The Ganges | Ganges River | Significance of Ganges River and Description

Gomukh the Origin of Ganges

The Ganges | Ganges River

The Ganges (Ganga) River, which flows through northern India, is revered by Hindus. In India, more than 400 million people reside in the Ganges River Basin. These people are mostly dependent on the river Ganga. All the agricultural and industrial business totally dependent on water of river Ganga. All the major cities are found in the bank of Ganga river. A river basin is an area that a river, like the Ganges, and any of its tributaries drain. This indicates that rains and surface water from the basin area enter the nearby rivers.

At Gomukh, the terminus (origin) of the Gongotri Glacier, in the Himalaya Mountains, the Ganges River begins. When the ice on this glacier melts, it creates the crystal-clear waters of the Bhagirathi River. When the Bhagirathi River joins the Alaknanda River as it crosses the Himalayas, it officially becomes the Ganges River. A larger river basin, which is usually believed to contain the Ganges River Basin, includes the nearby Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers.

The sacred river Ganga is nourished by rainfall, tributary water, and melting snow from the Himalayas. As it departs the Himalayas, the Ganges travels south and east and carves up a canyon. Through northern India, it meanders until emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The numerous Ganges tributaries come from the close-by nations of Nepal, Bangladesh, and China (in an autonomous region called Tibet).

Physical features of Ganges River

Ganges in Gangotri

On the Indian side of the border with China's Tibet Autonomous Region, the Ganges rises in the southern Great Himalayas. The Bhagirathi, Alaknanda, Mandakini, Dhauliganga, and Pindar are its five headstreams, and they all originate in the state of Uttarakhand's northern Himalayan region. The two main headstreams of these are the Bhagirathi, which originates at a height of about 10,000 feet (3,000 metres) above sea level in a subglacial meltwater cave at the base of the Gangotri Himalayan glacier, and the Alaknanda, which is the longer of the two and rises about 30 miles (50 km) north of the Himalayan peak of Nanda Devi. Hindu pilgrims revere Gangotri as a holy site. However, Gaumukh, located about 13 miles (21 km) southeast of Gangotri, is thought to be the real source of the Ganges.

The major Ganga river, which emerges from the mountains near Rishikesh, flows from the confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi rivers at Devaprayag. The Ganga river cuts through the Siwalik Range (Outer Himalayas) in the southwest. Then it runs across the plain at Haridwar, another Hindu holy site.

The Ganges exhibits a distinct seasonal change in flow and its volume grows noticeably as it acquires more tributaries and enters an area of greater rainfall. The river is fed by the Himalayan snowmelt from April to June, and floods are brought on by the rainy monsoons from July to September. The river's flow decreases over the winter. The Ganges River receives its two main right-bank tributaries south of Haridwar, now in the state of Uttar Pradesh: the Tons River and the Yamuna River. The Tons River flows north from the Vindhya Range in Madhya Pradesh state and joins the Ganges just below Prayagraj. Both rivers roughly parallel the southeastward flow of the Ganges. The Ramganga, Gomati, and Ghaghara are Uttar Pradesh's three primary left-bank tributaries.

Ganga | Ganga in Haridwar
Ganga near Saptarshi Ashram Haridwar 

The Gandak, the Burhi ("Old") Gandak, the Ghugri, and the Kosi rivers are the Ganges' principal tributaries from the Himalayan area of Nepal to the north as it reaches the state of Bihar. The Son River is its most significant southern tributary. The river then skirts the Rajmahal Hills to the south before flowing southeast to Farakka, which is located at the tip of the delta in central West Bengal state. The Ganges enters West Bengal as its final Indian state before flowing into Bangladesh, when it is joined by the Mahananda River from the north. The Ganges is known as the Padma in West Bengal, India, as well as Bangladesh. The Bhagirathi and Hugli (Hooghly) rivers, which have Kolkata, India's largest city, on their east bank, are the delta's westernmost distributaries (Calcutta). The Damodar and the Rupnarayan, two tributaries coming in from the west, join the Hugli itself. A number of distributaries diverge to the south into the Ganges' huge delta as it flows from West Bengal into Bangladesh. Near Goalundo Ghat in Bangladesh, the mighty Brahmaputra—known as the Jamuna there—joins the Ganges. Above Chandpur, the united stream, known as the Padma there, enters the Meghna River. The water then travels through numerous channels, the greatest of which is known as the Meghna estuary of Bay of Bengal, across the delta region.

Tapovan Glacier

With an average discharge of around 1,086,500 cubic feet (30,770 cubic metres) per second, the Ganges-Brahmaputra system supplies about 390,000 cubic feet (11,000 cubic metres) every second, ranking third among all rivers in the world. The cumulative suspended sediment load of the rivers, which is 1.84 billion tonnes annually, is the greatest in the world.

Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka (Dacca), is situated on the Buriganga ("Old Ganges"), a branch of the Dhaleswari. The Matabhanga, Bhairab, Kabadak, Garai-Madhumati, and Arial Khan rivers in Bangladesh and the Hugli, Meghna, and Jalangi rivers in West Bengal are the other distributary streams that make up the Ganges delta.

The Ganges is continually subject to changes in its path in the delta region, as are its tributaries and distributaries. Such modifications have been made very recently, particularly since 1750. The Brahmaputra passed by Mymensingh in 1785; today, it flows more than 40 miles (65 km) west of the city before joining the Ganges.

The delta, which extends the Ganges and Brahmaputra river valleys' sediment deposits into the sea, is 220 miles (355 km) long and encompasses an area of around 23,000 square miles along the coast (60,000 square km). It is made up of recurrent layers of peat, lignite, and beds from former forests, as well as repeated alternations of clays, sands, and marls. The new delta deposits, called khadar in Hindi and Urdu, naturally develop close to the current channels. Tidal mechanisms govern the growth of the delta.

Massive quantities of sediment were quickly and very recently deposited, forming the southern surface of the Ganges delta. With the rapid construction of new islands and chars, or new lands, the seaward side of the delta is changing to the east. However, the delta's western coastline has essentially not changed since the 18th century.

The rivers in the West Bengal region are slow, carrying little water to the sea. The rivers in the delta region of Bangladesh are wide and dynamic, carrying large amounts of water, and they are joined by countless creeks. The majority of the area floods to a depth of at least three feet (at least one metre) during the rainy season (June to October), leaving the communities and homesteads—which are constructed on artificially raised land—isolated above the floodwaters. During that time of year, the sole means of communication between settlements is via boat.

There is a significant area of tidal mangrove forests and swampland on the seaward side of the entire delta. India and Bangladesh have preserved the area, known as the Sundarbans, for environmental reasons. Both India's and Bangladesh's portions of the Sundarbans have been named UNESCO World Heritage Sites; Bangladesh's was done so in 1997.

Peat layers made up of rice plants and the remains of forest flora can be found in some areas of the delta. Peat, which is still forming in many natural depressions called bils, has been dried and utilised as a fuel for homes and businesses as well as a fertiliser by local farmers.

Climate & Hydrology

The greatest river system on the subcontinent is found inside the 419,300 square mile (1,086,000 square km) Ganges basin. The flow from melting Himalayan snows in the hot season from April to June as well as the rains produced by the southwesterly monsoon winds from July to October both contribute to the water supply. Along with the southwest monsoon winds, tropical cyclones that form in the Bay of Bengal between June and October also bring precipitation to the river basin. In December and January, there is very little rain. At the western end of the basin, the average annual rainfall is 30 inches (760 mm), whereas at the eastern end, it exceeds 90 inches (2,290 mm). Rainfall averages between 40 and 60 inches (1,020 to 1,520 mm) in the Middle Ganges Plain of Bihar, 30 to 40 inches (760 to 1,020 mm) in the Upper Gangetic Plain of Uttar Pradesh, and 60 to 100 inches (1,520 to 2,540 mm) in the Delta region. Strong cyclonic storms occur in the delta region both before the monsoon season begins, from March to May, and at its conclusion, from September to October. Many people lose their lives in some of those storms, and homes, crops, and cattle are also destroyed. One such storm, which struck in November 1970, had catastrophic proportions and killed at least 200,000 and perhaps as many as 500,000 people; another, which struck in April 1991, killed about 140,000 people.

The Gangetic Plain's overall terrain has little in the way of relief variation, hence the river flows slowly. Only over 700 feet of elevation change occurs throughout the almost 1,000 miles (1,600 km) between Delhi's Yamuna River and the Bay of Bengal (210 metres). The Ganges-Brahmaputra lowlands encompass a total area of 300,000 square kilometres (800,000 square km). It's possible that the alluvial mantle of the plain, which is more than 6,000 feet (1,800 metres) thick in some areas, is only 10,000 years old.

Plant and animal life

At one time, the Ganges-Yamuna region was heavily wooded. According to historical texts, there was hunting of wild elephants, buffalo, bison, rhinoceroses, lions, and tigers throughout the 16th and 17th centuries. The Ganges basin's original natural vegetation has mostly vanished, and the area is now heavily farmed to suit the demands of a constantly expanding population. With the exception of deer, boars, wildcats, and a few wolves, jackals, and foxes, there aren't many large wild creatures. Only in the Sundarbans region of the delta can one still find marsh deer, crocodiles, and Bengal tigers.

All of the rivers are teeming with fish, but the delta region is where they are most prevalent and play a significant role in the food of the locals. Featherbacks (Notopteridae family), barbs (Cyprinidae), walking catfish, gouramis (Anabantidae), and milkfish are abundant fish in the Bengal region (Chanidae). The Ganges-Brahmaputra basin is home to the susu, also known as the Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica), a virtually blind cetacean with highly developed sonar ability. However, because of expanding human activity, it is now thought to be endangered. There are many different kinds of birds, including mynah birds, parrots, crows, kites, partridges, and fowl. Ducks and snipes move south during the winter through the high Himalayas, arriving in huge numbers in locations with bodies of water.

People & Culture

The inhabitants of the Ganges basin are multiethnic. They were originally descended from an early population in the west and centre of the basin, presumably speaking Dravidian or Austroasiatic languages, and later joined by speakers of Indo-Aryan languages. In the past, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Afghans, and Persians arrived from the west and mixed with them. Over the years, individuals who spoke Austroasiatic, Indo-Aryan, and Tibeto-Burman languages have migrated to the east and south, particularly to Bengal. Europeans arrived much later and did not settle or intermarry very much.

The Gangetic Plain has historically served as the cradle of Hindustan and its succeeding civilizations. Ashoka's Mauryan empire was centred on Patna (formerly known as Pataliputra), a city in Bihar on the Ganges. Delhi and Agra, located in the western Ganges basin, served as the capital cities of the vast Mughal Empire. The capital of the Harsha feudal kingdom, which ruled the majority of northern India in the middle of the seventh century, was Kannauj on the Ganges, in central Uttar Pradesh to the north of Kanpur. The Muslim era, which started in the 12th century, saw the spread of Muslim control throughout Bengal as well as the plain. Muslim power centres in the delta included Dhaka and Murshidabad. After establishing Calcutta (Kolkata) on the Hugli River's banks in the late 17th century, the British progressively increased their rule up the Ganges Valley until they reached Delhi in the middle of the 19th century.

On the Gangetic Plain, numerous cities have been constructed. Saharanpur, Meerut, Agra (home to the renowned Taj Mahal mausoleum), Mathura (regarded as the birthplace of the Hindu god Krishna), Aligarh, Kanpur, Bareilly, Lucknow, Prayagraj, Varanasi (also known as Benares or Kashi; the famous holy city of the Hindus), Patna, Bhagalpur, Rajshahi, Murshidabad, Kolkata, Haora (Howrah).

In the delta, one of India's most significant concentrations of population, commerce, and industry is formed by Kolkata and its satellite cities, which run for nearly 50 miles (80 km) along both sides of the Hugli.

The Ganges may have greater religious significance than any other river in the world. Hindus consider it to be the holy river and have worshipped it from ancient times. While Hindu pilgrimage sites, or tirthas, can be found all throughout the subcontinent, those that are close to the Ganges have special significance. In January and February, a bathing festival known as a mela is held at the confluence of the Ganges and the Yamuna at Prayagraj, where hundreds of thousands of people immerse themselves in the river. The holy cities of Varanasi and Haridwar also provide immersion opportunities. In Kolkata, the Hugli River is likewise revered as a holy river.

Har Ki Pauri | Haridwar
Har Ki Pauri Haridwar

Other pilgrimage sites on the Ganges include Gangotri and the Himalayan confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi headstreams. Hindus scatter the ashes of their dead into rivers, believing that doing so grants them direct access to paradise, and several cremation ghats—temples erected atop riverside steps—have been constructed along the Ganges River.

Economy of the Ganges River


Since ancient times, irrigation using Ganges water has been a widespread practise, whether it be by gravity canals or when the river is flooded. Scriptures and mythological works from more than 2,000 years ago describe this type of irrigation. In the fourth century BCE, the Greek historian and envoy Megasthenes documented irrigation use in India. The Mughal kings later built a number of canals. Irrigation was extensively developed during the period of Muslim rule from the 12th century onward. The British expanded the canal system much farther.

An irrigation canal system has enhanced the output of cash crops including sugarcane, cotton, and oilseeds in the farmed area of the Ganges valley in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Most of the older canals are located in the Ganges-Yamuna Doab, which is referred to as the "land between two rivers." The combined length of the Upper Ganga Canal and its branches, which start in Hardiwar, is 5,950 km (9,575 km). Beginning in Naraura, the Lower Ganga Canal has a total length of 8,240 kilometres (5,120 mi) with its branches. In Uttar Pradesh, land close to Ayodhya is irrigated by the Sarda Canal.

Groundwater must be piped to the surface in order to irrigate the higher terrain at the plain's northern edge. Large portions in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are also watered by conduits that originate from hand-dug wells. Parts of the districts of Khulna, Jessore, and Kushtia that are located inside the portion of the delta where silt and overgrowth suffocate the slowly moving rivers are covered by the Ganges-Kabadak programme in Bangladesh, primarily an irrigation plan. The irrigation system is based on both electrically powered lifting mechanisms and gravity canals.

Navigation (Transportation)

The Ganges and certain of its tributaries, particularly those in the east, were crucial trade routes in antiquity. The Ganges and its principal tributaries were being traversed in the fourth century BCE, according to Megasthenes. Inland river navigation was still thriving in the Ganges basin in the 14th century. Canals used for irrigation and navigation by the 19th century served as the primary waterways. Paddle steamers changed inland transportation and helped Bengal and Bihar increase their indigo output. From Kolkata, regular steamer services ran up the Ganges to Prayagraj and much beyond, as well as to Agra on the Yamuna and up the Brahmaputra River.

Hooghli River
Hooghli River Howrah

The development of railroads in the middle of the 19th century marked the beginning of the demise of large-scale water transportation. Navigation was also impacted by the growing water withdrawal for irrigation. Beyond the middle Ganges basin near Prayagraj, river traffic is presently minimal and primarily composed of local rivercraft (including motorboats, sailboats, and rafts).

Jute, tea, grain, and other agricultural and rural products are still transported over rivers in West Bengal and Bangladesh, nevertheless. The major river ports are Kolkata, Goalpara, Dhuburi, and Dibrugarh in India, and Chalna, Khulna, Barisal, Chandpur, Narayanganj, Goalundo Ghat, Sirajganj, Bhairab Bazar, and Fenchuganj in Bangladesh. In 1947, British India was divided into India and Pakistan, with eastern Bengal becoming East Pakistan until it declared independence as Bangladesh in 1971. This resulted in profound changes, effectively ending the significant trade in tea and jute that had previously been transported to Kolkata from Assam by inland waterway.

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority is in charge of inland water transport in Bangladesh. In India, the Central Inland Water Transport Corporation, Ltd., a publicly owned company, is in charge of maintaining the transport vessels and the infrastructure at various ports while the Inland Canals Authority of India develops and maintains a vast network of national waterways. The Ganges basin's streams from Prayagraj to Haldia total about 1,000 miles (1,600 km) in length.

In West Bengal, close to Indian territory, the Farakka Barrage at the head of the delta started channelling Ganges waters south into India in 1976. The Indian government said that during the course of the previous century, hydrological changes had caused Ganges water to be redirected away from the port of Kolkata, causing silt to accumulate and saltwater seawater to intrude. By draining the ocean and boosting the water level, India built the dam to improve the situation in Kolkata. The Farakka Barrage, according to the Bangladeshi government, cut off a crucial water supply to southwest Bangladesh. In order to settle the conflict, both nations agreed to divide the Ganges River's waters between them, and this agreement was signed in 1996. The World Bank created a long-term flood-control strategy for the area in response to Bangladesh's catastrophic floods of 1987 and 1988, the latter of which was among the worst in the nation's history.

Hydroelectric power

Estimates of the Ganges and its tributaries' hydroelectric potential range from roughly 51,700 to 128,700 megawatts, with about two-fifths of that capacity being in India and the remaining in Nepal. Some of that potential has been used in India, including hydroelectric projects on the upper Yamuna River and its tributaries in Himachal Pradesh, on the headwater tributaries of the Ganges in Uttarakhand (such as the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers), and further downstream in the Ganges basin along the Chambal (a right-bank tributary of the Yamuna) and Rihand rivers. The hydroelectric generating capacity of Nepal has only been utilised to a very little extent.

Environmental issues

Hydroelectric dams have raised concerns about their effects on the environment, including the loss of agricultural land, the destruction of wildlife habitat (both terrestrial and aquatic), the forced relocation of people who live near dams and reservoirs, and the disruption of water supplies for nearby residents. Some people have advocated for lowering the quantity of energy produced, modifying dams to make them and the reservoirs they contain less obtrusive, and even putting some areas' future dam building on hold.

Find out why the Whanganui River in New Zealand, the Ganges River in India, and their tributary the Yamuna River received the same legal protections as people in 2017

Find out why the Whanganui River in New Zealand, the Ganges River in India, and their tributary the Yamuna River received the same legal protections as people in 2017 all videos related to this post

The deterioration in the quality of the river water itself, however, has been of more concern. Since the Ganges basin is one of the most densely populated places on earth and is home to hundreds of millions of people, the water of the river is heavily polluted along a large portion of its journey. Numerous towns and cities discharge raw sewage into the river and its principal tributaries, while numerous manufacturing companies add industrial waste. Agricultural runoff, the remains of partially burned or unburned bodies from funeral pyres, and animal carcasses all contribute to high pollution levels. The Ganges has been found to contain high concentrations of pathogenic microorganisms as well as poisonous elements like chromium, cadmium, and arsenic.

With the foundation of the Ganga Action Plan (GAP) agency by Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986, coordinated measures to clean up the river were launched. Even though the agency started and finished several programmes meant to lower pollution levels, its efforts were widely seen as insufficient and failures. The National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA), a new government agency that replaced the GAP, was established in 2009.


Significance of Ganges River

The Ganges River deposits healthy soil along its basin by transporting sediment that is rich in nutrients as it runs. As a result, civilizations have been able to grow and prosper along the Ganges River for many years. Today, the river passes through densely populated areas of India, supplying millions of residents with freshwater. In addition to being used for agriculture, bathing, and fishing, the river is revered in Hinduism as the Mother Ganga. The Ganges River drains into the Bay of Bengal at its mouth, creating the largest river delta in the world.

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