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A major river of India (archaic Ganges)
The Ganga confluence in Devprayag
Country India
States Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal,
Cities Haridwar, Kanpur, Allahabad, Varanasi, Kolkata
Source Gangotri Glacier, Uttarakhand, India,
Mouth Bay of Bengal
Length 2,525 km
Left Tributaries Mahakhali, Karnali, Kosi, Gandak, Ghaghra
Right Tributaries Yamuna, Son, Mahananda
Basin 14,270 cu.m/sec
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Article Authors : P.Singh
Ganga, official name "Ganga/Ganges"[1], (archaic Ganges) is a major river system in the Indian subcontinent flowing East through North India's Gangetic plains, traversing 2,525 km in the course to discharge into the Bay of Bengal through its vast delta in the Sunderbans and Bangladesh. Several important tributaries add their waters during this journey to make Ganga the 3rd largest river in the world by discharge volume after the Amazon and Congo rivers.

The headstreams of the River Ganges in India's upper course are famous tourist attractions important to local economies, for spiritual tourism and Rafting in Rishikesh.

The Ganga river basin is India's largest, irrigating the Northern states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and West Bengal. Important Indian cities on its banks include Kanpur, Patna, Kannauj, Kashi, Allahabad, Varanasi, Kolkata. These cities generate large amounts of domestic and industrial pollution which has caused the 'holy' Ganga to die. The environmental degradation generated considerable protest and in 1985 the Government implemented the Ganga Action Plan for river rejuvenation.

The Ganges river is considered sacred to Indians since ancient times and worshiped as the Goddess Ganga. Hindus make pilgrimages to it, especially to its sources and the cities of Haridwar, Varanasi and Allahabad (Triveni confluence of the Yamuna). On its banks are cremation pyres (ghats) and ritual steps for immersing ashes in the water of dead Hindus and performed ritual ablutions.


Ganga is traditionally divided into two parts: the upper course (about 800 km from the source to the city of Kanpur), lower course (from Kanpur to the Farakka Barrage).

Upper Course (Himalayas and foothills)

Source of the Ganga, Gaumukh
Source of the Ganga, Gaumukh
Morning mist over the Ganges at Kaudiayala, Uttarakhand
Morning mist over the Ganges at Kaudiayala, Uttarakhand
A beach on the banks of Ganges, Rishikesh
A beach on the banks of Ganges, Rishikesh

Course of the Ganga

Course of Ganga river and tributaries

Tributaries of the Ganga

Other than the Yamuna river, the major water-rich tributaries of the Ganges flow to the left. Originating mostly in the Himalayas they mitigate the low dissolved oxygen and pollutant concentration of the main stream. However, some of these tributaries also cause the largest flood hazard zone of the Ganges and regular overflowing of its high water banks causing destruction. The natural drainage network is now greatly altered by dense networks of artificial irrigation channels. Consequently Ganga and Yamuna have much of their flow diverted into irrigation canals and water treatment plants.

Cities on the Ganga


The valley of the Ganges is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. Below are the largest of the cities located directly on the river. The list is sorted along the course, with the exception of the delta (in the state of West Bengal and Bangladesh). Most of West Bengal and almost a third of the territory of Bangladesh enter directly into the Ganga basin. Specified in the list of the city are located mainly on the distributaries Hooghly and Padma (main channel) as well as numerous small ducts.

State of Uttarakhand :
Rishikesh (59,600) well known for Rafting in Rishikesh
Haridwar (175,100)
State of Uttar Pradesh :
Farrukhabad (275,750)
Kannauj (71530)
Kanpur (2,767,031)
Allahabad (1,117,094)
Mirzapur (233,691)
Varanasi (1,201,815)
State of Bihar :
Ara (203,395)
Chhapra (178 835)
Danapur (158488)
Patna (1,683,200)
Munger (187,311)
Bhagalpur (398,138)
State of Jharkhand :
State of West Bengal :
Baharampur (160,168)
Krishnanagar (139,070)
Barasat (237,783)
Barrakpor (144,331)
Kolkata (4,486,679)
Howrah (1,072,161)
Haldia (170,256)
Rajshahi (472,775)
Khulna (855,650)
Barisal (210,374)
Jessore (243,987)
Pabna (138,000)
Chandpur (94,821)

Sequence of tributary confluence

Alaknanda joins Dhauliganga (at Vishnuprayag), Mandakini (at Nandprayag), Pindar (at Karnaprayag), Mandakini (at Rudraprayag) and ultimately Bhagirathi (at Devaprayag) from where onwards, it is known as Ganga. The Bhagirathi is considered the prime source stream, fed by melting glacial snow and ice from peaks such as Kamet and Nanda Devi.






Alaknanda left 440 240 12587+ 4350 460 Devprayag
Bhagirathi right 260 254[4] 7820 4120 460 Devprayag
Ramganga left 490 596 32493 3110 130 Ibrahimpur
Yamuna right 2940 1376 366223 6387 74 Sahon
Ghaghara left 2980 1080 127950 4800 48 Chapra
Son right 900 784 71259 600 46 Dinapur
Gandak left 1640 630 46300 7620 44 Sonepur
Kosi left 2160 835 95156 7000 34 Kursela

Ganga in Indian Religion

Ganga in Hinduism

For more information, see: Ganga in Hindu tradition.
Goddess Ganga, Ellora Caves, Maharastra, Archaeological Survey of India monument number N-MH-A51

The river Ganga is generally regarded, since ancient times, amongst the world's most important and holy rivers. It is held sacred by Indians, especially Hindus, and is also worshiped in its anthropomorphic form as the Goddess Ganga, emerging, from Bhagirathi her source, at Gangotri Glacier (in the Central Himalayan state of Uttarakhand) at Gaumukh (elevation 3,892 m). Ganga is embodied at Devprayag when the rampant Alaknanda joins swirling Bhagirathi. Numerous other streams join Himalayan Ganga, among these Mandakini, Dhauliganga, Bhilangana and Pindar are significant.

Ganga in the Doab
Triveni Sangham - Kumbha Mela - Allahabad January 2001, India

According to legend, Allahabad Triveni (triple confluence) is one of the four places where the celestial bird Garuda spilled the immortality elixir Amrita from its holy pitcher, and why Hindus hold major Hindu festival - Kumbh Mela, or "Festival of pitchers."

Allahabad (Prayag also - "the confluence" or Aggra - "place of sacrifice"), located at the confluence of the Ganges with the Jumna (Yamuna), is considered the place where Brahma was brought first sacrifice after creating the world. This is the second of the four places where Garuda spilled amrita, and is also the venue for the festival of Kumbh Mela. This is where the legend comes to the surface and joins the sacred river Ganges Rig Veda - Saraswati, which later disappears from the surface of the Earth.

Ganga in West Bengal

The sanctity of Ganga in Bengal predates the arrival of Indo-Aryans. After their arrival and association of Ganga river with Aryan purity, important places of pilgrimage came up at Nawadeep, Triveni, Katwa, Ganga Sagar and Kalighat (near Kolkatta).

Ganga in Islam

Mosque on the banks of the Ganga river India, Auguste Borget, oil on canvas, 1846

Leading Islamic clerics in India have agreed that it is the duty of both Hindus and Muslims to protect and save Ganga, a national river, as both communities live on its banks and earn livelihood from it.[6] Ganga Jamni tehzeeb is an ancient tradition in the Awadhi doab area for the coexisting of the Hindoos and Moslems by participating in each others social functions. Ganga Jamni tehzeeb fuses the best elements of Persian and Mughal cultures ensuring Khayal, Ghazal, Thumri, Kathak and Banarsi Raas rang flourish.

Ganges in Bangladesh

The portions of the eastern sub-delta of the Ganga is known as Padma and had no religious significance or historical places of pilgrimage for Indians unlike in West Bengal along the banks of the Bhagirathi-Hooghly section known a Adi Ganga. The eastern deltaic portions mainly in Bangladesh were always cut off symbolically from Indo-Aryan culture and mythology.[7]

Ganga in Buddhism

From a discourse on Dharma

  • And again, Subhuti, suppose a woman or a man were to renounce all their belongings as many times as there are grains of sand in the river Ganges; and suppose that someone else, after taking from this discourse on dharma but one stanza of four lines would demonstrate it to others. Then this latter on the strength of that would beget a greater heap of merit, immeasurable and incalculable.[8]