On this 13-day Upper Ganges River cruise from Varanasi to Kolkata aboard RV Katha Pandaw, discover the best of the Ganges from India's colonial splendors. Explore the best of the Ganges, from Kolkotta's colonial splendors to West Bengal's rural arcadia along the Hoogly and the Ganga itself, with its pristine bird and wildlife and cultural treasures dotted along the banks. In the latter part of the expedition, discover Varanasi, the world's oldest inhabited city and the most sacred city in Hinduism. Varanasi is undoubtedly the goal of any 'passage to India,' and at the other end of the sacred river is Kolkata, in all its Raj-like splendor. Disembark at Kolkata.
Discover the brass-working village of Matiari
Explore the battlefield of Plassey
Visit Jahanigra Island's 8th-century rock carvings depicting Siva & Vishnu
Spot the rare Gangeatic dolphins while sailing along the river
Morning city tour of Patna including a visit to The Golghar, a large stupa-styled granary built in 1786. Sail downstream during lunch before arriving at Barh, a town famous for Hindu ritual cremation at Urmanath and the Alakhnath Temple.
Stop at Mokama, once home to Jim Corbett the naturalist and protector of the Indian tigers. Surrounded by farmlands, Mokama has the second-highest production of lentils in the country. Learn about the freedom fighters from Mokama such as Lalldin Saheb, who during the freedom struggle was sentenced to jail during the British rule.
Munger is now a large and industrialized city but has an interesting history. In 1762, Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal, shifted his capital from Murshidabad to Munger and established a firearms manufacturing center here. Explore the Mughal fort, and East India Company cemetery and step inside the Bihar School of Yoga founded in 1964 by Satyananda Saraswati. One of the leading yoga schools in the country. The institution has developed yogic techniques through a synthesis of traditional yogic, Vedantic, and tantric practices and contemporary health science.
Continue to Jahanigra Island, a place of pilgrimage with many rock carvings in high relief dating from the eighth century depicting aspects of Siva and Vishnu. In the evening moor off Sultanganj, with its pair of great granite rocks, one crowned with a mosque and the other a small temple dating from the 16th century.
Sailing along this stretch of the river provides an opportunity to spot the rare Gangeatic dolphins. Land at Bhaglapur, a center of silk production, and visit the 18th-century mansion of the Collector, Augustus Cleveland. Passing the confluence of the Kosi river that flows down from Nepal, moor at the pretty town of Bateshwarsthan to uncover the 8th-century Buddhist site of Vikramshila, one of the two most important centers of learning in India during the Pala Empire, along with Nalanda.
Enter a section of the river rich in bird life, before stopping at Samtaghat, otherwise known as Raj Mahal. Cross from the Lower Ganges or Hooghly River to the Ganges itself through the Farraka canal and lock, which was constructed in 1963-75. Passing into the great river the great Farraka barrage is visible just downstream. This effectively dams the Ganges and strategically controls the flow of water into neighboring Bangladesh.
Continue cruising towards Murshidabad to where the great Hazarduari Palace dominates the waterfront. Explore the city, a hidden architectural gem along the river with dramatic, whitewashed, colonial-era structures including Katra Mosque and Katgola palaces.
Take a late afternoon walk to the Khushbagh, a peaceful Mughal-style garden that encloses the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah – the last independent Nawab of Bengal – and his family. Later, cruised past the battlefield of Plassey where, in 1757, Robert Clive, the Commander-in-Chief of British India, defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal.
Set off to discover the brass-working village of Matiari. Interact with the local artisans and learn how these skilled craftsmen all specialize in a different process – from beating the metal to etching the designs. Witness the whole process involved to create brass water pots, trays, and other vessels. Continue sailing towards Mayapur to explore the vast new ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple which dominates the skyline. As the headquarters of ISKCON or the Hare Krishna movement, the temple receives over a million singing and dancing devotees a year from around the world.
Land at the country town of Kalna and take rickshaws to see a group of some of Bengal's most attractive terracotta temples, as well as the unique Shiva temple with concentric rings made up of 108 lesser shrines. On the way back to the ship explore the colorful local market full of fruit sellers and fish mongers.
Sail past the Portuguese settlement of Bandel and the old Dutch settlement of Chinsura before arriving at Chandernagore, a French possession until 1950. Stroll along the riverside promenade, and visit the 18th-century church and Dupleix’s House, the erstwhile Governor-General of French India. Moor overnight near Kolkata.
Day 13: Kolkata | Disembark
Disembark the ship at 08:00 and transfer from the port in Kolkata to your hotel by coach. Drop off at the hotel at about 10:00.
Our guide and driver were very good with their knowledge and were very helpful with our questions. It was a very pleasant visit that would have been impossible to do on our own. Hotels and restaurants were fantastic. The special places we got to go to, like the kitchens, were great. Enjoyed the entire trip!