Bihar thrives as an agricultural hub, where the rivers play a pivotal role in shaping the state’s economy. This article offers an in-depth exploration of rivers in Bihar, shedding light on their significant contribution to the state’s economic vitality.
Rivers in Bihar: A Classification
The rivers of Bihar can be classified into two distinct groups, each with its unique characteristics and origins. These classifications are defined by the sources from which they draw their waters.
1. Rivers Originating from the Himalayas
The first group consists of rivers that originate in the majestic Himalayas, drawing their waters from pristine snowmelt and nourishing the North Ganga plain as they flow towards their confluence with the Ganga.
The important rivers of the North Ganga plain are Ghagra, Gandak, Burhi Gandak, Bagmati, Kosi, Kamla Balan, and Mahananda. As these rivers arise from the Himalayas they receive water both from rain and melting of snow, hence they are perennial.
These rivers in Bihar also deposit fertile alluvial in their flood plain regions, form meanders and change their courses frequently. Let’s explore these rivers in detail.
Ganga River: The Mother of All Rivers in Bihar
The Ganga River, originating in the Gangotri glacier in Uttarakhand, embarks on a journey that takes it through Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, and finally Bihar. It enters Bihar near Chausa in Buxar, marking the boundary of the Bhojpur and Saran districts. As it flows through the state, it welcomes several significant tributaries, including the Karmnasa, Ghagra, Gandak, Burhi Gandak, and Kosi.
Gandak River: A Pristine Himalayan Gem
The Gandak River, with its origin at an awe-inspiring altitude of 7620 meters in Tibet, near the Nepal border, is formed by the union of seven Himalayan streams. It flows southward, serving as the boundary between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, traversing West Champaran, East Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Gopalganj, Siwan, Saran, and Vaishali districts in Bihar. It is joined by tributaries like Bhawasa, Harha, and Kakra, among others.
Ghagra or Saryu River: A River of Religious Significance
The Ghagra River has its origins in Nampa, Nepal, and enters Bihar at Gopalganj, merging with the Ganga at Doriganj in Chapra. This river holds religious significance for both Hindus and Buddhists, adding to its mystique.
Burhi Gandak: The Fertile Lifeline
Burhi Gandak flows from the Someshwar range near Bisambharpur in West Champaran, Bihar. It meanders through various districts in Bihar, including West Champaran, East Champaran, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, and Begusarai, before joining the Ganga near Khagaria. This river brings fertile alluvial deposits to its floodplain regions and is enriched by tributaries like Masan, Balor, Pandal, Sikta, Tilawe, Tiur, Dhanauti, Kohra, and Danda.
Bagmati River: The Perennial Flow
The Bagmati River, another perennial river of Bihar, originates from the Shivpuri range of hills in Nepal, near Kathmandu. It enters Indian territory in Bihar, in Shorwatia village, Sitamarhi district, and joins the Kosi River at Badlaghat. The river’s course spans approximately 589 kilometers, with Lalbakeya and Lakhandei rivers as its major tributaries.
Kamla – Balan River: A Symbol of Resilience
The Kamla River originates from the Mahabharat range in Nepal, near Sindhuliagarhi, and enters Indian territory in the district of Madhubani in Bihar, near Jainagar town. Its course covers 328 kilometers, with tributaries like Mainawati, Dhauri, Soni, Balan, and Trisula, contributing to its flow.
Kosi River: The Himalayan Challenge
Kosi River, known as the “sorrow of Bihar,” originates in the Himalayas, with its upper catchment in Nepal and Tibet. It enters Indian territory near Hanuman Nagar in Nepal and joins the Ganga River near Kursela in the Katihar district. The river’s length in Bihar is approximately 260 kilometers, and it is infamous for its ever-changing course.
Mahananda River: A Journey from Sikkim to Bengal
The Mahananda River originates in Sikkim, enters the northeast part of Purnia, and flows towards West Bengal. In its upper course, it defines the linguistic boundary between Bengali and Hindi-speaking areas. Balason, Ratwa, and Kanakai are among its significant tributaries.
2. Rivers Originating from the Plateaus and Hills in the South
On the other side of the Ganga Plain, in the South, a different tapestry of rivers awaits exploration. These rivers in Bihar have their origins in the plateaus and hills, and they contribute to the region’s distinctive charm. Let’s delve into these rivers in more detail.
Son River: A Majestic Journey
The Son River takes its origins from the Amarkantak hills in Madhya Pradesh, flowing north-northwest through the state before veering eastward upon encountering the Kaimur Range. Rihand and North Koel are its primary tributaries, and it joins the Ganga near Danapur in Patna.
Punpun River: From Plateaus to the Ganges
Punpun River originates from the Hazaribagh plateau and joins the Ganga near Fatuha. While it may be slender during dry seasons, Punpun can swell during the monsoons, occasionally causing floods in the region. Batane, Dordha, Madar, and Morhar are its notable tributaries.
Karmanasa River: A Natural Border
The Karmanasa River emerges from the Rohtas plateau, forming the border between Uttar Pradesh and Bihar as it flows towards the Ganga near Chausa. Chandraprabha, Durgavati, Karunuti, Nadi, and Khajuri are its principal tributaries.
Phalgu River: A Seasonal Marvel
Phalgu River, also known as Niranjana, is formed by the confluence of Lilajan and Mohana, two hill streams. During the monsoon, it swells, but during other seasons, it meanders through wide expanses of sand, carrying its sacred essence past Gaya.
Kiul River: A Tributary of Significance
The Kiul River, a tributary of the Ganges, originates in Giridih district, Jharkhand, and flows through Jamui and Lakhisarai districts in Bihar. It features a broad sandy bed and joins the Ganges near Surajgarha, providing vital contributions to the region’s water resources.
The Kiul originates from the Tisri Hill Range in Kharagdiha Police Station area of Giridih district. After forming the boundary of the district for a short distance it enters Jamui district through a narrow gorge near the Satpahari hill. It is one of the rivers in Bihar which flows in an easterly direction close to the southern base of the Girdheswari Hills. It turns northward at their eastern extremity and passes near the town of Jumui.
Two miles south of Jamui it is joined by Barnar, below this point it receives the Alai, a mountain stream, and near Jamui railway station it is joined by the Anjan. It then flows east up to Lakhisarai station and is joined a few miles north of that place, near Rajuaghat, by the Harohar (Halahar or Harhobar), a continuation of the Sakri River. After this, it turns due east and falls into the Ganges near Surajgarha.
Ajay River: A Journey through West Bengal
The Ajay River, one of the rivers in Bihar, originating on a small hill about 300 meters high, near Munger in Bihar, flows through Jharkhand and enters West Bengal at Simjuri, near Chittaranjan. It joins the Bhagirathi River at Katwa Town, adding to the vibrant river network in the region.
It forms the border between Bardhaman district and Jharkhand and then between Bardhaman district and Birbhum district, and finally, it enters Katwa subdivision of Bardhaman district at Nareng village in Ketugram Police Station. It then joins the Bhagirathi River at Katwa Town.
Total length of the Ajay River is 288 Km, out of which 152 Km is in West Bengal. The catchment area of Ajay river, one of the rivers in Bihar is 6,000 sq. km.
The important tributaries of the Ajay River are Pathro and Jayanti in Jharkhand, and Tumuni and Kunur in Bardhaman district of West Bengal.
The upper reaches of the Ajay River pass through hilly regions with laterite soil. It is only from Ausgram in Bardhaman district that the Ajay flows through the alluvial plains. The Ajay valley was densely forested with sal, piyasal, and palas tress till recent times when mining and other activities led to the clearing of forests
Unique Characteristics and Vibrant Contributions
The rivers in Bihar, originating from diverse sources, each contribute their unique characteristics and vitality to the region’s rich landscape. These waterways, with their tales of origin and convergence, weave a beautiful narrative that defines the essence of Bihar’s natural beauty.