Bengal on Hugli


10 NIGHTS: EXOTIC SUNDERBANS AND GANGES HERITAGE CRUISES


DAY 1- EMBARK
Check in at Vivada Jetty, Millennium park, by 8 am. M.V. Paramhamsa will cast off at 8.30am.

The vessel sails under Howrah Bridge, the unique cantilever Bridge across the river Ganga joining the two metropolises of Kolkata and Howrah. Sailing past the Howrah Railway Station, one of the busiest train stations in the world, and various heritage sites on the banks of the great river, including numerous temples and bathing ghats, the historical point of arrival of Job Charnock, the House of Dolls, the Nimtolla Ghat, the oldest Gun and Shell Factory in India at Cassipur you arrive for a real treat of various European colonies on the Ganges.

The first shore excursions will be visits to various European colonies on the River Ganges. Serampore, the Danish colony, Chandannagore – French colony, Bandel – Portuguese and Chinsura- the Dutch.

At dusk you embark the vessel at Chandannagar to be treated to a French Dinner, befitting the ambience and the aroma of the French settlement of yore. The vessel sails as you dine and later anchors at Triveni for the night.

DAY 2 – CRUISE
As the vessel sails, rural Bengal unfolds itself in all its beauty, bounty and glory. The forenoon is spent on board and activities include a talk about the magnificent Ganga Heritage by a well-known Historian.

The vessel reaches Mayapur, the headquarters of ISKON. You disembark at the divine abode of Lord Krishna. The rich vegetarian lunch at the divine temple at Mayapur tantalizes the taste buds with its purity and simplicity. The Hare Krishna cult of the Gaudiya Vaishnav philosophy believes that Mayapur is the place of birth of Sri Chaitanya and it is the spiritual capital of the world.

Nabadwip, the ancient capital of Lakshman Sen, the famous ruler of the Sen dynasty, situated now on the western bank due to the changing course of Ganga, was a great center of learning and intellectual prowess, referred to as the Oxford of Bengal and the place where Chaitanya Deb was born in 1486. This was captured by Bakhtiyar Khilji, to pave the way for Muslim Rule in Bengal.

Enjoy a stroll through these twin towns of Chaitanya faith and return to the vessel for a quiet evening to let the divine feeling sink in. At night the vessel cruises to anchor at Lal Bagh in front of Hazar Duari, the Palace with thousand doors.

DAY 3 – CRUISE
Murshidabad is one of the oldest cities of West Bengal and has a rich heritage. It was the capital city of Sasanka, the great king of Gaur. Nawab Murshid Ali Khan made Murshidabad the capital city of Sube Bangla, comprising of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. It was the last capital of independent Nawabs of Bengal and the first capital of Bengal under the British.

Start the day with a pleasant walk through Khusbagh, an idyllic Mughal-style Garden enclosing the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daullah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal and his family, returning to the vessel for breakfast. Return on land to visit places of historic interest like the Nizamat Kila (the Fortress of the Nawabs), also known as the Hazar Duari Palace (Palace of a Thousand Doors), built by Duncan McLeod of the Bengal Engineers in 1837, in the Italianate style, the Moti Jheel (Pearl Lake) just to the south of the palace, the Muradbagh Palace and the Khushbagh Cemetery, where the remains of Ali Vardi Khan and Siraj-ud-Daulah are interred. After visiting the Hazar Duari Museum - collections of pictures, china, weapons and other objects to see the great Katara Mosque and the 18th Century marvels of the Nashipura Palace and the palace of Jagat Sett, both built in classical Georgian style by rich local merchants and represents the other side of the coin of the “White Mughal” period when English and Indian cultures came close to fusion.

After a sumptuous lunch, spend time at leisure to explore the city of silk on your own, looking at how the Indian cottage industry survives on silk weaving, and if you so wish, take the opportunity of being able to purchase the exquisite Murshidabad silk.

Entertainment at nightfall is the highlight of the evening as the cruiser winds its way back and you carry with you pleasant memories of historical past and an enjoyable and delightful cruise.

DAY 4 – CRUISE
The vessel will cruise up to the Farrakka Barrage. This is the point where the River water is shared between India and Bangladesh. The barrage is at an idyllic town of Malda which was known as English Bazaar. This is a part of the Gaur Dynasty and later on became capital for Muslim rulers.

In the afternoon the vessel sail down the river past the Battle of Palassy. In the evening the mood is set for another traditional Bengal form of art – Chou Dance of Purulia.

Day 5 - CRUISE
The vessel reaches Kalna early in the morning. Enjoy an early morning trip to the ancient terracotta temples at Kalna. One may choose to take a cycle rickshaw ride or have a lovely morning walk breathing in fresh air. The old Shiva temple with concentric rings made up of 108 shrinelets enthralling you with the rich workmanship of Bengal.

By Dusk the vessel arrives at Belur where you disembark to visit Belur Math, a shrine built by Swami Vivekananda, in honor of his great master Ramakrishna Paramhamsa Deb. The evening aarti at the temple is really inspiring the soul. After a very peaceful evening at the shrine, the evening entertainment will bring in the erstwhile days of British Bengal when Park Street was the place to see and be seen.

DAY 6- CRUISE
At dawn the cruiser sets sail along the beautiful Ganges towards the South, passing through the various heritage sites for seven to eight hours to reach Namkhana, a fisherman’s cove and the Gateway to Sunderbans. You unwind, relax, soak in the beauty of the river; read books in the library; interact with artisans or take a massage based on Ayurveda.

The busy fishing harbor will give an insight into the lifestyle of the fisherman. You may buy fresh fish and other sea food to be cooked in the live kitchen counters for dinner. After interacting with the fishermen, the cruiser enters Sunderbans to navigate through the narrower creek of Hatania –Doanina. You will have the first glimpse of the dense mangrove and the vast river system with several creeks flowing into the main rivers.

In the evening, you have choices – watching wild life film shows or a talk with a wild lifer and a dinner with music from modern and traditional Bengal. The cruiser will drop anchor at Namkhana for the night.

DAY 7- CRUISE
At dawn see a spectacular early sunrise, while the cruiser sails east. Today experience the lifestyle of Sunderbans, their traditions, culture along with the rich Bio diversity of the region as well and an Estuarine Crocodile Project at Bhagabatpur.

Visit watchtowers, at Sajnekhali and Sudhanyakhali along with a Wild-lifer, who will guide you to experience the forest, sight animals and birds; explain various mangrove species and tell the interesting stories of the islands.

Later in the evening before sunset, the vessel will anchor at a beautiful Sunderban village. See farming, paddy being husked, collected honey being packed, fishing, prawn culture and various occupations of the region.

At dusk enjoy a traditional mythological folk drama, Bon Bibir pala, a rich folklore performance of Sunderbans.

Later in the evening, enjoy a traditional Bengali meal while recorded folk songs of Bengal mesmerize the dining hall, then later indulge in star gazing from the sky deck; soak in the serenity and tranquility.

DAY 8 – CRUISE
Early morning the vessel sails towards the Bangladesh Border. The first shore excursion will be to Burirdabri, an island at the border of Bangladesh. This is a tiger reserve where there is a canopy walk through the mangroves to the watch tower providing a good tiger sighting opportunity.

In the afternoon you will be transferred to a small vessel for a creek ride through the narrow creeks of Sunderbans. Through out the ride you will have a first hand experience of the intense dense forest, and good animal sighting is expected.

The cruiser anchors at Sunderbans and being a sanctuary, the evening will be a quiet one with indoor games, lively music in the restaurant.


Day 9 – CRUISE
The vessel sails south and then west, through the wide rivers, Bidya, Matla, Thakuran and Saptamukhi, which are almost as wide as the sea. At the tip is Sunderbans’ most wonderful Virgin Island Kalas dwip which has a natural white sand beach. There is a watch tower at Kalash Camp and this will be the third good tiger sighting opportunity.

Our next stop is at Lothian Island, where there is an interesting forest trail. Dinner is served on the cruiser with folk music.

DAY 10 – CRUISE
Disembark at Kochu Beria for a visit to Ganga Sagar. Ganga Sagar is where the river enters the sea at Bay of Bengal. The beach is calm most of the year except during the monsoon months. The Kalpil Muni Ashram here is very famous and millions of people come here very year especially on the new month of Sankranti in January to have a holy dip. After spending the morning at the beach, we return to the vessel and then sail towards Kolkata.

Day 11 - END
Early morning spend time walking through the 230 year old Botanical Gardens founded by Colonel Keats of the East India Company housing the 250 year old Banyan tree.

The cruise returns to Kolkata at 11 AM.

Itinerary/Timings may vary depending on tidal and weather conditions.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: E-mail: Deepak Singh, Spiritual Journeys, Inc., 262 Upland Road, Cambridge, MA 02140, USA. Ph: 508-358-4267.