River System in India - Indian River System and Tributaries

By Shivank Goel|Updated : November 27th, 2022

Major River System in India originates from three main watersheds of India, including the Western ghats, Chota Nagpur Plateau, Vindhya, and Satpura range, the Himalayas, and the Karakoram range. Most of these rivers end up in the Bay of Bengal and some in the Arabian Sea. Indian River System passes through almost all the states.

The rivers of India and their tributaries are of great significance to India as they support millions of lives. That is why, throughout history, the major cities have been positioned near the river banks. Below you will learn about the River System in India in detail.

Table of Content

River System in India

India is home to hundreds of rivers. It has 10 prominent river systems, the Indus River System being the longest. Its total length is 3180km, of which 1114 km lies in India. The Ganga River System Starts and ends within India and has a length of 2510 km.

Indian River System Notes

The major River System in India is divided into Himalayan rivers and Peninsular Rivers based on their source of origin. The Himalayan rivers originate from the Himalayas and Flow all along the Northern Plains, while the rivers in the Peninsular River System originate from the Western Ghats. Also, these Peninsular rivers are rain-fed rivers.

Important River System in India

The Major River systems of India are listed below in the table, along with their total length and Their respective length in India-

Indian River System

Total Length

Length in India

Tapi River System

724 km

724 km

Cauvery River System

805 km

805 km

Mahanadi River System

851 km

851 km

Narmada Rriver System

1376 km

1376 km

Yamuna River System

1376 km

1376 km

Krishna River System

1400 km

1400 km

Godavari River System

1465 km

1465 km

Ganga River System

2510 km

2510 km

Brahmaputra River System

2900 km

916 km

Indus River System

3180 km

1114 km

Indian River System and their Tributaries

Here is a brief detail of the Indian Rivers and their tributaries, i.e., the Indian River System:

Indus River System

Indus River, popularly known as the Puranik River, is one of the historical rivers found in mythological texts and great Hindu Sculptures. The key features of the Indus River System in India are as follows:

  • It arises in Tibet from the northern slopes of the Kailash range of the Himalayas near Mansarovar lake.
  • Indus is one of the largest rivers, with significant tributaries from India and some parts of Pakistan.
  • The River falls in the Arabian Sea near Karachi. The length of the river from its source to where it falls in the Arabian Sea is 2897km.
  • In India, it enters the JandK region and forms a picturesque gorge.

The major tributaries of the Indus River System are Sutlej, Beas, Chenab, Ravi, and Jhelum.

Brahmaputra River System

Like the Indus River System, the Brahmaputra River System originates from Mansarovar Lake. The key details of the Brahmaputra River System are as follows:

  • Though the Brahmaputra is one of the major River systems in India, yet, most of its course lies outside of India.
  • The total length of the Brahmaputra River System is 3848 km.
  • It flows eastward, parallel to the Himalayas, and enters India in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Brahmaputra river is called as Dihang River in Arunachal Pradesh.

In Tibet, this Indian River System is known as the Tsangpo river. The Brahmaputra River System in India is considered the largest river in volume.

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Ganga River System

The river Ganga derives its name from the Gangotri glacier, its source. The Ganga River System is explained below:

  • Bishenganga, Dhauliganga, Pindar, and Mandakini rivers merge into Ganga before it reaches Devprayag.
  • At Karan Prayag, the Nanda Devi unites with the Alaknanda river while the Pindar river rises from the Eastern Trishul.
  • At Rudraprayag, it is joined by the Mandakini.
  • The river Alaknanda and Bhagirathi is known as Ganga at Devprayag.

The Ganga River System in India has the following tributaries- Son, Ghaghara, Gomati, Ram Ganga, Sapti Kosi, Damodar, and Yamuna.

Narmada River System

Located in central India, the Narmada River drains out into the Arabian sea from the Bharuch region of Gujarat. Its features are:

  • It originates in Madhya Pradesh, from the Amarkantak Hills, and runs to Gujarat and Maharastra.
  • Narmada lines the traditional frontier between southern and Northern India.
  • Narmada flows from east to west along with the Mahi and Tapti rivers.
  • Like the Yamuna, the Narmada river drains out from the Bharuch district of Gujarat into the Arabian Sea.

Yamuna River System

The Yamuna River is the largest tributary of the Ganga River System. The key features of the Yamuna River System are as follows:

  • Yamuna river originates in Uttarakhand from the Yamunotri glacier.
  • The largest tributary of the Yamuna River System is Tons.
  • The Yamuna catchment extends to Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi.

The prominent tributaries of the Yamuna River System in India are Chambal, Betwa Ken, Hindon, and Sin.

Tapi River System

The Tapi River System is one of the most important river systems in peninsular India that originates from Southern Madhya Pradesh in the east-to-west direction.

  • It drains through South Gujarat, Khandesh of Maharashtra, East Vidarbha region, and Nimar region of Madhya Pradesh.
  • Tapi's river basin mostly lies in the northern and eastern districts of Maharastra and a few districts of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.

The prominent tributaries of the Tapi River System are the Bori River, Panzara River, Purna River, Girna River, Aner River, and Waghur River.

Godavari River System

The second largest Indian river system in terms of course with brownish water in India is the Godavari River System. The features are:

  • It is called the Vriddh (old) Ganga or Dakshin (south) Ganga.
  • The Godavari is one of the seasonal rivers in India that widens up during monsoons and gets dried during summers.
  • The Godavari originates near Nasik from Trimbakeshwar in Maharastra, flows through Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Madhya Pradesh, and ends up in the Bay of Bengal.
  • At Rajahmundry, it forms a delta.
  • Its bank is considered holy and has been a pilgrimage site in Trimbak, Bhadrachalam, and Nasik.

Some of the major tributaries of the Godavari River System of India include Manjira, Sabari, Bindusara, Indravati River, and Pranahita. Also, Asia's largest bridge (road-cum-rail) is located on the Godavari river. It links Rajahmundry and Kovvur.

Krishna River System

Krishna river originates from Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra. It is one of the major rivers in India; in terms of length, that flows through Sangli and ends up at the Bay of Bengal.

  • It flows through Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.
  • One of its major tributaries, Tungabhadra, is formed by Bhadra and Tunga Rivers and originates from the Western Ghats.

The major tributaries of the Krishna River System are Musi, Yerla, Warna, Ghataprabha, Dindi, Mallaprabha, Bhima, Koyna, and Dudhganga.

Cauvery River System

The Cauvery River System originates from the Western Ghats and is one of the pilgrimage sites for Hindus in the Kodagu district, Karnataka.

  • It flows through Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and drains at the Bay of Bengal.
  • People have been dependent on Cauvery for irrigation and agriculture since ancient times.

The major tributaries of the Cauvery River System in India are Tirtha, Noyyal, Bhavani, Lokapavani, Kabini, Lakshmana, Amaravati, Hannuhole, Shimsha, Kapila, Hemavati, Shisha, and Arkavathy.

Mahanadi River System

The Mahanadi River System originates in central India from Satpura Range and flows in eastern India.

  • It flows through Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Maharashtra.
  • Hirakud Dam, the largest dam in India, is built on Mahanadi River System.
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River System in India FAQs

  • A river system is a drainage basin or system that includes a river and its tributaries. Since various rivers flow through India, there are also many river systems. Some of the major river systems of India include Ganga River System, Brahmaputra River System, and Indus River System.

  • The largest river system in India is the Ganga River System. It measures 2510 km in length. But, the Indus river has the maximum number of glaciers, i.e., 3500, while the basins of Brahmaputra and Ganga have 660 and 1000 glaciers, respectively.

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  • Depending upon the source of water, the Indian rivers are considered to be divided into two types. These are the Peninsular Rivers and Himalayan Rivers. The Peninsular rivers are rain-fed, while the Himalayan rivers are sourced from the glaciers.

  • Godavari River System is the second largest Indian river system in terms of course with brownish water. It is a seasonal river and is also known as the Vriddh (old) Ganga or Dakshin (south) Ganga.

  • As of 2022, the Indus river system is the longest Indian River System originating from Mansrover, Tibet. It falls into the Arabian sea at the port of Karachi in Pakistan after passing through several north Indian states. Sutlej, Beas, Chenab, Ravi, and Jhelum are its tributaries.

  • Four Himalayan rivers flow in India, including Ganga, Indus, Brahmaputra, and Yamuna. As the name suggests, the Himalayan rivers originate from the mighty Himalayan range and flow through the northern plains of India. These rivers and their tributaries constitute different river systems or drainage basins across the country.

  • Although there are multiple river systems across India, the Ganga and Indus river systems are the two major ones. The Ganga river originates through the Gangotri glacier, and the Indus arises from the northern slopes of the Kailash range near the Mansarovar lake in Tibet.

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  • In India, the major river system includes Ganga River System, Brahmaputra River System, Indus River System, Tapi River System, Cauvery River System, Mahanadi River System, Narmada River System, Yamuna River System, Krishna River System, and Godavari River System.

  • Asia’s largest bridge, rail-cum-road bridge, is situated on the Godavari river. It links Rajahmundry and Kovvur regions.

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