and Rajahmundry is located on the river Godavari.

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The Krishna river system

The Krishna is one of the longest rivers of India, which originates from Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra. It flows through Sangli and drains the sea in the Bay of Bengal. The river flows through the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh.

Tungabhadra River is the main tributary which itself is formed by the Tunga and Bhadra rivers that originate in the Western Ghats. Dudhganga Rivers, Koyna, Bhima, Mallaprabha, Dindi, Ghataprabha, Warna, Yerla, and Musi are some of the other tributaries.


The Cauvery River System

 The Cauvery is also known as Dakshin Ganga.  It originates from Talakaveri located in the Western Ghats. It is a famous pilgrimage and tourist place in the Kodagu district of Karnataka. The headwaters of the river are in the Western Ghats range of Karnataka state, and from Karnataka through Tamil Nadu. The river drains into the Bay of Bengal. The river supports irrigation for agriculture and considered as the means of support of the ancient kingdoms and modern cities of South India.

The river has many tributaries called Arkavathy, Shimsha, Hemavati, Kapila, Shimsha, Honnuhole, Amaravati, Lakshmana Kabini, Lokapavani, Bhavani, Noyyal, and Tirtha.


The Mahanadi River System

The Mahanadi originates from the Satpura Range of central India and it is a river in the eastern India. It flows east to the Bay of Bengal. River drains of the state of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, and Orissa. The largest dam, the Hirakud Dam is built on the river.

Previous Year Question Paper

  1. The Narmada River flows to the west, while most other large peninsular rivers flow to the east. Why? (UPSC Civil Services Preliminary Examination 2013)
  2. It occupies a linear rift valley.
  3. It flows between the Vindhyas and the Satpuras.
  4. The land slopes to the west from Central India.

Select the correct answer using the codes given below.

  1. 1 only
  2. 2 and 3
  3. 1 and 3
  4. None

Answer: A

In this article, you read about the rivers of India for UPSC exam.