Organized By: ALL Kolkata Chapter
Date: 28 Nov 2019, 4-7 pm
We city-bred are a strange breed. We travel across oceans and continents to satiate our need to explore the new or to romanticize with unusual aspects of nature, but leave out on simple pleasures that are available nearby and that too at a pittance of the cost that we pay otherwise!
Crossing over the Hooghly River, a distributary of the mighty Ganges River on MV Ahalya, the luxury inland cruiser of Vivada Cruises was one such experience for me.
It all happened because I attended the outdoor trip organized by ALL Kolkata Chapter, wherein around 30 of us did a to and fro ride in MV Ahalya from Vivada Jetty to Belur Jetty. The former jetty is based within the perimeter of the Millennium Park in Kolkata and the latter one is located near Belur Math in Howrah.
Occupying it’s upper deck, we embarked on MV Ahalya around 4 pm from Vivada Jetty and reached Belur Jetty in little more than an hour. Then we walked down to Belur Math, which took around 10-15 minutes and attended the ‘Sandhya Aarti’ of the main temple and clicked some pics outside the temple. Then we walked back to Belur Jetty, boarded back MV Ahalya and rode back to Vivada Jetty, wherein we disembarked a little after 7 pm.
Our Inland Cruise & Sandhya Aarti Experience:
First and foremost, though it may sound painstakingly simple, but the mere experience of being on the river and watching both of it’s banks together was quite exhilarating. Even watching the Howrah Bridge from below was a totally different feeling. For some reason, most of us went berserk when we crossed it from below! And it looked so beautiful with it’s multicolored light display during our return!
Throughout our trip, a well trained personnel of Vivada Cruises gave us a live documentary, with an audio mic and sound system in place, of places of interest that we passed, on both the banks of the Hooghly River.
On our way to Belur Jetty, he showed us –
– Bathing ghat at Burrabazar, the oldest ghat
– Burning ghats used for cremation of dead bodies, both the age old one that uses wooden pyres and the new age one that uses electricity
– Rabindranath Tagore Samadhi
– Immersion ghat famous for Durga Puja immersions
– 5 faced tallest Lord Shiva statue, measuring 51 feet at Notun Mandir
– Ahiritola ghat at Nimtala
– Shobha Bazar Putul Bari, the haunted Doll House
On our way back to Vivada Jetty, he showed us different instances of ‘Ganga Aarti’ in progress at different ghats.
On our own, we celebrated a fellow soulsister’s birthday by her cake cutting and learnt the nuances of showing gratitude to oneself and to others by another. While many of the members preferred to absorb the passing scenery and ripples of water, others preferred to indulge in dancing to music and playing interactive games. Of course, everybody indulged in bonding and clicking umpteenth photos.
Once in the Belur Math’s main temple, we attended the ‘Sandhya Aarti’ for around half an hour in mesmerizing silence. Though the place was jam packed, there was no extra noise or jostling.
As per our askance, the entire food itinerary was vegetarian. Small bottles of packaged mineral water were available for consumption throughout the trip.
Shortly upon embarking from Vivada Jetty, we were served Virgin Mojito and a bowl full of Muri Mixture and Pyajis. A little later, we were served Tomato-Cucumber-Cheese Sandwiches with Tomato Ketchup and Hot Tea.
Post the Belur Math visit, when we boarded MV Ahalya from Belur Jetty, we were relieved to be served slightly chilled aerated drinks in glasses. Upon askance, some members were also served tea.
After sometime, the dinner buffet was laid down. It comprised of – Chhola-Luchi, Chowmein, Manchurian, Gurer Rosogolla and Monte Carlo.
The dessert Monte Carlo comprised of three layers of ice-cream of different flavors along with the expectant cake and cream layers! Resultantly, the ice-cream lovers amidst us loved this dessert.
Throughout the dinner, tea and aerated drinks were served as per askance.
The food plan was well curated and the food tasted nice.
Besides the food provided by them, we had the aforesaid birthday cake to devour and assorted other small food items and palate cleansers or ‘mukhwas’ brought by different members.
It needs mentioning that the entire staff of MV Ahalya was quite courteous, helpful and cooperative throughout the trip.
All in all, it was a lovely ride on the Hooghly river filled with sisterhood, good food, cultural know-how and beautiful shades of sunset.
Note: Kolkata Port Trust (KoPT), custodian of the 75-year-old Rabindra Setu aka Howrah Bridge, that spans the Hooghly between the cities of Kolkata and Howrah, planned to introduce dynamic lighting on the bridge during its 150th anniversary celebrations that started from October 2019.
Perhaps the light show that we saw on Howrah Bridge from MV Ahalya was a part of some trial run.
The actual light and sound show was inaugurated by our Prime Minister Sri Narendra Modi on 11 Jan 2019.