Geography Notes: Drainage System in India

By Abhishek Jain |Updated : February 24th, 2022

In this article, we have covered the complete drainage system of India and provided you with all the necessary information that is relevant for the competitive examinations. Read carefully and do not miss anything from this article. 

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Drainage System of India


  • Drainage refers to the channel of a river system in an area.
  • Drainage Basin refers to an area which is drained by one river system, i.e. Main River along with its tributaries.
  • Drainage system refers to the group of channels of drainages, i.e. channels of main (original) river and its tributaries.
  • The function of time of the geological period determines the characteristics of the drainage pattern.
  • The major characteristics of drainage pattern are – topography, slope, amount of water flow, nature and structure of rocks.


  • Drainage patterns are formed based on the channel and shape of rivers which forms a part of the drainage basin.
  • Based on the formation of river patterns the drainage patterns are classified into two types – Discordant and Concordant Drainage Pattern.


  • In Discordant drainage pattern, the rivers will not change its path according to the change in topography or landform in an area.
  • The discordant drainage pattern further divided into two types :
  • Antecedent and
  • Superimposed drainage pattern
  • Example: R. Indus, R. Brahmaputra, etc.,


  • In Concordant drainage pattern, the rivers will change its path in accordance with the slope and topography of a region.
  • The concordant drainage patterns are further divided into:
    1. Consequent rivers
    2. Subsequent rivers
    3. Dendritic Drainage pattern
    4. Trellis Drainage Pattern
    5. Radial Drainage Pattern
    6. Centripetal Drainage Pattern
  • In consequent rivers, the rivers flow through the general slope of an area. Mostly main (original) rivers have this drainage pattern. Eg: R. Godavari, R. Cauvery, etc.
  • In Subsequent rivers, the tributary streams are formed after the formation of the original stream by the vertical and lateral erosion along the slope. Eg: R. Ken, R. Chambal. Etc.
  • In Dendritic Drainage pattern, the pattern of flow of the original river and its tributaries looks like branches of a tree. Eg: R. Indus, R. Mahanadi, R. Godavari, etc.,
  • In Trellis Drainage Pattern the tributaries (Subsequent rivers) joins the original river at right angles and the tributaries flow parallel to each other.
  • In Radial Drainage Pattern the rivers originate from a common area and flow in all direction from the source region. Eg: Amarkantak Plateau
  • In Centripetal Drainage Pattern rivers from different directions drains into a common area. Eg: Loktak Lake, Manipur.


Source: NCERT


  • The drainage system of India is mainly classified into:
  • Himalayan rivers
  • Peninsular rivers

Himalayan River System

  • The upliftment of Himalayas in different geological period resulted in the present drainage system of Himalayan rivers.
  • The water divide, watershed and the channel of these rivers have changed at different times and the folding leads to the creation of many rivers.
  • There are three major river systems in the Himalayas: (i) The Indus System; (ii) The Ganga System; (iii) The Brahmaputra System.







Near Bokhar Chu Glacier, Tibetan Plateau

Arabian Sea (near Karachi, Pakistan)

Left: Jhelum, Chenab, Sutlej, Ravi, Beas, Zanskar


Right: Shyok, Hunza, Gilgit, Kabul, Khurram, Tochi, Gomal, Viboa, Sangar

Known as Singi Khamban (Lion’s Mouth)


In India, it flows only in Jammu & Kashmir state




Verinag, J & K

R. Chenab (in Pakistan)

Right: Neelum, Sind

It passes through Srinagar and Wular Lake




Tandi, Himachal Pradesh (formed by two rivers Chandra and Bhaga)

R. Indus (in Pakistan)

Right: Marusadar river

It is also called as Chandrabhaga


It is the largest tributary of river Indus



Rohtang Pass, Himachal Pradesh

R. Chenab




Raksas Tal, near Mansarovar, Tibet

R. Chenab, Pakistan

Left: Baspa


Right: Spiti, Beas

It is known as Langchen Khambab in its source place.


It enters India through Shipki La pass


Bhakra Nangal Project is constructed across this river


Beas Kund, near Rohtang pass, Himachal Pradesh

R. Sutlej




Confluence of R. Bhagirathi and R. Alaknanda at DevPrayag

Sagar Island, Bay of Bengal (Bangladesh)

Left: Ramganga, Gomati, Gandak, Kosi, Ghaghara, Mahananda


Right: Yamuna, Son, Chambal, Betwa

Ganga is India’s largest river system


Yamunotri Glacier

R. Ganga, Allahabad (UP)

Left: Rishiganga


Right: Chambal, Betwa, Ken, Sind

It is the longest tributary of Ganga river


Mhow, Malwa plateau

R. Yamuna, Madhya Pradesh

Left: Banas

Right: Parbati, Shipra

Badland topography is an important feature of the Chambal river system


Mustang, Nepal

R. Ganga, Sonpur, Bihar

Left: Trisuli


Right: Kali Gandak



Mapchachungo, Tibet

R. Ganga, Bihar

Left: Rapti


Right: Sarda, Budhi Ganga



Tribenighat, Nepal

R. Ganga, Bihar


It is an antecedent trans-boundary river


Pauri Garhwal, Uttarakhand

R. Ganga, Uttar Pradesh




Amarkantak Plateau

R. Ganga, Bihar (near Patna)


It flows northwards to reach Ganga and its largest south bank tributary


Darjeeling Hills

R. Ganga, West Bengal


Last left bank tributary of Ganga


Chemayungdung Glacier, Kailash Range, Tibet

Bay of Bengal

Left: Burhi Dihing, Dhansri, Lohit


Right: Subansri, Manas, Kameng, Sankosh

It enters India in the state of Arunachal Pradesh (near Sadiya town)


In Tibet, it is called as Tsangpo


Takes U-turn and enters India near Namcha Barwa peak


Frequent Shifting of the channel is one of its main characteristics

Peninsular River System

  • The course and channel of Peninsular rivers are evolved by passing through various geological events like subsidence, Upheaval of Himalayas, the tilt of Peninsular India
  • The Western Ghats acts as a water divide between thus most of the peninsular rivers flow towards the east and few flowing through the west reaching the Arabian Sea with few exemptions which flow northwards.
  • The characteristics of river channels of these rivers like the fixed course, absence of meanders, etc., indicates that these rivers are older than Himalayan rivers.







Sihawa, Chattisgarh

Bay of Bengal (False Point, Odisha)

Left: Seonath, Mand, Ib


Right: Ong, Jonk, Telen

Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha are its basin states


Brahmagiri Hills, Nasik, Maharashtra

Bay of Bengal, Andhra Pradesh (East Godavari district)

Left: Prahnita, Indravati


Right: Manjira, Pravara, Manair

It is called as Dakshin Ganga as this river is the largest Peninsular River


Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra

Krishna district, Andhra Pradesh, Bay of Bengal

Left: Bhima, Musi, Munneru


Right: Tungabhadra, Koyna, Dudhganga, Ghataprabha



Brahmagiri Hills, Karnataka

Poompuhar, Tamil Nadu, Bay of Bengal

Left: Hemavathi, Arkavathy


Right: Kabini, Bhavani, Noyyal, Amaravati

This river receives rainfall from both south-west and north-east monsoon


Amarkantak Hills, Madhya Pradesh

Gulf of Khambat, Arabian Sea

Left:  Tawa, Shakkar


Right: Hiran, Kolar, Dindori

Known for Marble Rocks (Jabalpur, MP) and falls


West flowing river and flows through a rift valley


Betul District, Madhya Pradesh

Gulf of Khambat, Surat, Arabian Sea


West flowing river

Comparison between Himalayan and the Peninsular Rivers of India

S. No.


Himalayan River

Peninsular River


Place of origin

Himalayan mountain covered with


Peninsular plateau and central highland


Nature of flow

Perennial; receive water from the glacier

and rainfall

Seasonal; dependent on monsoon



Type of drainage

Antecedent and consequent leading to

the dendritic pattern in plains

Superimposed, rejuvenated resulting

in trellis, radial and rectangular



Nature of river

Long course, flowing through the

rugged mountains experiencing

headward erosion and river capturing;

In plains meandering and shifting of


Smaller, the fixed course with well-adjusted



Catchment area

Very large basins

Relatively smaller basin


Age of the river

Young and youthful, active and

deepening in the valleys

Old rivers with the graded profile, and have

almost reached their base levels


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