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The Hooghli River

The 260 kilometre-long Hooghly River, a tributary of the Ganges, links the charming rural scenes of West Bengal with the state’s capital city of Calcutta. The River’s banks are lined with beautifully rustic villages, charming temples, old decaying colonial mansions and farmland stretching as far as the eye can see. The French, Dutch and British have all left their historical and cultural mark.

Today, the Hooghly still revolves around local rural life. Much of India’s jute, which is cultivated into natural fibres, is grown on these banks. Mustard fields and mango orchards border the river, its vital water giving life to the crops. In villages such as Matiari, century’s -old traditional practices such as brass working still take place. At nearby riverside town, Kalna, 108 terracotta temples dedicated to Shiva are arranged in a circle making a mesmerising and awe-inspiring sight.  Modernity is also very much in evidence including the impressive Farakka Barrage, spanning a remarkable 2,240 metres over the river.

If you find yourself aboard the Sukapha cruise vessel on the Hooghly it’s a wonderful experience just watching the slow change as the cruise vessel peacefully slips from Calcutta’s urban grip into the slow paced life of rural India. Like the rest of the Ganges, the Hooghly is considered sacred to the Hindus and its water holy, and as the early morning sun rises over the misty waterscape, it's easy to see why. Famed writer of India, Rudyard Kipling, was also struck by the Hooghly River - he wrote a short story about it.

Cruising on the Hooghly offers a unique window on a slowed-down India which has no tourist infrastructure.  It is also an opportunity to see the natural world that inhabits this lesser-known area. For keen bird watchers there’s plenty to spot including Weavers, Munias and Avadavats along the banks and there’s a good chance of seeing one of the endangered Gangetic River Dolphins that inhabit this river. 

The Hooghli River 1 The Hooghli River 1
The Hooghli River The Hooghli River
The Hooghli River 2 The Hooghli River 2
To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.
Bill Bryson

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