The traditional source of the river is a spout from the mouth of a statue of a cow in the ancient temple of Mahadev in Mahabaleshwar, Maharashtra.
Its most important tributary is the Tungabhadra River, which itself is formed by the Tunga and Bhadra rivers that originate in the Western Ghats. Other tributaries include the Koyna, Bhima, Mallaprabha, Ghataprabha, Yerla, Warna, Dindi, Musi and Dudhganga rivers.
Two big dams have been constructed on the river, one at Srisailam and the other at Nagarjuna Hill. The latter called Nagarjuna Sagar is considered to be the largest earth dam in the world with a natural reservoir spanning several thousand hectares of land.