Drainage Systems Based on the Size of the Catchment Area
Size of catchment area in sq km
20,000 – 2,000
2,000 and below
Drainage Systems Based on Origin
The Himalayan Rivers: Perennial rivers: Indus, the Ganga, the Brahmaputra and their tributaries.
The Peninsular Rivers: Non-Perennial rivers: Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna, the Cauvery, the Narmada and the Tapi and their tributaries.
Drainage Systems Based on the Type of Drainage
The river systems of India can be classified into four groups viz.
Himalayan rivers, Deccan rivers and Coastal rivers that drain into the sea.
Rivers of the inland drainage basin (endorheic basin). Streams like the Sambhar in western Rajasthan are mainly seasonal in character, draining into the inland basins and salt lakes. In the Rann of Kutch, the only river that flows through the salt desert is the Luni.
Drainage Systems Based on Orientation to the sea
The Bay of Bengal drainage (Rivers that drain into Bay of Bengal)(East flowing rivers)
Arabian sea drainage (Rivers that drain into Arabian sea)(West flowing rivers).
The rivers Narmada (India’s holiest river) and Tapti flow almost parallel to each other but empty themselves in opposite directions (West flowing). The two rivers make the valley rich in alluvial soil and teak forests cover much of the land.
The Bay of Bengal drainage
Arabian Sea drainage
Rivers that drain into Bay of Bengal
Rivers that drain into Arabian sea
East flowing rivers
West flowing rivers
~ 77 per cent of the drainage area of the country is oriented towards the Bay of Bengal
~ 23 per cent of the drainage area of the country is oriented towards the Arabian sea
The Ganga, the Brahmaputra, the Mahanadi, the Godavari, the Krishna, the Cauvery, the Penneru, the Penneiyar, the Vaigai, etc.
The Indus, the Narmada, the Tapi, the Sabarmati, the Mahi and the large number of swift flowing western coast rivers descending from the Sahyadris.
The area covered by The Bay of Bengal drainage and Arabian Sea drainage are not proportional to the amount of water that drains trough them.
Over 90 per cent of the water drains into the Bay of Bengal; the rest is drained into the Arabian Sea or forms inland drainage.
Lop sided distribution
The Arabian Sea drainage or Western drainage receive less rainfall [Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab receive very low rainfall].
The Eastern drainage or the Bay of Bengal drainage receives rainfall both from South-west and North-east monsoons.
Most of the Himalayan waters (perennial rivers) flow into eastern drainage (Ganges and Brahmaputra).
Indian Rivers that flow into Arabian Sea are seasonal or non-perennial (Luni, Narmada, etc.).
Occurrence of more cyclonic rainfall in the eastern parts is another major reason.
Major River System or Drainage Systems in India
Himalayan River systems
Indus River System
Brahmaputra River System
Ganga River System
Peninsular River Systems
Godavari River System
Krishna River System
Cauvery River System
Mahanadi River System
West Flowing Peninsular River Systems
Narmada River System
Tapti River System
The names of the basins along with their id and area are given in the table.
Indus (Up to border)
Barak and others
Brahmani and Baitarni
West flowing rivers from Tapi to Tadri
West flowing rivers from Tadri to Kanyakumari
East flowing rivers between Mahanadi and Pennar
East flowing rivers between Pennar and Kanyakumari
West flowing rivers of Kutch and Saurashtra including Luni