Bengal on Hugli

6 NIGHTS / 7 DAYS Sunderbans and Heritage Cruise

Check in at Vivada Jetty, Millennium park by 8 am. M.V. Paramhamsa will cast off at 8.30 AM. The cruiser sets sail along the beautiful Ganges towards the South, passing through various heritage sites for seven to eight hours to reach Namkhana, a fisherman’s cove and 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 harbour will give an insight into the lifestyle of the fisherman. You can 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 your first glimpse of the dense mangrove and the vast river system with several creeks flowing into the main rivers.

In the evening, you will have choices – watching wild life film shows or 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.

At dawn, see the spectacular early sunrise, while we sail east. This day you 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, go for a canopy walk at some of the islands – Dobanke, 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 interesting stories of the islands.

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

After sunset, 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. Later indulge in star gazing from the sky deck; soak in the serenity and tranquility.

The cruiser turns back from the Sunderbans on its journey back to Kolkata. The vessel sails south and then west, through wide rivers, Bidya, Matla, Thakuran and Saptamukhi, which are almost as wide as a sea.

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

The vessel again will cross Namkhana sail northwards towards Kolkata. The next excursion in forenoon will be to the Botanical Gardens, a 230 year old founded by Colonel Keats of the East India Company housing the 250 year old Banyan tree.

After a brief halt at Kolkata, the vessel sails down the Howrah Bridge, the unique cantilever Bridge across the river Ganga joining the two metropolises of Kolkata and Howrah. Sailing past 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 Cossipore, you arrive at Belur.

Here you disembark to visit Belur Math, a shrine built by Swami Vivekananda, in honour of his great master Ramakrishna Paramhamsa Deb. The visit will give an insight into Sri Ramakrishna’s equality of religions.

At dusk, embark the vessel to sail up the river to Chandannagar, a colony of the French till 1950. At the Chandannagar Strand, the ancient French colony comes alive with bands recreating French flavour. After a tour of the French Architecture of historical importance in the Strand like the Church, the Clock Tower and the old hotels, now housing the Civil Court and various educational institutions the visitors embark the vessel 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.

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 movement 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.

The visitors 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.

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. The 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.

You start the day with a pleasant walk through Khusbagh, an idyllic Mughal-style Garden enclosing the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal and his family, and return to the vessel for breakfast. Back on land, 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 the visitors 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.

After a day well spent, the cruiser bids good bye to Murshidabad and passes through the historic battleground of Plassey, where Robert Clive’s men defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah’s soldiers ushering in British Rule in India. Entertainment at nightfall is the highlight of the evening as the cruiser winds its way back and the visitors carry with them pleasant memories of historical past and an enjoyable and delightful cruise.

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 is enthralling with the rich workmanship of Bengal. Return to the vessel and head back to Kolkata, casting a last, long, lingering look behind to have a clear look at the Dutch Cemetery at Chinsura and the Portugese Church at Bandel.

The cruise ends at about 3 pm at the Millennium Park, Kolkata.

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.