The Ganga river system

One cannot discuss Indian river systems without mentioning the holy river Ganga.

It is the most prestigious and the longest river in India.

Ganga in northern India

The Ganga’s headwaters are called the Bhagirathi, and are fed by the Gangotri glacier.

In Devprayag, Uttarakhand, these waters are joined by the Alaknanda.

In Haridwar, the Ganga emerges onto the plains for the first time.

Many pilgrims visit Haridwar to pay their respects to the holy Ganga river.

Tributaries of Ganga

From the Himalayas, many tributaries of the Ganga emerge, such as the Gandak and Kosi rivers.

Yamuna, being a major river itself, is also a tributary of the Ganga.

Yamuna rises from the Yamunotri Glacier in the Himalayas.

It meets the Ganga at Allahabad. This place is known as Triveni Sangam.

The other tributaries of the Ganga, such as the Kosi and Gandak, all rise in the Nepal Himalayas.

Most floods in the northern plains happen due to the flooding of these rivers.

Even though they enrich the soil for agriculture, these floods cause widespread damage to property and life.

The Chambal, Betwa, and Son are the major tributaries which rise from the peninsular uplands.

Ganga in the eastern parts

Till Farakka in West Bengal, the Ganga continues flowing eastwards.

Here, the river bifurcates. The mainstream flows south into Bangladesh, and joins the Brahmaputra.

A distributary, the Bhagirathi-Hoogly, flows south into the Bay of Bengal through deltaic plains.

The mainstream, which joins Brahmaputra, is known as Meghna further downstream.

The mighty Sundarban delta is formed by these three rivers.

Its name is derived from the Sundari tree, which grows in the marshland.

The Ganga river system in numbers

The total length of the Ganga river is around 2500km.

The Ganga and Indus river systems are divided by the waters in Ambala.

These plains from Ambala to the Sundarban delta are nearly 1800km in length.

The slope, however, is gentle, being only around 300m in fall. This means that for every 6 km of the plain, the slope falls by around 1 metre.

This develops large meanders in the river.


The Ganga is the holy river of India, and is around 2500km long.

It originates from the Gangotri glacier, and emerges in the plains in Haridwar.

Major tributaries of the Ganga include the Yamuna, Chambal, Son, and Kosi.

In the east, the Ganga, Brahmaputra, and Meghna form the Sundarban delta.

The Ganga plains stretch out for over 1800 km, from Ambala to Sunderban.

India and Pakistan share the waters of the Indus through the Indus water treaty. India’s share is 20% of the total discharge of the system.