India’s most holy of rivers, no river in the world plays a more important cultural, economic or social role in the lives of more people than the Ganges. The spiritual heart of Hinduism, the Ganges is strewn with cities, pilgrimage sites, mountains and forests. The 2,525km (1,569 miles) long river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and flows south and east through the Plain of North India into Bangladesh, where it joins with the Brahmaputra, and empties into the Bay of Bengal. It is the longest river of India and forms the border with Bangladesh for much of its course.


Many small streams comprise the headwaters of the Ganges before it flows 250km (160 miles) through its narrow Himalayan vallley and emerges from the mountains at Rishikesh, onto the plain at the pilgrimage town of Haridwar. A dam diverts some of its waters into the Ganges Canal, before it begins to flow southeast through the plains of northern India.

Northern Plains

The Ganges passes through the towns of Kanpur, Soron, Kannauj, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Ghazipur, Bhagalpur, Mirzapur, Ballia, Buxar, Saidpur, and Chunar. At Allahabad, the river joins with Yamuna river. At Pakur, the river divides itself into two distributaries, viz.- the Bh?girathi-Hooghly (becomes the Hooghly River) and the main stream.


The Ganges enters Bangladesh where the Farakka Barrage controls the flow of the Ganges by diverting some of the water into a feeder canal which has a link with the Hooghly river. The Ganges Delta, formed mainly by the large, sediment-laden flows of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers, is the world’s largest delta, at about 59,000 km2 (23,000 sq miles). It stretches 322km (200 mi)les along the Bay of Bengal.