The Ganges is one of the major rivers of the Indian subcontinent, flowing east through the Gangetic Plain of northern India into Bangladesh. The 2,510 km river rises in the western Himalayas in the Uttarakhand state of India, and drains into the Sunderbans delta in the Bay of Bengal. The Ganges Basin drains 1,000,000-square-kilometre and supports one of the world’s highest density of humans. The river has been declared as India’s National River. After flowing 200 km through its narrow Himalayan valley, the Ganges debouches on the Gangetic Plain at the pilgrimage town of Haridwar.
Further, the river follows an 800 km curving course passing through the city of Kanpur before being joined from the southwest by the Yamuna at Allahabad. Joined by numerous rivers such as the Kosi, Son, Gandaki and Ghaghra, the Ganges forms a formidable current in the stretch between Allahabad and Malda in West Bengal. On its way it passes the towns of Kanpur, Soron, Kannauj, Allahabad, Varanasi, Patna, Ghazipur, Bhagalpur, Mirzapur, Ballia, Buxar, Saidpur, and Chunar. The Ganges Basin with its fertile soil is instrumental to the agricultural economies of India and Bangladesh. The Ganges and its tributaries provide a perennial source of irrigation to a large area.
Chief crops cultivated in the area include rice, sugarcane, lentils, oil seeds, potatoes, and wheat. Along the banks of the river, the presence of swamps and lakes provide a rich growing area for crops such as legumes, chillies, mustard, sesame, sugarcane, and jute. There are also many fishing opportunities to many along the river, though it remains highly polluted. Tourism is another related activity. Three towns holy to Hinduism – Haridwar, Allahabad, and Varanasi – attract thousands of pilgrims to its waters.
Thousands of Hindu pilgrims arrive at these three towns to take a dip in the Ganges, which is believed to cleanse oneself of sins and help attain salvation. The rapids of the Ganges also are popular for river rafting, attracting hundreds of adventure seekers in the summer months.