Etymology of Mahanadi
The term ‘Mahanadi’ means ‘Great River’. From the meaning of its name it can be comprehended that Mahanadi is one of the largest rivers in southeast India and the sixth largest river in India.
Geography of Mahanadi
Geography of Mahanadi relates to the features of the river. Mahanadi flows for about 533 miles (858 kilometers) and the drainage area of the river is estimated to be 51,000 square miles (132,100 square kilometers).
Course of Mahanadi
Course of Mahanadi relates to the journey of the river. For the first 80 km of its course, Mahanadi flows in the northerly direction. The river drains from the Raipur district and touches the eastern portions of Raipur city. At this stage, Mahanadi is a narrow river and the total width of its valley does not exceed 500 to 600 meters. After being joined by the Seonath River, Mahanadi flows in an easterly direction through the remaining part of its journey. It is joined by the Jonk and Hasdeo rivers before entering Odisha, after covering about half of its total length. The river skirts the boundaries of Baudh district and moves through a tortuous way between ridges and ledges in a series of rapids until it reaches Dholpur in Odisha. The rapids end and the river rolls towards the Eastern Ghats, forcing its way through it via a 64 km long Satkosia Gorge. The Satkosia Gorge ends at Badamul in Nayagarh. The river cuts a ravine in the Eastern Ghats. Before joining the Bay of Bengal at False Point through several channels, the river enters the plains of Odisha at Naraj, about 11 km from Cuttack, where it pours down between two hills that are a mile apart. The river then forms a delta. This delta is one of the largest mangrove forests in peninsular India and also a rice producing area.
Tributaries of Mahanadi
The main tributaries of Mahanadi are Seonath River, Jonk River, Hasdeo River, Mand River, Ib River, Ong River and Telen River.
Mahanadi is known for devastating floods. However, the construction of Hirakud Dam has greatly altered the situation. Today a network of canals, barrages and check dams keep the river well in control, but heavy rain can still cause large scale flooding.
Hirakud Dam on Mahanadi
The world's largest earthen dam namely, Hirakud Dam has been built across Mahanadi, about 15 km from Sambalpur in Odisha. Before the construction of the Hirakud Dam in 1953, Mahanadi was about a mile wide at Sambalpur and carried massive amounts of silt, especially during the monsoon. But the dam now controls the flow of Mahanadi and produces hydroelectricity. It also supplies water to several irrigation canals near Cuttack.