Indus River: From Ancient to Present Era

In the last two posts, we have discussed the Ganges River system and the Yamuna River system. In this post, we will understand the Indus River system. It’s political, economic and geographical importance as it is a transboundary river.

So, let’s start our journey to the Indus river. First of all, we will discuss its historical importance.

Birth Place of Indus Valley Civilisation

The most ancient Indian civilisation was born on banks of river Indus. We all have studied in our History section that Indus Valley Civilisation was the most advanced civilisation of the 2500BCE. Indus river was the mother of this civilisation as it provided fertile land to the habitants.

Civilisation also flourished due to its trade links with other civilisations of the then time. The relics of boat structure, found from the civilisation also indicates the waterways system of the then time.

Pictograph of Indus Valley Civilisation
Pictograph of Indus Valley Civilisation

Indus River: Origin and Traversal

The river Indus originates from Tibetan Plateau in Eastern China (near Mansarovar Lake). Because it originates from another country it is a transboundary river.

The river flows in Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan region of Jammu & Kashmir, India. It enters in Pakistan and drains into the Arabian Sea near the port city of Karachi.

Indus River System
Indus River System

The river Indus has many tributaries. So, right bank tributaries are listed below,

  • Shyok
  • Shigar
  • Gilgit
  • Kabul
  • Gumla

Both Kabul and Gumla rivers are in Afghanistan. The following are the left bank tributaries of Indus,

  • Zanskar
  • Jhelum
  • Chenab
  • Ravi
  • Beas
  • Satluj

Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Satluj are collectively known as Panjnad (Group of Five rivers).

So, now we will discuss, origin and traversal of each tributary in a detailed manner.

Right Bank Tributaries of Indus River


Shyok river rises from the Karakoram range and it flows through northern Ladakh region of India. So, it makes the south-eastern fringe of Karakoram range. The river also forms V-shaped bend around Karakoram Range.

The origin of the river is Himalayan Glacier named Remo Glacier. Nubra River is a tributary of Shyok River and when Nubra merges with Shyok river, it widens. Nubra River originates from Saltoro Kangari Peak of Siachen Glacier.


Shigar is also right bank tributary of the Indus River. The river rises from the Hispar Glacier and joins Indus river at Skardu. The entire catchment area of the Shigar has an influence of Himalayan glaciers. The melted water of Baltoro and Baifo Glacier comes to the Shigar River.


The Gilgit River originates from the Himalayan glacier. Because of the extreme temperature, the catchment area of Gilgit river is desolated. Bunji is the only settlement along the banks of the river.

Ghizar and Hunza are the main tributaries of the Gilgit River.

Now let’s summarize the facts related to the right bank tributaries in the below diagram,

Right Bank Tributaries of Indus
Right Bank Tributaries of Indus

So, now we will discuss left bank tributaries.

Left Bank Tributaries of Indus River


Zanskar is the small tributary of river Indus. The river Zanskar merges with Indus at “Nimmu” village, Ladakh. The confluence of Zanskar and Indus is known as Sangam Valley in Ladakh. I have found one interesting article related to Sangam Valley (You can keep this place in your must-visit place list).?


Jhelum river rises from the spring at Verinag, situated at the foothill of the Pir Panjal.

Kishenganga is the largest tributary of river Jhelum. It originates from the Drass in the Kargil district (Kargil war of 1999). Kishanganga is also known as Neelum river because of its ice-cold water and Ruby (Gemstone, which means Neelum in Hindi) is found in this area.

The river Jhelum merges with Indus in Pakistan. Chenab, along with Satluj and Jhelum river also joins Indus near Mithankot, Pakistan. According to the Indus Water Treaty (we will discuss it in coming paragraphs), the water of Jhelum and Chenab is allocated to Pakistan.


Chandra and Bhaga rivers of Himachal Pradesh merge at Tandi, located in the upper Himalayas, to form Chenab river (Chandra+Bhaga=Chenab?). So, in its upper regions of flow, it is also known as Chandrabhaga river.

It flows through the Jammu region of Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab of Pakistan. Chenab Bridge, the world’s highest railway bridge is building on the river. And Baghliar Dam is also present on this river.


Ravi river originates from the Dhauladhar range of the Himalayas in the Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh. So, Chamba town is situated on the right bank of the river.

The multipurpose project built on the river is Ranjit Sagar Dam (Thein Dam). According to Indus water treaty, the water of Ravi is allocated to India.


Beas river emerges from the Rohtang pass of Himachal Pradesh. The river before entering in Pakistan joins Satluj river at Hari-Ke-Pattan, Punjab. Tourist place Manali is situated on the right banks of the river.

(I visited the Rohtang Pass, Kullu, Manali, Shimla when I was in 6th Standard?, that trip was one of the best trips in India. I always cherish that trip, the flowing water of the Beas river will give you the best music to listen and the serene beauty can not be explained in words?.)


Red River is another name of Satluj River. Satluj is a transboundary river in India because it rises from the Tibetan Plateau, eastern China. So, it enters in India through Shipki La (La means Pass).

In India, it flows in south-west direction through Kinnaur, Shimla, Kullu, Solan, Mandi and Bilaspur districts. The river leaves Himachal Pradesh and enters in Punjab at Bhakra, where Bhakra-Nangal (Govind Sagar) Dam is built. Govind Sagar Dam is the world’s highest gravity dam.

According to the Indus Water Treaty, India has the authority to use Satluj water. So, this river is mainly used for power generation and irrigation purpose. And many Hydro-Electric projects are present on this river namely, Kol Dam, Nathpa Jhakri Project.

So, let us summarize what we have studied regarding left bank tributaries in the below diagram,

Left Bank Tributaries of the Indus
Left Bank Tributaries of the Indus

In the above paragraphs, we have read “according to the Indus Water Treaty”?… So, now, we will understand what exactly the Indus Water Treaty is????‍♀️

Indus Water Treaty

In 1960, with the intervention of the World Bank, India and Pakistan culminated the Indus Water Treaty. So, as per the Treaty, India has given control over the waters of Ravi, Beas, Satluj river. While Pakistan has given rights over the waters of western rivers namely Chenab, Jhelum and Indus.

Though the origin of the Indus River is in China, China is out of this treaty. So, as India and Pakistan are the countries in Indus Basin, these are the main contenders for Indus water.

One more important decision under this treaty is, It allows India to use 20% of Indus water for irrigation, power generation and transport. But, as Pakistan is infamous for its terrorist activities. So, India now decided to stop India’s share of waters in the Indus river system from flowing into Pakistan.

There is also one body namely Permanent Indus Commission, which is responsible to implement the Indus Water Treaty and to solve disputes between these two countries.

So, till now, we have discussed the Ganges River System, the Yamuna River System and the Indus River System. In the upcoming post, we will discuss, the nest important Himalayan river system, which is the Brahmaputra River System.

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