Drainage Patterns of River

Drainage Pattern of Indian Rivers – UPSC Indian Geography Notes

Drainage: The movement of water through clearly delineated channels is termed as ‘drainage,’ and the interconnected channels form a ‘drainage system.’ Drainage Pattern: It pertains to the arrangement of the flow of surface water, primarily through rivers and basins.

The efficiency of the drainage system is contingent on various factors, including the slope of the land, geological structure, volume of water, and velocity of water.

Types of Drainage Patterns

Dendritic Drainage Pattern

  • Most common form resembling tree root branching.
  • Develops where the river channel aligns with the terrain slope.
  • Occurs in areas with rock that erodes equally in all directions.
  • Tributaries join larger streams at acute angles (<90°).
  • Example: Rivers of the northern plains (Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra).

Parallel Drainage Pattern

  • Develops in regions with parallel, elongated landforms and a pronounced surface slope.
  • Tributary streams extend parallel to the surface slope.
  • Example: Rivers originating in the Western Ghats (Godavari, Kaveri, Krishna, Tungabhadra).

Trellis Drainage Pattern

  • Develops in folded topography with parallel hard and soft rocks.
  • Valleys formed in down-turned folds (synclines) house the main stream channel.
  • Formed when primary tributaries flow parallel, and secondary tributaries join at right angles.
  • Example: Rivers in the upper part of the Himalayan region (Indus, Ganga, Brahmaputra).

Rectangular Drainage Pattern

  • Found in regions undergoing faulting.
  • Develops on strongly joined rocky terrain.
  • Streams follow the path of least resistance, concentrating where exposed rock is weakest.
  • Tributary streams make sharp bends, entering the main stream at high angles.
  • Example: Streams in the Vindhya mountain range (Chambal, Betwa, Ken).

Folding and Faulting

  • Geological Processes:
    • Compression forces cause folding and faulting in the Earth’s crust.
  • Folding:
    • Occurs when the Earth’s crust bends away from a flat surface.
    • Upward bend results in an anticline.
    • Downward bend results in a syncline.
  • Faulting:
    • Happens when the Earth’s crust breaks and slides past each other.
  • Material Influence:
    • Type of geological process depends on the material in the area.
    • Flexible material favors folding, contributing to mountain formation.
    • Brittle material leads to faulting, causing earthquakes.

Radial Drainage Pattern

  • Develops around a central elevated point, common to conically shaped features like volcanoes.
  • Occurs when rivers originate from a hill and flow in all directions.
  • Example: Rivers from the Amarkantak range (Narmada and Son – tributary of Ganga).

Centripetal Drainage Pattern

  • Opposite of radial pattern as streams flow toward a central depression.
  • During wet periods, streams feed ephemeral lakes, evaporating in dry seasons.
  • Sometimes results in salt flats as dissolved salt precipitates when water evaporates.
  • Example: Loktak Lake in Manipur.

Drainage System of India

Himalayan Drainage System

  • Overview:
    • Rivers in this system fed by snowmelt and precipitation, making them perennial.
    • Mountainous course results in V-shaped valleys, rapids, and waterfalls.
    • Plains entry leads to depositional features: flat valleys, ox-bow lakes, flood plains, braided channels, and deltas.
  • Indus River System:
    • One of the world’s largest river basins, also known as Sindhu.
    • Westernmost Himalayan river in India.
    • Originates near Bokhar Chu in the Tibetan region, known as ‘Singi Khamban’ in Tibet.
    • Flows in India through the Leh district in Ladakh.
    • Important tributaries: Sutlej, Ravi, Jhelum, Chenab (largest), and Beas.
  • Ganga River System:
    • Originates in Gangotri glacier, known as Bhagirathi.
    • Meets Alaknanda at Devprayag, named Ganga thereafter.
    • Enters Northern plains at Haridwar, flowing through Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and West Bengal.
    • Major tributaries: Son (right bank), Ramganga, Gomati, Ghaghara, Gandak, Kosi, and Mahananda (left bank).
    • Yamuna, the longest tributary, has its source in the Yamunotri glacier.
    • Flows into the Bay of Bengal near Sagar Island.
  • Brahmaputra River System:
    • One of the world’s largest rivers, originates in Chemayungdung glacier (Kailash range) near Mansarovar lake.
    • Known as Tsangpo in southern Tibet, meaning ‘the purifier.’
    • Emerges from Himalayan foothills as Siang or Dihang.
    • Enters India west of Sadiya town in Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Main left bank tributaries: Dibang or Sikang, Lohit, Burhi Dihing, and Dhansari.
    • Important right bank tributaries: Subansiri, Kameng, Manas, and Sankosh.
    • Merges with the river Padma in Bangladesh, flowing into the Bay of Bengal.

Peninsular Drainage System

  • Overview:
    • Characterized by fixed course, absence of meanders, and nonperennial water flow.
    • Older drainage system than the Himalayan one.
    • Western Ghats act as the water divide, with most rivers flowing west to east.
    • Major Peninsular rivers include Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri.
  • Narmada:
    • Largest west-flowing river in the peninsular region, flowing through a rift valley between Vindhya (north) and Satpura Range (south).
    • Originates from Maikala range near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh.
    • Major tributaries: Hiran, Orsang, Barna, and Kolar.
    • Basin covers parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.
    • Sardar Sarovar Project constructed on this river.
  • Tapi:
    • Important westward-flowing river, originates in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh in the Satpura ranges.
    • Flows in a rift valley parallel to Narmada but shorter in length.
    • Basin covers parts of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Maharashtra.
  • Mahanadi:
    • Rises in Raipur district of Chhattisgarh, flows through Odisha, and discharges into the Bay of Bengal.
    • 53% of the drainage basin in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, 47% in Odisha.
    • Major tributaries: Seonath, Hasdeo, Mand, Ib, Jonking, and Tel rivers.
    • Basin bounded by Central India hills (north), Eastern Ghats (south and east), and Maikala range (west).
  • Godavari:
    • Largest Peninsular river system, also known as “Dakshin Ganga.”
    • Originates in Nasik district, Maharashtra, and flows into the Bay of Bengal.
    • Tributaries span Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and Andhra Pradesh.
    • Principal tributaries: Penganga, Indravati, Pranhita, and Manjra.
  • Krishna:
    • Second-largest east-flowing Peninsular river, rising near Mahabaleshwar in Sahyadri.
    • Major tributaries: Koyna, Tungbhadra, and Bhima.
    • Flows through Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh before reaching the Bay of Bengal.
  • Kaveri:
    • Originates in Brahmagiri hills, Kodagu district, Karnataka.
    • Considered a sacred river in southern India.
    • Important tributaries: Arkavathi, Hemavathi, Bhavani, Kabini, and Amravati.
    • Flows southeast through Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, draining into the Bay of Bengal via Pondicherry.


In conclusion, the Peninsular river system in India showcases a distinctive landscape marked by fixed courses, absence of meanders, and nonperennial water flow. This drainage network, older than its Himalayan counterpart, is demarcated by the Western Ghats, acting as a crucial water divide. Noteworthy rivers include the colossal Godavari, often referred to as “Dakshin Ganga,” with its origin in Maharashtra and extensive tributaries spanning multiple states. The Krishna River, the second-largest east-flowing Peninsular river, traverses Maharashtra, Karnataka, Telangana, and Andhra Pradesh before meeting the Bay of Bengal. Another significant waterway is the Kaveri, emerging from the Brahmagiri hills and coursing through Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, ultimately draining into the Bay of Bengal via Pondicherry. Each river within this diverse system contributes to the unique topography and ecological richness of the Indian subcontinent.

FAQs on Drainage Pattern of Indian Rivers

Q. What are the key characteristics of Peninsular rivers in India?

Answer. Explore the distinct features, including fixed courses, absence of meanders, and nonperennial water flow, that define Peninsular rivers.

Q. Why is the Western Ghats significant in the Peninsular river system?

Answer. Understand the crucial role played by the Western Ghats as a water divide in shaping the drainage patterns of major Peninsular rivers.

Q. Which river is known as “Dakshin Ganga,” and why is it significant?

Answer. Learn about the largest Peninsular river system, Godavari, and its cultural significance, often referred to as “Dakshin Ganga.”

Q. What are the major tributaries of the Krishna River, and through which states does it flow?

Answer. Explore the second-largest east-flowing Peninsular river, Krishna, its significant tributaries, and the states it traverses on its journey to the Bay of Bengal.

Q. Which sacred river flows through Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu, draining into the Bay of Bengal?

Answer. Discover the cultural and geographical importance of the Kaveri River, originating in the Brahmagiri hills and contributing to the diverse landscapes of southern India.

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