The Sindhu (Indus) River

The Indus RIver: One of the Longest Rivers in the World

Photo of the Sindhu and the Himalayas
Photo of the Sindhu and the Himalayas. CC Flickr User r_rajni

The Sindhu River, also commonly referred to as the Indus River, is a major river in South Asia. The Sindhu is one of the longest rivers in the world, with a total length of over two thousand miles. The river runs south from the Kailash Mountain in Tibet all the way to the Arabian Sea in Karachi, Pakistan. The Sindhu is the longest river in Pakistan. It passes through a portion of China, along with India and Pakistan.

The Sindhu is a large part of the river system of the Punjab, which means land of five rivers. The five rivers are Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej, all of which eventually flow into the Indus.

History of the Sindhu River

The Indus Valley is located on the fertile flood plains on each side of the river. The Indus Valley was home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization which was one of the oldest known civilizations. Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of religious practices starting in about 5500 BCE, and farming began by around 4000 BCE. Towns and cities grew up in the area by about 2500 BCE; the civilization was at its peak between 2500 and 2000 BCE, coinciding with the civilizations of the Babylonians and Egyptians. 

When at its peak, the Indus Valley Civilization boasted houses with wells and bathrooms; underground drainage systems; a fully developed writing system; impressive architecture, and a well-planned urban center.

Two major cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, have been excavated and explored. Remains including elegant jewelry, weights, and other items. Many items have writing on them, but to date, the writing has not been decoded.

The Indus Valley Civilization began to decline around 1800 BCE. Trade ceased, and some cities were abandoned.

Reasons for this decline are unclear, but some theories include flood or drought.

Around 1500 BCE, invasions by the Aryans began to erode what was left of the Indus Valley Civilization. The Aryan people settled in their place; their language and culture have helped to shape the language and culture of today's India and Pakistan. Hindu religious practices may also have their roots in Aryan beliefs.

Today, the Sindhu River serves as a key water supply to Pakistan and is central to the country’s economy. In addition to drinking water, the river enables and sustains the country’s agriculture endeavors. Fish from the river provide a major source of food to societies along the river’s banks. The Sindhu River is also used as a major transportation route for commerce.

Physical Attributes of the Sindhu River

The Sindhu is one of the world’s longest rivers. It follows a complex path that flows through three separate countries and covers over two thousand total miles. It possesses several unique characteristics. From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

After emerging from a highland region, the Indus flows as a rapid mountain stream between the Swat River and Hazara areas in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province until it reaches the reservoir of Tarbela Dam. The Kābul River joins the Indus just above Attock, where the Indus flows at an elevation of 2,000 feet (600 meters) and is crossed by the first bridge carrying rail and road. Finally, it cuts across the Salt Range near Kalabagh to enter the Punjab Plain.

The Indus receives its most-notable tributaries from the eastern Punjab Plain. These five rivers—the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej—give the name Punjab (“Five Rivers”) to the region divided between Pakistan and India.

After receiving the waters of the Punjab rivers, the Indus becomes much larger, and during the flood season (July to September) it is several miles wide. It flows through the plain in western and southern Punjab province in Pakistan at an elevation of about 260 feet (80 meters).

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Gill, N.S. "The Sindhu (Indus) River." ThoughtCo, Jun. 28, 2017, Gill, N.S. (2017, June 28). The Sindhu (Indus) River. Retrieved from Gill, N.S. "The Sindhu (Indus) River." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 19, 2018).