Located along the eastern bank of the Hooghly River in the lower Ganges Delta, Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. This 350-year-old metropolis is the heart and soul of eastern India with its crumbling colonial architecture, elegant gardens, countless temples and bustling bazaars. Celebrated as the birthplace of the early 20th-century Bengal Renaissance, Kolkata is a major centre for drama, art, film, theatre, literature, spirituality and music. Visitors can roam the streets and soak up the atmosphere of faded grandeur, or take a ride in a rickshaw to one of the many Indian restaurants serving mouth-watering Bengali cuisine. Must-see highlights include: the Victoria Memorial, with its east-meets-west architecture; the Indian Museum, with its range of rare artefacts; and the Kali Temple, an important pilgrimage centre for Hindus.
Arrive Kolkata. Upon arrival, you will be received at the airport by Trail Blazer Tours Representative and will be assisted for your transfer to the hotel. Check-in at hotel. Hotel’s check-in time is 1400 hrs.
After breakfast, proceed for a Colonial walk. Embark upon a historical journey through the streets, markets and heritage buildings from Armenian and Portuguese churches, Jewish synagogues, to the Dalhousie Square, the Writers’ Building, the Governor’s House and the almost forgotten Charnock Mausoleum with tales of Calcutta’s Black Hole till it morphed into the City of Palaces.
One of the renowned monuments in Kolkata, Victoria Memorial was built in the loving memory of Queen Victoria in 1921. Built and designed by Sir William Emerson, the Victoria Memorial Hall is an impressive edifice, which is made in white marble and is a perfect blend of Mughal and European architectural styles. The Victoria Memorial is also a museum that houses some rare pictures, and statues of men and women who played a prominent part in the history of India and develop a pride in their past especially in relation to the history of Calcutta. In addition the museum also houses dresses, along with several artillery weapons from the Battle of Plassey, the Whispering Gallery in the dome and the famed Rosewood piano. Built on a land of 64 acres with the building covering 338 ft by 228ft, Victoria Memorial is an architectural splendor that boasts of a scenic landscaped garden, which adds to the beauty of this royal grandeur. There are some remarkable figures sculpted above the north porch, which symbolize prudence, learning and motherhood.
As the European community of Kolkata kept growing, by 1810, the St. John’s Church that was meant for offering prayers appeared too small to accommodate all visitors at one go. The need for a bigger cathedral was then proposed by the then Governor-General of Bengal, M\arquess of Hastings. He advised William Nairn Forbes to submit the design of a new cathedral. The location of the land for a new cathedral was proposed by Bishop Middleton. Due to the delays in getting permits, the process continuously kept getting pushed for later dates. Bishop Middleton passed away long before the project of the cathedral building had started. It was only during 1832, under Bishop Daniel Wilson that the building of the cathedral had started.
Dibrugarh derived its name from Dibarumukh (as a renowned encampment of Ahoms during the Ahom-Chutia War). The name Dibru evolved either from Dibaru River or from the Dimasa/Deori-Chutia word dibru meaning ‘blister’; garh means “fort”. Both dibru and Dibaruare Dimasa/Chutia words. The Dimasas add the prefix “Di-” (which means “water”) wherever there is small stream, a river, or a large river in a town or city; for example, Diphu (‘white-water’), Dimapur (‘city with great river’), etc. When the British came to this region, they constructed a fort on the bank of the river Dibaru. Therefore, this might be considered as the source of the name Dibrugarh.
Jorhat famous for its culture, mosques, tombs, gardens and most importantly – its tea plantations, Jorhat is a culturally and commercially important city in the state of Assam. The headquarters of Jorhat district, this city is also known as the tea capital of India. The beautiful, commercial, cultural and artistic city of Jorhat is the second largest in Assam. Tea plantations are the main agricultural areas around the city which also takes the shape of a tourist attraction given its simple natural charm. The river island of Majuli, which is the world’s largest river island is just 20 km away from this town and it can be accessed by ferries from Nimati Ghat.
Morning you will be transferred to Kolkata airport to board the scheduled flight either to Dibrugarh or Jorhat to board the ship at Nimati Ghat.
Both Dibrugarh and Jorhat are approx. 4 ½ and 1 ½ hrs respectively.
Assam Bengal Navigation (or ABN) is an Indo-British joint venture. With four cruise ships and a houseboat, ABN is the most experienced operator on Indian rivers. In 2003, ABN pioneered long-distance river cruising in India with unique cruises on the Brahmaputra River in Assam. Later in 2007, ABN was also the first to run cruises on the River Hooghly (Lower Ganges) between Kolkata and Farakka.
Go on an excursion by road to Sibsagar, the one-time capital of the Ahom kings of Assam. Shan by origin but converts to Hinduism, the Ahoms ruled Assam for some 700 years until the 1820s, and their culture and architecture is a strange and delightful amalgam of India and Southeast Asia. We shall see temples with stupa-like profiles and palaces of distinctive form. For the record book, the temple tank here is claimed to be the world’s largest hand-excavated reservoir. Lunch is taken at Horu Charai, a tea estate. Return to the ship and cruise downstream for three hours to Majuli Island, one of the world’s largest river islands.
A microcosm of Assamese culture, Majuli represents rural idyll in Assam. A stronghold of the peaceful religion of neo-Vaishnavism, the elegant island satras — some for celibate monks, some for families — showcase a unique way of life where the faithful live simply, offering worship through gayan-bayan (songs and musical instruments) and readings.
Visit Auniati monastery and its eclectic museum and, in the afternoon, attend a dance performance at Kamalabari monastery. Later, return to the ship and cruise downstream for one or two hours.
A day spent mostly on the river, though there will be a short visit to a tribal village by the river. By afternoon, you can see the Kaziranga National Park on your left – wild elephants are sometimes visible from the boat and once, memorably, a tiger.
This morning, you will arrive at the little temple town of Vishnath, known for its fine Ahom-period temple. Take a walk ashore before continuing the voyage down to a delightful mooring at Silghat, with butterflies abounding in the surrounding jungle.
Later proceed to Kaziranga National Park, a jeep ride through its Western Range, with good woodland as well as grassland and wetlands.
Today, drive to Kaziranga’s Central Range for a morning jeep safari. Covering an area of approximately 430 sq kms, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s largest population of the Indian One-Horned Rhinoceros as well as the Indian Wild Water Buffalo. It has also earned the distinction of having the highest density of Royal Bengal Tigers (one every five sq. km.) making this park an incredibly rich biodiversity hotspot. With its marshy swamps and thickets of elephant grass, this park supports large populations of Indian elephants, Indian bison, swamp deer, and Capped Langurs.
Besides wildlife, Kaziranga National Park is also a birding paradise. A few of the bird species found here are the Oriental Honey Buzzard, Black-shouldered Kite, White-tailed Eagle, Himalayan Griffon and so on.
Kaziranga National Park also frequently draws comparisons to the Serengeti in Africa due to the park’s abundance of wildlife and birds.
In the afternoon, go inside the Kaziranga National Park for another jeep safari.
Cruise downstream under the seemingly endless new bridge to dock at Tezpur.
After lunch on board, visit the remains of the 6th century Da Parbatia temple with its exquisitely carved portal. Board cycle rickshaws to go through the bazaars to Cole Park with its collection of medieval stone carvings. Later, re-board the ship and cruise downstream to moor for the night near the isolated Singri Hill.
The day is spent on the river, traversing a lunar landscape of sand islands then closing in on the range of hills beyond, which lies Guwahati. Moor for the night not far from Ganesh Pahar.
This morning’s voyage is particularly pretty, with jungle-covered hills in the south bank. Reaching Guwahati by midday, the ship will moor opposite the city and climb up to the pretty Aswaklanta temple before driving out to the temple ruins of Madan Kamdev, their erotic carvings being an indicator of the strong tantric traditions of the area. Return to the ship and cruise downstream to Sualkuchi either this very evening or the following morning.
Walk through Sualkuchi, a bustling little town that is the centre of Assamese silk production, to visit weaving workshops. Witness the whole process of silk manufacture, from cocoon and spinning to dyeing and hand-weaving into exquisite mekhela chadars (a two-piece sari, the traditional attire of an Assamese woman). Later sail up to dock close to the great Saraighat Bridge and take a tour of Guwahati, driving up Nilachal Hill to the Kamakhya temple. With its tantric rites and animal sacrifices, the more squeamish among us may prefer to content themselves with its exteriors. Visit the poignant Commonwealth War Graves, the museum and the bazaars.
After breakfast, disembark ABN Cruise and transfer to Guwahati airport to board your flight to Kolkata.
(The itinerary, including the cruise and approximate driving durations, is subject to river and weather conditions. Kaziranga National Park comprises low-lying grassland, which may not be visitable when the river is at or near flood level.)
On arrival at Kolkata, our representatives will meet you and transfer to your hotel.
Rest of the day is at leisure.
Day 14: Depart Kolkata
In time transfer to Kolkata airport to board your fight for onward destination.