Top 30 Longest Rivers in India


Which is the longest river in India?

If you are looking for an answer to this query then, read on we have listed below top 30 longest River in India.

A country as large as India is home to some of the longest rivers in the world.

These rivers also play a major role in economic development of the country, provide a home to wildlife and water to people residing in their vicinity. Therefore, let us look at the topmost rivers of India.

Rivers of India: A perspective

Rivers of the Indian subcontinent have played a pivotal role in the development of civilization. Excavations around riverbeds in India have unearthed remnants of these ancient people.

The most famous among these remain Mohenjo Daro and Harappa civilizations which evolved around Sindhu river, part of which flows through Pakistan.

Some extant rivers of India find mention in the ancient Vedas.

Indian epic, Mahabharata, which dates back to around 9BC refers to civilizations around Ganga or Ganges, the river revered by followers of the Sanatana faith, whose teachings are considered by some scholars as precursors to Hinduism. Ramayana too mentions some of these rivers.

Mughal rulers and later European colonials played a major role in the development of infrastructure along these rivers. In the absence of land boundaries between ancient kingdoms, rivers of India were considered as natural frontiers of any region.

Rivers also have a major religious significance in this country.

Rivers of India Map


Importance of Rivers in India:

Large and longest river in India is a source of livelihood for millions of people. They are a rich source of freshwater fish. Fertile soil around their banks enables bumper crop harvests.

Dams and power stations that exist or are being built to harness waters of these rivers play a vital role in providing electric power and irrigation.

Top 30 Longest Rivers in India:

1) Sindhu (Indus) 2,900km

Sindhu, also known by its anglicized name, Indus, was the cradle of the Mohenjo Daro and Harappan civilizations of ancient India.

It is the longest river in Asia and originates in the Tibetan plateau, now controlled by the People’s Republic of China.

The river flows through Indian states Punjab and Jammu & Kashmir before entering Pakistan. The words ‘Hindu’ and ‘Hindustan’ and India originate from this river.

2) Brahmaputra 2,900km

River Brahmaputra originates in Tibet and runs through India’s North Eastern states, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh before entering Bangladesh. It is also longest river in India.

This river is the lifeline of the two Indian states but is also known to cause havoc due to massive flooding during monsoon season.

3) Ganga (Ganges) 2,510km

Ganga is the longest river that originates in India. Ganga is considered as the sacred river by followers of Hinduism. Indian mythology attributes the origin of this river to divine intervention on Earth.

Ganga originates in Uttarakhand and flows through Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.

Several major Indian festivals, notably the Kumbh Mela are celebrated on the banks of Ganga, especially in Varanasi.

Cremation of mortal remains and dispersal of human ashes in Ganga holds special significance for Hindus. The river ranked among the most polluted water bodies of the world.

However, consistent efforts to clean it have netted some results.

4) Godavari 1,450km

River Godavari is the fourth longest river in India. This river originates at Trimbakeshwar near Nashik in Maharashtra and flows through Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, and Karnakata.

The Godavari is also sacred to Hindus and finds mention in specific chants during religious ceremonies.

River Godavari is an important source of irrigation for countless farmers in these seven Indian states. Ancient historical texts mention the Godavari.

5) Narmada 1,290km

The Narmada is the fifth longest river of India, originated in India and the third largest on the Indian subcontinent.

Originating in Amarkantak, a city of pilgrimage in Madhya Pradesh, the Narmada runs through Gujarat and Maharashtra. The riverbed is very fertile that has led to the immense agricultural development in these three states.

The river was the site of a major controversy in the 1990s when the Gujarat government planned to construct a dam that led to submersion of tropical forests and fertile farmland.

6) Krishna 1,290

Originating in Maharashtra’s the Western Ghats near the holiday resort, Mahabaleshwar, river Krishna ranks as the sixth longest in India. It is also the third largest river in India in Spring.

The Krishna runs through the states of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. Its origin is also attributed to divine powers by followers of Hinduism and hence bears name of Lord Krishna.

Towns along this river are host to several ancient temples. Krishna is also a sacred river for Hindus.

7) Yamuna (Jamuna 1,211km

River Yamuna originates from another major pilgrimage spot, Yamunotari in Uttarakhand state of India. It is said to be the second largest tributary of Ganga but also derives water from glacial melting that occurs on peaks of the Himalayas annually.

It is also a river where the mammoth Kumbh Mela is celebrated. This river runs across north Indian states including Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and capital New Delhi.

Also considered sacred by Hindus, the Yamuna contributed toward the flourishing of the Mughal Empire in India.

8) Mahanadi 890km

Mahanadi derives its name from two Sanskrit words ‘Maha’ (great) and ‘Nadi’ (river). An important river in India’s Chattisgarh and Odisha states, the origins of Mahanadi remain rather mysterious.

Like all other rivers of this country, its existence is attributed to divine causes. Mahanadi is more of a seasonal river, drawing water from monsoons as well as melting snow from the Himalayas.

9) Bhima 861km

The river draws its name from Bhima, one of the Pandava brothers in the epic Mahabharata.

The Bhima originates in Maharashtra at a point near the renowned Bhimashankar Temple near Pune.

It flows southwards to Karnataka and Telangana. The Bhima is a source to many important tributaries and rivulets of these states, which support agriculture and wildlife.

There are several national parks for protecting wildlife along the Bhima.

10) Brahmani 799km

River Brahmani is one of the most important water bodies of Odisha. Brahmani is also a seasonal river and draws water from various others in adjoining states.

It is said to originate from the birthplace of Veda Vyasa, who wrote the epic Mahabharata.

This river is part of the agricultural irrigation system being developed in Odisha.

11) Sone (Son) 784 km

Also known as Son, this river also originates at Amarkantak, the pilgrimage town in Madhya Pradesh. It flows through the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

Founder of the Mughal rule in India, Babur, is said to have crossed the Sone river during his exploration of the Magadh region of the country, which was the birthplace of the eponymous empire.

12) Kaveri (Cauvery) 760km

Despite its relatively smaller size, Kaveri ranks among the most important and longest river in India.

Kaveri is not a seasonal river, unlike some others. It is the third largest river in South India and supplies water to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

Indeed, sharing waters of Kaveri has become a bone of contention between people and governments of these states, which called for the intervention of the Supreme Court of India.

The tiff, called ‘Kaveri Dispute’ rages till date.

13) Tapi (Tapti) 724km

Tapi originates in Maharashtra and flows into Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh states of India. The river is also called Tapti.

Though one of the largest rivers in India, there are several contentious issues faced by Tapi such as rampant pollution caused by industrial effluents.

This river is also held sacred by Hindus who immerse ashes of their departed relatives in its waters.

14) Manjira 724km

River Manjira originates near Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. It flows to the southern states, Karnataka and Telangana.

The importance of Manjira can be gauged from the fact that several important dams and irrigation projects are located on its banks.

It is an important water source for agriculture in these states.

15) Pennar 597 km

The Pennar traces its origin in Nandi hills of Karnataka. It flows through Andhra Pradesh and culminates around Telangana.

Pennar river is often credited for the spread of the Telugu language of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

It supports the Krishnapatnam port which is near Nellore city. This port can handle large cargo ships and is one of the deepest in India.

16) Damodar 592km

Once known as ‘Sorrow of Bengal’ due to incessant floods it caused in the eastern state, River Damodar now plays a very constructive role in the economies of Indian states Jharkhand and West Bengal.

Several power generation plants have been built to tap waters of the Damodar while dams and canals have tamed its earlier savage flooding.

The Damodar has created a valley rich in minerals that provide an economic lifeline to these states.

17) Mahi 583 km

River Mahi also has religious significance for the Hindu community and hence is revered by people of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Rajasthan.

It supports three major dams- Banswada, Kadana and Wanakbori. Banks of this river are renowned for its various Hindu shrines.

This river is also called Mahisagar, due to its largeness.

18) Tungabhadra 531km

The river Tungabhadra finds its mention in India epic, Ramayana, where it is called as Pampa. Tungabhadra is an extremely important river for Karnataka state but also flows into neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

The vital Tungabhadra dam supplies water to several districts of Karnataka. Again, this river too is revered by followers of Hindu faith.

19) Ponniyar 500km

Ponniyar river also originates in Karnataka state and provides much-needed water to the state of Tamil Nadu as well.

With its point of origin near the Nandi Hills in Karnataka, Ponniyar is running dry due to unpredictable monsoons and insufficient flow of water from connecting rivers.

Unfortunately, illegal dredging of sand from the Ponniyar is polluting it heavily.

20) Subarnarekha 470km

Subarnarekha derives its name from gold (Subarna or Suvarna) since this precious metal was mined here.

This is a very important river for Jharkhand, originating near the state capital, Ranchi.

Till date, people find traces of gold in its water, though minute, but helps poverty-stricken people make some living. The river also flows to West Bengal and Odisha.

21) Ken 425km

River Ken is very important for the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. It is considered as a tributary of the Yamuna.

The river has very interesting historical monuments, especially forts, citadels and castles that were built by Rajput rulers of the region to defend against Mughal invasion of the region.

According to some reports, these castles now provide hideouts to dacoits and other criminals, which has led them to be neglected.

22) Sabarmati 371km

Sabarmati river has special significance for India. The Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi established his famous eponymous ashram on banks of this river in Gujarat.

The river originates in Rajasthan and flows into Gujarat. It is a very important river for agriculture in these Indian states.

23) Sarayu 350km

Another river that finds mention in ancient Hindu religious chants and scriptures including Vedas and Ramayana is the Sarayu.

Ayodhya, the birthplace of Lord Rama is located on banks of the Sarayu and the Rig Veda also refers to this river.

Further, this river finds mention in the history of South Korea. A princess from Ayodhya was married to a Korean ruler. As a result, South Korean city Inchon and part of Ayodhya are billed as ‘sister cities,’ by the two countries.

24) Palar 348km

River Palar and the Kuppam dam being built by the Andhra Pradesh government has been a cause of feud with a neighbouring state, Tamil Nadu.

Waters of Palar are vital for several important parts and industries of Tamil Nadu, especially Vellore city.

The river originates in Karnataka, where it supplies water to India’s large gold mines at Kolar.

25) Malaprabha 304km

Three temples that feature on UNESCO World Heritage Site list- the Yellamma temple, Aihole, Patadakkal, and Badami are located on banks of the Malaprabha river of Karnataka.

River Malaprabha’s flow is limited within Karnataka state only and provides water to the state’s summer capital, Belgaum and nearby Bagalkot district, known for its cement industries.

26) Ghataprabha 283km

The world famous tourist attraction, Gokak Waterfalls in the state of Karnataka is fuelled by waters from River Ghataprabha.

This river originates in the Western Ghats of Maharashtra, near the city, Sawantwadi.

Its backwaters flow into neighbouring Goa while the main confluence enters Karnataka.

27) Kabini 240km

The Kabini river has spawned several tourist attractions in the southern states, Kerala and Karnataka.

The Kabini Wildlife Sanctuary is home to famed elephants of these states, renowned for their ivory and ferocious tigers.

In Kerala, boat rides and boathouses are available to tourists. The banks of Kabini are very scenic and also home to local and migratory birds.

28) Arkavati 193km

Anyone who has visited Bangalore has tasted the waters of River Arkavati.

Indeed, the Bangalore municipality and its nearby industrial zones depend upon water from this important river and tap around 135 million litres daily.

This river can rightly be called the lifeline of Bangalore and draws water from the larger Kaveri.

29) Kali 184km

River Kali flows through the Konkan regions of Goa and Karnataka.

Also called as Kali Sagara and Kali Nadi, this river provides water to the city of Karwar, which is home to India’s largest naval base, Seabird- home of aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.

Other than providing potable water, this river is rich in freshwater fish and provides fishing and boating opportunities to foreign tourists entering the area from Goa.

30) Bhadra 171km

River Bhadra is currently being tamed by constructing an eponymous dam in Karnataka.

The river plays a key role in the state’s rich sandalwood plantation along its banks. Further, areas around Bhadra are very scenic.

There are plans to build some tourism infrastructure in small towns along banks of Bhadra to welcome foreign and domestic visitors.

Wrap Up

River in India also have religious significance, as we have read above. Cremation grounds of the Hindu community are often located on banks of rivers, albeit at isolated locations since they allow easier immersion of ashes and bones left after mortal remains are consigned to flames.

Religious ceremonies are also held on banks of rivers. Some river in India are said to have medical and curative waters for various disease. The 30 rivers we list can rightly be called the lifeline of this country.

A US$87 billion project to link all major rivers of India is underway, which will curb flooding of some parts of the country while providing water for household, agricultural and industrial use.

Unfortunately, some of these great rivers have also been polluted heavily. Worse, they have become the cause of enmity between people of various states over the issue of water sharing. These water disputes have cost precious human lives.

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