Ganga River System: Origin, Map, Tributaries of Ganga River

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

The Ganga River System, which includes several perennial rivers and non-perennial rivers, is the largest river system in India. Ganga River System has its southern origins in the peninsula and northern origins in the Himalayas. It originates in the Gangotri glacier, very close to Gaumuk in Uttarkashi. It is called Bhagirathi at this point. The Ganga is the name given to the confluence of the Bhagirathi and Alakhnanda in Devprayag.

Northern India is home to the Ganga River, and it is revered by Hindus. Ganga River Basin is home to 400 million Indian people and feeds the Ganga River. The Ganga River System is a very important part of the Indian geography section of the UPSC exam, and this article would help the aspirants prepare for this particular topic.

What is the Ganga River System?

The Ganga River System extends across Bangladesh, Nepal, Tibet, and India covering almost 10,86,000 square kilometers of area. It makes up nearly one-fourth of India’s total land area and is the country’s biggest river basin covering nearly 8,61,452 square kilometers of area.

Ganga River System Notes

The sacred river is fueled by melting Himalayan snowfall, rain, and freshwater from tributaries. The area covered by it includes the union territory of Delhi, the states of Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh.

Ganga Drainage System

Ganga is one of the most important, and longest River systems in India. It is spread over 2500 km. Ganga rises near Gaumukh in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarnachl, and it is known as the Bhagirathi River. Bhagirathi meets Alaknanda and there it is known as Ganga.


Alaknanda is one of the Ganga’s headstreams. In Uttarakhand, it emerges from the confluence and base of the Satopanth Glacier and Bhagirath Glacier. At Devprayag, when it emerges from the Bhagirathi River, it acquires the name, Ganga. The Mandakini, Nandakini and Pindar Rivers are its principal tributaries. Parts of the districts of Chamoli, Pauri, and Tehri are drained by the Alaknanda River system.


Bhagirathi headstreams join the Alaknanda at the Devprayag leading to the formation of the Ganga River. It is the most crucial headstream of the Ganga River. The Bhagirathi rises at Gaumukh, which is located at the height of 3892 meters above sea level, near the base of Chaukhamba peak, in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand, at the foothills of Gangotri glacier. Along the river, Gangotri, Tehri, and Uttarkashi were some of the significant townships.


It hails from Vasundhara Tal, called Uttarakhand’s biggest glacier lake. One of the Alaknanda’s significant tributaries, along with the Mandakini, Nandakini, Pindar, and Bhagirathi, is the Dhauli Ganga. The Rishiganga river joins the Dhauliganga in Raini. At Vishnuprayag, it combines with the Alaknanda River. The Alaknanda then sheds its identity and continues to flow in the southwestern direction until it meets the northbound Mandakini River at Rudraprayag. The Alaknanda continues past Srinagar after swallowing up Mandakini until it meets the Ganga at Devprayag. The powerful Ganga continues its voyage after Alaknanda vanishes, initially pouring south and then west, past significant pilgrimage sites like Rishikesh before finally plunging into the Indo-Ganga lands at Haridwar.


The Rishi Ganga River rises through the Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. It emerges from the Nanda Devi mountains Utri Nanda Devi glacier. Near the townlet of Raini, it passes across the Nanda Devi National Park before joining the Dhauli Ganga River.

Ganga River System Map

Ganga rivers include many important tributaries of Ganga, These rivers are famous all over India for various reasons. The Ganga is spread over 1560 miles, and we have included the map for the Ganga river system is given below to give you a clear picture of the location of this river system:

Ganga River System

Ganga River Tributaries

The tributaries of the Ganga River are divided into two categories namely- Right Bank Tributaries and Left Bank Tributaries.

Ganga Right Bank Tributaries

  • Yamuna: The Yamuna River is one of the longest tributaries of the Ganga River system. The Yamunotri glacier acts as its source, which is 6316 km long and is found on the western foothills of the Bandarpunch range.
  • Son: This significant Ganga Southbank tributary provides water to the Amarkantak plateau. The river creates a series of waterfalls before flowing westward to Arrah, located in the west of Patna, the spot it enters the Ganga river system.
  • Punpun: The Punpun River rises in the Palamu district of Jharkhand and flows through Chatra, Aurangabad, Gaya, and Patna.
  • Falgu: Falgu or Phagu is the river flowing past Gaya, a district in the state of Bihar. Falgu is an important tourist destination and holds importance from the pilgrimage point of view. Falgu River is also famous as the ‘Niranjana River.
  • Kiul: Kiul River is the tributary of the Ganga, and originates in Jharkhand. It also flows through the districts of Lakhisarae, Sheikhpura, and Jamui in Bihar. This river is 110km long and drains an area of about 16,500 km.
  • Chandan: Chandan River can be found flowing in the district of Bhagalpur in Bihar. Popularly, this river is known as Champa to the locals as on its banks, the Champa village was established.
  • Ajoy: Jharkhand’s Ajoy or Ajay river originates from a small hill in Deoghar, which is about 300mt in height. Ajay River originates from Jharkhand and ends up in Simjuri of West Bengal, via Bihar.
  • Damodar: Damodar is an important tributary of the Ganga River. Damodar originates from the region of Chhota Nagpur Plateau, the Palamau district of Bihar.
  • Rupnarayan: Rupnarayan River originates from Dhalkisor, in the foothills of Chhota Nagpur Plateau, and ends up in the town of Bankura, where it becomes the Dwarkeshwar River.
  • Tamsa: Tamsa River is the tributary of the Ganga, that flows through the states of Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. It originates from Tamkund in the Kaimur range.
  • Karamnasa: Karamnasa is the tributary of the Ganga River that originates from the Kaimur region and flows through the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.

Ganga Left Bank Tributaries

  • Ramganga: The Ramganga tributary drains the southwestern region of Kumaun. It originates from the Southern slopes of Dudhatoli Hill located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand.
  • Garra: Major industrial regions of the Shahjahanpur district of Uttar Pradesh are traversed by the Garra River, a tributary of the river Ganga.
  • Gomti: The Gomti River rises from Gomti Taal, also called Fulhaar Jheel, which is located close to Madho Tanda in Pilibhit, Uttar Pradesh. It travels 900 km in UP before coming along with the Ganga River in Ghazipur.
  • Ghaghara: The glaciers in Mapchachungo are the source of the Ghaghara River. It traverses the Nepalese Himalayas before joining the Sharada River in Brahma Ghat, India. It joins the Ganga in Chhapra in Bihar and is a significant left-bank tributary to the Ganga river system. It is 1080 km long. The principal tributaries of this river are Sarju, Sharda, Rapti, and Chhoti Gandak.
  • Gandak: The Gandak River is created by the confluence of the Kali and Trisuli river, which originated in Nepal’s great Himalayan range. It travels a tortuous 765 km before entering the Ganga in Sonepur, which is located in Patna.
  • Burhi Gandak: Burhi Gandak is a 320 km long river that passes through the East Champaran district before beginning its journey from Chautarwa Chaur near Bishambhar Pur in the West Champaran district of Bihar. Burhi Gandak traverses 32 km through the Muzaffarpur district before heading South East.
  • Kosi: It is also known as the Saptakoshi. Saptakoshi is an ancient transboundary river that flows across Nepal and India and has seven Himalayan tributaries. Arun, Bhote Koshi, and Sun Kosi are a few of the rivers that originate in Tibet, which are a part of the Kosi river system. One of Ganga’s major tributaries, the Kosi River has a 729 km long stretch and meets Ganga in Kursela in the Katihar district.

National Mission for Clean Ganga

The National Mission for Clean Ganga was launched in 2011 and was listed under the Societies Registration Act 1860. This mission was initiated to address the increasing and decreasing levels of pollution in the entire Ganga River Basin. The operational area of the national mission for Clean Ganga includes the entire Ganga basin that passes through all the states, including Delhi. In lieu of a national mission for Clean Ganga, a flagship program was initiated named Namami Gange program in June 2014 specification for the conservation and rejuvenation of river Ganga. Phase II of the Ganga Action Plan was also launched under the Clean Ganga mission. The prime motive of the national mission for Clean Ganga was to incorporate working on the existing sewage treatment plants to curve the problem of pollution on the riverfront. Also, it aims to restore and maintain the groundwater and regenerate the natural vegetation of the nearby area.

Ganga River System UPSC

In the IAS exam, questions related to the Ganga River System can be asked in various subjects such as Geography, Current Affairs, Environment and Ecology, and Indian Culture. Therefore, having a thorough knowledge of the Ganga River System and its importance is essential for aspirants.  Aspirants must have a sound understanding of the issues related to the Ganga river system, including its ecological, social, and economic significance and the challenges it faces. Here we have highlighted all these areas that would aid the upcoming UPSC exam preparation.

Ganga River System MCQs

Question: Which of the following is right true to the Ganga river system? Options: a) Mahanadhi, b) Narmada, c) Kaveri, d) Yamuna

Answer: d) Yamuna

Question: Which of the following Ganga tributary originates from the Amarkantak Plateau? Options: a) Kali or Sarda, b) Son,  c) Yamuna, d) Gandak

Answer:  b) Son

Question: Which of the following river originates from the Nepal-China border in Tibet and joins the Ganga near Hajipur (Bihar)? 0ptions: a) Mahananda, b) Kosi, c) Gandak, d)Gomti

Answer: c) Gandak

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