|ORIGIN OF THE GANGA - Gangotri Glacier|
Above: Gangotri glacier
Above: The Bhagirathi
|Ganges (Hindi Ganga), major
river of the Indian subcontinent, formed in the southern ranges of the Himalaya, in
northern Uttar Pradesh State, India. The Ganges is mainly in India, but also flows through
Bangladesh before emptying into the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges Basin, one of the most
fertile regions of the world and also one of the most densely populated, lies between the
Himalaya and the Vindhya Range, and embraces an area of more than 1 million sq km (386,100
sq mi).-The river, about 2,510 km (1,560 mi) long, rises in a
snowfield called THE GANGOTRI GLACIER, situated among three Himalayan mountains all more
than 6,706 m (22,000 ft) high. It issues as the Bhagirathi River from an
ice cave, 3,139 m (10,300 ft) above sea level, and falls 67 m per km (350 ft per mi).
About 16 km (10 mi) from the source is Gangotri, the first temple on its banks and a
traditional resort of pilgrims. At the village of Devaprayag, 214 km (133 mi) from the
source, the Bhagirathi joins the Alaknanda to form the Ganges.
The Ganges, after
descending 2,827 m (9,276 ft), or an average of about 11 m per km (60 ft per mi), flows
west to the border of the great plain of Hindustan at Hardwar, 253 km (157 mi) from its
source and 312 m (1,024 ft) above sea level. From Hardwar it continues south and then
south-east to Allahabad after a winding course of 785 km (488 mi), made
unnavigable by shoals and rapids.
At Allahabad, the Ganges is joined
by the Yamuna River from the south-west, and from that point the river flows east past
Mirzapur, Varanasi, Ghazipur, Patna,
Monghyr, and Bhagalpur, receiving on the south the Son River and on the north the Gumti,
Ghaghara, Gandak, and Kosi rivers. In the Rajmahal Hills, at the head of the Ganges delta,
906 km (563 mi) from Allahabad, the river turns south and begins a descent of 455
km (283 mi) to the Bay of Bengal. Near Pakaur, the Bhagirathi (assuming the former name of
the river) and, 114 km (71 mi) lower down, the Jalangi River branch off from the main
stream, and after individual courses of 193 km (120 mi) each, unite again to form the
Hooghly River, the westernmost and principal channel of navigation, on which the city of
Calcutta stands. The main branch of the Ganges, from which numerous minor tributaries
flow, continues in Bangladesh, as the Padma River, to the town of Shivalaya (Sibalay),
where it unites with the Jamuna, the main branch of the Brahmaputra, and finally runs
through the Meghna estuary into the Bay of Bengal.
Between the Meghna estuary and the western channel of the Hooghly River are the several mouths of the deltaic channels. The northern portion of the delta is fertile and well cultivated. The southern section consists mostly of swampland, known as the Sundarbans, because of the sundari tree that flourishes there. The marshes are inhabited by several species of crocodile. From year to year the Ganges exchanges old channels for new ones, particularly in the alluvial basin of its lower reaches. Like the Brahmaputra, the Ganges has been adversely affected by the deforestation of valleys in its upper course, causing flooding and an increase in sedimentation around the rivers delta in Bangladesh. This sometimes combines with coastal flooding caused by cyclones to produce inundation of the delta area on a massive scale.The Ganges is regarded by Hindus as the most sacred river in the world. Many important religious ceremonies are held in cities on its banks, including Varanasi, Hardwar, and Allahabad.