Sacred in nature, the rivers of Uttarakhand are considered auspicious and lively to a large extent. It is believed that the rivers originating from the glaciers of India, Tibet and Nepal are not only religiously important but play an important role in the cultural, economic and environmental life of the state and its citizens.
The rivers, considered as the backbone of the state, are used for a variety of purposes from prayer to agriculture and even for day-to-day activities. The rivers of Uttarakhand are also famous for forming the Sangam, i.e. the convergence of two rivers at a certain point, to meet the religious needs of Hindu devotees. Each river has its own remarkable presence which results in its paramountcy.
These rivers of Uttarakhand are also a major source of irrigation and power generation, along with various cities situated on their banks. So, if you are planning a vacation to this majestic state, make sure to take a trip around these rivers and enjoy its silent serenity, make a camp, boat, fish or raft.
Some Famous Rivers of Uttarakhand
The Ganga River is considered as the holiest river in Hindu religion. Ganga has been a symbol of divinity, spirituality, purity and salvation. The holy Ganga river originates from Gaumukh in the Gangotri Glacier and flows for eternity to nourish the Indo-Gangetic plain. The Ganga is mentioned in many ancient texts; she is a goddess, a mother, a life-giving river and a storehouse of faith of the people.
In northern India, it is a major river on which civilizations have been established since ancient times. The mighty river originates from the Garhwal Himalayas, Uttarakhand on a journey of 2,525 km (approx.). Merging and flowing from one region to another, the river of Uttarakhnd eventually falls into the Bay of Bengal. It passes through the parts of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal before meeting the sea in Bangladesh.
Taking a holy dip in the waters of the Ganga is considered sacred, as it purifies the soul and connects the soul with God. Several streams come together to form the Ganga. Bhagirathi and Alaknanda are the two most famous tributaries of the Ganga.
Originating from the Satopanth Glacier and the Bhagirathi Kharak Glacier, the Alaknanda is believed to be the source stream of the Ganges along with the Bhagirathi. The length of the Alaknanda is 190 km, which flows through the major cities of the Garhwal division; Covering Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Pauri Garhwal districts. It meets Dhauliganga at Vishnuprayag, Nandkini at Nandaprayag, Pindar at Karnaprayag, Mandakini at Rudraprayag and Bhagirathi at Devprayag; where it officially becomes the Ganga. The Alaknanda is considered to be one of the holiest rivers of Uttarakhand as it passes through the very famous town of Badrinath, the final destination of the Char Dham Yatra.
Alaknanda River is also desired for its adventurous side as its white waters and ferocious rapids provide an adventure of a lifetime. At present, there are 6 operational hydroelectric projects on Alaknanda and 8 are under construction.
Bhagirathi River originates from Gaumukh which is situated at the base of Gangotri Glacier Trek in Uttarakhand. This river is one of the two main streams of the Ganga along with the Alaknanda River. Despite the river Alaknanda being longer than Bhagirathi, according to mythology, Bhagirathi is considered to be the main source of river Ganga.
The river starts at a distance of 205 km and through its course is joined by smaller streams and rivers of Uttarakhand. Alaknanda River meets Bhagirathi River at Devprayag situated at an altitude of 830 meters meters above sea level. This confluence point is considered to be a very holy place because it is a place where the river Ganga is formed.
Yamuna is another holy river in Hindu mythology that originates from Yamuna Glacier which is resting at an altitude of 6,315 meters. The molten glaciers flowing from the top of the Kalindi mountain settle in the Saptarishi Kund from where the river’s journey begins. In Hindu mythology, Yamuna is the daughter of the Sun God, Surya and the sister of Yama, the god of death, hence also called Yami and according to popular legends, bathing in the holy water frees one from the agony of death.
The Yamuna River passes through Uttarakhand, Haryana, New Delhi and Uttar Pradesh where the river joins the Ganges at the Triveni Sangam. The literal meaning of “Triveni Sangam” is the confluence of three rivers i.e. Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati.
This river of Uttarakhand is the longest river which extends for 1,376 km till it meets with the Ganga River. It is used for irrigation activities throughout North India. However, the condition of Yamuna has worsened in recent times. With huge amounts of pollutants being released into it every day, the Yamuna has become one of the most polluted rivers in the world. To deal with this, the government has started several projects to save the Yamuna. But due to lack of effective implementation, the situation remains the same.
5. Gori Ganga
Gori Ganga also referred to as Ghori Ganga is a river located in Munsiyari Tehsil of Pithoragarh. The river starts from the Milam Glacier and runs for a total length of 104 km and finally meets the Kali River at Jauljibi. Nanda Devi National Park, Trishuli, Panchauli and Nanda Kot are some of the popular trekking routes in the river valley.
The Gori Gaga is flanked by glaciers and streams that flow from the eastern slopes of the eastern wall of the Nanda Devi sanctuary, and which flow through the hilly areas of Panchachuli, Rajramba and Chaudhara, including Ralam Gad and Pyunsani Gadera. The Kalabland-Barfu Kalganga glacier system also empties into the Gori Ganga valley from the east.
Mandakini River originates from Chorabari Glacier near Kedarnath in Uttarakhand, India. The river is a tributary of the Alaknanda River and is fed by the Vasukiganga River at Sonprayag. This river joins Kaliganga near Kalimath temple and Madhyamaheshwar Ganga near Ukhimath.
In Rudraprayag, the Mandakini river meets into the Alaknanda. The Alaknanda then makes its way to Devprayag and joins with the Bhagirathi River to form the mighty Ganga. This river flows for 72 km. The Mandakini River is considered sacred to Hindus as it is associated with the Bhagavad Gita, a Hindu mythology.
The river flows in divinity near Kedarnath Dham, providing spiritual bliss to lakhs of devotees. The Mandakini river turns violent during the monsoon season, causing havoc in nearby villages and destruction of parts of the national highway in Rudraprayag district. The sudden floods in Kedar valley in 2013 were caused by this river. The turbulent waters of this river provide Grade III rapids, some Grade IV and Garde V rapids, which are ideal for kayaking and river rafting in Uttarakhand.
Kosi, one of the major rivers of Uttarakhand which starts in the Dharpani Dhar from the Himalayas and eventually joins the parallel Ramganga River in Uttar Pradesh. With a length of 170 km, the river passes through the eastern front of the famous Jim Corbett National Park, which serves as a water source for wildlife. The river also passes through the cities of Ramnagar, Betal Ghat, Bujan and Amdana which provide water for irrigation.
The Kali River also known as Mahakali, Kali Ganga and Sharda River originates in the Trans-Himalayan region of the Greater Himalayas at an altitude of 3,600 m. The length of the river is 252 km and it flows continuously between India and Nepal, forming a fluid boundary.
The Kali Ganga meets the Dhauliganga (known as the Darma River before joining the Lasar Yakti) at Tawaghat in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. In the town of Jauljibi, Kali Gori joins with the Ganges. Jauljibi is located in the Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand and is famous for its annual trade fair. Then Chameliya river coming from Nepal joins Kali. Later, Kali is joined by the Sarju River. After reaching Jogbudha valley, Kali river meets Ladhiya and Ramgun. At Tanakpur, the river begins to enter the plains and is known as the Sharda River.
Continuing on its course, the Sharda River crosses Uttarakhand and enters Uttar Pradesh where it merges with the Ghaghra River, about 30 km from Bahraich. The Ghaghra (also known as the Karnali) is a river that originates in the Tibetan Plateau, travels from Nepal to Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and finally joins the Ganga.
Kali river presents an exciting opportunity to do white water rafting adventure. With its Grade IV and more rapids, the Kali River attracts professional rafters from all over the world.
The water of Kali river is also used for hydroelectric power generation. The Kali River is also the source of an important project in the Himalayan component of the Indian Rivers Inter-Link Project.
The Bhilangana River of Uttarakhand, India is a major tributary of the Bhagirathi River, which is the source-stream of the Ganga River. The length of this river is 80 km. The Bhilangana River originates from the bottom of the Khatling Glacier, which is situated at an altitude of 3,717 meters above sea level.
The river is about 50 km south of Gaumukh, which is believed to be the traditional source of the Bhagirathi and Ganga rivers. It flows into the Bhagirathi at Old Tehri, the site of the Tehri Dam.
Bhilangana meets its major tributaries Bal Ganga at Ghansaliat 976 m above sea level. The popular Khatling trek route passes through the banks of the Bhilangana River.
Don’t be surprised by the name and if you are confused by the Saraswati river. We are as surprised as you are. The Saraswati river is present, but becomes like ‘lost in translation’. It is a tributary of river Alaknanda and joins Keshav Prayag near Mana village in Uttarakhand. Across the river there is a natural stone bridge called “Bhima Pul” which eventually descends in a path towards Satopanth Lake and Vasundhara Falls.
Considered sacred by devout Hindus, it is described as “pure in its course from the mountains to the sea, beyond the glory and power of all other rivers”. No other river has been glorified like this in the Rigveda (RV).
Tons River originates at an altitude of 6,315 meters from the Bandarpunch mountain in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand. It is one of the most perennial rivers originating in the Himalayas. Rising from that great height, the flow of the glacier fed river ends when it meets the Yamuna river. And the extraordinary thing about the Tons is that despite being a tributary, it contributes more water than the Yamuna, at the meeting point. The Tons Valley drains into the Jaunsar Bawar region of Garhwal and touches Himachal Pradesh as it marks the boundary between the states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
The mythological origin of the Tons River is related through a legend with a small village called Mori. Mori is situated on the banks of Tons river in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand. The people of Mori are the followers of Kauravas. It is believed that when the Pandavas defeated the Kauravas, the people of the valley wept; Tons river is the creation of their unstopable tears.
The Pabbar River is one of the tributaries of Tons which joins it from the west. The Asan River is another important tributary, itself formed by the union of two smaller river of Uttarakhand. The Tons, the largest tributary of the Yamuna, finally joins the Yamuna at Kalsi near Dehradun.
White water rafting is a very popular adventure activity that is done over fast flowing cold water of the river Tons.
Gaula is a small Himalayan river which runs for a total distance of 103 km. The river is a tributary of the Ramganga River which is itself a tributary of the Ganga River. The source of the river is in the Sattal lakes near Paharpani while the end point is Kichha. The major cities through which the river passes include Kathgodam, Shahi and Haldwani. This is one of the most visited rivers of Uttarakhand for visitors planning camping.
The Gaula catchment has been affected by several landslides as a result of soil erosion and deforestation. Also, the spring water and overall rainfall have declined over the years, reducing its flow. After hitting the plains near Haldwani, the banks of the Gaula river are facing soil erosion due to excessive quarrying and mining.
The Ramganga river begins its journey at an altitude of 3,110 m near Lohba village in the lower Himalayas of Garhwal. Coming from such a height, the river descends through a mountainous terrain and forms many waterfalls and rapids on its way. The plain area starts from Kalagarh, which is situated near the border of Garhwal district.
This river passes through Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Moradabad, Badaun, Hardoi, Bareilly, Shahjahanpur cities are situated on the banks of Ramganga. The Ramganga river is joined by several tributaries, some of which are important – Gangan, Kho, Kosi, Deoha and Aril. The catchment area of the Ramganga basin is 32,493 km (approx.).
Pindar river, also known as Pindari river is a major Himalayan river that originates from the Pindari glaciers, one of the major and difficult locations for trekking in Uttarakhand. Flowing for a length of about 105 km, the river crosses many tiny hamlets like Nauti, Bhagoli, Kulsari and Tharli. Just like Nandakini river, the Pindar river also meets the Alaknanda river at Karnaprayag, one among the Panch Prayags.
A Himalayan river flowing through the Kumaon region, the Sarayu (also known as Sarju) originates from Sarmool. It flows for 146 km before joining the Mahakali River at Pancheshwar. It meets the Gomti river at Bageshwar. The confluence of these two rivers is famous for dotted with Bagnath temple. Sodhra, Gwara, Song, Kapkot and Rameshwar are some of the towns situated on the banks of the Sarayu river. Sup, Khati and Bhuni, are the famous ghats of this river.