Ganges (Hind. Gangd, stream), one of the great rivers of British India, rising on the S. slope of the Himalaya mountains, and flowing southerly and easterly into the northern portion of the bay of Bengal. The river Bhagirathi, usually regarded as its true source, has its origin in the territory of Gurhwal, 10 m. from the temple of Gungootree, a favorite resort of Hindoo pilgrims. It flows from a cave in a perpendicular ice wall at the extremity of a glacier, as a torrent about 40 yards wide, not far from lat. 30° 54' N., Ion. 79° 7' E., at an elevation of 13,800 ft. above the sea. The surrounding mountains are upward of 20,000 ft. in height. It is not until the Bhagirathi is joined by the Aluknunda, 120 m. from its source, that the stream is called the Ganges. At Hurdwar, 47 m. further down, the river reaches the great plain of India, here 1,024 ft, above the ocean level. Thence to Allahabad, where it joins the Jumna, a distance of 488 m., the course of the Ganges is S. S. E., with an average fall of 22 in. to the mile. Its most important affluent between these two cities is the Ramganga, an eastern tributary. From its confluence with the Jumna, the Ganges pursues a winding course eastward, 563 m., to the head of the delta.
In this portion of the river the fall is about 5 in. to the mile. Among the important tributary streams are the Goomtee, on which Lucknow is situated, the Gogra from the northwest, the Gunduk flowing from the west and the Coosy or Cosi from the east of Katmandu, the distant capital of Nepaul, and the Sone from central India. The head of the delta of the Ganges is about 30 m. below Rajmahal, and 216 m. in a straight line from the bay of Bengal. At this point the first arm is given off"; it flows southward, and is known as the Bhagrutti. Further to the southeast the main stream throws off another branch to the south called the Jellinghi, and still another called the Mata-bunga. These three western offshoots unite to form the Hoogly, the great branch of the Ganges, on which Calcutta is situated at a distance of about 100 m. from the sea. The embouchure of the Hoogly is in lat. 21° 40' N., Ion. 88° E. The principal stream, still retaining the name of Ganges, continues to flow in a southeasterly direction, sending out other branches southward, which combine and form the Hauringotta arm of the delta. Finally, it partly intermingles its waters with those of the Brahmapootra, and falls into the bay of Bengal near that river, but by a separate mouth.
The average descent of the Ganges from the head of the delta is 3 in. per mile.-The entire length of the Ganges is between 1,500 and 1,600 m. Its depth and width and the rapidity of its flow vary greatly at different seasons. There is an annual rise of its waters, generally beginning at the end of May and attaining its height in September. The rise is 7 ft. at Calcutta, without taking into account the tide, and from 29 to 45 ft. at Allahabad. The average width of the Ganges on its whole course is estimated at 1 m. in the dry season. The section between Hurdwar and Allahabad abounds in shallows and rapids, but is navigable by small boats throughout its whole extent, and by steamers for passenger traffic over the lower four fifths of its length. At Allahabad it is a mile wide, while the width of the Jumna is but 1,400 yards. From this city down to the head of the delta the river is navigable throughout the year for vessels drawing 18 in. of water. The greatest breadth ordinarily attained at Benares, 75 m. below Allahabad, is 1,000 yards and the maximum depth 78 ft.; in the dry season these figures are reduced to 1,400 ft. and 85 ft. respectively. The course and current of the river, especially in its lower portion, are extremely subject to change.
Old channels are filled up and abandoned for new ones which the action of the water has excavated; new islands are formed around sand bars or sunken objects which serve as nuclei for mud deposits; and at the same time old islands are being swept away. The Hoogly is the only arm which can be ascended by large ships for any considerable distance. Opposite Calcutta it is about 1 m. wide at high water.-The coast region of the delta of the combined rivers Ganges and Brahmapootra consists principally of a vast labyrinthine network of salt-water streams and creeks. Fresh-water channels, however, communicating with the Hoogly, intersect the extensive wilderness of wooded islands along the coast, known as the Sunderbunds. This pestilential tract has an area of more than 7,000 sq. m., and is haunted by innumerable crocodiles, tigers, and other wild animals. In the Sunderbunds the ordinary rise and fall of the tide is between 7 and 8 ft. When the Ganges is lowr, the tidal current extends as far inland as the head of the delta, but in the flood season it is overcome by the increased volume and velocity of the river, and is imperceptible except near the coast. The whole delta district is subject to inundation during the annual rise of the river.
A tract of the Lower Provinces 100 m. in width is then completely covered with water, which re-cede8 in October, when the rice crop is planted. These inundations become very destructive if the descending current of the river flood happens to be checked by high tides and strong gales in the bay of Bengal. The quantity of line mud and sand brought down by the Ganges and Brahmapootra is so large that it discolors the sea to a distance of from 60 to 100 m. from the delta. At Ghazepoor, 500 m. from the sea, 500,000 cubic feet of water per second flow down the Ganges during the four months of the flood season, and about 100,000 cubic feet per second during the rest of the year. In 1831-'2 the total amount of solid matter suspended in the water thus flowing down was estimated to be 0,368,077,440 cubic feet in a year. Lyell's estimate of the entire quantity of mud borne down to the bay of Bengal in one year by the Ganges and Brahmapootra is 40,-000 millions of cubic feet. In this calculation he assumes that the annual water discharge of the latter river is equal to that of the Ganges, and that the proportion of sediment in both rivers is about a third less than the Ghazepoor estimate. Geological borings at Calcutta indicate that a general subsidence of the delta has taken place.
To this subsidence is attributed the fact that the fluviatile mud which is deposited by successive inundations does not increase the elevation of the plains of Bengal.-Three well marked species of crocodile infest the Ganges in great numbers. The gavial, which is the characteristic Gangetic crocodile, lives only in fresh water and feeds exclusively on fish. Its range extends from the delta to the northern branches of the river, 1,000 m. from Calcutta. The other kinds, known as the koomiah and the muggar, inhabit both fresh and salt water, and prey with great boldness upon men, and upon animals wild and domestic. - The Ganges is the main artery of an extensive and intricate natural system of Himalayan drainage. Of the 19 or 20 affluents which it receives after leaving the mountains, 12 are said to be larger than the Rhine. Considered as a whole, the Gangetic plain is one of the finest and most fertile countries in the world. It is the most populous portion of India, and that in which agriculture is most flourishing. The rainfall of the Ganges basin above Allahabad, however, being but little more than 30 in., the agricultural interests of that region required a permanent system of irrigation, to supply which the Ganges canal was constructed.
It was commenced in 1848, opened in 1854, and is the greatest work of irrigation ever completed. It extends in a southeasterly direction from Hurdwar to Cawnpore, traversing the country between the Ganges and the Jumna, with numerous offshoots which, like the main channel, are adapted for internal navigation as well as for irrigation. The length of the main channel is 348 m., and the branches are 306 m. long. The distributaries have an aggregate length of 3,078 m., and water 767,-000 acres in 5,061 villages. In 1871-2 the profits of the Ganges canal were £66,234, being 2.78 per cent. on the capital. - The Ganges occupies a prominent place in Hindoo mythology. It is revered as the most sacred of rivers by the Hindoos, who convey its sanctified waters to all parts of India for use in ceremonial ablutions. There are particular places along the banks whence it is regarded as most desirable to obtain the water, but that from Benares is reverenced as the holiest of all. Here and elsewhere numerous and handsome flights of stone steps, called ghauts, render access to the river easy. - The principal cities and towns on the banks of the Ganges are Furruckabad, Cawnpore, Allahabad, Benares, Ghazepoor, and Patna; and on the Hoogly branch, Calcutta.
The Source of the Ganges.