The Ganges is one of the three main river basins in the Hindu Kush Himalayas. Its source is high in the Himalayan mountains where the Bhagirathi river flows out of the Gangotri Glacier in India’s Uttarakhand state. It takes the name Ganges farther downstream where the Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers join. As the Ganges flows out of the Himalayas it creates a narrow, rugged canyon. It then flows through the Indo-Gangetic plain, a vast fertile area that makes up most of the northern and eastern parts of India as well as parts of Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. Part of the Ganges river is also diverted toward the Ganges Canal for irrigation in the state of Uttar Pradesh. In Bangladesh, the river’s main branch is known as the Padma, then downstream as the Meghna, before flowing into the Bay of Bengal and creating the world’s largest delta – the Ganges Delta – a vast and highly-fertile sediment-laden area. Today, the Ganges river basin is the most populated river basin in the world with 400 million people. It has a population density of about 390 people per km2. Many Hindus visit the Ganges river in Varanasi, which is considered the holiest of cities. The city’s culture is also closely tied to the river, as the Ganges is the most sacred river in Hinduism.
From collection: The Himalayan Climate and Water Atlas