Flavours of Bengal

“The great Sufis (mystics) have said that there is no value in namaz (prayers) if your soul is not clean, no value of bathing in the Ganga, if your thoughts are impure. God is to be achieved through love. Love is the ultimate reality.” Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Legendary Sufi singer 

It’s thought after localised climate change the Indus Valley people, contemporary to the Ancient Egyptians & Mesopotamians, migrated eastward from modern day Pakistan to centre again around the lush Gangetic plane, leading to the formation of new cities & culture. Reinforced by the power of the annual monsoon and the transformational rejuvenation it brings, abundance of crops & wildlife, no story or journey in India can be complete without water & the Ganga.

Sailing map of the first cruise in 100 years to sail along the Ganges

For generations, the rivers of India have been the landscapes of philosophical & technological advancement, religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism & Sikhism developed, several empires rose and fell; countless innovations from ink to rulers, muslin to microwave communication. Seekers and adventurers have come to their banks finding knowledge and profit and returned home to tell of their riches.

Rivers have been metaphors for imaging life in all its mundane and infinite dimensions. The motorways & internet of a millennia epoch, seamlessly linking diverse thoughtstreams & far flung places across space & time: from Siddartha Gauthama meditating in Bodh Gaya to Xuanzang traversing ancient Buddhist Universities taking scrolls to China; from Taj Mahal builder Shah Jahan’s defining childhood waking to the Ganga in Rajmahal each morning, to the Maharaja of Jaipur’s two largest Silver pieces in the world, urns for carrying tonnes of Ganga water for a voyage to London.

One of a pair of pure silver water vessels for carrying Ganga water, the largest single pieces of silver in the world, Jaipur, Rajasthan

Bengal, the point where the Ganga meets the sea benefits from this fine silt physically & metaphorically to create abundance of spiritual & material wealth: fine clay to mould outsized & meticulous temples, rich fertile soil fuelling organic natural produce, as well as opium & tea; indigo & natural dyes to produce the finest handmade textiles & silks in the world, still today sought out by the best fashion houses. The finest commodities & creative output by maverick artisans, revolutionaries, politicians, poets & rogues, it’s people said to be the ‘Avant-garde’ of both Indian & Global cultural advancement.

Villages of silversmiths, weavers, potters & brassmakers sprung up along the river, Jain mansions & vast mango orchards. Marwars from the Thar desert over a thousand miles away were drawn & introduced sweet making skills & vegetarian recipes that were soon converted into meaty delights. Turkic rulers from the 13th century brought different fashions, trends, and West-Asian wisdom. Baghdadi Jews established bakeries & synagogues, while exiled noble families from Lucknow & Mysore from Central & Southern India introduced different flavours of the provincial, Islamic courtly cuisines. Chinese traders also sought how to reforge their home dishes merging their best traditions with local styles.

Terracotta Temples, Kalna

On the global stage this Bengali wealth drew Armenian traders, followed by European Companies seeking opportunities: the Danes, Dutch, Portuguese, French & the British all established trading outposts & vied for power starting from the C16th onwards; contemporary to the destruction of the Incan Civilisation, the American war of Independence, the Chinese civilisation becoming the largest in the world, & the launch of Tatler Magazine in the coffee houses of London.

From 1757 with the decisive British victory over the Mughal Governors along the Ganga at Plassey, the British Colonial patronage consolidated. Hindu progressive & nationalist renaissance fused these diverse strands together into the Bengali Renaissance that culminated at the turn of the C20th; Pan-Asian, European & American innovators in creative arts & architecture rubbed shoulders and formed new horizons. Rabindranath Tagore, in the heart of this zeitgeist the first non-European to win the noble prize for literature in 1913, is said to have directly influenced the great freedom fighters across Asia & Africa who were in educational phases of their life.

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata 

With the advent of the railways and shift away from the river, these stories, people & places were forgotten in their role of continuous global pre-eminence. As a local family firm we started to build the first ships to sail from Kolkata to Varanasi in 100 years, to rediscover these inaccessible areas where few travellers visit, for personal journeys of growth & self-discovery featuring wellness cuisine & sunrise Yoga. The experiential journeys in boutique accommodations themselves are the key for exclusive access to a true and pristine interface with living & ancient traditions, art, music, architecture, textiles and cuisine, and feature knowledgable and experienced experts to explain and bring the myriad histories alive.

“You can't cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water” Tagore

Join us cruising the Ganga, & become part of history.


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