Chenab River and Its Tributaries in Himachal Pradesh

Chenab River

The Chenab River is a major river of India and Pakistan, which literally means ‘Moon’ (Chan) and ‘River’ (aab). It originates from the Lahaul valley of Himachal Pradesh's snowbound mountains, has a copious discharge throughout the year, and flows with steep bed slopes in the mountain reaches, forming a series of loops and bends. This feature makes it ideal for hydropower generation. After having flowed through Himachal Pradesh and the Kashmir Himalayas, it enters Pakistan and subsequently joins Satluj. The waters of the Chenab are allocated to Pakistan under the terms of the Indus Waters Treaty, which was established by the World Bank in 1960.

The Chenab River in Himachal Pradesh is formed by the confluence of two streams, Chandra and Bhaga, at Tandi in the Lahaul and Spiti district. 
It is the largest river in terms of volume in the state. 
The Chenab River runs through various regions, including the Pangi valley of Chamba district and Podar valley of Kashmir. The valley is shaped by the Great Himalayan and Pir Panjal ranges. After leaving Chamba district at Sansari Nala, the river makes its way through these ranges.

Main features of Chenab River

Features of Chenab River


Vedic Name


Sanskrit Name


Total Length

960 km

Length in Himachal Pradesh

122 km


Bara Lacha Pass (Lahaul – Spiti)

Districts Covered

Lahaul-Spiti, Chamba

Catchment Area

7,850 sq. km. (14.2% of HP’s area)

Hydro Electric Projects (Commissioned + Planned)

50 projects with atotal capacity of 3,085.25 MW

Potential Capacity

4,032 MW

Tributaries of Chenab

The Chenab River, which flows through Pakistan and India, has several important tributaries. These include the Bhaga River,Chandra river,Miyar Nalla.

Bhaga River: This river  originates from Lahaul valley and flows towards the south-west. It is joined by many snow-fed rivers and meets the Chandra River at Tandi. The upper catchment of the Bhaga River is characterized by U-shaped valleys, waterfalls, and glaciers, with no vegetation cover.

Chandra River: It is also a snow-fed river, originating from the base of the Himalayan range in Lahaul and Spiti district. It flows towards the south-east before taking a 180° turn and flowing towards the south-west. This river flows through a vast cold desert that receives little or no rain due to its location in the rain shadow zone of the Pir Panjal range. The Koksar village and Lahaul and Spiti districts lie along the Chandra River.

Miyar Nalla: It is another tributary that joins the Chenab River in Himachal Pradesh. It originates from near Lopen jot at about 5100m and flows towards the south-east before taking a big loop and turning towards the south-west. It joins the Chenab on its right bank opposite Udaipur after flowing about 60 km. Other tributaries of the Chenab River include Sohal, Thirot, Bhut Nalla, Marusudar, and Lidrari.

Spiritual Mythology 

Tandi: The village of Tandi holds significant religious importance for the people of Lahaul, much like Haridwar does for Hindus around the world. It is situated above the confluence of the Rivers Chandra and Bhaga in the Pattan valley, around 7 kilometers away from Keylong. Historical records reveal that Raja Rana Chand Ram founded Tandi under the name of Chandi, which later got corrupted into its current name. There are at least three mythological stories connected to Tandi. 

According to the first story, Tandi means "Tan Dehi," which translates to "giving up of the body." This is associated with Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas, who is said to have left her body at this place. The second story suggests that Rishi Vashishtha, who meditated near the hot water springs of Manali, was cremated at this confluence. As a result, the place was named Tandi, which means "body consumed." The third story is that Chandra and Bhaga, the son and daughter of the Moon and the Sun gods, respectively, were in love with each other. To perform their celestial marriage, they decided to climb the Baralacha-la and then run in opposite directions, encircling a vast tract of Lahaul. They eventually met at Tandi to enter into wedlock.

Kardang Monastery, located on the left bank of the Bhaga River, was built in the late medieval times and was rebuilt in 1912 AD. It has four chapels and holds statues of Tara (Devi) and Padmasambhava, as well as a chorten containing the relics of Lama Norbu. The monastery is adorned with beautiful fresco paintings depicting the life of Buddha and Buddhist tantric deities.

Guru Ghantal Monastery, situated on the right bank of the Chandra Bhaga River, is perhaps the oldest monastery in Lahaul area dating back to the 10th century. It enshrines a black stone image of goddess Kali called Varjeshwari Devi (Dorji Lhama) and a wooden image of Buddha, which was installed by a Lama Ringchen Zangop from Kinnaur some eight hundred years ago.

Important project on Chenab river

The Seli Hydroelectric Plant is a project located in the Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, India. The aim of the project is to generate 400 megawatts (540,000 hp) of hydroelectric power. The project was awarded to Moser Baer through an international competitive bidding process. The project consists of a concrete gravity dam that is approximately 80 meters (260 ft) high above the riverbed level, two head race tunnels of about 4.2 km, and an underground powerhouse complex on the right bank of river Chenab.

Indus Water Treaty in brief

India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty (IWT) in September 1960 after nine years of negotiations. The World Bank brokered the agreement, which was signed by Pakistan's president Ayub Khan and India's prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.. The treaty established a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries on the use of the water from the Indus River and its five tributaries, namely Sutlej, Beas, Ravi, Jhelum, and Chenab.

The treaty outlines how water from the six rivers of the Indus River System should be shared between India and Pakistan. It allocated the three western rivers, namely the Indus, Chenab, and Jhelum, to Pakistan for unrestricted use, barring certain non-consumptive, agricultural, and domestic uses by India. Meanwhile, the three eastern rivers, namely the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej, were allocated to India for unrestricted usage.

This means that 80% of the water share went to Pakistan, while the remaining 20% was allocated to India for its use.

In further articles we read about this treaty in detail.

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