The night cruise, upstream with return journey by rail, takes you along the intimate lower Ganges sidestream known as the River Hugli, which flows from Farakka on the main river down to Kolkata. As well as sightseeing of Kolkata itself and the European colonies just outside, the cruise takes in Murshidabad, capital of the Nawabs of Bengal, the battlefield of Plassey close by, and the many monuments of the medieval Islamic capital of Gaur. A highlight are several delightful and little known Bengali terracotta temples. Cruises can be combined with Ganges cruises on most dates.
Embark midday on your ship and sail up past the old Danish colony of Serampore to Barrackpore. Disembark and take a walk through the cantonment past the Semaphore Tower, Government House, the Temple of Fame, and Flagstaff House, its garden housing many of the British statues removed from central Kolkata. At high tide it may be necessary to perform the first mile or two under low clearance bridges by a launch before boarding the cruise ship at Bally Bridge.
Sail up to Chandernagore, a French possession until 1950, and visit the 18th century church and Dupleix’s House containing a small museum. Land at Chinsura and take rickshaws to visit the Dutch cemetery and the imposing Imambara at Hooghly where you reboard your ship and cruise upstream leaving urban sprawl behind. Sail into the night to a mooring near Kalna.
Land at the country town of Kalna and take cycle 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 shrinelets. Continue on through the countryside to Mayapur, its skyline dominated by the vast new ISKCON temple. Visit on the opposite bank at Nabadwip the older and humbler temples entwined within a giant banyan tree before sailing on through the night to a mooring near Matiari.
This morning, visit the brassworking village of Matiari where you can see the whole process of beating out brass water pots and other vessels. Later, cruise on past the battlefield of Plassey where in 1757 Clive’s defeat of Siraj-ud-Daulah changed the course of Indian history, to moor at Murshidabad.
Land and travel by cycle rickshaw to the Khushbagh, a peaceful Moghul-style garden enclosing the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah and his family. Continue a little way upstream to where the Nawab’s great Hazarduari Palace, built by an English architect in 1837, dominates the waterfront. Inside are an extensive collection of pictures, china, weapons and other objects. Visit also the great Katra Mosque and drive out to two amazing buildings of the late 18th century, the Nashipara Palace and the Katgola Palace. Overnight on the riverbank across from town.
Moor at the delightful sleepy village of Baranagar with three gorgeous miniature terracotta temples to which you walk through the fields. This is rural India at its most idyllic. Continue up the Hooghly, here a charming waterway twisting and turning between banks lined with mustard fields and mango orchards. Carry on to moor at dusk at Jangipur.
From Jangipur cruise up a long canal section to a mooring close to the Farakka Barrage. The afternoon is free. Alternatively take a full day excursion by road to Gaur, near the town of Malda, or English Bazar. This quiet, deserted place was once one of India’s great cities, first under the Hindus in the 12th century, then as the Muslim capital of Eastern India from the 14th to the 16th century. There are plentiful remains of mosques, palaces and gateways and you visit a number of the most interesting before rejoining the ship in the evening at Farakka.
Dawn transfer to Farakka station for a six hour morning train journey to Calcutta.