Indian River System

In the last episode we had described some of the physical features of the Peninsular India. Guarded by the Himalayas on the north and surrounded by water on the west, south and the east, Indian sub-continent stands in its splendid glory.

Indian River System

Namaskar and welcome once again to this remarkable journey through the times. A passage into the history of India.

The early men had first set up their abode on the banks of the great rivers. Like many other great rivers across the globe, the rivers of India too became the cradle of civilisation. On the basis of their origin, the Indian rivers can be divided into two categories, namely:

• The Himalayan rivers and
• The Peninsula rivers

The Himalayan rivers are both snow-fed and rain-fed and therefore, have continuous flow throughout the year. The main rivers of this group are:

1. The Indus
2. The Ganga, and
3. The Brahmaputra

Sindhu or the Indus originates in Tibet near Man Sarovar in the Kailash mountain. The journey of the Sindhu starts at a height of 5,180 meters After passing through a part of the Tibetan Plateau, it flows for about 1200 km between the Karakoram range and the western Himalayas. On the way it is met by a number of tributaries like Gartang, Zaskar, Dras, Shyok, Shigar, Nubra, Gilgit and the Hunza. Continually descending, Sindhu completes its half journey and arrives at Attock which is situated at an elevation of 656 meters from the sea level. Here it is met by Kabul river. From here Sindhu enters the plains and starts moving southwards.

Near Mithankot it is met by the combined waters of its five major tributaries, namely:

• Jhelum
• Chenab
• Ravi
• Beas, and
• Sutlej

These five tributaries of Sindhu are collectively known as Panchnad or five rivers and the plain formed by them is known as Punjab.

After traversing the length of Sind, Sindhu falls into the Arabian sea near Karachi.

This great river has a catchment area of 1,65,000 sq kms, much of which lies in the present day Pakistan.

On the banks of this river are found the remains of one of the earliest civilisations on earth.

Another Himalayan river which is revered as a Goddess by the people of India is Ganga. Ganga originates at the glacier known as Gaumukh, literally meaning the Mouth of a Cow. Gaumukh is situated in the Uttarkashi district of Uttaranchal. At its origin the river is called Bhagirathi.

According to the traditions, Ganga was a heavenly river, the Sursari or the river of Gods. King Bhagirath practiced penance to bring down the Ganga from the heaven and that it was at his request the heavenly river descended to the earth, and hence the name Bhagirathi.

From Gaumukh the river descends through the Shivalik hills and meets Alaknanda at Devprayag. From here it is known as Ganga.

Ganga enters the plains at Haridwar, which is also known as Ganga dwar to the Gateway to Ganga. The main tributaries of Ganga on the right bank are the Yamuna and Son which meet Ganga at Allahabad and Patna respectively. Besides, Ganga is also met by minor streams namely Tons at …….. and Punpun at …..on its right bank. On its left bank Ganga receives a large number of tributaries including the Ramganga, Gomti, Ghaghra, Gandak, Kosi and Mahananda.

Ganga’s total length of 2,525 km is shared by the states of Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal in India. Beyond Farakka the main stream of the Ganga flows east, southeastwards into Bangladesh and is known here as Padma. Near Chandpur, Padma is met by Brahmputra, known here as the Yamuna, and the Meghna rivers, and soon thereafter it fall into the Bay of Bengal. An upstream bifurcation of Padma that runs southwards through the deltaic plain on the sea is known as Bhagirathi-Hooghly. It receives the minor plateau streams such as the Dwarka, Ajay, Rupnarayana and the Haldi. It too fall into the Bay of Bengal at a place known as Ganga Sagar, a sacred pilgrimage for the Hindus.

Brahmaputra rises from a place near the Man Sarovar lake in the Western part of Tibet. It runs eastward for about 1,280 kms in Tibet, and there it is called Tsangpo. It then turns southwards and through the Mishmi hills enters India at Assam. It is joined by two other tributaries, Dibang and Lohit, and their combined waters are known as Brahmaputra. It flows through the Assam valley for 800 kms before taking a southwest turn at Goalundo. Here it is met by Padma, the easternmost and the main stream of Ganga. The combined stream of Padma and Ganga are met by another river, Meghna in Bangladesh.

Coming to the Peninsular rivers, we find that the Western Ghats as the main water sheds of India. Major rivers of the Peninsula, such as the Godavari, Krishna, Cauvery and Mahanadi, flow eastward and fall into the Bay of Bengal. West-flowing Peninsular river Narmada fall into the Arabian Sea while Tapi falls into the Gulf of Cambay. Besides these major rivers, the peninsular plateau has a large number of coastal streams.

Godavari, sometimes also known as the Vriddha Ganga or Old Ganga, and Dakshin Ganga or the Ganga of the South, is the largest of the peninsular rivers. It originates at Brahmagiri near Triyambakeshwar in the Nasik district of Maharashtra, and covers a distance of about 1,465 kms through the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh. Its principal tributaries include:

• Pravara
• Purna
• Manpra
• Pen Ganga
• Wai Ganga
• Wardha
• Pranhita
• Indravati
• Maner, and
• Sabari

The drainage basin of Godavari is about 3,12,812 sq kms.

Krishna rises from a spring in the Sahya mountain, near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra. Its total length of 1,400 kms is shared by the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Among its main tributaries are:

• Koyana
• Ghatapratha
• Malapratha
• Bhima
• Tungbhadra
• Nusi, and
• Muneru

The drainage basin of Krishna is about 2,58,948 sq kms.

Cauvery originates in the Brahmagiri range of the Western Ghats and covers a distance of 800 kms through the states of Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Its principal tributaries are:

• Jayamangali
• Kunderu
• Sagileru
• Chitravati
• Papagin and
• Cheyyeru.

Before falling into the Bay of Bengal at Kaveripatnam, Cauvery is joined by a number of smaller rivers, namely Lakshmantirtha, Kabini, Suvarnavati, Bhawani and the Amaravati on the right bank and Herangi, Hemavati, Shimsha and the Arkavati on the left bank.

Mahanadi originates from a small pool near Sahawa in Raipur district of Chattisgarh and passes through Orissa. It covers a distance of 857 kms, before falling into the Bay of Bengal. It is joined by Seonath, Hasdeo, Mand and the Ib on the left bank and Jonk, Ung and the Tel on the right bank.

Among the west flowing rivers of the peninsular India, Narmada is the most important. It originates near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh and covers a distance of 1,300 kms, before falling into the Arabian Sea near Bharuch. For most part Narmada flows into Madhya Pradesh and enters Gujarat only in the last leg of its journey. There are hardly any tributary worth name for this river, the only exception being Orsan.

Tapi, also called Tapti, originates in the Satpura range of the Vindhya mountains in the Betul district of Madhya Pradesh. It flows for about 724 kms through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat, before falling into the Gulf of Cambay near Surat. It is joined by Purna, Veghar, Girna, Bori and Panjhra on the left bank and by Aner on the right bank.

The Indians revere their rivers. They consider their waters as sacred. These rivers had sustained the witnessed the birth and development of mankind on their banks.

Having set the stage, we will continue our story in the next episode. Until then, Jai Hind.

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