Jump to content

Bhagirathi River

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bhāgīrathī River
Sacred bathing ghats on Bhagirathi River at Gangotri
Map showing the Himalayan headwaters of the Bhagirathi river. The numbers in parentheses refer to the altitude in meters.
Etymology"Bhagirathi" (Sanskrit, literally, "caused by Bhagiratha")
Native nameभागीरथी (Sanskrit)
RegionGarhwal division
DistrictUttar Kashi District, Tehri District
Physical characteristics
SourceGaumukh (gau, cow + mukha, mouth), about 18 km (11.2 mi) from the town of Gangotri
 • coordinates30°55′32″N 79°04′53″E / 30.925449°N 79.081480°E / 30.925449; 79.081480
 • elevation3,892 m (12,769 ft)
Source confluenceAlaknanda River
 • location
Devprayag, Uttarakhand, India
 • coordinates
30°08′47″N 78°35′54″E / 30.146315°N 78.598251°E / 30.146315; 78.598251
 • elevation
475 m (1,558 ft)
Length205 km (127 mi)
Basin size6,921 km2 (2,672 sq mi)
 • average257.78 m3/s (9,103 cu ft/s)
 • maximum3,800 m3/s (130,000 cu ft/s)

The Bhāgīrathī (Pron: /ˌbʌgɪˈɹɑːθɪ/) is a turbulent Himalayan river in the Indian state of Uttarakhand, and one of the two headstreams of the Ganges, the major river of Northern India and the holy river of Hinduism. In the Hindu faith, history, and culture, the Bhagirathi is considered the source stream of the Ganges. However, in hydrology, the other headstream Alaknanda, is considered the source stream on account of its great length and discharge. The Bhagirathi and Alaknanda join at Devprayag in Garhwal and are thereafter known as the Ganges.


In Hindu texts, Bhagiratha was a descendant of King Sagara of the Suryavamsha, or Solar Dynasty. He played an important role in the descent of the Ganges.[2] The story of Bhagiratha is narrated in the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and the Puranas.[3][2]

Wanting to show his sovereignty, King Sagara performed a ritual known as ashvamedha, where a horse was left to wander for one year. However, Indra stole the horse to prevent the ritual from being successful. Learning that the horse had disappeared, King Sagara sent his sixty thousand sons to look for it. They eventually found the horse at the ashram of sage Kapila.[2] Thinking that sage Kapila had stolen the horse, the sons interrupted him while he was in deep meditation. This infuriated sage Kapila and with his ascetic's gaze burned all sixty thousand sons to ashes.[2] King Sagara sent his grandson, Amshuman, to ask sage Kapila what could be done to bring deliverance to their souls.[4]

Sage Kapila advised that only the water of the Ganges, which flowed in the heavens, could liberate them. Bhagiratha, Amshuman's grandson, undertook ascetic practices and won the favour of Brahma and Shiva. Brahma allowed the goddess Ganga to descend upon the earth, while Shiva broke Ganga's fall in the coils of his hair so that her force would not shatter the earth.[4]

When Ganga descended, Bhagiratha took her through the mountains, foothills, the plains of India, and to the sea where she liberated the sixty thousand sons of King Sagara.[2] Due to Bhagiratha's role in the descent of the Ganges, the source stream came to be known as Bhagirathi.[5][6]


The headwaters of the Bhagirathi River are formed at Gaumukh at the foot of the Gangotri glacier. From Gaumukh the river reaches the town of Gangotri. From Gangotri, it travels down a deep gorge and arrives at Bhaironghati. The river continues to travel to Harsil and crosses the Bhagirathi Granite. It then enters a wide valley and meets two tributaries near Jhala. The river continues to flow downwards to Uttarkashi and then through Dharasu, Chinyalisaur, and the old town of Tehri. From Tehri, the river reaches Devprayag via the Himalayas. At Devprayag, the Bhagirathi River converges with the Alaknanda River and travels onward as the Ganges River.[7]

The Bhagirathi River is mythologically known to be the source stream for the Ganges River. In hydrology, the Alaknanda is the source stream for the Ganges River due to its length and discharge. The Alaknanda River, including its tributaries, is 664.5 km (412.9 mi) and the Bhagirathi River, including its tributaries, is 456.5 km (283.7 mi).[7]


The Bhagirathi River is joined by several tributaries; these are, in order from the source:

The Bhilangna itself rises at the foot of the Khatling Glacier (elevation 3,717 m (12,195 ft)) approximately 50 km (31 mi) south of Gaumukh.

The controversial Tehri dam lies at the confluence of the Bhagirathi River and the Bhilangna, at 30°22′32″N 78°28′48″E / 30.37556°N 78.48000°E / 30.37556; 78.48000, near Tehri. Chaukhamba I is the highest point of the Bhagirathi basin.


There are 18 dams along the Bhagirathi River , either in operation, under construction or planned. These are, in order from the source:

Hydroelectric Dams on the Bhagirathi River[8]
Abbreviations: MW: electrical output capacity (Megawatts), Ht: dam height (M) FRL: full reservoir level (MSL), MWL: maximum water level (MSL), HRT: head race tunnel length (KM), TRT: tail race tunnel length (KM), TWL: tail water level (MSL), RBL: river bed level at dam site (MSL)
# Name Ht MW Status FRL MWL HRT TRT TWL RBL Coordinates
1 Karmoli Dam 140 planned 8.6
2 Gangotri Dam 55 planned 5.2
3 Jadhganga Dam 50 planned 1.1
4 Bhaironghati I Dam 380 planned
5 Bhaironghati II Dam 65 planned
6 Harsil Dam 210 planned 5.06
7 Loharinag Pala Hydro Power Project 600 cancelled 2,147 1,667 13.85 .51 1.665 30°58′6″N 78°41′56″E / 30.96833°N 78.69889°E / 30.96833; 78.69889
8 Pala Maneri I Dam 78 480 cancelled 1,665 1,667 12.563 1.378
9 Maneri Dam 38 90 operation 8.631
10 Joshiyara (Bhali) Dam 304 operation 16.0
11 Bhilangana II Dam 11 planned
12 Bhilangana I Dam 22.5 planned 2.0
13 Tehri Dam 260.5 2,400 operation 830 835 1.634 .8625 30°22′40″N 78°28′50″E / 30.37778°N 78.48056°E / 30.37778; 78.48056
14 Koteshwar Dam 97.5 400 operation 612.50 615
15 Kotli Bel 1A Dam 82.5 195 construction
16 Kotli Bel 1B Dam 90 320 cancelled
17 Kotli Bel II Dam 82 530 cancelled


  1. ^ Catchment Area Treatment:, Bhagirathi River Valley Development Authority, Uttaranchal
  2. ^ a b c d e Eck, Diana L. (2012). India : a sacred geography. New York: Harmony Books. pp. 216–221.
  3. ^ Mankodi, Kirit (1973) "Gaṅgā Tripathagā"Artibus Asiae 35(1/2): pp. 139-144, p. 140
  4. ^ a b Sen, Sudipta (2019). Ganges : the many pasts of an Indian River. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 56.
  5. ^ Rice, Earle Jr. (2013). The Ganges river. Hockessin, Del.: Mitchell Lane Publishers. p. 9.
  6. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam (ed.). India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 76.
  7. ^ a b Singh, Sandeep (2018), Singh, Dhruv Sen (ed.), "Alakhnanda–Bhagirathi River System", The Indian Rivers: Scientific and Socio-economic Aspects, Springer Hydrogeology, Singapore: Springer, p. 108, doi:10.1007/978-981-10-2984-4_8, ISBN 978-981-10-2983-7, retrieved 8 April 2022
  8. ^ "Map of the Bhagirathi River showing dams" (PDF). Dams, Rivers & People. South Asian Network on Dams Rivers & People(sandrp.in). August 2008. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 May 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2010.


External links[edit]