Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra River is one of the largest rivers in the world and is also one of the major rivers of Asia.  It is a transboundary river. Brahmaputra is considered a male river, while most of the rivers in India are considered female rivers. The river is about 2900 km long.

Brahmaputra is a braided river originating in southwestern Tibet where it is called Yarlung Tsangpo River. The river is considered sacred by the Hindus as many mythological tales are associated with the river.

Geography of Brahmaputra River

Brahmaputra originates in southwestern Tibet on the Angsi Glacier namely Yarlung Tsangpo river and flows across Tibet. It breaks through the Himalayas and stretches into Arunachal Pradesh as Dihang. Entering Assam Brahmaputra becomes wider and mightier.

Brahamaputa river in Assam The river is about 2900 km long. The maximum depth of the river is 120 meter and the average depth is 38 metre. When the Himalayan snow melts the river creates flood situation. 

The average discharge of the river is about 19,300 cubic meters per second.  The river is susceptible to channel migration and avulsion. 

The river is one of the important rivers in the world that exhibit a tidal bore. Brahmaputra is navigable for most of its length.

Brahmaputra drains the Himalaya the east of the Indo-Nepal border, southern-central portion of the Tibetan plateau above the Ganges basin, south eastern portion of Tibetan plateau above the Ganges basin, south eastern portion of Tibet, the Patkai-Bum hills, the northern slopes of Meghalaya hills, the Assam plains and the northern portion of Bangladesh. Kanchenjunga is the highest point within the Brahmaputra basin.

Etymology of Brahmaputra River

Brahmaputra River derives its name after mythological tales. It is said that saint Shantanu’s wife Amogha had a child by Lord Brahma. The child took the form of water. From there Brahmaputra got its name which means Son of Brahma in Sanskrit. 

The river finds mention in Kalika Purana. In the epic it is said that Lord Parashurama got rid of his sin of beheading his mother by taking bath in the sacred river. The place is called Parshuram kunda in Arunachal Pradesh.

History of Brahmaputra River

The course of the Brahmaputra River has been changing over time. With the eastward diversion of the Teesta River Brahmaputra was joined by the former opposite Bahadurabad Ghat in Mymensingh district. Until the late 18th century the Brahmaputra flowed past Mymensingh and joined Meghna River. 

After the Teesta flood in 1787 the Brahmaputra cut a new channel along the Konai-Jenai and converted it after 1810 into the main stream now known as the Jamuna. Along the lower course of the river the land undergoes constant erosion. The upper course of the Brahmaputra was unknown.

In 1884-86 the identity of the river with the yarlung Tsangpo was established by exploration. The river is also called Tsangpo-Brahmaputra. With the development of the new channel of the Jamuna in 1987 the course of the Brahmaputra changed. 

The course of the lower Brahmaputra earlier was through Jamalpur and Mymensingh districts in Bangladesh. A major earthquake about 250 years ago changed the course of the river into the present flow. The Ganges delta, one of the largest river deltas in the world is fed by the water of the Brahmaputra River.

Course of Brahmaputra River

The Brahmaputra River originates in southwestern Tibet on the Angsi Glacier and is called Yarlung Tsangpo. From Tibet the river enters India through Arunachal Pradesh. In Arunachal Pradesh the river is called Siang. The river is joined by Dibang and Lohit River at the Assam valley.

The river entering Assam becomes wide and mighty even in dry season. During the rainy season the banks are more than 8 kilometers apart. The rivers flows its braided 700 kilometers. It is joined by streams like Subansiri, Kameng, Manas, Champamati and Sankosh river.

The major tributaries of Brahmaputra are the Burhi Dihing, Dibang, Lohit river, Dhansiri river, Raidak river, Jaldhaka river, Teesta river, the Disang, the Dikhu and the Kopili. The river is joined by Jia Bhoreli river in Sonitpur. Brahmaputra divides into two channels-the northern Kherkutia channel and the southern Brahmaputra channel in Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur districts. These two channels join to form Majuli island.

At Guwahati the Brahmaputra cuts through the rocks of the Shillong Plateau and is at its narrowest at 1 kilometer. The battle of Saraighat was fought in the place in 1671. Brahmaputra enters Bangladesh after turning south around the Garo hills below Dhubri in Assam. In Bangladesh Brahmaputra is joined by the Teesta River which is one of its largest tributaries. 

Brahmaputra splits into two branches. The western branch continues due south as Jamuna and merges with Padma river. The eastern branch curves southwest and joins the Meghna River. The Padma and the Meghna merge near Chandpur and enters the Bay of Bengal.

The Brahmaputra River originating from Tibet, flowing in Assam and reaching Bangladesh maintains the confluence of climatic condition of the three countries. The climate of the valley varies from harsh, cold and dry conditions of Tibet to hot and humid conditions of Assam and Bangladesh. Brahmaputra valley lies in the rain shadow of the Himalayas.

Monsoon in the Brahmaputra valley is characterized by wet and dry climate. Precipitation and humidity remains high. The environment of the Brahmaputra floodplains have been described as the Brahmaputra Valley semi-evergreen forests ecoregion. During monsoon floods are a common occurrence.

Tributaries of Brahmaputra River

Manas River

The Manas River is one of the most important tributary of the Brahmaputra. It originates in Bhutan, flows through southern Bhutan and Assam and finally joins the Brahmaputra in Jogighopa. The Manas River has a length of 376 kms and is characterized by hilly steep forests in the upper reaches and plain on the lower end of the river.

Raidak River

The Raidak River is another tributary of the Brahmaputra in its lower course. It originates in Bhutan in the Himalayas and flows through Bhutan, India and Bangladesh before joining the Brahmaputra in Kurigram district of Bangladesh. The total length of the river is 370 kms and is joined by other sub tributaries in Bhutan.

Sankosh River

It is another tributary which originates from Bhutan and flows into the Brahmaputra in Assam, India. It is known as Puna Tsang in Bhutan and has two largest sub tributaries namely Mo Chhu and Pho Chhu.

Kameng River

The Jia Bhorali River or the Kameng River is another important tributary of the Brahmaputra which originates in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh from a glacial lake situated below the Gori Chen Mountain on the Indo-Tibetan border. It flows through Arunachal Pradesh, Sonitpur district of Assam and then finally joins the Brahmaputra in Tezpur.

Dhansiri River

Another important tributary of the Brahmaputra is the Dhansiri River. it originates in the Laisang peak of Nagaland and flows through Dimapur district of Nagaland and Golaghat district of Assam before joining the Brahmaputra just 5 kms away from the Kaziranga Wildlife Sanctuary. Earlier, the Dhansiri River used to flow through the Kaziranga National Park, but with time it has changed course to meet the Brahmaputra 5 kms away. this abandoned course is now called the Mora Dhansiri.

Dihing River

The Dihing River is another important tributary of the Brahmaputra. It originates in the eastern Himalayas in Patkai mountain range and flows through Arunachal Pradesh, Tinsukia and Dibrugarh districts of Assam before finally merging with the Brahmaputra in Dihingmukh. The Dihing has a number of oxbow lakes in its course.

Lohit River

The Lohit River is another important tributary of the Brahmaputra. It originates in eastern Tibet in the Zayal Chu range and flows through Arunachal Pradesh for two kms before entering the plains of Assam. Here it joins the Siang at the head of Brahmaputra valley and merges into the Brahmaputra. The name Lohit is given due to the turbulent nature of the river. It is tempestuous and turbulent, hence also known as Lohit or ‘river of blood’. This river is used for army expeditions, trekking, river rafting and a host of other adventure activities.

Tributary of Brahmaputra RiverTista River

Tista or Teesta River is another tributary of the Brahmaputra originating from Cholomo Lake Sikkim and flowing through the Himalayan ranges to enter Bangladesh and merge into the Brahmaputra as one of its tributary in Bangladesh. 

The river creates a boundary between Sikkim and Bangladesh and the overall length of the river is 315 kms.

Subansiri River

It is another important tributary of the Brahmaputra which originates in the Himalayas in China and flows through Tibet and India. It has a length of 442 kms and joins the Brahmaputra in Lakhimpur district of Assam.

Bhogdoi River

Another tributary of the Brahmaputra is the Bhogdoi River. It originates in the Naga Hills and flows through the city of Jorhat in Assam before joining another sub tributary of the Brahmaputra, before flowing and merging with the mighty Brahmaputra. These two tributaries together are known as Gelabill. It was previously known as Desoi.


The Brahmaputra is an important river for irrigation. Periodic flood of the Brahmaputra helps in maintaining grassland and associated wildlife. Flood also deposits fresh alluvium replenishing the fertile soil in the Brahmaputra river valley.

Brahmaputra Tourism

The Brahmaputra River at Guwahati is one of the main tourist spots of the city. The Brahmaputra offers tourist an exiting experience. The river provides the tourists a majestic view with greenery at all the sides. For the length of the river Brahmaputra serves as an important inland waterway. Brahmaputra is used for inland navigation. The Brahmaputra is navigable throughout the Bengal Plain and Assam upstream to Dibrugarh 1,100 from the sea.

  • There are all types of local craft, powered launches and streamers that easily travel up and down the river.
  •  Brahmaputra River Cruise: The Brahmaputra River Cruise facility has seen a significant rise in the past some years.  There are hills and sanctuaries at every interval that make the Brahmaputra River cruise attractive. Wildlife and wilderness is the main feature of the cruise on Brahmaputra. The Kaziranga national park lies in the flood plains of the Brahmaputra River.
  •  The Brahmaputra Cruise Pvt Ltd has also been launched recently. The Brahmaputra Cruise Pvt Ltd provides one of the best experiences to people interested in river cruising. The cruise also gives access to Manas, a tiger reserve. Tourists can see river dolphin and migratory birds while cruising on Brahmaputra. They can also visit some most famous bird destination and some exciting birds trek in Nameri National Park and visit Majuli, the largest human inhabited river island in the world.
  • The Assam Bengal Navigation offers long distance cruises on the river. A number of new cruises are also planned in the river.
  • Brahmaputra cruises operate from September to April. They feature attraction such as wildlife viewing, village walks, visit to tea gardens etc.
  • Alfresco, the floating restaurant was started to explore river tourism.

Related Article: Natural Resources of Guwahati

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