Rivers of India – UPSC Geography Guide


The Rivers of India form a rich eco-system that enables widespread areas of flora and fauna to flourish. India is regarded as a land of rivers, with a huge network of Himalayan and Peninsular rivers. The rivers are considered sacred by the Hindus and have often been venerated in the form of gods and goddesses. The Himalayan rivers originate from the Himalayan ranges and are perennial in nature. The Peninsular rivers are fed by rains. They include those rising from the Western Ghats. Some of the most important rivers are the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, Godavari, Narmada, Krishna, Yamuna, Mahanadi, Kaveri, , Tapti, Sutlej, Chambal, and Tungabhadra. Let’s take a closer look at the overall river system of India for the UPSC examination.

Rivers and River Basins

The rivers of India form an extremely robust drainage and water supply system. With such abundance of natural resources and organized dam structuring, irrigation and farming in India is flourishing like never before.

Rivers of India

Each of the rivers of India give rise to individual basins that immensely contributes to the eco-system of the area. The river basins define the overall topography and influences the livelihood of millions surrounding it.

River Basins of India

In the above diagram we can see the individual rivers and their basins marked by numbers. The below table details the names of the basins along with their id.

  1. Indus – The Indus originates in the northern slopes of the Kailash range in Tibet near Lake Manasarovar. The Indus follows a north-westerly course through Tibet, and enters Indian territory in Jammu and Kashmir. The main tributaries of the Indus in India are Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.

  1. Ganga (2A), Brahmaputra (2B), Barak (2C) – Together the Ganga and Brahmaputra form one of the largest basins of the world. The Brahmaputra originates in the Mansarovar lake, also the source of the Indus and the Satluj. It is slightly longer than the Indus, but most of its course lies outside India. It flows eastward, parallel to the Himalayas. In Tibet, the river is known as the Tsangpo. Major cities on the Ganga are Patliputra, Kashi, Allahbad, Varanasi, Kolkata, Badrinath, Haridwar, Kanpur, Patna, Farrukhabad, Fatehgarh, Kannauj, Chakeri. Major cities on the Brahmaputra are Dibrugarh (Assam), Guwahati.

  • It’s important to mention here that Teesta River is an important 315 km long river that rises in the eastern Himalayas, flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal through Bangladesh and enters the Bay of Bengal. It drains an area of 12,370 km². In India, it flows through North Sikkim, East Sikkim, Kalimpong district, Darjeeling District, Jalpaiguri District, Cooch Behar districts and the cities of Rangpo, Jalpaiguri and Mekhliganj. It joins the Jamuna River at Fulchhari in Bangladesh. The main tributary of river Teesta is the Rangeet River. Among the rivers of northern India, Teesta River is also called as younger daughter of Himalaya. River Rangeet originates in Sikkim and it is a tributary of river Teesta.

  • Let’s see a MCQ for the UPSC where we have to choose the right option. The Brahmaputra, Irrawady and Mekong rivers originate in Tibet and flow through narrow and parallel mountain ranges in their upper reaches. Of these rivers, Brahmaputra makes a “U” turn in its course to flow into India. This “U” turn is due to – (1) Uplift of folded Himalayan series. (2) Syntaxial bending of geologically young Himalayas. (3) Geo-Tectonic disturbance in the tertiary folded mountain chains. (4) All of the above.

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