The Ganga River System

The Ganga river system outspreads in India, Tibet (China), Nepal and Bangladesh. It is the largest river basin in India and accounts for about one-fourth of the total area of the country. It covers states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Union Territory of Delhi.

The Ganga River System

The total length of the Ganga is about 2,510 km. The river basin is bounded by the Himalayas on the north, by the Aravalli on the west, by the Vindhyas and Chhotanagpur plateau on the south and by the Brahmaputra Ridge on the east. The river is a lifeline to millions of Indians who live along its course and depend on it for their daily needs. From time immemorial, Ganga has been the holiest river of the Hindus. It is thus also a culturally important river of India.

Figure showing the Ganga River System



Source of origin: The Ganga rises from the Gangotri glacier near Gomukh in Uttarkashi district of the state of Uttarakhand.

Confluence or Mouth: The Ganga river drains into the Bay of Bengal before forming a very huge delta.

The course of the Ganga river

The Ganga is called the Bhagirathi above Devprayag and below this town, the Ganga. The Ganga initially flows in the southern direction, then in the south-east direction up to Mirzapur and then in the east direction in the Bihar plains. Near the Rajmahal hills, it turns into south-east direction and after flowing some distance in Murshidabad district of West Bengal, it enters Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, it gets divided into two main distributaries- the Bhagirathi and the Hugli. The main river goes to Bangladesh where it is firstly known by the name of the Padma and then the Meghna which drains into the Bay of Bengal.

The Five Prayags

  1. Devaprayag, the place of confluence of Bhagirathi river and Alaknanda river.
  2. Rudraprayag, the place of confluence of Mandakini river and Alaknanda river.
  3. Nandaprayag, the place of confluence of Nandakini river and Alaknanda river.
  4. Karnaprayag, the place of confluence of Pindar river and Alaknanda river.
  5. Vishnuprayag, the place of confluence of Dhauliganga river and Alaknanda river.

Primary Tributaries of the Ganga river

The Yamuna River

It is the right-bank tributary of the Ganga. It rises from the Yamunotri glacier on the Banderpunch range. After cutting a deep gorge across the Shivaliks, it flows south-west and enters the Ganga plain at Paonta Sahib. It flows southwards till Agra and moves south-east till it merges with the Ganga at Allahabad. The Tons river, the Chambal river, the Sind river, the Betwa river and the Ken river are its four main right-bank tributaries. The Hindon, the Sharda river, the Varuna river, the Giri river are its major left-bank tributaries.

The Chambal River

The Chambal river rises from a place near Mhow in the Vindhyan range in Madhya Pradesh. Firstly, it flows northwards in a gorge up to Kota, Rajasthan. Below Kota, it flows in the north-east direction till Pinahat. Then it runs east and parallel to the Yamuna before merging in it at Etawah district of Uttar Pradesh. Banas river, Kali Sindh river and Parvati river are its major tributaries.

The Ramganga River

It is a left-bank tributary of the Ganga. It rises in the Kamaun range of the Himalayas near Nainital in Uttarakhand. It enters the Ganga plains near Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh.

The Gomati River

It is a left-bank tributary of the Ganga. It rises from Gomat Tall in the Pilibhit district of Uttar Pradesh. It joins the Ganga at Ghazipur in Uttar Pradesh before flowing through the cities of Lucknow and Jaunpur.

The Ghaghara River

It is a left-bank tributary of the Ganga. It rises from Mapcha Chung Glacier in Tibet region. The river is known by the name of Karnali in Nepal. It joins the Ganga at Chhapra. The Sarda river and the Rakti river are its important tributaries.

The Sarda River

It rises from the Milam Glacier in the Great Himalayas in Nepal. It flows along the Indo-Nepal border before leaving the Himalayas at Baramdeo. The river is known by different names- Kali, Sarda, Kheri, Chauka. It joins the Ghaghara river at Bahramghat.

The Gandak River

It is a left-bank tributary of the Ganga. It rises from the Great Himalayas in Nepal. The river is known by the name of Kalyani in Nepal. It joins the Ganga at Sonpur near Patna, Bihar.

The Kosi River

It is a left-bank tributary of the Ganga. The Arun, the Sun Kosi and the Tamur rivers which drain Mount Everest and the Kanchenjunga hills in east Nepal unite to form the Kosi river in the north region of Mahabharta range of the Himalayas. It is an antecedent river. The Kosi flows through the Tarai region of Nepal. The catchment area of the river receives immense rainfall leading to floods. The river has changed its course and ruined a large area. Because of the havoc created and the floods, the Kosi is termed as Bihar's "River of Sorrow".

The Damodar River

It rises in the Chhotanagpur Plateau and flows in the eastern direction in Jharkhand. The river passes through a rift valley. It joins the right-bank of Hoogly river near Fulta. The Barakar river is an important tributary of Damodar.

The Mahananda River

It rises in the Darjeeling hills. It is the last left-bank tributary of the Ganga river in India.


Major River Valley Projects/Dams/Barrages associated with the Ganga river system

  • The Tehri Dam- It is the highest dam in India. It is constructed on the Bhagirathi river at Tehri in the state of Uttarakhand. The dam is a lifeline for many people as it generates electricity, provides irrigation and municipal water supply to lakhs of people. The dam is in a highly earthquake prone area(Zone V). Noted environmentalist Sunderlal Bahuguna had led the Anti-Tehri Dam movement for many years.
  • The Tanakpur Dam- The dam has been constructed at Tanakpur in Uttarakhand on the river Kali.
  • The Chambal Project- This is a joint project of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. The main aims of the project are providing irrigation, power generation and prevention and control of soil erosion in the Chambal valley. Three dams have been built on the Chambal river- Chaurasigarh, Madhya Pradesh; Kota, Rajasthan; and Rawatbhata, Rajasthan. Rana Pratap Sagar and Jawahar Sagar are the reservoirs being formed by the dams at Rawatbhata and Kota respectively.
  • The Rihand Project- It is the most important multipurpose project of Uttar Pradesh. A dam is constructed on Rihand river near Pipri in Mirzapur district of Uttar Pradesh. Rihand river is a tributary of Son river. Son Canal is also constructed which supplies water to Bihar. Reservoir-Govind Ballabh Pant Sagar is constructed on the Uttar Pradesh-/Chhattisgarh border.
  • The Kosi Project- Kosi Barrage has been constructed along the Indo-Nepal border. It is an irrigation, flood control and hydro-electricity generation project on the Kosi River built under a bilateral agreement between Nepal and India.
  • The Gandak Project- It is a joint project of the Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and Nepal. It is constructed on the river Gandak. A barrage is constructed at Valmikinagar, Bihar. Electricity is generated at Suratpura power station in Nepal which caters the power needs of Tarai region.
  • The Ramganga Project- It is an irrigation and a hydro-electric project on the Ramganga river, a tributary of Ganga. It is located in the Jim Corbett National Park region.
  • The Damodar Valley Project- It is India's first multipurpose river valley project. It was started in 1948 based on the Tennessee River Valley Corporation of the USA. Important dams under the project are- Panchet Dam on the Damodar river; Tailaiya Dam, Maithon Dam and Bal Pahari Dam on the Barakar river(a tributary of Damodar); Konar Dam on the river Konar(a tributary of Damodar); Bakora Dam on the Bokaro river(a tributary of Damodar). Also, the Durgapur barrage on the Damodar river in Durgapur has been created for the storage of irrigation water.

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