The three main Himalayan rivers are the Indus, the Ganga and the Brahmaputra. The river Ganga starts from the glacier called Gangothri Glacier, which is in Uttarakhand. At its birthplace, it is known as the Bhagirathi. the Brahmaputra also originates from a glacier, the Angsi glacier in Tibet. Indus originates from the Tibetan plateau near Lake Manasarovar and enters India in Ladakh.


The mighty Ganga isn’t confined to one country. Its valleys stretch across India and Bangladesh. In fact its basin covers parts of China and Nepal too. Born in the lofty peaks of Himalayas, in the Gangotri glacier, it begins its journey as Bhagirathi. The Bhagirathi rushes down to meet the Mandakini, and then the Alaknanda at Dev Prayag. From then on, the river is known as Ganga. After cutting through the Himalayas, the Ganga breaks out of the foothills at Haridwar, and flows across the vast Gangetic plain. Midway in its course, near Allahabad, it is joined by one of its chief tributaries, the Yamuna river. The Ganga is one of the greatest rivers. The 2525 km long journey finally ends at Bay of Bengal. Thus it is called a river without boundaries.

Tributaries of the Ganga

Rivers have headstreams, tributaries and distributaries. A headstream is a stream that is a source of a river. The Ganga’s headstreams are the Alaknanda, DhauliGanga, Nandakini, Pindar, Mandakini, and Bhagirathi rivers. A tributary is a freshwater stream that joins a larger river. Most large rivers are formed from many tributaries and the Ganga has more than a dozen. Among them are the Ghagara, Yamuna, Koshi, Ramganga, Gomti, Gandaki, Burhi Gandak, Mahananda, Tamsa, Son, Punpun. the Ghaghara is the largest tributary of the river Ganga followed by Yamuna and Koshi. Though Yamuna is a separate river system in itself it is a tributary of the Ganga. A distributary is a branch of rivers that flows away from it. The Hooghly is a distributary of the Ganga that provides water for irrigation for west Bengal. It leaves Ganga just before the river enters the Bangladesh.

Rivers that join the Ganga

The river Ganga actually begins at Dev Prayag, the meeting place of two of its headstreams- the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda. After merging from the mountains of Rishikesh, the Ganga is joined by Ramganga. Later, it joins the Allahabad. The Hindus believe that the mythical river Saraswati too joins here. Hence the name Triveni Sangam, means the meeting place of three rivers. Next the Ganga flows east to meet the river Tamsa, later on, the river Gomti joins it. The next river to join the Ganga is the Ghaghara. Further downstream, the river Son joins the Ganga from the south, the river Koshi from the north. By the time the Ganga reaches the bay of Bengal, its waters have mingled with those of several other rivers, making it mystically representative of a soul of India itself.

Why is the Ganga important to Bangladesh?

The Ganga’s river basin is one of the most fertile and densely populated in the world. It covers an area of1000000 For most 150 km, the Ganga forms the boundary between India and Bangladesh. When it enters Bangladesh, it is known as the Padma. The upper Padma flows southeastward to receive the mighty Brahmaputra river. The Brahmaputra is known as the Jamuna river in Bangladesh. The Padma joins the Meghna river, before it empties into the bay of Bengal. The Padma river is known for the frequent erosion of its banks, and sandbars that continually emerge in its course. The river is a busy waterway, and fishing is an important industry along its banks. A number of fast developing urban centres have also come up along its banks. 


The river Yamuna is the most famous and greatest tributary of Ganga. One of the country’s most sacred rivers, its birthplace is the Yamunotri glacier, high up in the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. It flows through the foothills of the Himalayas into the Indo-Gangetic plain, flowing through Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi. After 1376 km, the Yamuna meets the Ganga at Allahabad. Their confluence is well known. The important tributaries of the Yamuna river are Tons, Chambal, Hindon, Betwa and Ken. Other small tributaries of the Yamuna river include the Giri, Sind, Uttangan, Sengar and the rind. Thus, though the Yamuna is a tributary of the Ganga, it has many tributaries of its own as well. Therefore, the Yamuna is considered to be a river system in itself.


The Ghaghara is the largest tributary of the Ganga. It is a river that crosses many countries in the journey. Born in Himalayas in Tibet, it flows southeast through Nepal. Later it splits into two branches  that rejoin south of Indian border. The Ghaghara flows through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, and then joins the Ganga. Its major tributaries – the Kuvana, the Rapti and the little Gandak rivers – all flow into the Ghaghara from the mountains to the north. The river’s flow is influenced by both the glacial melt and the monsoon together with the Ganges and its tributaries, the Ghaghara has helped to form the vast, fertile, alluvial plain of northern Uttar Pradesh.


The river Gomti, a tributary of the Ganga, has great mythological significance. Most Hindus believe that a ritual dip in its waters will purify a person from all sins. According to legend, the river the daughter of sage Vasishta, who brought the river from heaven to earth. The river is also associated with the epic Ramayana. Lord Rama is believed to have taken a dip in the river on the advice of sage Vasishta. Lakshmana, the younger brother of lord Rama, is believed to have Lakshman Teela – part of present day Lucknow on the banks of river Gomti. Some even trace the name of Lucknow city to Lakshmana. The Gomti rises in northern Uttar Pradesh, and flows through the state, draining an area of 18750 sq. km. It is joined by one of its own tributaries before flowing into Ganga.


The river Gandak is formed by the union of two rivers that have their own source in the Himalayas in Nepal. These rivers are the Kali and the Trisuli, and once they merge, the river is known as the Narayani in Nepal. The river then flows southwards into India. It is joined at the Indo – Nepalese border by two other rivers from Nepal – the Panchnad and Sohna. Once it enters India, the river is known as the Gandak. After winding its way through 765 km, it merges with the Ganga opposite the Patna. The Gandak is one of the major rivers in Nepal and India. It is distinguished for the deep gorge across which it flows, and for a large hydroelectric facility in Nepal. This river also provides water for a major irrigation and hydroelectric power facility at the Indo Nepal border at Valmikinagar.  


The Koshi river also called the Kosi – is an important tributary of the Ganga. It flows through Tibet and Nepal, before entering India from the Himalayas. The river is joined by major tributaries, approximately 48 km north of the Indo Nepal border, breaking into more than 12 distinct channels. These channels shift during flooding and so, the river shifts course frequently. The river basin is surrounded by the ridges separating it from the Brahmaputra in the north, the Gandaki in the west, the Mahananda in the east, and by the Ganga in the south. The river, along with its tributaries, drains a total area of 69300 up to its confluence with the Ganga in India.


The Tamsa river flows through Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. A tributary of the Ganga, its origin is at Tamakund in Kaimur range. The Tamsa is 264 km long. It is famous for the many waterfalls through which it tumbles during its journey to meet the Ganga. The river has great significance for Hindus for their belief that lord Rama spent his first night during 14 years of forest exile on the banks of Tamsa. There is also a belief that the rare and elusive Fwindoju fish lives in this river. The ashrams of the sage Valmiki and Bharatwaj are also believed to have been located on the banks of the Tamsa.


The Son, a tributary of the Ganga, is one of the largest rivers in India. It starts near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh and has a total length of 784 km. The Son’s main tributaries are the Rihand and the North Koel. It flows through Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar to join the Ganga just above Patna. When fed by the monsoons, it becomes a roaring force. However, during  the summer, it dries up in places, leaving large pools of water along its course. The Indrapuri barrage is located on the Son. It is one of the longest dams of India and it irrigates vast areas of agricultural land.