The Ganges ( GAN-jeez) (in India: Ganga ( GUNG-ə); in Bangladesh: Padma ( PUD-mə)) is a trans-boundary river of Asia which flows through India and Bangladesh

The 2,525 km (1,569 mi) river rises in the western Himalayas in the Indian state of Uttarakhand

It flows south and east through the Gangetic plain of North India, where it receives the right-bank tributary, the Yamuna which also rises in the western Indian Himalayas, and several left-bank tributaries from Nepal that account for the bulk of its flow

In West Bengal state, India, a feeder canal taking off from its right bank diverts 50% of its flow southwards, artificially connecting it to the Hooghly river

The Ganges continues into Bangladesh, its name changing to the Padma

It is then joined by the Jamuna, the lower stream of the Brahmaputra, and eventually the Meghna, forming the major estuary of the Ganges Delta, and emptying into the Bay of Bengal

The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna system is the third largest river on earth by discharge

The main stem of the Ganges begins at the town of Devprayag, at the confluence of the Alaknanda, which is the source stream in hydrology on account of its greater length, and the Bhagirathi, which is considered the source stream in Hindu mythology

The Ganges is a lifeline to millions of people who live in its basin and depend on it for their daily needs

It has been important historically, with many former provincial or imperial capitals such as Pataliputra, Kannauj, Kara, Munger, Kashi, Patna, Hajipur, Delhi, Bhagalpur, Murshidabad, Baharampur, Kampilya, and Kolkata located on its banks or the banks of tributaries and connected waterways

The river is home to approximately 140 species of fish, 90 species of amphibians, and also reptiles and mammals, including critically endangered species such as the gharial and South Asian river dolphin

The Ganges is the most sacred river to Hindus

It is worshipped as the goddess Ganga in Hinduism

The Ganges is threatened by severe pollution

This poses a danger not only to humans but also to animals

The levels of fecal coliform bacteria from human waste in the river near Varanasi are more than a hundred times the Indian government’s official limit

The Ganga Action Plan, an environmental initiative to clean up the river, has been considered a failure which is variously attributed to corruption, a lack of will in the government, poor technical expertise, environmental planning and a lack of support from religious authorities