The Indus (Sindhu) River System

The Indus River: Origin

The Indus is the Western most river system in the subcontinent. River Indus originates from a glacier at the height of 4,164 m near Bokhar Chu (31 ° 15′ N latitude and 81°40 ′E longitude) in the Kailash mountain range in the Tibetan region known as Singi Khamban or Lion’s Mouth.

Indus River basin

Indus River passes through Ladakh and Baltistan after flowing in the Northwest direction between Ladakh and Zanskar range. It forms a spectacular gorge near Gilgit in Jammu and Kashmir and enters Pakistan near Chilas in the Dardistan region.

In India, the length of the Indus is 1,114km, and its total length is 2,880km. It is one of the largest river basins in the world and covers an area of 11,65,000sq km, out of which 321,289 sq km is in India.

State-wise distribution of the drainage area of the Indus is given below:

S. No. State Drainage area (sq. km)
1. Jammu and Kashmir 193,762
2. Himachal Pradesh 51, 356
3. Punjab 50,304
4. Rajasthan 15,814
5. Haryana 9,939
6 Chandigarh 114
Total 321,289


Indus river system

Indus river system

River Indus drains the largest number of glaciers and mountain slopes of the Karakoram, Ladakh, Zanskar, and Himalayan ranges.

Originating from the Kailash Mountain, it flows in a constricted valley northwestward through Tibet.

In Ladakh, the Indus follows along a nearly straight course between the Ladakh range and the Zanskar range. In the first 480 km, it flows along the northern flank of the Zaskar range over a flat country height of over 3200 m where it receives river Zaskar below Leh.

Suru and Dras are the other left bank tributaries that join the Indus near Kargil. Moving Northwestward the Indus is joined by Shyok-Nubra tributaries.

At Skardu, at a little distance below the Shyok, the Shigar River meets the river Indus. Gilgit is another important tributary that comes from the west to join Indus.

Downward, the Indus crosses the central Himalayan range through a huge synclinal gorge.

The river passes by the Naga-Parvat and turns southwest to enter Pakistan.

Tributaries of the Indus River system

  • Himalayan tributaries- The Indus River system consists of a number of Himalayan tributaries such as the river Shyok, the Gilgit, the Zaskar, the Hunza, the Nubra, the Shigar, the Gasting, and the Dras.
  • Right bank tributaries: It finally emerges out of the hills near Attock where it meets the Kabul river on its right bank. The other right bank tributaries are including the Khurram, the Tochi, the Gomal, the Viboa, and the Sangar. All these rivers originate from the Suleiman ranges.
  • Left bank tributaries: Panjnad– As the Indus River flows Southward its left bank tributaries are known as Panjnad, these are the five rivers of Punjab; The Satluj, the Beas, the Ravi, the Chenab, and the Jhelum. All these rivers meet in Mithankot in Pakistan and finally, it discharges into the Arabian Sea, East of Karachi.
  • In India, the Indus flows only through Jammu and Kashmir.


Panjnad River is formed by the successive mergers of the five rivers of Punjab. The five rivers of Punjab – the Satluj, the Beas, the Ravi, the Chenab, and the Jhelum. To form Panjnad, river Jhelum and Ravi join Chenab, river Beas joins Sutlej and then Sutlej and Chenab join to form Panjnad.


Panjnad river system

Panjnad river system


Description: About the rivers of Panjnad; the Left bank tributaries of Jhelum

The Chenab
  • The Chenab is the largest tributary of the river Indus
  • Chenab is formed by two streams, the Chandra and the Bhaga. These streams join at Tandi near Keylong in Himachal Pradesh.
  • The Chandra and the Bhaga originate from the South-West and northwest faces of Barelacha Pass respectively in the Himalayan canton of Lahul and Spiti valley in Himachal Pradesh.
  • It flows for a distance of 1,180km in India before entering Pakistan.
The Jhelum
  • River Jhelum rises from a spring at Verinag situated at the foot of Pir Panjal, in the Southeastern part of Kashmir Valley.
  • The river Jhelum flows through Srinagar and Wular Lake before entering Pakistan through a deep narrow gorge.
  • Jhelum River joins Chenab near Jhang in Pakistan.
 The Ravi
  • The Ravi rises from the Kullu hills of Himachal Pradesh in the West of Rohtang Pass and flows through the Chamba Valley of the state.
  • It drains between the Southeastern part of the Pir Panjal and the Dhauladhar ranges.
  • Ravi joins Chenab near Sarai Sidhu before entering Pakistan.
 The Beas
  •  River Beas rises from Beas Kund near the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh at a height of 4000 m above the mean sea level.
  • River Beas flows through Kullu Valley and forms a gorge at Kati and Lagri in the Dhauladhar range.
  • Near Harike in the Punjab plains, the river Beas joins river Sutlej.
The Sutlej
  • The river Sutlej originates from the Rakas Lake near Mansarovar at the height of 4555 m in Tibet, there it is known as Langchen Khambab.
  • River Sutlej runs parallel to the Indus for about 400km before entering India and comes out of the gorge at Rupar.
  • The river is an antecedent river that flowed on its original course before the Himalayas were formed.
  • River Sutlej passes through Shipki La, then it enters the Punjab plains and feeds the canal system of the Bhakra Nangal Project.


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Firdous Mushtaq · October 22, 2022 at 12:02 pm

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