Himalayan Drainage System – Indus River System

Himalayan Drainage System

  • It consists of river originating in the Himalayas and Trans Himalayan region. It further consists of three river systems namely –
        • Ganga
        • Brahmaputra
        • Indus
  • Since these are fed both by melting of snow and Precipitation Rivers of this system are perennial.
  • The various geographical features made by Himalayan rivers are-
        • In upper reaches – gorges, v shaped valley, rapids, waterfalls, truncated spurs etc.
        • In plain areas for middle part – while entering the plains, they form depositional features like that of valleys, oxbow lakes, floodplains, braided channel, and deltas near mouth of the river. Over the plains did display a strong meandering tendency and shift there courses frequently.

Indus River System,Himalayan river system, north indian rivers

Evolution of Himalayan Drainage System

There are differences in opinion about the evolution of Himalayan Rivers. However geologist believes that —

    • A mighty river called Shiwalik or indo brahma traversed the entire longitudinal extent of Himalaya from Assam to Punjab and onward to send and finally discharging into gulf of Sind near lower Punjab during Miocene period around 5 to 24 million years ago.
    • Evidence – remarkable continuity of shiwaliks and its lacustrine origin and alluvial deposit consisting of sand, silt clay and boulders and conglomerates that support this view.
    • It is opined that due to course of time indo brahma river was dismembered into three main drainage system –
          • Indus and its five tributaries in west
          • Ganga and its Himalayan tributaries in the central part
          • Stretch of Brahmaputra in Assam and its Himalayan tributaries in eastern part
    • Dismemberment was probably due to the Pleistocene upheaval in western Himalaya including upliftment of the Potwar plateau which acted as the water divide between the Indus and the Ganga Brahmaputra system.
    • Similarly that down trust of malda gap area between Rajmahal hills and Meghalaya plateau during mid Pleistocene period diverted the Ganga and the Brahmaputra system to flows towards the Bay of Bengal.

Indus River System

  • One of the largest river basin in the world. A little over one third of the Indus basin is located in state of Jammu and Kashmir, Himanchal Pradesh and Punjab. The rest of the portion lies in Pakistan.
  • Major rivers of Indus river system are –
      • Indus
      • Jhelum
      • Chenab
      • Ravi
      • Beas
      • Satluj

Indus River System


  • India got her name from river Indus.
  • The Indus valley civilization has been the cradle of one of the oldest civilization of the world.
  • Origin – near Mansarovar Lake, from the glaciers of the Kailash range, Tibet.

River course

    • It close in North West direction from its source till Naga Parvat range (Trans Himalayan region).
    • It is joined by Dhār River near indo china border.
    • It enters India at an elevation of 4206 m and continues to flow in North West direction between Ladakh and Zaskar range.
    • The gradient of river is very gentle about 30 cm per km.
    • River Zaskar joins the Indus River near Lehi.
    • At an elevation of 2700 m near Skardu, it is joined by river Shyok.
    • The Gilgit, Gortang, Dras, Shiger Hunza are other Himalayan tributaries of the Indus.
    • It crosses the Himalaya through a 5181 m deep gorge near Attock lying north to Naga Parvat and ends its mountainous journey. It takes a sharp southerly bend here and is joined by Kabul River from Afghanistan.
    • It flows through Potwar plateau and crosses salt range i.e. South eastern range of Potwar plateau.
    • Some of the important tributaries below Attock includes the Kurram, Toch and the Zhob-Gomal.
    • Just above Mithankot, the Indus receives from panjnad (panchnad), the accumulated water of 5 eastern tributaries the Jhelum, The Chenab, The Ravi, The Beas and the Satluj.
    • The river empties itself into Arabian Sea south of Karachi forming delta.
    • It covers a distance of 2880 km out of which only 709 km lies in India.

Indus River System, Major Tributaries of Indus River System

Major Tributaries of Indus River System







Origin & length


River course










  • It rises from a spring at Verinag situated at the foot of the Pir Panjal in the south east Kashmir.
  • It is 724 km long.

  • From origin it flows northward into Wular Lake (northwest part of Kashmir). From Wular Lake it changes its course to southward.
  • River flows through Kashmir valley.
  • The river forms steep sided narrow gorge through Pir Panjal range below Baramulla.
  • At Muzaffarabad, the river takes sharp hairpin turn
    southward and forms 170 km long indo-Pak boundary and emerges at Potwar plateau
    near Mirpur.
  • After flowing through spurs of salt range it emerges on
    plains near city of Jhelum
  • It joins Chenab at trimmu.

  • Joins Chenab at Jhang In Pakistan.
  • It is navigable between Anantnag and Baramulla and has Tulbul navigation project near Wular Lake.
  • Forms indo – Pak border between Muzaffarabad and Mirpurabout 170 km long.





  • Originates near Bara Lacha pass in the Lahul Spiti
    part of Zaskar range.
  • It is 1180 km long.

  • Two small streams on opposite sides of the pass namely Chandra and Bhaga forms its headwater at an altitude of 4900 km.
  • United stream of Chandrabhaga flows in North West direction through Pangi valley parallel to Pir Panjal range.
  • Chandrabhaga enters Jammu and Kashmir as the Chenab River.
  • Near Kistwar cuts a deep gorge and flows between high mountains.
  • Further, it turns to west and enters the plains near Akhnur in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Thereafter, it passes through the plains of Pakistani Punjab to reach panchnad where it joins the Satluj after receiving water of Jhelum and Ravi rivers.

  • Largest tributaries of Indus River.
  • Flows between Pir Panjal and greater Himalaya.
  • Important hydelpower project installed along the Chenab are – Selal, Dulhasti and Banglihar.





  • Rises west of Rohtang pass in Kullu hills in Himanchal Pradesh.
  • It is 725 km long.

  • From its source it flows in North West direction and dreams the area between the Pir panjal and the Dhauladhar range.
  • After crossing Chamba, it takes a south-westerly turn and cut a deep gorge in the Dhauladhar range.
  • Near Madhopur, enters Punjab plains and later enter Pakistan 26 km below Amritsar.
  • Pours its water in Chenab River near Rangpur in Pakistan.

  • Drains the area between Pir panjal and Dhauladhar range.
  • Forms the boundary between India and Pakistan before entering Pakistan.





  • Originates near Rohtang pass, at height of 4062 m above sea level on southern end of Pir panjal range close to source of Ravi.
  •  It is 460 km long.

  • Steep flow in its upper portion.
  • Crosses Dhauladhar range through a deep gorge (900 m) deep from Lorji to Talwara.
  • On meeting Shiwalik, takes south westerly direction and enters the plains.
  • Thereafter it takes south- westerly direction and meets the Satluj River at Harike in Punjab.

  • Only river of Indus river system which lies entirely in India.
  • Drains Pir panjal and Dhauladhar range.





  • Originate from Mansarovar Rakas Lake near darma pass in western Tibet at height of 4570 m within 80 km of the source of Indus.
  • It is 1450 km long of which 1050 km lies in India.

  • From origin takes north westerly course upto Shipki la pass.
  • Cuts steep gorge where it pierce the great Himalaya and
    other Himalayan range.
  • Its tributaries in Himanchal Pradesh are short in
    length except spiti which joins it at Namgia near Shipki la.
  • Before entering the Punjab plains, it cuts a gorge in Naina Devi dhar where famous Bhakra dam is constructed.
  • At Rupnagar, it enters the plains and turns westward and joined by Beas at Harike.
  • It forms boundary between India and Pakistan for nearly 120 km from Ferozepur to Fazilka.
  • It receives collective drainage of Ravi, Chenab and Jhelum River.
  • Further down 70 km, it joins the Indus River few km above Mithankot.

  • It is an anteccedal river.
  • Imp tributaries as it feeds the Bhakra Natal canals.
  • The Nathpa-Jhakri is a run off river project on Satluj in Kinnaur district.


Indus Water Treaty

Indus Water Treaty

  • Between India and Pakistan.
  • Water of Indus River and its tributaries is shared between India and Pakistan.
  • It was signed between both countries on 19th September, 1960.
  • According to this treaty, India can utilize only 20% of its total discharge.
  • According to this treaty the water of the Ravi, the Beas and the Satluj shall be available for the unrestricted use by India. India has also been permitted to make domestic use, non-consumptive use, uses for runoff the river Hydroelectric plants and specified agricultural use from the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab.

Indus Water Treaty


So, this was all about the Indus River System.

In the next post (Click here), we will start about the Ganga-Brahmaputra River System.

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