Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Calcutta Heritage, General > Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) 2017, Heritage Tour on the River Ganges

Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) 2017, Heritage Tour on the River Ganges

Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) 2017

Heritage Tour on the River Ganges

The Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF), created by the Oxford Bookstores, happens to be India’s only  literary festival created by a bookstore. AKLF also happens to be the fist literary festival of Kolkata.


Grand view of Howrah Bridge, Hooghly River Heritage Cruise, AKLF 20017

On 6 Jan 2017 the 8th edition of the Apeejay Kolkata Literary Festival (AKLF) kicked off with a Heritage Tour of the River Ganges. I was invited, along with a host of fellow travel bloggers, to attend the Heritage Cruise  by Candid Communications, media partner of AKLF.


Maina Bhagat and Anjum Katyal, Director, AKLF

The journey started from the Vivada Jetty on a beautiful cruise boat. Maina Bhagat and Anjum Katyal, Directors, AKLF welcomed us on the Heritage Cruise of Hooghly River.

As the directors spoke about AKLF 2017 I was busy exploring the cruise boat, which offered a magnificent views of the Howrah Bridge.

After the directors finished their speech the cruise boat lifted its anchor and started sailing south.

The boat sailed closer to the left bank and soon the Kolkata skyline became prominent. We sailed past the New Secretariat Building, crowned with the football shaped weather radar.


New Secretariat Building, State Bank Zonal Office and Kolkata High Court, AKLF Heritage Cruise

Next was the State Bank of India Zonal Head Office of Eastern India. It is a new building, which has replaced the old building of the Imperial Bank. The present building houses an interesting archive of Banking history, which is open to public but photography is not allowed.


Sea Explorers Institute, with The 42 in the background

We headed south with the spire of Kolkata High Court towering behind the State bank Building.

As we sailed south towards the Second Hooghly Bridge the structure that dominated the Kolkata skyline is the towering under construction structure of The 42.

The towering structure, with the official address of 42B Chowringhee Road, is the latest addition to the Kolkata skyline.

The 62 floor The 42 is located between the two other sky scrapers of Tata Centre and Jeevan Deep and is visible from all parts of the city. When complete it will attain a height of  252 metres (827 ft), making it the tallest building not only in Kolkata but in the whole of East India.


Semaphore tower or Ball Tower (White structure), Fort William, Kolkata

We went past the Sea Explorers Institute the unimpressive white building, with sloped roof, is the home of some of the most daring sea explorations of the ccountry.

Although founded in 1987 the Sea Explorer Institute activities dates back to 1969, when Pinaki Ranjan Chatterjee and  Geroge Albert Duke sailed across the Bay of Bengal, in a tiny row boat from Kolkata to Port Blair (Andaman).

Today the Sea Explorers institute still continues with similar daring sea adventurers.

It also provides for scuba diving  and kayaking. It doubles up as a research institute for marine and related research.

Next on the left is the Fort William, the new fort was built in 1758, after the old one (located near present day GPO) was destroyed by Siraj Ud Daulah’s army in 1756.


Gwalior Monument, Kolkata

As we sailed fast the Fort William the tip of of white tower crowned with a ball came in view. Although it looked new it dates back to 1824, and was part of the semaphore line that connected Kolkata with Chunar.

Semaphore, popularly known as visual telegraph or optical telegraph, was a most popular communication technology in the pre –  telegram days.

Semaphore was introduced in India by the British during 1816 – 1830 when series of towers were planned between Calcutta Fort William and Chunar Fort of Varanasi (Benaras). The line said to contain 70 – 80 feet high towers at an interval of 8 miles (13 KM).

Sadly with the advent of Telegraph in 1830s the Semaphore technology was scrapped but still today many of these Semaphore Towers still stands a mute witness to pre telegraph age communication.


Vidyasagar setu or Second Hooghly Bridge, AKLF Heritage Cruise, Kolkata

The Fort William Semaphore Tower is no exception and in 1881 a ball was installed on top of the tower. it acted as a time indicator as the ball was raised at 12:55 pm and lowered at 1:00 pm every day, providing the exact time to the mariners. Sadly this operation has long stopped.

Just beyond the Fort William on the left bank is the Gwalior Monument. The 60 feet tall memorial is often referred to as the Peeper Pot, because of its distinctive shape.


The Lascar Memorial towers above the River Hooghly, AKLF Heritage Cruise

The Gwalior Monument, serves as a memorial to the British soldiers, who died during the Gwalior War of 1843. The metal dome was casted from the guns captured during the war.


Demerara Tower, Kolkata Port Trust

Now it is time to sail below the gigantic Vidyasagar Setu or the Second Hooghly Bridge.

With a total length of 823 metres (2,700 ft), Vidyasagar Setu is the longest cable–stayed bridge in India.

Immediately beyond the Second Hooghly Bridge, on the left bank, is the Lascar Memorial.

The 100 ft memorial built in the Indo-Mughal style has prows of an ancient galley projecting from each side and is capped by four mini minarets and a large dome. The towering structure built in the honor of 896 Lascars, who died fighting for the British Navy during the Great War of 1914 – 18 (First World War).


BNR House, Metiabruz, AKLF Heritage Cruise

As we sailed further down the river we sailed past the Port Trust Clock Tower (wrongly refered as the Demerara Clock Tower), located inside the Port Trust complex. The dock adjoining the clock tower is no longer in used but it was once used as the point of departure for the Indian labourers heading for Suriname, Guyana, Mauritius, Fiji, South Africa and Trinidad. (Also read: Indentured Indian Labourers Memorial and Clcok Tower)

We are the forgotten children of mother India. Mauritius, Trinidad, Suriname, Guyana and Fiji celebrate Indian Arrival Day and have memorials for the Indian workers. But in India no one remembers them

David Sheoraj of Trinidad and Persons of Indian Origin (PIOs)


Clock Towers at the Netaji Subhas Dock

A memorial plaque has been installed on the tower as a mute tribute to the thousands of Indian labours, who braved the high seas for a life on the other side of the planet.

Next we headed towards Metibruz, the residence of the disposed Nawab of Oudh (or Awadh) Wajid Ali Shah, from 1856 till his death in 1881. We sailed past the magnificent milk white BNR house.

Wajid Ali Shah was kept under house arrest in this building. In those days it was known as the Parikahana (house of fairies) and it was where the emperor was entertained by musicians, poets and dancers. Today the 1946 built building serves as the residence of General Manager (GM) of South Eastern Railway (SER).


Netaji Subhas Dock passage (left) and Suriname Memoriaal (not visible). AKLF Heritage Cruise

As we headed past the Netaji Subha Dock, the blue and white clock tower of the docks became visible. Just beyond the passageway to the Netaaji Subhas Dock is the Suriname Memorial. A small memorial, which was almost invisible from the cruise, in built in memory of the 34.304 contract workers from India, who went to the tiny Dutch colony of Suriname, in South America, in search of a fortune.


Garden Reach Ship Builders

Next was the Garden Reach Ship Builders (GRSE), the premier Warship building Company in India, under the administrative control of Ministry of Defence.

GRSE since 1960, has built warships for various roles, starting from state of the art Frigates & Corvettes to Fast Patrol Boats.

But the history of the ship building company dates back to 1884, when it operated as a private ship building company, it was named Garden Reach workshop in 1916.


Shibpur Botanical Garden

The Garden Reach Ship Builders was the southern limit of the AKLF Heritage Tour on the River Ganges.

From where we took an U turn and headed north and this time we had the west bank of River Hooghly closer to us.

We sailed past the Shibpur Botanical Garden, housing the huge baanyan tree along with exotic and rare plant species from all over the world.

It reminded us of the story of the escaped tigress from the Wajidd Ali Saha’s zoo. She swam all across the Hooghly to attack a staff of the Botanical Garden. After the Botanical Garden we descended to the lower deck for a lunch. We enjoyed the winter sun as we had our lunch at the lower deck.


Clockwise from top right. A small fishing Boat, local ferry service, A luxury cruise boat and a cargo vessel. AKLF Heritage Cruise of Hooghly River

The attraction of the AKLF Heritage Tour on the River Ganges was nor restricted to the banks aand bridges only. On the water were boats and ships of all possible shapes and sizes.

From the humble fishing boat to long oil tankers and from the cargo ships to luxury cruise ships, the Hooghly River was probably the home for all sorts of water bound transport.

  1. January 20, 2017 at 7:44 PM

    lovely post Rangan! Is KLF very popular? I’m guessing so since, Kolkatta has so many literary enthusiasts

    • February 17, 2017 at 9:56 PM

      True Kolkata has several literary fest. KALAM is the most crowd puller. AKLF is also popular

      • February 19, 2017 at 12:06 PM

        ah! great…quite befitting. it’s city of intellectuals 🙂

  2. March 16, 2017 at 11:06 AM

    ahh!! u can make anybody love this city

    • May 13, 2017 at 12:51 PM

      No wonder, Calcutta is a city to be loved!!!!

  3. October 26, 2017 at 12:31 PM

    Thank you Rangan da for your wonderful commentary regarding AKLF 2017. Even I attended couple of cruise gatherings but never enjoyed the glory this much which you presented through your writing. Since you describe each and every view captured inn your blog, Your blog is a treat for us who cannot see the things through eyes. I along with my 2 / 3 friends who are also happen to be blind just like me, warm heartedly want to thank you for your blog.

    • October 28, 2017 at 9:13 AM

      Dear Saheb thank you for your comment. First off all I must say that you and your friends are visually challenged people. It is just like any other challenge we, so called fully abled person, face every day.

      I am been travel blogging for over 6 years and have received many an inspiring comment. Even my comment list contains well known academics, foreign diplomats and even best selling authors.

      But your comment is something very very special, I feel honored that my humble blog has been able to provide vision to a group of visually challenged person.

      Once more a big thank you to you Saheb.

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