Major river systems of India

Major river systems of India

Himalayan rivers are further divided into Trans Himalayan and Himalayan rivers. The Trans-Himalayan rivers originate from beyond the Great Himalayas. They are perennial rivers and hence are majorly used for irrigation and navigation purposes.

Indian rivers are categorised into Himalyan and Peninsular rivers.

Himalayan Rivers

Himalayan rivers are further divided into Trans Himalayan and Himalayan rivers. The Trans-Himalayan rivers originate from beyond the Great Himalayas. They are perennial rivers and hence are majorly used for irrigation and navigation purposes.

The Indus River System

Indus river originated from the northern slopes of the Kailash range near Manasarovar lake located in Tibet. It follows a north-westerly course through Tibet and enters India in Jammu and Kashmir, where its tributaries like the Zaskar, the Shyok, the Nubra and the Hunza join it. It flows through the regions of Ladakh, Baltistan and Gilgit and runs between the Ladakh Range and the Zaskar Range.

It crosses the Himalayas through a 5181 m deep gorge near Attock, lying north of the Nanga Parbat and later takes a bend to the south west direction before entering Pakistan. It has a large number of tributaries in both India and Pakistan and has a total length of about 2897 km from the source to the point near Karachi where it falls into the Arabian Sea. The main tributaries of the Indus in India are Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej.

The Brahmaputra River System

Like its sister, it also originates from the Manasarovar lake but compared to Indus, it is long and is mostly outside India. It flows eastward, parallel to the Himalayas. Reaching Namcha Barwa (7757 m), it takes a U-turn around it and enters India in Arunachal Pradesh and is known as Dihang. The undercutting done by this river is of the order of 5500 metres. In India, it flows through Arunachal Pradesh and Assam and is joined by several tributaries.

The Ganga River System

Ganga is the largest river system in India and is worshipped by many due to its cultural importance. It originates from the Gangotri Glacier in the Garhwal Himalayas at an elevation of some 4100 metres above the sea level under the name of Bhagirathi. It is then meets Mandakini and Alakananda at Dev Prayag. After this point it is called Ganga. The main tributaries of the Ganga are Yamuna, Ram Ganga, Gomati, Ghaghara, Son, Damodar and Sapt Kosi. The river after traversing a distance of 2525 kms from its source meets the Bay of Bengal at Ganga Sagar in West Bengal.

The Yamuna River System

Yamuna rises from the Yamunotri glacier, 6387m above mean sea level at the Banderpoonch peak in the Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. The catchment of the river extends to states of Uttar Pradesh,Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh and the entire union territory of Delhi. The river flows 1367 km from here to its confluence with the River Ganga at Allahabad. The main tributaries joining the river include the Hindon, Chambal, Sind, Betwa and Ken. The annual flow of the river is about 10,000 cumecs. The annual usage is 4400 cumecs, irrigation accounting for 96 per cent of this.

The Peninsular Rivers

Rivers originating from the Westran Ghats are called peninsular rivers and they are seasonal in nature. Major rivers of the Peninsula such as Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery flow eastwards on the plateau and drain into the Bay of Bengal.

The Narmada River System

Narmada orginates from Amarkantak Hill in Madhya Pradesh state, and for the first 320 kilometres (200 miles) of its course, winds among the Mandla Hills, which form the head of the Satpura Range; then at Jabalpur, passing through the 'Marble Rocks', it enters the Narmada Valley between the Vindhya and Satpura ranges, and pursues a direct westerly course to the Gulf of Cambay. It divides North India and South India, and is a total of 1,289 km (801 mi) long. It empties into the Arabian Sea in the Bharuch district of Gujarat.

The Tapi River System

Tapi is a another central river with the length of 724 km, it rises from eastern Satpura Range of southern Madhya Pradesh state, and flows westward, draining Madhya Pradesh's historic Nimar region, Maharashtra's historic Khandesh and east Vidarbha regions in the northwest corner of the Deccan Plateau and South Gujarat before emptying into the Gulf of Cambay of the Arabian Sea, in the State of Gujarat.

The Western Ghats or Sahyadri range starts south of the Tapti River near the border of Gujarat and Maharashtra. The Tapi River Basin lies mostly in northern and eastern districts Maharashtra state viz, Amravati, Akola, Buldhana, Washim, Jalgaon, Dhule, Nandurbar, Malegaon, Nashik districts but also covers Betul, Burhanpur districts of Madhya Pradesh and Surat district in Gujarat as well. The principal tributaries of Tapi River are Purna River, Girna River, Panzara River, Waghur River, Bori River and Aner River.

The Godavari River System

Godavari is considered as the southern Ganga as it is the second largest river in India. It is called by other names like- Vriddh (Old) Ganga or the Dakshin (South) Ganga. The river is about 1,450 km (900 miles) long. It rises at Trimbakeshwar, near Nasik and Mumbai (formerly Bombay) in Maharashtra around 380 km distance from the Arabian Sea, but flows southeast across south-central India through the states of Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, and empties into the Bay of Bengal.

At Rajahmundry, 80 km from the coast, the river splits into two streams thus forming a very fertile delta. Some of its tributaries include Indravati River, Manjira, Bindusara and Sabari. Some important urban centers on its banks include Nasik, Bhadrachalam, Rajahmundry and Narsapur. The Asia's largest rail-cum-road bridge on the river Godavari linking Kovvur and Rajahmundry is considered to be an engineering feat.

The Krishna River System

Krishna originating from Mahabaleswar in Maharashtra runs about 1300 km through the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh and meets the sea in the Bay of Bengal at Hamasaladeevi in Andhra Pradesh. Its most important tributary is the Tungabhadra River, which itself is formed by the Tunga and Bhadra rivers that originate in the Western Ghats. Other tributaries include the Koyna, Bhima, Mallaprabha, Ghataprabha, Yerla, Warna, Dindi, Musi and Dudhganga rivers.

The Cauveri River System

Cauvery also holds spiritual importance in the Hindu culture hence worshipped by the Hindus; it is originated from the Talakaveri 5,000 feet (1,500 m) above sea level Western Ghats region precisely in Karnataka state and flows through Tamil Nadu. It empties into the Bay of Bengal. It has historical importance too as it has supported the ancient kingdoms and modern cities of South India. Its basin is estimated to be 27,700 square miles (71,700 km²), and it has many tributaries including Shimsha, Hemavati, Arkavathy, Kapila, Honnuhole, Lakshmana Tirtha, Kabini, Lokapavani, Bhavani, Noyyal and Famous Amaravati.

The Mahanadi River System

Mahanadi is the third largest peninsular river and is originated in Baster hills of Madhya Pradesh flows over different geological formations of Eastern Ghats and adjacent areas and joins the Bay of Bengal after divided into different branches in the deltaic area. The main branches of River Mahanadi meet Bay of Bengal at Paradip and Nuagarh (Devi estuary). The basin (80º30’–86º50’ E and 19º20’–23º35’ N) extends over an area approximately 141,600 km2, has a total length of 851 km and an annual runoff of 50X109 m3 with a peak discharge of 44740 m3 s-1.

The basin is characterised by a tropical climate with average annual rainfall of 142 cm (NWDA, 1981) with 90 per cent occurring during the SW-monsoon. The main branches of River Mahanadi meet Bay of Bengal at Paradip and Nuagarh (Devi estuary). The tidal estuarine part of the river covers a length of 40 km and has a basin area of 9 km2. Based on physical characteristics, the estuary has been characterized as a partially mixed coastal plain estuary.

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