Carry on up the Ganges, January 2018
A spiritual and intoxicating country, India is home to over one billion people. It is a land of mountains, deserts and coastal landscapes, and some of the world’s largest and culturally diverse cities. The Indian nation is constantly changing and embracing the modern world, yet maintaining their culture, customs and beliefs of old.
For nearly a billion Hindus in India the Ganges is more than just a river. It is the extension of the divine Lord Shiva. Not only does it transport the prayers of believers visiting its waters, but it also provides sustenance for hundreds of millions of people, it supports vast industry, agriculture, and endangered wildlife like the Bengal tiger and the susu, a blind freshwater dolphin. For Indians it is most commonly known as Ma Ganga — Mother Ganga. For Westerners, it is the Ganges, one of the most sacred of the world’s rivers.
Photos © Jeremy Woodhouse
On this photography expedition we will cruise the Ganges for six days. Photographing places both ancient and modern, of importance to not only Hindus, but also to Jain and Buddhist communities, will be the focus of this trip. The possibilities are endless as we will have the ability to anchor our boat and explore at will. Gandhi proclaimed, "…the future of India lies in its villages…", and we will be in the midst of them.
The group will be able to wander freely in mustard-hued fields along the Ganges, in areas where foreigners are rarely seen, to document rural people in their homes, markets, temples, fields and villages. The trip will culminate in Varanasi, the Hindu homeland where we will rise early in the morning to capture people at prayer and where we will end at the evening's Aarti celebration as the sun is setting.
Due to the uniqueness of this trip and our mode of transportation it is imperative that you are a team player. A spirit of generosity, camaraderie and positivity is crucial. If you can capture images independently you will thrive on this trip. Please note that because of the size of the boat, it will not be possible for all trip members to have single accommodations.
Day 1— Kolkata
Upon arrival in Kolkata, you will be met at the airport by our tour agency representative and driven to the hotel where you will be assisted with check in. The group will get together at six o'clock and have a trip orientation. Dinner and drinks will follow. Hindustan Hotel
Day 2 — Kolkata
This city is far different than most major cities in India. Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of India's West Bengal state. Founded as an East India Company trading post, it was India's capital under the British Raj from 1773-1911. Today it’s known for its grand colonial architecture.
After an early breakfast we will proceed for a city photo walk. Our first location will be the vibrant flower markets where we can photograph the buyers and sellers. Next we will go to the Howrah Bridge. It carries approximately 100,000 vehicles and possibly more than 150,000 pedestrians, easily making it the busiest cantilever bridge in the world. The group will also shoot the colonial style government buildings.
Later in the day we will explore the narrow and crowded lanes of the “City of Joy”. This teeming slum is where Mother Therese founded her ministry. This is street photography at its best. Tandoori chicken is a specialty in Kolkata, we will go to a restaurant that is known to have the finest in the city. Hindustan Hotel
Day 3 — Ganges Photo Cruise
Leaving the hotel in the morning we will take a six hour train ride to Farakka where we will board our ship. We will sail upstream to Rajmahal. This quaint city of 17,000 is dotted with the remains of ancient palaces, forts and mosques. Many of these ruins are submerged in vegetation. Known for its vibrant and friendly atmosphere and ambiance. Once known as Akbarnager, the town was founded by the Mughal emperor Akbar as the capital of Bengal in 1592. Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, spent much of his youth here. Photography opportunities include ruins, architecture and street scenes We will sail as far as the Manihari Ghat
Day 4 — Ganges Photo Cruise
This morning we will continue cruising up river, passing the confluence with the Kosi River which flows down from Nepal. We will arrive at idyllic Bateshwar. This town is know for its distinctive 6th century rock carvings. Wandering around the streets we will photograph the women washing clothing, small shops and rural India. The group will then be driven a short distance to the 8th century Buddhist monastery of Vikramshila. This monastery was one of the most important centers of Buddhist learning in ancient India. Abandoned for years it is an ancient relic with distinct architecture. At one time 1000 students studied here and Indian pilgrims find there way here to meditate.
Afterward we will drive to Kekilgaon and Colganj where our shp awaits us.The ruins of the glorious past that remained under the patronage of the Gupta Empire from 5th to 6th century are depicted in the walls and rock cut cravings of Colganj temple. An impressive collection of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain deities, these artistic etchings have been excavated from Sultanganj and Kahalgaon.
Day 5 — Ganges Photo Cruise
We will cruise through the Vikramashila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary. It is here that we will see the South Asian river dolphin, species of hard shelled turtles and migratory birds. Our destination is Bhagalpur. This is a major center of silk production in India and we will photograph the weavers, local craftsman and market. Onward from there to Jahangira Island where we will meet Hindu pilgrims and photograph the quaint market.
Day 6 — Ganges Photo Cruise
Today we wil stop at villages along the Ganges. Many of these local villages are untouristed and have had little contact with foreign guests. Photographic opportunities will be spontaneous and authentic. We will be able to wander freely and experience rural India in a leisurely manner. Strolling through the villages and fields photographing everyday life is on the agenda. Those wishing to remain on the boat will be able to do so.
Day 7 — Ganges Photo Cruise
This day wail be spent on a full day excursion to Nalanda. We will visit and photograph the excavated Buddhist monastery and visit the adjoining museum. These ruins are some of the largest in India and we can work on architectural photography while there. If possible we can photograph Buddhist monks who make pilgrimages to this site. The afternoon will be spent photographing the Jain temple in Pawapuri which is situated in the middle of the lake. Jain pilgrims from all over India come here and photograph opportunities should be rich and varied. We will explore and learn about the unique beliefs and practices of Jainism.
Day 8 — Ganges Photo Cruise
As we cruise upstream we will stop to photograph rural villagers in their homes, farms and fields. Random stops will take place. Photographic opportunities will be varied and spontaneous. Without a clock to watch will afford us the opportunity to truly capture the essence of rural India. Our goal is to reach Patna by early evening; the capital of the Bihar state. The ship will anchor in close proximity to the East India Company opium warehouse.
Day 9 —Patna - Varanasi
The morning will be spent exploring Patna. We will photograph the 18th century Golghar granary, the great Sikh temple and the surrounding area. After lunch we will drive/train to the ancient city of Varanasi, the center of Hindu culture.
Day 10 - 12 —Varanasi
Varanasi photographic opportunities will include sunrise boatride, Aarti sunset boat ride, tuk tuk rides, in depth photo opportunities with sadhu's. We will be lodging on the ghats so free exploration and photography is encouraged. We will be accompanied by a local guide who has experience working with photographers. Farewell dinner
Day 13 — Varanasi - Delhi
This being our last day we will fly to Delhi and catch our flights back to our country of origin. Day rooms will be available for those taking early morning flights.
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Tour Cost $TBA, Trip Deposit $1,000
Maximum Group Size 10
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Jeremy Woodhouse & Herb Leventon