BENGAL DESPATCH 4 - THE HOLY GANGES DOWNSTREAM
PATNA TO FARAKKA
Day 1 . Arrive Patna by road, rail or air (transfer from airport or railway station to ship is included in the cruise cost). Embark on your cruise ship from 4pm onwards, and enjoy dinner on board.
Day 2. This morning we take a tour of Patna, visiting the extraordinary 18th century Gola Ghar granary, the great Sikh temple and the rich collections of the State Museum. Returning to our ship, we pass near the old East India Company opium warehouses and cruise down to moor for the evening at Barh.
Day 3 . Today there is an excursion to Nalanda, recently included as a UNESCO world heritage site where visits would include the excavated great Buddhist monastery and stupa along with the adjoining museum, then on to the picturesque Pawapuri Jain temple in the middle of a lake. We return in the evening to our ship which will have sailed down to the great bridge at Mokameh, where earlier the naturalist Jim Corbett spent his working life overseeing the ferry crossing.
Day 4. Today we sail down to Monghyr. Monghyr possesses a fine Mughal fort, as well as an East India Company Cemetery, now with villagers living amongst the tombs. We shall also visit the Pirpahar Hill, crowned by a fine old mansion as well as the Sitakund hot springs, before continuing our cruise downstream to anchor near Jahangira Island at Sultanganj, a place of pilgrimage with early Hindu carvings in the rock. On shore, another picturesque rock is topped with a mosque.
Day 5 . We sail this morning along a stretch of the river where Gangetic Dolphin may be seen, to Bhagalpur, a centre of silk production. Here we shall visit the elegant 18th century mansion built by Augustus Cleveland as well as a silk-weaving village (on BD4 itinerary, Bhagalpur visit omitted from Sep 2016 onwards). We sail on passing close to the island shrine at Colganj, with both Buddhist and Hindu cave temples, and once a centre of the murderous Thug sect. Close to here we visit idyllic Bateshwar with 6th century Hindu carvings and the nearby ruins of an 8th century Buddhist stupa and monastery at Vikramshila. We anchor for the night near the confluence with the Kosi, coming down from Nepal.
Day 6 . We sail downstream this morning to Rajmahal, beneath the Rajmahal Hills. Rajmahal is one of those places, so common in India, which feature in no guidebook and yet offer both interest and atmosphere; once known as Akbarnagar, the town was founded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar as his eastern capital. Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj Mahal, spent much of his youth here. There are remains of palaces, forts and mosques submerged in vegetation which we shall explore before continuing on down to the great Farakka Barrage.
Itinerary subject to river conditions.