Drainage System of India

What is a drainage System?

The term drainage describes the river system of an area. Small streams flowing from different directions form the main river, which ultimately drains into a large water body such as a lake, sea, or ocean.

Drainage Patterns

  • Dendritic
  • Trellis
  • Rectangular
  • Radial

Three Courses of Rivers

  • Upper course
  • Middle course
  • Lower course river

Upper Course

  • In the mountainous course, a river passes through a steep slope.
  • Its water rushes down with great speed.
  • The deep and steep-sided river valley is V-shaped here.

Middle Course

  • It forms large bends, and then horseshoe-like loops called meanders.

Lower Courses

  • The volume of water in a river is at its greatest in the lower course, this is due to the contribution of water from tributaries.
  • The river channel is deep and wide and the land around the river is flat.

The Indian rivers are divided into two major groups

  • The Himalayan rivers
  • The Peninsular rivers

The Himalayan River

The Himalayan rivers are perennial, which means that they have water throughout the year

These rivers receive water from rain as well as from melted snow from the lofty mountains.

The major Himalayan River systems

  • The Indus River System
  • The Ganga River System
  • The Yamuna River System
  • The Brahmaputra River System

The Peninsular Rivers

A large number of the Peninsular rivers are seasonal, as their flow is dependent on rainfall. During the dry season, even the large rivers have reduced the flow of water in their channels. The Peninsular rivers have a shorter length.

Major rivers of the Peninsula

  • The Mahanadi
  • The Godavari
  • The Krishna  
  • The Kaveri

Indus River

  • Indus River consists the three Countries – China, India, and Pakistan.
  • The river Indus rises in Tibet, near Lake Mansarovar and south of Kailash.
    • Jammu and Kashmir, Nanga Parbat  
    • Gilgit Baltistan of Karakoram Range 
    • Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
    • Arabian Sea
  • Indus basin flows west in India in the states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab, and the rest is in Pakistan.
  • With a total length of 2900 km, out of which (1,114 km lies in India), the Indus is one of the longest rivers in the world.
  • Drainage area – 11,65,000 square km.

Indus River is the Longest and National River in Pakistan.  

According to the regulations of the Indus Water Treaty (1960), India can use only 20 per cent of the total water carried by the Indus River system. This water is used for irrigation in the Punjab, Haryana, and the southern and western parts of Rajasthan.

Note – Leh, the town of Ladakh union territory is situated on the left by its first major tributary, the Zaskar River.

Primary Tributaries of the Indus Valley River are

  • Sutlej
  • Beas
  • Ravi
  • Chenab
  • Jhelum

The Sutlej (1,450 km)

  • The Sutlej River rises from the Rakas Lake near the Mansarovar Lake in the Tibet region.
  • In Tibet, the river is known by the name Langchen Khambab.
  • The Sutlej River flows parallel to the Indus River before entering India at Shipki La.
  • It is an antecedent river.
  • The Bhakra Nangal Project is constructed on the Sutlej River.
  • Jhelum and Ravi join Chenab, Beas joins Sutlej, and then Sutlej and Chenab join to form Panjnad River, north of Muzaffar Garh district.
  • The combined stream runs southwest and joins the Indus River at Mithankot.

The Beas (470 km)

  • The Beas River rises from Beas Kund near the Rohtang Pass in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
  • The river flows through Kullu Valley.
  • The river merges into the Sutlej River at Harike in the state of Punjab.

The Ravi (720 km)

  • The Ravi River originates near the Rohtang Pass in the Kullu hills in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
  • The river flows through Chamba valley.
  • It merges into the Chenab River near Sarai Sandhu in the Punjab region of Pakistan.

The Chenab (960 km)

  • The Chenab River is made up of two streams, the Chandra and the Bhaga, which merge at Tandi, near Keylong in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
  • The river is also known as Chandrabagha.
  • The Chenab River is the largest tributary of the Indus.
  • The river flows through Kullu, Chamba, between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal range.

The Jhelum (725 km)

  • The Jhelum River rises from the Sheshnag Lake near Verinag at the foot of the Pir Panjal range.
  • The river flows through Srinagar and the beautiful Wular Lake.
  • It merges into Chenab in Pakistan.

Ganga River System

At a Glance Ganga River

  • Origin – Ganga origin from Gomukh the terminus of the Gangotri Glacier located in Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand, India in a region bordering Tibet.

(Major Origin Tributaries are – Bhagirathi and Alaknanda)

  • Countries – India, Bangladesh (Mainstream), Nepal (Tributaries)
  • States – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal.
  • Length – 2,525 km or more than 2500 km
  • Discharge – Farakka Barrage, and the Bay of Bengal
  • The river is home to the Ganges Dolphin, the National Aquatic Animal of India.
  • The river has a length of 2,525 km.
  • Uttarakhand (110 km) and
  • Uttar Pradesh (1,450 km),
  • Bihar (445 km) and
  • West Bengal (520 km).
  • The Ganga basin covers about 8.6 lakh sq. km area in India alone.

Origin of Ganga River

Tributaries of Ganga River

Left Tributaries of Ganga – Ramganga, Gomti, Ghaghara, Gandak, Burhi Gandak, Koshi, Mahananda

  1. Ramganag (596 km) – Emerged near Kanauj in Fatehgarh district.

(Ramganga West River originates from Dudhatoli or Doodhatoli ranges)

  • Gomti (475 km) – Meets the Ganges near Saidpur (Ghazipur district), Kaithi, 27 kilometers (17 mi) from Varanasi district.

(Originates from Gomat Taal (formally known as Fulhaar jheel) near Madho Tanda, Pilibhit, India. It extends 960 kilometers (600 mi) through Uttar Pradesh)

  • Ghaghara (1,080) – River confluence with the Ganges at Revelganj in Bihar.

(Length is 1,080 kilometers. It is the largest tributary of the Ganges by volume and the second-longest tributary of the Ganges by a length after the Yamuna.)

  • Gandak (814 km)– It joins the Ganges near Patna just downstream of Hajipur at Sonpur (also known as Harihar Kshetra).

(Other name – Narayani or Sapt Gandaki)

  • Burhi Gandak (320 km) – Meets with Ganga River at Gogri Jamalpur in Bihar.
  • Koshi (729 km or 720 km) – Meet Ganges near Kursela in Katihar district.
  • Mahananda (360 km) – Meets Ganges in Rajmahal subdivision of the Sahibganj district in Jharkhand.

Right Tributaries of – Yamuna, Tamsa (also called Tons), Karamnasa, Sone, Punpun, Falgu, Kiul, Chandan, Ajoy, Damodar, Rupnarayan.

(The Son is its major right-bank tributary.)

  1. Yamuna (1,376 km) – The second-largest tributary river of the Ganga and the longest tributary in India.

(It merges with the Ganga at Triveni Sangam, Prayagraj (Allahabad), which is a site of the Kumbh Mela.)

  • Tamsa (Tons) (264 km) – Joins the Ganges at Sirsa, Rewa, Madhya Pradesh.
  • Karamnasa (192 km) – Joins the Ganges near Village Bara (East Side) Ghazipur Uttar Pradesh.
  • Soen or Son (784 km) – merges with the Ganges River near Patna in Bihar.

(It originates near Amarkantak Hill in Annupur district of Madhya Pradesh. India’s oldest river bridge Koilwar Bridge over Sone River connects Arrah with Patna.)

  • Punpun (200 km) – Joins the Ganges at Fatuha, Patna.


  1. Bhagirathi River (190 km)
  2. Hoogly (260 km) – It is formed by the junction of the Bhagirathi and Jalangi rivers at Nabadwip.

Other Tributaries

The Chambal rises near Mhow in the Malwa plateau of Madhya Pradesh and flows northwards through a gorge upwards of Kota in Rajasthan, where the Gandhisagar dam has been constructed.

From Kota, it traverses down to Bundi, Sawai Madhopur, and Dholpur, and finally joins the Yamuna.

Other names of River

  1. The Damodar river is called the ‘Sorrow of Bengal’.
  2. The Koshi River is known as the “Sorrow of Bihar”.
  3. Doni River is known as the “Sorrow of Karnataka”
  4. Ghaghra river is known as the “Sorrow of Uttar Pradesh”.
  5. The Brahmaputra River is known as the “Sorrow of Assam”.
  6. The Ganga River has the largest river basin in India.
  7. The Indus is not included in ‘Panchnad’.
  8. Deva Prayag is the place of confluence of the Alaknanda and the Bhagirathi.
  9. The Yamuna is the longest tributary river of India.
  10. The Godavari is the longest river in South India.

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