The Indus Valley


River Indus, the great trans-Himalayan drainage system derives its conventional name from the Tibetan and Sanskrit word ‘Sindhu’. The earliest chronicles and hymns of the Aryan people of ancient India, the Rigveda, composed about 1500 BCE, mention Sindhu as the source of the country’s name.

Locally known as Singe Khabab (descended from the lion’s mouth) or the Lion River, the Indus rises in southwestern Tibet at an elevation of about 18,000 feet / 5,500 metres. From here it flows northwestwards for about 200 miles / 320 km, before entering the territory of Ladakh from its southeastern boundary which is located at an altitude of about 15,000 feet / 4,600 metres.


A short distance downstream from Leh, it is joined by the first major tributary, the Zaskar River. Flowing from Leh for about 150 miles (240 km) in the same direction, it enters into the Pakistani-administered region of Baltistan, enroute receiving its other notable tributary, the Shyok River on its right bank. In its course through Ladakh, the Indus carves out a narrow and winding trans-Himalayan valley system which is geographically referred to as “the Indus Furrow” and sustains majority of Ladakh’s population and life.

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