Course of Ganga (Ganges) River from Gangotri to Bay of Bengal

Gangotri is called the origin of the River Ganga and seat of the goddess Ganga. However, it is actually the source of one of the Ganga’s 6 headstreams known as Bhagirathi. Bhagirathi itself is joined by two headstreams called Bhilangna River and Jahnavi River. Another mighty headstream is river Alaknanda. Bhagirathi and Alaknanda are the two major rivers of the Garhwal Himalaya, both originating from the mighty Chaukhamba range of glaciers. Chaukhamba is a mountain massif in the Gangotri Group of the Garhwal Himalaya. Its main summit, Chaukhamba I, is the highest peak in the group. It lies at the head of the Gangotri Glacier and forms the eastern anchor of the group. Other peaks are Chaukhamba II, Chaukhamba III and Chaukhamba IV.

Bhagirathi has its origin at Gangotri (which is called Gangotri Glacier) on the north-western face of Chaukhamba.

Alaknanda rises at the confluence and feet of the Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak glaciers, on the south-eastern slopes of glacier fields of Chaukhamba.

Gangotri & Gaumukh

Gangotri is one of the four sites in the Char Dham pilgrimage circuit, other being Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath. The Gangotri Glacier is located in Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand. The terminus of the Gangotri Glacier is said to resemble a cow’s mouth, and the place is called Gomukh. Gaumukh is the source of Bhagirathi river. Gomukh is situated near the base of Shivling; in between lies the Tapovan meadow. The river Bhagirathi flows from Gangotri and at Devprayag, it meets another headstream of Ganga called Alaknanda.


As written above, Alaknanda rises at the confluence and feet of the Satopanth and Bhagirath Kharak glaciers, on the south-eastern slopes of glacier fields of Chaukhamba.  It meets the Bhagirathi river at Devprayag after flowing for approximately 190 km through the Alaknanda valley. After originating, it first meets the Saraswathi River and then flows in front of the Badrinath temple. After this, it meets its tributary and another headstream of Ganga called Dhauliganga. When Alaknanda meets Dhauliganga, it is called Vishnu Prayag. The two streams now become one and go ahead. Next headstream is Nandakini, which meets Alaknanda at Nandaprayag.

  • From here, the Alaknanda river becomes mighty and now meets Pindar River at Karnaprayag.
  • After Karnaprayag, the Mandakini river meets this stream and it is called Rudraprayag.
  • Finally, the Alaknanda meets Bhagirathi at Devprayag and from here, it is called Ganga.
  • These five Prayags or confluences are collectively called Panchaprayag. The Alaknanda contributes a significantly larger portion to the flow of the Ganga than the Bhagirathi.

Thus in all there are 6 headstreams that contribute in the making of Ganga. These are  Alaknanda, Dhauliganga, Nandakini, Pindar, Mandakini, and Bhagirathi rivers.

Further Course of Ganga Till Kanpur

After flowing 250 kilometers, Ganga emerges from the mountains at Rishikesh, and then debouches onto the Gangetic Plain at Haridwar.

Some of the Ganga water at Haridwar is diverted into the Ganga Canal, which irrigates the Doab region of Uttar Pradesh. Till Haridwar, the route of Ganga is little southwest, from here it begins to flow southeast through the plains of northern India. It flows 800 kilometers passing via Kannauj, Farukhabad, and reaches Kanpur. Before Ganga reaches Kanpur, two important rivers join it. One is Kali River and another is Ramganga. Kali River is also known with this name in Nepal but is known as Sharda River in India. It originates at Kalapaani in Pithoragarh district of Uttarakhand. Kali River makes India’s eastern boundary with Nepal at some places and when it reaches the plains of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, it would be called as Sharda.

Next is Ramganga. Please note that there are two Ramganga rivers. One of them starts from Doodhatoli ranges in Pauri Garhwal and another from Namik Glacier of Pithoragarh. The Bareilly of Uttar Pradesh is located on the banks of the first. After Bareilly , it meets Kali River. The Kali river keeps flowing till Bahraich, by then it is known as Saryu River. Saryu River meets Ganga in the Bahraich of Uttar Pradesh.

After Kanpur

After Kanpur, Ganga joins the Yamuna at the Triveni Sangam at Allahabad, a holy confluence in Hinduism. At their confluence the Yamuna is larger than the Ganga. After this, several stream such as Tamsa River, Ghaghara river, Gandaki River, Kosi River join it at various places which shall be discussed in this module. Ganga remains one stream flowing southeast till Bhagalpur. From Pakur in  Jharkhand, Ganga starts dividing into various distributaries. In the Murshidabad District of West Bengal at the Farakka Barrage, Ganga’s first distributor Bhāgirathi-Hooghly gets branched out. This Bhāgirathi-Hooghly river later becomes Hooghly river and then enters the twin cities of Kolkata and Howrah. At Nurpur it enters an old channel of the Ganga and turns south to empty into the Bay of Bengal.

The  Farakka Barrage controls the flow of the Ganga, diverting some of the water into a feeder canal linked to the Hooghly for the purpose of keeping it relatively silt-free. Before the Hooghly river empties into Bay of Bengal, it meets Damodar River. But, the main branch of Ganga has to go a long way still. It enters Bangladesh from India near Chapai Nababganj and now its name is Padma River. Here Padma meets one of the distributaries of Brahmaputra called Jamuna or Jomuna.

This combined stream meets Meghna river, that is another distributary of Brahmaputra at Chandpur in Bangladesh. The Meghna River finally flows into the Bay of Bengal.

The above discussion makes it clear that various distributaries of Ganga and Brahmaputra meet along the Bay of Bengal and these make one of the largest delta in the world called Gangaes Delta or Ganges-Brahmaputra delta.

They also create underwater Bengal Fan, which is one of the largest submarine fans on Earth. The fan is about 3000 km long, 1000 km wide with a maximum thickness of 16.5 km. Most of the sediment is supplied by the confluent Ganga and Brahmaputra Rivers through the Ganga Delta in Bangladesh and West Bengal, India, with several other large rivers in Bangladesh and India providing smaller contributions.