Rivers of India| Classification, Basins, Important & Major Rivers

Rivers of India: Classification, Basins, Facts and Figures

India has a lot of rivers with several origins, basins, and history. There is a lot more to rivers to know about apart from the names. Therefore, in this write-up, we will talk about the rivers of India.

After going through the write-up, you will know the meaning of a river and classification of rivers of India.

Also, we have includes details of the river basins in India. We have also included plenty of information, facts, and figures on the rivers of India like the largest river in India, the smallest river in India, the longest river in India, and more.

Things to Know:-

Geography of India

Physical Features of India

Types of Forest in India

Types of Soil in India

Diversity in India

Latitude and Longitude of India

States and Capitals of India

What is the river?

rivers in India

A river is a large body of water that flows naturally towards a larger water body such as ocean, sea, lake or another large river.

A river originates when snow or ice on top of the mountain melts and form small rivulets. The flowing rivulets are often fed by the rainwater running off the land.

They flow downhill and further merge and grow larger taking the form of a river.

While a river eventually meets or drains into a larger water body, in certain cases, a river flows into the ground making it dry at the end.

Rivers are the body of fresh water as they are formed of the melted ice or snow from the mountain tops.

What is the classification of rivers of India?

The Percuser Institute of Current Central Water Commission (CWC) attempted the classification of river basins in India in 1949.

The classification of rivers in India is based on the following three aspects:-

Origin or Source

Primarily, the rivers are classified depending on the place of origin.

Depending on the origin, the rivers are classified as the Himalayan Rivers and the Peninsular Rivers which originates from the Himalayas and the Indian plateau respectively.

The Himalayan Rivers are fed by the melting ice and rainfall throughout the year. These rivers are swift and carry huge amounts of silt and sand which provides them with great erosion capacity.

The major Himalayan Rivers include the Ganga, the Indus, and the Brahmaputra river systems and their tributaries.

The peninsular rivers include Narmada, Tapi, Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna, Mahanadi Rivers and more.

These rivers are more or less dependent on the rain with a gentle flow, fewer gradients, and a relatively straighter path.


Based on topography, the rivers of India are classified as follows:-

The Himalayan Rivers

The Himalayan Rivers include the Indus and Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna. These rivers flow throughout the year and are the most prone to flooding as they are fed by melting snow and rainfall throughout the year.

The Deccan Rivers

The Deccan Rivers are the ones which receive flow from rainfall only.

Narmada and Tapi that flows westward into the Arabian Sea and Mahanadi, Godavari, Kaveri, Brahmani, Krishna and Pennar rivers that flow into the Bay of Bengal is the Deccan Rivers

These rivers have high flows during the monsoon season as they are fed by rain.

The flow decreases in the non-monsoon months or even dry completely.

The Coastal Rivers

The coastal rivers are small in size and join the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal directly on the west and east coast respectively.

The coastal rivers are numerous with 600 small rivers on the West Coast.

The coastal rivers experience enormous flows during the months of monsoon with lesser flows during the non-monsoon seasons.

The Rivers of the Inland Drainage Basin

These rivers are the one which mostly disappears before draining into a larger water body or before reaching the sea.

This is because they receive less or scarce rainfall. The rivers of the inland drainage basin belong to Western Rajasthan and parts of Kutch in Gujarat.

These rivers either into the salt lakes or disappear in the sand before they fall into the sea.

The only river which drains into the Rann of Kutch is the Luni River in West Rajasthan.

Basin Formation

In India, the rivers are distributed into various systems based on the basin formation.

The river systems depending on the basin formation are as follows:-

The Indus River System

This originates in the Kailash range in Tibet with its principal tributaries as Jhelum, Ravi, Beas, Chenab and Sutlej. Also, the river system includes Shyok, Zanskar, Hunza and Nubra.

The Brahmaputra River System

The main source of this River system is the Angsi Glacier. A major portion of the Brahmaputra River is situated outside the territorial boundaries of India.

In India, the Brahmaputra River flows through Arunachal Pradesh and Assam.

The Narmada River System

A small reservoir known as the Narmada Kund is the source of the Narmada River which is located at Amarkantak.

The river drains into the Arabian Sea in the Bharuch district of Gujarat.

Also, it represents a boundary between the northern and southern parts of India.

The Tapi River System

Originating from the eastern Satpura Range of Madhya Pradesh, the Tapi River of this River system drains into the Gulf of Cambay of the Arabian Sea, Gujarat.

Purna, Girna, Waghur, Panzara, Aner and Bori Rivers are the major tributaries.

The Godavari River System

The river Godavari is also known as the Vriddh Ganga or the Dakshin Ganga River which originates at Trambakeshwar in Maharashtra.

The river is mostly dry during the summers and flows during the monsoon and it drains into the Bay of Bengal.

The major tributaries are Indravati, Pranahita, Bindusara, Sabari and Manjira Rivers.

The Krishna River System

Krishna River, one of the longest rivers of the country, is the part of this river system. It rises from Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra and drains into the Bay of Bengal at Hamasaladeevi in Andhra Pradesh.

One of its principal tributaries is the Tungabhadra River along with Mallaprabha, Koyna, Ghataprabha, Bhima, Warna, Dindi, Yerla, Dudhganga and Musi Rivers.

The Mahanadi River System

The Mahanadi River is a river in Eastern India which originates from the Satpura Range and drains into the Bay of Bengal.

The Kaveri River System

The source of the Kaveri River is Talakaveri in the Western Ghats and it drains into the Bay of Bengal.

Its tributaries are Hemavati, Kapila, Lokapavani, Shimsha, Tirtha, Arkavathy, Lakshmana, Honnuhole, Bhavani, Noyyal, and Amaravati.

What are the river basins in India?

A river basin is defined as an area of land which a river and its tributaries drain. In India, there are various river basins which different organisations have classified.

As per the Central Water Commission, there are 22 river basins in India.

We have discussed the major river basins in India which are as follows:

Brahmaputra Basin

This basin spreads over an area of 580,000 square kilometres spreading across China, India, Bangladesh and Bhutan.

The length of the river in India is 916 kilometres.

The basin spreads over the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, West Bengal, Nagaland and the whole state of Sikkim.

Brahmaputra basin lies between 23° N to 32° N attitude and 82° E to 97°50’ E longitudes.

The basin represents the greenest part of India and its catchment is the highest rainfall region in the world.

Ganga Basin

The Ganga Basin is the largest river basin in India with an area of 861,452 square kilometres.

It has 11 basin states namely Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Haryana, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, and Delhi.

It originates from the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas and is spread across 2525 kilometres.

The principal tributaries include Yamuna, Banas, Chambal, Kali, Sindh, Parbati, Gomti, Sarda, Gandak, Damodar, Hooghly, and Mahananda among others.

The Ganga Basin has its boundaries as the Himalayas on the north, Vindhyas and Chottanagpur plateau on the south, Brahmaputra ridge on the east and the Aravalli on the west.

Indus Basin

The Indus Basin has spread over an area of 321,289 square kilometres covering 9.8% of the total geographical area of India.

The basin spreads across the 6 states namely Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, and a part of Haryana, Rajasthan, and Chhattisgarh.

Indus basin has its boundaries as the Karakoram and Haramosh ranges on the north, the Arabian Sea on the south and the Himalayas on the east.

The length of the River Indus in India is 1114 kilometers. The principal tributaries are Jhelum, Chenab, Beas, Satluj and Ravi rivers.

Mahanadi Basin

The basin has a total area of 141,589 square kilometres. The river originates near the Farsiya Village of Dhamtari district in the state of Chhattisgarh.

The river flows for a distance of 851 kilometers before draining into the Bay of Bengal.

Its basin spreads across five states namely Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra.

Majority of the basin lies in Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

Narmada Basin

The Narmada Basin covers 3% of the total geographical area of India by spreading over 98796 square kilometres.

The basin spans over 27 districts and 4 states namely Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, and Chhattisgarh.

The boundaries of the basin are formed by the Vindhyas in the north, Satpuras in the south, Maikala range on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.

The Narmada River originates from Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh and is the largest west flowing river of peninsular India.

The total length of the river is 1333 kilometres.

Godavari Basin

The Godavari river basin forms the largest basin in peninsular India and is the second-largest river in the country. It has an area of 312,812 square kilometres.

River Godavari originates from Trambakeshwar in Maharashtra. The Godavari River is 1465 kilometres long and flows through Telangana, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.

It eventually drains into the Bay of Bengal.

The principal tributaries of the river are Manjra, Wardha, Pravara, Purna, Indravati, Waingangā and Kolab.

Krishna Basin

The Krishna River originates from the Jor Village of the Satara district in Maharashtra. The basin has an area of 258,948 square kilometres.

The Krishna River flows through the states of Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka draining into the Bay of Bengal having a length of 1400 kilometres.

The principal tributaries are Mallaprabha, Ghataprabha, Bhima, Tungabhadra, Munneru, and Musi.

Kaveri Basin

The basin spreads over an area of 81,155 square kilometres. The river originates from the Western Ghats and flows across three states namely Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala.

The principal tributaries of the river are Harangi, Kabini, Bhavani, Hemavati, Noyyal, Lakshmana Tirtha, and Arkavati among others.

How many rivers are there in India?

In India, there are nine major rivers namely the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Narmada, Tapi, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri.

The various tributaries of these rivers form the river system of the country. Including the major rivers and tributaries, there are over 400 rivers in India.

Some rivers of India flow into the Bay of Bengal, some into the Arabian Sea and some rivers have inland drainage.

Majority of the rivers in India drain into the Bay of Bengal.

What are the major rivers of India?

The major rivers of India are Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, Narmada, Godavari, Krishna, Kaveri, Mahanadi, Yamuna, Tapi, Satluj, Chambal, Tungabhadra, Beas and Sabarmati.

These are deemed to the major rivers owing to their area as well as importance in several aspects like hydro projects, irrigation and others.

Which is the oldest river in India?

The Narmada River is considered to be the oldest river in India and one of the oldest rivers in the world.

Alongside this, the river has historical, geological, and religious significance in India as well. It is one of the seven holy rivers of India.

How many holy rivers are there in India?

In India, currently, there are seven holy or sacred rivers. These rivers have immense religious significance and considered to be sacred and important in the lives of the people of the country.

They are Ganga River, Yamuna River, Narmada River, Godavari River, Indus River, Saraswati River and Kaveri River.

Which is the largest river in India?

The largest river in India based on the area of its basin is the Indus River. It covers an area of 1.165 million square kilometres in the country.

Which is the smallest river in India?

The smallest river in India is the Avari River which flows in the state of Rajasthan. It covers a distance of 90 kilometres.

The river originates in the Sakra Dam in the Alwar district with a total basin area of 492 square kilometres.

Which is the longest river in India?

The longest river in India is the Ganga River traversing for 2525 kilometres across the country.

The river originates from the Gangotri Glacier in the Himalayas and drains into the Bay of Bengal after crossing Bangladesh.

Which state has no river in India?

There are 0 states in India with no rivers flowing through them. Every state has either a major river or a tributary of the major river flowing through them.

Considering the major river point of view, no major river flows through the states of Nagaland, Manipur, and Mizoram.

Which state has the most rivers in India?

In India, Andhra Pradesh has the maximum number of rivers flowing through it which is 10.

The rivers in Andhra Pradesh are the Godavari, Krishna, Penna, Tungabhadra, Nagavali, Sabari, Kundu, Chamapavathi, Gosthani and Munneru.

Which rivers drain flow into the Arabian Sea?

The major rivers which drain into the Arabian Sea are Narmada, Tapi, Purna and Sabarmati rivers. Various rivers from the Indus basin also flow into the Arabian Sea through Pakistan.

Which rivers flow into the Bay of Bengal?

The major rivers which flow into the Bay of Bengal are Brahmaputra, Ganga, Yamuna, Meghna, Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri along with their tributaries.

Which is the sorrow river of India?

Different rivers in different states of India are designated as the river of sorrows.

They are called the river of sorrows as they either caused havoc in the past or could potentially cause a disaster in the future.

  • Sorrow of Assam – Brahmaputra River
  • Sorrow of Bengal – Damodar River
  • Sorrow of Bihar – Kosi River
  • Sorrow of Karnataka – Doni river
  • Sorrow of UP – Ghagra River
  • Sorrow of Odisha – Mahanadi River

Which is the deepest river in India?

Brahmaputra River is the deepest river in India with an average depth of 124 feet and a maximum depth of 380 feet.

The river is considered important for irrigation and transportation in the regions it flows across.

Which river originates and ends in India?

The major rivers that originate and ends within the territorial boundaries of India are as follows:

Narmada River – It originates from Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh and drains into the Arabian Sea.

Krishna River – It originates from Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra and drains into the Bay of Bengal.

Mahanadi River – This River originates from Chhattisgarh and falls into the Bay of Bengal through Odisha.

Godavari River – It originates from Trambakeshwar in Maharashtra and drains into the Bay of Bengal.

Kaveri River – It originates from the foothills of Western Ghats at Talakaveri, Karnataka, and drains into the Bay of Bengal through Tamil Nadu.

Which river has the smallest basin in India?

The Avari River, the smallest or shortest river in India, has the smallest river basin in the country.

The river basin spread across an area of 492 square kilometers in the state of Rajasthan.

Which is the largest river basin in India?

The largest river basin in India is the Ganga River Basin spreading over an area of 861, 452 square kilometres. This river basin lies in the territorial limits of the country.

However, taking in terms of the complete area covered, Brahmaputra has the largest river basin.

This basin spreads over an area of 580,000 square kilometers spreading across China, India, Bangladesh, and Bhutan.

Which river has lent its name to India?

The Indus River, called as Sindhu by the Aryans, has lent its name to India.

Originally, the name “India” was derived from the Indus River. The name has been in use in Greek since 4th century BCE.

Which river in India is called the Salt River?

The Lavanavari or Luni River is known as the Salt River due to the excessive salinity levels.

The river originates near Ajmer in the Pushkar valley of the western Aravalli Rage.

The river obtains its salinity upon reaching Balotra where high salt content in the soil impacts the salinity of the river.

However, it is a major river in the region and a primary source of irrigation.

How many rivers have dams built on them in India?

There are many rivers in India which have dams built on them.

We have compiled a list of the rivers with the dams built on them which are as follows:-

NarmadaIndira Sagar DamMadhya Pradesh
NarmadaSardar Sarovar DamGujarat
Mahanadi Hirakud DamOdisha
KrishnaNagarjuna Sagar DamAndhra Pradesh
SutlejBhakra Nangal DamPunjab
KaveriMettur DamTamil Nadu
KaveriKrishnaraja Sagar DamKarnataka
BhagirathiTehri DamUttarakhand
BhavaniBhavani Sagar DamTamil Nadu
TungaBhadraTungaBhadra DamKarnataka
RihandRihand DamUttar Pradesh
BarakarMaithon DamJharkhand
KoynaKoyna DamMaharashtra
CheruthoniCheruthoni DamKerala
BanasBilaspur DamRajasthan

List of rivers in India – Origin, length, Tributaries and Ends

We have compiled a list of a few of the rivers of India. Explore their origin, length, tributaries and basins which are as follows:-

GangaGangotri Glacier, Uttarakhand2525Bay of Bengal
YamunaYamunotri Glacier, Uttarakhand1376Merges with the Ganga River at Triveni Sangam, Allahabad
BrahmaputraHimalayan Glacier, Tibet Enter in India in Arunachal Pradesh1800Merges with Ganga River and drain into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh
IndusTibetan plateau, enters India in Jammu and Kashmir3180Drains into the Arabian Sea near Sindh
KaveriTalakaveri, Western Ghats, Karnataka765Bay of Bengal
KrishnaWestern Ghats near Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra1400Bay of Bengal through Andhra Pradesh
GodavariTrambakeshwar, Maharashtra1465Bay of Bengal
TungabhadraTributary of River Krishna, Karnataka531Merges into Krishna River on Telangana and Andhra Pradesh border
TapiSatpuras, Madhya Pradesh724Gulf of Khambat, Gujarat
NarmadaAmarkantak, Madhya Pradesh1315The Arabian Sea through the Gulf of Cambay
KosiBihar near the Indo-Nepal Border720Merges into Ganga in Katihar district, Bihar
GomtiGomat Taal, Uttar Pradesh (Tributary of Ganga)900Merges into Ganga in Varanasi
HooghlyGanga Tributary260 
DamodarHooghly Tributary, Jharkhand595Merges into Hooghly River in West Bengal
MahanadiFarsiya Village of Dhamtari district, Chhattisgarh851Bay of Bengal through Odisha
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