Ancient Names of Indian Rivers

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How Rivers are Named

Names of rivers, like names of places have been influenced by several factors, like geographic features, indigenous languages, local traditions and many others. It is quite normal to find a mythological reference to the name of river, like river Bhagirathi is named after Sage Bhagirath who approached Lord Brahma to let Ganga flow to the earth for salvation of his ancestors.
A river known by one name at one place may be known by a different name at another place at the same time, like the river Indus is known as Singi Khamban in Tibet. Over time, the names of rivers change due to linguistic evolution and adaptation. Ancient names of rivers can be found in historical and mythological literature of the country.
This page is intended to list the ancient names of some of the Indian rivers, at the same time, give the alternate names in case of transboundary rivers.

Present Day NameAncient/Alternate Name
IndusSindhu (Ancient name); Singi Khamban (Tibetan name)
GangaPadma (Bangladeshi name)
YamunaKalindi (Ancient name)
JhelumVitasta (Ancient name); Hydaspes(Greek name)
ChenabAsikini (Ancient name); Chandrabhagha
RaviParusni (Ancient name); Airavati
BeasVipasa (Ancient name); Hyphasis(Greek name)
SutlejSutudri (Ancient name); Zarodros (Greek name); Langechen Khambab (Tibetan name)
BrahmaputraDihang; Tsangpo(Tibetan name)
KrishnaKrsnavena, Krsnaveni, Kanhapenna (Ancient names)
NarmadaNamade (Greek name)
LuniSagarmati, Lavanavati


Quiz on Names of Rivers

Select the right answer

1. Which river was known as Asikini in ancient India?

2. Parusni was the ancient name of which present day river?

3. Which river was known as Vitasta in ancient times?

4. Sindhu is the ancient name of which of the following rivers?

5. Vipasa is the ancient name of which of the following rivers/

6. Which river was once known as Sutudri?

7. Which river was referred to as Hydasphes by the Greeks?

8. Which river is known as Padma in Bangladesh?

9. What was the ancient name of river Yamuna?

10. Which river is known as Tsangpo in Tibet?