15 Major And Important Rivers in India

Beautiful River in India

With a vast network of Himalayan and Peninsular rivers, India is regarded as a land of rivers. Many ancient civilisations thrived on the banks of rivers in India. They are considered sacred by Hindus in the country and have been venerated in the form of gods and goddesses.

Himalayan rivers originate from Himalayan ranges and are perennial in nature while Peninsular rivers are fed by rains and include those rising from the Western Ghats. Scroll down to find out – which are the 15 major rivers in India.

A Quick Glance Through

S.No.RiverOriginates FromFalls intoMajor Cities on The Banks
1GangesGangotri GlacierBay of BengalVaranasi, Allahabad, Haridwar, Patna
2BrahmaputraAngsi Glacier (Tibet)Bay of BengalGuwahati, Dibrugarh
3IndusTibet, Kailash RangeArabian SeaLeh, Kargil
4GodavariTriambakeshwar, MaharashtraBay of BengalTrimbakeshwar, Nashik, Rajahmundry
5NarmadaAmarkantak, Madhya PradeshArabian SeaJabalpur, Harda, Bharuch
6KrishnaNear Mahabaleswar, MaharashtraBay of BengalSangli, Vijayawada
7YamunaYamunotri GlacierGanges RiverDelhi, Agra, Mathura
8MahanadiHills of Southeastern ChhattisgarhBay of BengalRajim, Sambalpur, Cuttack
9KaveriTalakaveri, KarnatakaBay of BengalTiruchirapalli, Erode
10Tapti (Tapi)Satpura Range near Multai, Madhya PradeshArabian SeaBurhanpur, Bhusawal, Surat
11SutlejLake Rakshastal in TibetIndus RiverFerozpur, Rupnagar
12ChambalVindhya Range Near Mhow, Madhya PradeshYamuna RiverKota,Gwalior
13BeasBeas Kund, Himachal PradeshSutlej RiverMandi, Kullu, Amritsar
14TungabhadraKoodli (where Tunga and Bhadra rivers meet), KarnatakaKrishna RiverHarihar, Hospet, Hampi, Kurnool
15SabarmatiAravali Hills Near Udaipur, RajasthanArabian SeaAhmedabad, Gandhinagar

1. Ganges River

Originating at Gaumukh from Gangotri glacier of the Himalayas, the river is called Bhagirathi at the source and acquires the name Ganges from Devprayag onwards where it meets the Alaknanda.

The Ganges
The Ganges Near Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

At 2,525 km long the Ganges is one of the longest rivers in India. Also called the Ganga, it is the most sacred river in Hinduism and worshipped by devotees as Goddess Ganga.

The Ganges river rises in the western Himalayan region in Uttarakhand and flows through the Gangetic plains of India before entering into Bangladesh and eventually ending into the Bay of Bengal.

Its two chief tributaries are the river Ghaghara, the largest in terms of water volume and the Yamuna, the longest by length.

Some of the prominent cities located on the banks of the Ganges are Varanasi, Allahabad, Haridwar, Kanpur and Patna.

2. Brahmaputra River

Running through the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in India, the Brahmaputra river crosses international boundaries to traverse neighbouring countries Bangladesh and China.

Sunset at The River Brahmaputra
Sunset at The River Brahmaputra Near Guwahati, Assam

Renowned as the largest river in India (considering water flow), the Brahmaputra river travels 2,900 km from source to the union point.

It originates from Angsi glacier near Mount Kailash in Burang County of Tibet, where the river is called as Yarlung Tsangpo. It flows further through southern Tibet and enters Arunachal Pradesh.

Continuing its journey through the Assam Valley as Brahmaputra river and southward through Bangladesh it merges with the river Padma. Thereafter it is called as river Meghna eventually emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

Guwahati and Dibrugarh are the two major cities situated on the banks of the river Brahmaputra.

3. Indus River

Birthplace to the ancient Indus valley civilisation, the Indus river holds immense historical significance.

The country of India got its name from this great river. It is considered as one of the seven sacred rivers in India.

Indus River
The Serene Indus River

The river begins its 3,180 km long journey from the Tibetan plateau of the Kailash Mountain range near lake Mansarovar.

It flows afterwards through Ladakh towards Gilgit-Baltistan region and southward into Pakistan and finally unites with the  Arabian sea near Karachi. 

A major portion (over 60 percent) of Indus basin catchment area lies in Pakistan. Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan allows India to use 20 percent of the total water carried by the Indus river.

Some of the major tributaries of the Indus river include Kabul (river), Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej river.

4. Godavari River

At 1,465 km long, the Godavari river is the longest river in Southern India. It is also known as ‘Dakshina Ganga’ which means “Ganges of the South”.

It originates in the Western Ghats near Trimbakeshwar in Nashik district of Maharashtra. This river is amongst one of the highly venerated rivers in India and finds mention in several Hindu scriptures.

Sunset View at The River Godavari
Sunset view at The Godavari (Source)

It flows through several states of India including Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha before emptying into the Bay of Bengal.

Some of its major left bank tributaries are Purna, Pranhita, Indravati and Sabari river, while the right bank tributaries include Pravara, Manjira and Manair river.

Godavari River at Bhadrachalam
The Godavari River at Bhadrachalam in Telangana (Source)

The Godavari river forms the third largest river basins in the Indian subcontinent after the Ganges and Indus rivers.

The Krishna Godavari Basin is one of the main nesting sites of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtle. The river is also home to the endangered fringed-lipped carp (Labeo fimbriatus).

The second largest mangrove formation in the country known as Coringa mangrove forests lies in Godavari delta.

A part of the forest has been converted to Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary, famous for its reptile population.

5. Narmada River

Rising near Amarkantak range of mountains in Madhya Pradesh, the Narmada is the largest west flowing river in Peninsular India.

Draining the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat along its 1,312 km course, the river eventually merges into the Arabian sea.

Counted amongst one of the seven holy rivers in India, the Narmada river finds mention in the ancient scriptures of Hinduism.

One of The Holy Rivers in India - The Narmada River
The Legendary River Narmada Near Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh

This river has many waterfalls, notably Dugdhdhara, Dhardi falls, Kapildhara and the splendid Dhuandhar falls in Bhedaghat, southwest of Jabalpur.

Dhuandhar Falls
The Roaring Falls of Bhedaghat – Dhuandhar Falls

Some of the important cities and towns situated on its bank are Jabalpur, Harda, Mandla, Bharuch and Omkareshwar.

The valley of river Narmada supports a wide variety of wildlife within its protected areas including Bandhavgarh National Park and Kanha National Park.

Two tributaries of Narmada, namely, Hallon and Banjar, flow through the forests of Kanha.

6. Krishna River

Also known as Krishnaveni, the Krishna river has its origin in the Western Ghats near Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra.

It is one of the most important peninsular rivers in India running its course of 1,400 km through the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and ultimately emptying into the Bay of Bengal near Koduru in Andhra Pradesh.

One of The Longest Rivers in India - Krishna River
The Krishna River Near Raichur Karnataka

Tungabhadra river on the right bank is the largest tributary while Bhima river at 861 km long is the longest tributary of the Krishna river.

It is the fourth biggest river in terms of river basin area in India, after the Ganges, Godavari and Brahmaputra. The delta of Krishna river is one of the most fertile regions in India.

There are many dams built across this river to utilise river water for irrigation and electricity generation. The prominent ones are Srisailam Dam and Nagarjuna Sagar Dam.

Krishna River Backwaters
Backwaters of The Krishna River

Sangli in Maharashtra and Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh are the two largest cities on the banks of the Krishna river.

The Krishna basin supports rich vegetation and hosts some of the best wildlife sanctuaries in India.

The last surviving Mangrove forests in the Krishna estuary have been declared as the Krishna Wildlife Sanctuary.

Few other major wildlife protected areas in the Krishna basin include Nagarjunsagar-Srisailam Tiger Reserve, Koyna Wildlife Sanctuary and Chandoli National Park.

7. Yamuna River

Known as the longest tributary of the river Ganges in India, the Yamuna river rises from Yamunotri glacier at an altitude of 6,387 metres in the Lower Himalaya region of Uttarakhand.

It traverses the states of Uttarakhand, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh along its course of 1,376 km.

Yamuna - One of The Holy Rivers in India
One of The Holy Rivers in India – The Yamuna (Source)

It continues to flow till it merges with the Ganges at Sangam in Allahabad (Uttar Pradesh). The confluence of two rivers is a holy place to Hindus where the famous Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years.

The river Yamuna is worshipped as goddess Yamuna by Hindus and is highly venerated in Hinduism. The Tons river is its largest tributary flowing through Garhwal region in Uttarakhand. 

In addition to the Ganges, it is also a major destination for water-based adventure sports like white-water rafting in Uttarakhand.

8. Mahanadi River

Rising from an elevation of 442 metres (1,450 ft) in the hills of southeastern Chhattisgarh, Mahanadi is one of the major rivers in India.

The word Mahanadi is a combination of two Sanskrit words maha meaning ‘great’ and nadi meaning ‘river’.

The river flows northwards through Raipur district in Chhattisgarh and after meeting Seonath river it turns east and enters Odisha.

The River Mahanadi at Odisha
The River Mahanadi at Odisha (Source)

The world’s largest earthen dam – Hirakud dam has been constructed on Mahanadi river near Sambalpur city in Odisha.

Behind the dam, the 55 km long Hirakud reservoir forms one of the longest artificial lakes in Asia. It traverses Cuttack and Puri districts and eventually merges into the Bay of Bengal.

Check this post if you want to know more about the major and beautiful lakes in India.

9. Kaveri River

The largest river in Tamil Nadu, Kaveri (Cauvery) river has its origin in the foothills of the Western Ghats at Talakaveri in Kodagu district of Karnataka.

Flowing from south to eastwards along its 805 km course through the states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, the river empties into the Bay of Bengal.

Cauvery - One of India's Prominent Rivers
The Kaveri River Flowing Through Karnataka (Source)

Along its journey from Kodagu hills to the Deccan plateau, the Kaveri river forms two islands in Srirangapatna and Shivanasamudra.

Cascading down from a height of 98 meters (320 ft) at Shivanasamudra, the river gives birth to the magnificent Shivanasamudra falls.

The second hydroelectric plant in India was built on this falls in 1902 to supply electricity to the city of Bengaluru. The first one was established in Darjeeling in the year 1898.

Some of the main tributaries of the river include Hemavati, Hemavati and Kabini river.

This river is highly venerated by Hindus and a temple has also been built in Talakaveri dedicated to Goddess Kaveri. Talakaveri is one of the prime tourist attractions in Coorg.

Talakavery Temple
Talakaveri Temple on Brahmagiri hills near Coorg (Source)

The river Kaveri has an important place in Tamil literature and is counted amongst one of the most loved and celebrated rivers in India.

Known as the lifeline of Karnataka and Tamilnadu, this river is the main source of drinking water, irrigation and electricity. The Kaveri delta forms one of the most fertile regions in the country.

One of the famous bird sanctuaries in Karnataka, Ranganathittu Bird Sanctuary is also situated on the banks of the Kaveri river.

10. Tapti River

Flowing westwards through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat over a length of 724 km, the Tapti (or Tapi) river originates from Gawilgarh Hills in Satpura range of central Deccan plateau. It drains into the Arabian sea through the Gulf of Khambhat.

Tapti - One of The Important Rivers in India
The Tapti (Tapi) River Flowing Through Gujarat (Source)

It is amongst one of the three peninsular rivers in India that run from east to west, apart from the Narmada and Mahi rivers. The main tributaries of the Tapti river are the Purna, Girna, Panjhra, Bori, Waghur and Aner river.

Legend has it that the river Tapti is the daughter of Surya, the Sun god and Chhaya, the goddess of shadow.

Some major towns located on the bank of the river are Bhusawal in Maharashtra, Surat in Gujarat, Betul, Multai, and Burhanpur in Madhya Pradesh.

On the southeastern bank of the river, lies Melghat Tiger Reserve in Amravati district. It is amongst one of the first nine tiger reserves notified under the Project Tiger.

The river nurtures and supports wildlife in the Melghat forest, which is famous for its rich flora and fauna.

11. Sutlej River

An ancient river and the easternmost tributary of the Indus river, the Sutlej river has its source in lake Rakshastal in Tibet. It is the longest of the five rivers that give the state of Punjab its name.

Satluj River
The Sutlej River Flowing Through Punjab (Source)

The river traverses a number of Himalayan gorges before entering the plains of Punjab near Nangal and then merges with Beas river in Punjab.

Continuing its journey west-southwest the Sutlej enters Pakistan where it joins the Chenab river before merging into the Indus. It flows for 1,050 km in the Indian territory out of its total course of 1,450 km.

There are several hydroelectric projects on the river Sutlej including Bhakra Dam, Nathpa Jhakri Dam and Karcham Wangtoo Hydroelectric Plant.

12. Chambal River

One of the major tributaries of the river Yamuna at 965 km long, the river Chambal rises in the Vindhya Range near Indore in Madhya Pradesh.

It traverses three states in India namely, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh and also forms part of the Rajasthan-Madhya Pradesh boundary.

Chambal River
The River Chambal Near Kota, Rajasthan (Source)

The river finishes at the confluence of five rivers including the Chambal, Yamuna, Sind, Pahuj and Kwari near Bhareh in Uttar Pradesh.

The Chambal river is amongst one of the unpolluted rivers in India. It is home to several fascinating marine creatures including Gangetic river dolphins, red-crowned roof turtle and mugger crocodile.

A portion of the river flows through National Chambal Gharial Wildlife Sanctuary supporting floral and faunal growth of the sanctuary.

With more than 300 species of resident and migratory birds, the sanctuary is a birdwatchers’ paradise.

13. Beas River

Flowing through the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab along its 470 km course, the Beas river is a major tributary of the river Sutlej.

It rises from the Beas Kund in the Dhauladhar range of the majestic Himalayas, eventually landing into the river Sutlej at Kapurthala in Punjab.

Beas Kund is a popular trekking destination near Manali. The major tributaries of the river are Bain, Banganga, Luni and Uhal.

Beas River
The Holy River Beas Near Himachal Pradesh

It is one of the five rivers from which Indian state of Punjab gets it name. According to the legends, the sage Ved Vyasa created this river from its source lake. The holy river Beas finds mention in the scripts of Indian epic Mahabharata as the Vipasa river.

The Beas river is a source of drinking water for people living in Kullu, Mandi and Kangra regions. The blue waters of the Beas river adds to the scenic beauty of the charming Kullu and Kangra valleys.

14. Tungabhadra River

Formed by the confluence of the Tunga River and the Bhadra River at Koodli in Shimoga district of Karnataka, the Tungabhadra river is a major tributary of the Krishna river.

It is one of the important rivers in India which is part of the South Indian Peninsula.

Along its course of 531 km, the river flows through Karnataka, Telangana before merging into the Krishna River near Sangameswaram village in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh.

Tungabhadra - One of The Famous Rivers in India
The River Tungabhadra Near Hampi, Karnataka (Source)

This sacred river has been mentioned in the epic Ramayana as the river Pampa. The Place of union of the Tungabhadra and the Krishna River is a holy pilgrimage site.

The Sangameswara temple dedicated to Lord Shiva a famous Hindu temple is located at the place of confluence in Kurnool district.

There are several ancient and holy sites situated on the banks of the river Tungabhadra including Pampapati temple dedicated to Lord Shiva in Karnataka, Sri Jogulamba Temple dedicated to Goddess Parvati in Andhra Pradesh.

The Tungabhadra river water has been dammed to construct Tungabhadra dam near the town of Hospet in Karnataka for the purpose of irrigation and electricity generation.

Merely 14 km away from Tungabhadra dam, lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hampi, which was the capital of the historical Vijayanagara Dynasty.

15. Sabarmati River

Rising from the Aravali hills in Rajasthan the Sabarmati river travels its 48 km long course in Rajasthan and 323 km in Gujarat, ultimately joining the Arabian sea at Gulf of Cambay (Khambhat). The river is fed by rainwater and flows with its full might during monsoon.

Sabarmati River
Sabarmati Riverfront

The chief tributaries of this river are the Wakal, Harnav, Watrak, Hathmati and Sei rivers. Several dams have been built on this river and its tributaries.

Dharoi dam is situated on the Sabarmati main river while Hathmati, Harnav, Watrak and Mazam dams are on the tributaries of the river.

India’s most prominent freedom fighter Mahatma Gandhi established Sabarmati Ashram as his home on the banks of this river.

Did You Know?

  • The Ganges (length: 2,525 km) is the longest river of India in terms of the distance covered by a river within Indian territory. There is a debate though – which is the longest river of India!
  • The Brahmputra river flows only 900 km within India out of its total course of 2,900 km.
  • The Indus river traverses only 1,114 km within India out of its total course of 3,180 km.
  • All the seven most sacred rivers in India have female names.
    • Ganges (Ganga), Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Indus (Sindhu) and Kaveri

Over To You Now…

Rivers in India are treated not just as water bodies but they hold immense cultural and religious significance for the people of this country.

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