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Indian Geography / Indian River System

South Indian Rivers

South Indian rivers are those rivers that are flowing in the Peninsular India. The major and important rivers of south India are Mahanadi, Godavari, Cauvery, Krishna, Narmada and Tapti. All the major southern rivers of India drain into the Bay of Bengal except Narmada and Tapti or Tapi, which are west flowing peninsular rivers.

South Indian rivers are seasonal or ephemeral rivers and their source is mainly Monsoons. Only Cauvery is regarded as perennial river of south India because it receives rains from both North-East as well as South-West monsoons. Generally, the Peninsular rivers of India are called consequent rivers because here the topography is formed first and channels are formed next. These are old or mature rivers having meandering course. The inflows in these rivers is less and Damming is relatively easier on South Indian rivers.

Peninsular River System of India

  • River Godavari

    • Godavari river originates from Trimbak near Nasik. It is also called Vridha Ganga or Dakshin Ganga of India or Ganga of South India. It is the largest river of South India and is the second largest river in India next only to river Ganga. The total length of Godavari river is 1465 km.

    • The catchment area of Godavari river is highest in Maharashtra having a share of 48.6%. The other states it covers are Telangana (18.8%), Madhya Pradesh (10.0%), Chhattisgarh (10.9%), Odisha (5.7%), Andhra Pradesh (4.5%) and Karnataka (1.4%).

    • The important left bank tributaries of Godavari are Pranahita, Indravati, Sabari, Sileru, etc. and important right bank tributaries are Pravara, Sindphana, Manjira, Kinnerasani, etc. Rivers Wardha, Penganga and Wainganga confluence together to form Pranahita, which remains the largest tributary of Godavari.

    • Beyond Rajahmundry, river Godavari splits into 2 streams named Vriddha Gautami and Vasishta. Again the Vriddha Gautami splits into two streams namely, Gautami and Nilarevu. Vasishta branch splits into 2 streams namely, Vasishta and Vainateya.
  • River Kishna

    • The source of origin of river Krishna is Mahabaleshwar in Maharashtra. The river runs through the states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.

    • The important left bank tributaries of Krishna are Bhima, Dindi, Musi, Paleru, Munneru, etc. and important right bank tributaries are Koyna, Ghataprabha, Malaprabha, Tungabhadra, etc. Tungabhadra remains the largest tributary of Krishna.

    • Krishna river joins Bay of Bengal at Hamsaladeevi in Andhra Pradesh.
  • River Mahanadi

    • The source of Mahanadi river is Sihawa Range in Raipur district of Chhattisgarh and it drains into Bay of Bengal near False Point in Odisha. Mahanadi river flows through Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. The famous Hirakud Dam is located on Mahanadi river in Sambalpur, Odisha .

    • The important left bank tributaries of Mahanadi are Hasdeo, Ib, Seonath, which is the largest tributary of Mahanadi and it is the first privatised river in India. The important right bank tributaries of Mahanadi are Jonk, Ong, Tel, etc.
  • River Cauvery or Kaveri

    • The source of Kaveri river lies in Tala Kaveri in the Brahmagiri hills of Karnataka. It descends the plateau through a waterfall at Shivasamudram in Karnataka. Kaveri river reaches the Bay of Bengal in Kaveripattinam in Nagapattinam district of Tamil Nadu.

    • Cauvery flows through the states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The upper catchment area of Kaveri river receives rainfall by South-West monsoon in summer and the lower catchment area by North-East monsoon in winter. Hence, it is perennial in nature.

    • The left bank tributaries of Kaveri are Harangi, Hemavati, Shimsha, Arkavati, Lokapavani, etc. The right bank tributaries are Lakshmana Tirtha, Kabini, Suvarnavathi, Bhavani, Amravati, etc.

  • River Narmada

    • It is the longest west flowing river in India. The river Narmada has its source at Amarkantak plateau in Madhya Pradesh and it runs through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

    • It flows through the rift valley between Vindhya and Satpura ranges and emerges into the plains in Gujarat and joins in the Gulf of Khambhat (part of Arabian Sea) near Bharuch city of Gujarat.

    • Hiran, Barna, Kolar, Choral, etc. are its right bank tributaries and Sher, Shakkar, Dudhi, Tawa (largest tributary of Narmada) are its left bank tributaries. Aliabet island in Gujarat is the largest island formed by river Narmada.
  • River Tapti

    • River Tapti is the second longest westward flowing river in India after Narmada. It is also known as "The Handmaid" or "The Twin" of Narmada river.

    • The origin of Tapti river lies near Multai in Betul Plateau of Madhya Pradesh in the Satpura ranges. It runs through Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

    • Tributaries of Tapi river include Poorna (largest tributary of Tapi), Amaravati, Arunavati, Gomai, etc.

Other Important Rivers in Indian Peninsula

  • In between Mahanadi delta and Hooghly Delta, there exits three important rivers namely, (i) Brahmani, which comes into existence by the confluence of the Koel and Sankh rivers near Rourkela in Odisha, (ii) Baitarani and (iii) Subarnarekha, which forms the boundary between West Bengal and Odisha. The steel city, Jamshedpur is located on the banks of river Subarnarekha.

  • South of Cauvery in Tamil Nadu, Vaigai river is located. Vaigai is the southernmost major river in India, whereas Pazhayar river is the southernmost river of India. The city of Madurai is located on the banks of river Vaigai.

  • Sabarmati river originates from the hills of Mewar in the Aravali Range and runs through the states of Rajasthan and Gujarat.

  • Luni remains the largest river system of Rajasthan. The origin of Luni river lies in the west of Ajmer in the Aravalli ranges. Luni river drains into the Rann of Kutch.

  • Coastal Drainage System - Rivers Mandovi, Zuari and Rachol in Goa, Sharavati in Karnataka and Pamban and Idukki in Kerala are the western coastal rivers which are rich in Hydro power potential. Harnessing them for irrigation is very difficult. These are parallel drainage systems.


  1. Which river is the first privatised river in India?

    1. Seonath River

    2. Koyna River

    3. Pranhita River

    4. Tawa River


    Ans: A

  2. Which one of the following south Indian rivers is considered as a perennial river?

    1. River Godavari

    2. River Tungabhadra

    3. River Kaveri

    4. River Krishna


    Ans: C