Home > Calcutta (Kolkata), Experience Ganges FAM, FAM Trip, General, Weekend Tour from Kolkata (Calcutta) > Experience Ganges, a bus and cruise tour along Hooghly River

Experience Ganges, a bus and cruise tour along Hooghly River

Experience Ganges

3 day & 2 night bus and cruise tour along Hooghly River

Rivers always played an important role in shaping civilizations. The Hooghly River, a distributory of the Ganga (or Ganges), is no exception. The river have played an important role in shaping the history of colonial India.

Experience Ganges Group at Jalashree Floating Restaurant, Chandannagar

Experience Ganges Group at Jalashree Floating Restaurant, Chandannagar

Calcutta (now Kolkata), the first capital of British India and the second city of the empire was also established on the Bank of the River Hooghly. It was not only British but other European power also had there presence along the river. This included Bandel (Portuguese), Chinsurah (Dutch), Chandannagar (French) and Serampore (Danish).

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Mangaldhara Tourism Property (formerly Malancha Tourist Lodge), Barrackpur

Mangaldhara Tourism Property (formerly Malancha Tourist Lodge), Barrackpur

These former colonial settlements along with the local culture forms an interesting mix and can be an ideal weekend tour destination from Kolkata.

A combination of bus and ferry tour is the best way of exploring these shared heritage.

Recently the West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC) has come up with a 3 day & 2 night bus and ferry package of exploring the heritage along the Hooghly River.

It included two night halts at Mangaldhara Tourism Property (formerly Malancha Tourist Lodge) in Barrackpur (or Barrackpore). I was specially invited to be part of their inaugural tour.

Annapurna Temple, Barrackpur

Annapurna Temple, Barrackpur

Day I:

The tour started at 9 am from the WBTDCL head office in BBD Bag, Kolkata. It was a bus ride up to Barrackpur (or Barrackpore).

Packed breakfast was served in the bus and we reached Barrackpur in about one and half hours.

Barrackpur is the first British barracks of the country and hence the name, but the town also has its share of local heritage.

Our first stop was the towering Annapurna Temple, which has remarkable resemblance with the famous Dakshineswar Temple. The similarity is expected as it was constructed by Jagadamba, youngest daughter of Rani Rashmoni, who built the Dakshineswar Temple .

Statue of Mangal Pandey, Mangal Pandey Udyan, Barrackpur

Statue of Mangal Pandey, Mangal Pandey Udyan, Barrackpur

The complex is approached by a gateway topped with a lion. The temple with nine pinnacles (naba ratna) stands at the centre of the complex.

The complex also houses a natmandir, 6 Shiva temples and two domed guard houses.

Next stop was the Mangal Pandey Udyan, named after a sepoy of the 34th Bengal Native Infantry who rose in rebellion against the British to mark the start of the Great Revolt of 1857.

Today Mangal Pandey Udyan is a landscaped park on the banks of the Hooghly River and houses a bust of the great martyr. An old cannon is on display and there is a tomb like structure but nothing is mentioned about their history.

Semaphore Tower, Barrackpur

Semaphore Tower, Barrackpur

Just outside the Mangal Pandy Udyan is a towering tower. It was once part of a communication system that connected Kolkata with Barrackpur.

Known as Semaphore, it was a pre telegraphy optically coded communication system.

Initiated in early 19th century in India it once spanned across northern India and several of the semaphore towers still stands.

Sadly the semaphore tower of Barrackpur was located inside the Flag Staff House compound, which is under the supervision of Indian army, and was not part of the tour.

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The former British barrack, Barrackpur still holds on to its colonial legacy. Large parts of Barrackpur are still under the control of Indian army and another large section operates as a police training school under West Bengal Police and is known as Swami Vivekananda State Police Academy (SVSPA).

Inside the recreated barrack, Barrackpur

Inside the recreated barrack, Barrackpur

Although the areas of the Indian Army were excluded from the tour but the heritage structures inside the police training school were included.

The entry is through the Lady Hardinge Bridge a beautiful bridge dating back to 1911.

The first stop was the Aviary Pond. The Aviary was the brain child of Lord Auckland (Governor General 1835 – 42). It was located next to a pond which exist to this day.

In 2018 the pond and surrounding area was restored. Next to the pond is a recreated barrack which houses a World War II gallery complete with a time line and large cutouts of newspaper reports.

Governor House, Barrackpur

Governor House, Barrackpur

Being a British cantonment Barrackpur has its share of colonial architecture. The Governor House which once served as a weekend retreat for the viceroys and governor generals has been beautifully restored and converted into a museum. The house dates back to 1801 and has been extended and modified several times.

The museum provides an insight into the colonial history of Barrackpur and a small documentary on the settlement is screened for visitors. The museum also houses an arms gallery and two other rooms are laid out with a grand piano and colonial furniture.

Grave of Lady Canning and statue of Lord Canning, Barrackpur

Grave of Lady Canning and statue of Lord Canning, Barrackpur

The garden is also beautifully laid out with fountains and a sun dial. Behind the compound is a huge banyan tree with numerous hanging roots. It is believed that Mangal Pandey was hanged to death from this tree.

Panoramic view of Belur Math from ferry

Panoramic view of Belur Math from ferry (File Photo)

Next stop was the Tomb of Lady Canning. Charlotte Canning or Lady canning was the wife of Lord Canning the last governor general and first viceroy of India. She died in 1861 and was buried in Barrackpore. A beautiful tomb was built in her honor.

Lit up Dakshineswar Temple from the Dhakineswar Ferry Ghat

Lit up Dakshineswar Temple from the Dhakineswar Ferry Ghat (File Photo)

Later the tomb was removed to the compound of St. John’s Church in Kolkata and a similar, but less elaborate, tomb was rebuild over her grave. Overlooking the grave stands the horse mounted statue of Lord Canning.

Finally it was time to Mangaldhara Tourism Property (formerly Malancha Tourist Lodge) in Barrackpur. After a short rest and lunch it was time to hit the road again.

The first stop was the Belur Mathand it was followed by a ferry ride on MV Sumangal along the Hooghly River to the Dakshineswar Temple. It was followed by a road trip back to the tourism property of Barrackpur.

Baul Performance at Mangaldhara Tourism Property, Barrackpur

Back at the tourism property the evening was well spent with beautiful baul music from local artist. It was a beautiful performance with several of the guest participating in the singing and dancing. The day ended with a tasty dinner.

Sunrise Gandhi Ghat, Barrackpur

Sunrise Gandhi Ghat, Barrackpur

Day 2:

It was a early morning start on day 2 in MV Sumangal and we headed north along the Hooghly River.

The river cruise started with a beautiful sunrise as we sailed past the Henry Martin Pagoda and Danish Tavern with the the spire of St. Olave Church towering in the distant horizon.

Hooghly is a tidal river and it was low tide the ferry sailed against the current and thus reducing the speed of the boat.

It was a relaxing journey and munching on our packed breakfast we sailed past the Palta Water Works, which dates back to 1866 and also past the Ichapur Rifle Factory.

Boats and Ferries on Hooghly River

Finally we made it to Rani Ghat, Chandannagar. The journey took over three and half hours and it was simply amazing.

Tomb of Susana Anna Maria, Chinsurah

Tomb of Susana Anna Maria, Chinsurah

Now it was again time to again hit the road with several destination on our schedule. The first stop was the spectacular Tomb of Susana Anna Maria.

Susana Anna Maria was a Dutch lady had according to legend she married seven times but historical record suggests she married only twice.

Nothing much is known about her. She died in 1809 and lies in eternal rest beneath a beautiful domed octagonal tomb, with the epitaph written along the drum of the dome. The tomb is presently located near Khadina More of Chinsurah (or Chuchura).

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Next stop was Imambara. Imambara literally translates into house of Imam. It is built in memory of the great philanthropist Hazi Muhammad Mohsin and was completed in 1861. The building is centred around a rectangular courtyard, decorated with fountains and pools. But the prime attraction of the Imambara are it two 85 feet high towers, which offers great views of the river with the two bridges spanning across it.

Imambara, Hooghly

Imambara, Hooghly (File Photo)

Bidding farewell to Imambara we headed for the Bandel Church. Built in 1599 the Bandel Church is the oldest Christian church in Bengal. Sadly the church has been reconstructed and given a modern look.

Bandel Church

Bandel Church (File Photo)

A stairs leads to the top balcony where devotees light candles in front of the “Our Lady of the Happy Voyage,” where candles are lit by devotees.

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It was a short stop at the Bandel Church and it was again time to hit the road for the Birth Place of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay

It was a long detour and the place was nothing impressive. Apart from a statue and a handfull of photographs of the author there was nothing on display.

Next and final stop before lunch was Bansberia famous for Hangeshwari Temple and Anata Basudev Temple. The two contrasting temples create an unique blend of Bengal temple architecture.

L: Ananta Basudev Temple & R: Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

L: Ananta Basudev Temple & R: Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia (File Photo)

The ek-ratna (single pinnacled) temple dates back to 1679 and contains elaborate terracotta ornamentation. Next to the Ananta Basudev Temple is the towering Hangeshwari Temple one of the most unique temple of Bengal. The 13 pinnacled temples with lotus bud shaped pinnacles represent more of a Russian Church than a Hindu temple.

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Jaloshree, floating restaurant, Rani Ghat, Chandannagar

Jaloshree, floating restaurant, Rani Ghat, Chandannagar

Finally it was time for lunch. The lunch was hosted at Jaloshree Floating Restaurant, an initiative of WBTDCL. The luxury boat has seating arrangement at both the floors and also extended into the adjoining jetty.

Lunch, Jaloshree, floating restaurant

Lunch, Jaloshree, floating restaurant

The elaborate thali consisted of luchi, polau, and rice coupled with sabzi dal, jhuri alu bhaja, beguni, mochar chop and chicken chop.

Also included were mixed veg, dim kosha and chicken curry. The mean ended with papad, chutney and payesh.

The lunch was followed by a walking tour of the Chandannagar Strand. Probably there was no better way to digest the monstrous lunch.

The walk went past Chandannagar Court (officially known as Chandernagore Court), Clock Tower, Durga Charan Rakshit Ghat, Sacred Heart Church and Patal Bari.

Chandannagat, Strand

Finally it was time to call it a day and we made our way via the Hooghly River back to the Mangaldhara Tourism Property in Barrackpur. The day ended with light snacks over a small cultural programme followed by dinner and night stay.

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MV Sumangal at Belur Ferry Ghat

MV Sumangal at Belur Ferry Ghat

Day 3:

This was the final day of the tour starting with a breakfast at about 7 am. Next at 8 am it was a bus trip back home.

Note: I was part of this tour on an invitation of West Bengal Tourism Development Corporation (WBTDC)

Package Cost: Package with deluxe river facing rooms cost ₹ 8599 (book online) and with non-river facing standard rooms cost ₹ 7899 (book online)

Special Thanks:

  • WBTDCL for the invite
  • Tour managers Surojit Mondal and Aian Bhattacharya
  • Guide Manab Nag
  • Vlogger Shivaji Paul, who was also part of the tour (Shivaji’s Vlog)
  • All my fellow tour participant
  1. musicalswarani
    January 12, 2022 at 10:47 AM

    Rangan Da what a soulful, mesmerizing blog u have created about our fantabulous, rejuvenating ‘EXPERIENCE GANGES’ trip organised by West Bengal Tourism Department from Friday 17th December – Sunday 19th Remember. Your minute description of all heritage sites me reminiscent of the wonderful moments specially me participating in the Baul Song. This was my award / special gift trip for me & my husband too offered by WBTDCL after wining the music competition in the ‘Jhargram Rajbari’ trip held the previous version weekend from 10th – 12th December. Truly feel blessed to be the part of such an exotic trip to cherish life long.

    • January 12, 2022 at 11:38 PM

      Dear Swarani, thanks for your appreciation. Also thanks for rekindling the amazing memories. Looking forward to mett both of you again on a WBTDCL tour.

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