Peninsular Drainage System

Peninsular Drainage System – Indian Geography Notes

The Peninsular Drainage System begins in the Peninsular Plateau. The rivers in this region flow through relatively shallow valleys, which have undergone some level of grading.

There is minimal erosional activity in the rivers, marking instances of secondary drainage. These rivers have reached a mature stage after coursing through one of the world’s oldest plateaus. This article aims to elucidate the concept of Peninsular Drainage, providing valuable insights for Geography preparation in the UPSC Civil Service exam.

Peninsular Drainage

  • Peninsula rivers surpass Himalayan rivers in age.
  • With a few exceptions in the upper peninsula, the peninsular drainage is predominantly Concordant.
  • These rivers are non-perennial, reaching their peak flow during the rainy season.
  • Peninsular rivers have attained the mature stage of Fluvial Landforms and are nearing their base level.
  • Characterized by wide and shallow valleys, except for a faulting-formed section with steep sides.
  • River banks generally exhibit mild slopes, except for the aforementioned faulting-affected area.
  • The Western Ghats act as the primary water divide for peninsular rivers, running parallel to the western shore.
  • Due to a low gradient, rivers have low water velocity and load-carrying capacity in streams.
  • Major rivers like Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery flow eastward, discharging into the Bay of Bengal and forming deltas at their mouths.
  • Conversely, west-flowing rivers like Narmada and Tapi, originating in the Western Ghats, create estuaries as they run into the Arabian Sea.

Peninsular Drainage – Formation

  • The Sahyadri-Aravali axis formerly served as the primary water divide.
  • According to one theory, the current peninsula represents the residual half of a larger continent.
  • The Western Ghats, located in the center of this continent, played a crucial role.
  • Two drainage directions emerged: eastward flow into the Bay of Bengal and westward flow into the Arabian Sea.
  • During the early Tertiary era, the western section of the Peninsula fractured and sank under the Arabian Sea, coinciding with the formation of the Himalayas.
  • The Peninsular block experienced subsidence in specific areas during its collision with the Indian plate, resulting in a series of rifts (troughs, faults).
  • These rifts are traversed by west-flowing rivers, notably the Narmada and the Tapi.
  • This concept gains credibility from the straight coastline, high western slope of the Western Ghats, and the absence of delta formations on the western shore.
  • Important Peninsular Rivers

Important Peninsular Rivers

  • Rivers streaming into the Bay of Bengal encompass the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery, along with several minor rivers.
  • Rivers draining into the Arabian Sea include the Narmada, Tapi, and Mahi, along with smaller streams originating in the Western Ghats.
  • Rivers flowing into the Ganges consist of tributaries like the Chambal, Betwa, Ken, Son, and Damodar, running in a north-easterly direction.

East Flowing Rivers


The Mahanadi basin spans across the states of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, with small portions extending into Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh. Bounded by the Central India hills to the north, the Eastern Ghats to the south and east, and the Maikala range to the west.

The Mahanadi, meaning “Great River,” stretches for 560 kilometers (900 km in total). It originates at an elevation of 442 meters in the northern foothills of Dandakaranya in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur District. As one of the primary rivers in the peninsular region, it ranks second only to the Godavari in terms of water potential and flood-producing capacity.

The river’s left bank tributaries include the Seonath, Hasdeo, Mand, and Ib, while the right bank tributaries consist of the Ong, Tel, and Jonk.


  • The Godavari, also known as the Dakshin Ganga, stands as the largest river system in Peninsular India.
  • The Godavari basin spans over 3 lakh square kilometres, covering regions in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha, as well as smaller areas in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, and the Union Territory of Puducherry (Yanam).
  • Bordered by the Satmala hills, Ajanta range, and Mahadeo hills to the north, the Eastern Ghats to the south and east, and the Western Ghats to the west.
  • Rising at an elevation of 1,067 meters from Trimbakeshwar in Maharashtra’s Nashik region, approximately 80 kilometers from the Arabian Sea.
  • The Godavari River spans 1,465 kilometers from its source to its outflow into the Bay of Bengal.
  • Left Bank Tributaries include Dharna, Penganga, Wainganga, Wardha, Pranahita, Pench, Kanhan, Sabari, Indravati.
  • Right Bank Tributaries consist of Pravara, Mula, Manjra, Peddavagu, Maner.


  • The Krishna River ranks as the second-largest east-flowing river in the Peninsula.
  • The Krishna Basin spans across Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Karnataka, covering an area of 2.6 lakh square kilometres.
  • Bounded by the Balaghat range to the north, the Eastern Ghats to the south and east, and the Western Ghats to the west.
  • Originating from the Western Ghats near Jor village in Maharashtra’s Satara district, at an elevation of 1,337 meters, just north of Mahabaleshwar.
  • The river courses for 1,400 kilometers from its headwaters to its outlet in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Right bank tributaries include Ghatprabha, Malprabha, and Tungabhadra.
  • Left bank tributaries consist of Bhima, Musi, and Munneru.


  • The Kaveri River originates in the Brahmagiri highlands of Karnataka’s Kodagu district, reaching an elevation of 1,341 meters.
  • Extending for 800 kilometers, it encompasses a drainage area of 81,155 square kilometers.
  • Notably, the river maintains a relatively stable water flow throughout the year, exhibiting less variation compared to other Peninsular rivers.
  • The Cauvery basin spans across Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and the Union Territory of Puducherry.
  • Bounded by the Western Ghats to the west, the Eastern Ghats to the east and south, and mountainous regions separating it from the Krishna and Pennar basins to the north.
  • Significant left bank tributaries include Harangi, Hemavati, Shimsha, and Arkavati, while the right bank sees contributions from Lakshmana Tirtha, Kabbani, Suvarnavati, Bhavani, Noyil, and Amaravati.

West Flowing Rivers


  • The Narmada stands as the largest west-flowing river in peninsular India.
  • Flowing westward through a rift valley formed by the Vindhya and Satpura ranges to the north and south, respectively.
  • Originating at an elevation of 1057 meters from the Maikala range near Amarkantak in Madhya Pradesh.
  • The Narmada basin spans one lakh square kilometers, covering the states of Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Chhattisgarh.
  • Bounded by the Vindhyas to the north, Maikala range to the east, Satpuras to the south, and the Arabian Sea to the west.
  • Stretching 1,310 kilometers from its headwaters in Amarkantak to its estuary in the Gulf of Khambhat.
  • Right bank tributaries include Barna, Hiran River, Tendoni River, Choral River, Kolar River, Man River, Uri River, Hatni River, and Orsang River.
  • Left bank tributaries consist of Buehner River, Banjar River, Sher River, Shakkar River, Dudhi River, Tawa River, Ganjal River, Chhota Tawa River, Kaveri River, Kundi River, Goi River, and Karjan River.


  • The Tapti, also spelled Tapi, stands as the second-largest west-flowing river in Peninsular India and is often referred to as the Narmada’s “twin” or “handmaid.”
  • Originating at an elevation of 752 meters in Madhya Pradesh’s Multai reserve forest, it spans 724 kilometers before ultimately draining into the Arabian Sea via the Gulf of Cambay.
  • The Tapti River and its tributaries traverse the plains of Vidarbha, Khandesh, and Gujarat, covering extensive areas of Maharashtra and small portions of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.
  • The basin encompasses 65,000 square kilometers and includes the states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Gujarat.
  • Right bank tributaries consist of Suki, Gomai, Arunavati, and Aner.
  • Left bank tributaries include Vaghur, Amravati, Buray, Panjhra, Bori, Girna, Purna, Mona, and Sipna.


  • The Mahi basin, covering a total area of 34,842 square kilometers, extends across the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Gujarat.
  • Bounded by the Aravalli hills to the north and northwest, the Malwa Plateau to the east, the Vindhyas to the south, and the Gulf of Khambhat to the west.
  • The Mahi River, a significant interstate west-flowing river in India, originates from the northern slopes of the Vindhyas in Madhya Pradesh’s Dhar district, reaching an elevation of 500 meters.
  • Spanning a total length of 583 kilometers, it empties into the Arabian Sea through the Gulf of Khambhat.
  • Noteworthy right bank tributary includes Som, while Anas, a tributary on the left bank, rises near Kalmora on the northern slopes of the Vindhyas in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district.
  • Additionally, Panam is another left bank tributary of the Mahi River.

Rivers that flow into the Ganges

  • The Ganga river system encompasses rivers like Chambal, Betwa, Ken, and Son, originating in the northern part of the Peninsula.
  • The Chambal River, a tributary of the Yamuna in Central and Northern India, is part of the broader Gangetic drainage system. It flows north-northeast through Madhya Pradesh, entering Rajasthan and forming the state border.
  • The perennial Chambal originates at Manpur, Indore, on the south slope of the Vindhya Range in Madhya Pradesh, south of Janapav.
  • The Betwa River, another tributary of the Yamuna, rises in Madhya Pradesh’s Vindhya Range, flowing northeast through Madhya Pradesh, Orchha, and Uttar Pradesh, with a challenging path due to the Malwa Plateau.
  • The Ken River, a significant river in central India’s Bundelkhand region, flows through Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, serving as a branch of the Yamuna.
  • The Son River, a perennial river in central India, begins at Amarkantak Hill in Madhya Pradesh and merges with the Ganges River near Patna in Bihar.
  • The Damodar River courses through the Indian states of Jharkhand and West Bengal. Known for its rich mineral resources, the valley hosts extensive mining and industrial activities, formerly referred to as the Bengal Sorrow.

Significance of Peninsular Drainage

  • Peninsular rivers depend exclusively on rainfall, causing water flow only during the rainy season, making them either seasonal or non-perennial.
  • Consequently, these rivers are less suitable for irrigation due to their reliance on seasonal rainfall.
  • These rivers traverse shallow valleys, previously graded to some extent, resulting in minimal erosional activity.
  • Estuaries are a characteristic feature of certain Peninsular rivers like the Narmada and the Tapi.
  • Deltas, on the other hand, are formed by rivers such as the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery.
  • Some minor streams from the Western Ghats, flowing westward, join the Arabian Sea without forming a delta.
  • The hard granite surface and non-alluvial composition of the plateau limit the development of meanders, resulting in very straight courses for Peninsular Plateau rivers.


  • The Peninsular drainage system precedes the Himalayan drainage system, evident in the broad, predominantly graded shallow valleys and the mature state of the rivers.
  • The Western Ghats, running parallel to the western shore, act as a crucial water divide between major Peninsular Rivers, directing their flow into the Bay of Bengal and leading to the Arabian Sea as smaller rivulets.
  • With the exception of the Narmada and Tapi, the majority of Peninsular Rivers follow a west-to-east course.

FAQs on Peninsular Drainage System

Question: What do you mean by Peninsular Rivers?

Answer: Peninsular Rivers refer to the network of rivers located on the Indian Peninsular Plateau. These rivers predominantly flow towards the east and drain into the Bay of Bengal or the west, reaching the Arabian Sea. They have distinct characteristics and play a crucial role in the geography and hydrology of peninsular India.

Question: Where is the origin of Godavari River?

Answer: The Godavari River originates in the Brahmagiri hills of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra’s Nashik district. The specific point of origin is near Trimbakeshwar, and from there, the river flows eastward, becoming one of the major peninsular rivers with significant cultural and economic importance.

Question: Briefly explain the Mahanadi river?

Answer: The Mahanadi River is one of the prominent peninsular rivers in India. It originates from the northern foothills of Dandakaranya in Chhattisgarh’s Raipur District. With a basin covering states like Chhattisgarh and Odisha, and smaller sections of Jharkhand, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, the Mahanadi flows through shallow valleys, forming an essential part of the peninsular drainage system.

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