Rivers of Uttarakhand:-
Uttarakhand has been blessed with many rivers which mostly originate from the glaciers in Himalayas and are known for their turbulent flow. These rivers that criss-cross through Uttarakhand form the lifeline of the people here and also add immensely to the scenic beauty of this hilly state. Almost all major pilgrimage spots are situated near one of the rivers, the most prominent being the mighty river Ganga. Each river has its own story which finds its roots in the Hindu mythology. Read on to find more about some of the main rivers of Uttarakhand.
1. Ganga: This river, named after goddess Ganga, is the longest river in India. Ganga travels from the Gangotri glacier in Uttarakhand through the hills and plains of India and Bangladesh to meet the Bay of Bengal in the end, covering a total distance of 2520 km. Hindus treat this river as sacred and holy, as it is said that one dip in this river frees a person of his sins. Ganga travels approximately 200km through the Himalayas form Gomukh (its origin) before reaching Haridwar, which is famous among Hindu devotees. Six smaller rivers combine to form Ganga, namely Alaknanda, Nandakini, Pindar, Mandakini, Dhauliganga and Bhagirathi.
2. Yamuna: This one is another major river which originates in Uttarakhand and is the largest tributary of the sacred river Ganga. Also sometimes called Jamuna, its source is Yamnotri in lower Himalayas at a height of 6387 metres and travels through the state before meeting its other tributaries. According to Hindu mythology, Yamuna is the daughter of Surya (Sun god) and sister of Yama (god of death). Yamuna’s confluence at Allahabad (in Uttar Pradesh) with Ganga is called Sangam and is the venue of the Kumbh Mela which is held every 12 years. Yamuna, along with Ganga, is also one of the most polluted rivers of the country.
3. Bhagirathi: It is a turbulent Himalayan river that rises from Gomukha hills and is fed by the Gangotri glacier. Bhagirathi gets its name from King Bhagirath, who, according to Hindu mythology, is said to have prayed to gods for a 1000 years to get the waters of Ganga on earth. So Ganga at its origin is called Bhagirathi, or Bhagirath’s daughter. Bhagirathi covers a distance off 205km before its confluence with another river, Alaknanda, at Devprayag is where the actual Ganga is born. Bhagirathi is considered the starting river of Ganga, though it is smaller than Alaknanda in terms of water contribution. The controversial Tehri Dam was built on this river and is a topic of debate for environmentalists. Bhagirathi is also quite famous for its rapids on which adventure enthusiasts enjoy white-water rafting from Tehri Dam till Rishikesh.
4. Alaknanda: This river is one of the two rivers that make up the Ganga river. At it’s confluence with Bhagirathi in Devprayag, this sediment-laden river continues down the valley as Ganga. Alaknanda originates from Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak glaciers and has many other small tributaries. Badrinath, a major pilgrimage destination for Hindus, is located on the banks of Alaknanda. Literally meaning ‘flawless’, this river is considered the source stream of Ganga by Hydrologists as it’s contribution to Ganga is larger, though mythology gives this status to Bhagirathi. This river provides water to many regions like Chamoli, Rudraprayag and Pauri Garhwal area.
5. Kosi: This river is another major water source for the people and wildlife of Uttarakhand. Literally meaning ‘the river’ in the local language, Kosi is the lifeline of Almora and Nainital districts. It is also called the Saptkoshi (Sapta meaning seven) because of its seven tributaries. This river is of utmost importance to Uttarakhand as it supports the wildlife of Jim Corbett National Park, which is home to India’s national animal tiger. This is one of the few rivers that does not originate from a glacier, though it is quite notorious for wreaking havoc as it has a tendency to flood. The river flows form a height of 3600m to 200m in the plains, and hence is a crucial hydro-electric power base.
6. Kali/Sharda: River Kali has at least two other namesakes in India. However, this Kali river, which flows though Uttarakhand and demarcates Nepal’s western border with India, also goes by the name Sharda (or Sarda) and originates from Kalapani in Pithoragarh district. It is called Kali gad or Kali Ganga by the locals and Mahakali in Nepal. The river, as the name suggests, is named after Kali, the fearful goddess of power.
7. Mandakini: This river is one of the tributaries to the Alaknanda river and originates near Kedarnath, which is a major pilgrimage spot. Mandakini joins Alaknanda at Rudraprayag.
8. Ramganga: There are two rivers, named Ramganga East and Ramganga West, which originate from different glaciers in Uttarakhand. Ramganga West flows through the Pauri Garhwal district and then goes south west into the Kumaon Himalayas. It flows through the Jim Corbett National Park, and along with river Kosi, makes up an important element for the wildlife of this state. Interestingly, there is another minor river in Uttarakhand, named Laxman Ganga in the Bhuyandar Valley, whose water later merges with Alaknanda.
9. Tons and Song river: Within the folds of these two rivers lies the city of Dehradun. Tons is a major tributary of Yamuna while Song which originates from the southern hills of Mussoorie, is a tributary of Sooswa river, which in turn confluences with Ganga in Raiwala (near Haridwar).