Arrive Patna by road, rail or air (transfer from airport or railway station to ship is included in the cruise cost). Embark on your cruise ship from 4pm onwards, and enjoy dinner on board.
Day 2: Visit Patna city (BLD)
This morning we take a tour of Patna, visiting the extraordinary 18th century Gola Ghar granary, the great Sikh temple and the rich collections of the State Museum. Returning to our ship, we pass near the old East India Company opium warehouses and cruise down to moor for the evening at Barh.
Day 3: Excursion to Rajgir/Nalanda or Bodhgaya (BLD)
Today there is an excursion to the excavated great Buddhist monastery and stupa at Nalanda and the adjoining museum, then on to the picturesque Pawapuri jain temple in the middle of a lake. Until March 2012 there is available the alternative of a lengthy drive to Boddh Gaya itself, the site of Buddha’s enlightenment and of the bodhi tree under which he sat. Surrounding the great Mahabodhi temple are the temples and monasteries of many Buddhist cultures, Japan, Bhutan, Tibet, Thailand, and others. We return in the evening to our ship which will have sailed down to the great bridge at Mokameh, where earlier the naturalist Jim Corbett spent his working life overseeing the ferry crossing.
Day 4: Visit Pirpahar Hill (BLD)
Today we sail down to Monghyr. Monghyr possesses a fine Mughal fort, as well as a big British cemetery dating back to the days when it was a retirement settlement for the East India Company. We shall also visit the Pirpahar Hill, crowned by a fine old mansion, before continuing our cruise downstream to anchor near Sultanganj and Jahangira Island, a place of pilgrimage with early Hindu carvings in the rock. On shore, another picturesque rock is topped with a mosque.
Day 5: Visit the island shrine at Colganj (BLD)
We sail this morning along a stretch of the river where Gangetic Dolphin may be seen, to Bhagalpur, a centre of silk production. Here we shall visit the elegant 18th century mansion built by Augustus Cleveland as well as a silk-weaving village. We sail on passing close to the island shrine at Colganj, with both Buddhist and Hindu cave temples, and once a centre of the murderous Thug sect. Close to here we visit idyllic Bateshwar with 6th century Hindu carvings and the nearby ruins of an 8th century Buddhist stupa and monastery at Vikramshila. We anchor for the night near the confluence with the Kosi, coming down from Nepal.
Day 6: Visit Rajmahal Hill (BLD)
We sail downstream this morning to Rajmahal, beneath the Rajmahal Hills. Rajmahal is one of those places, so common in India, which feature in no guidebook and yet offer both interest and atmosphere; once known as Akbarnagar, the town was founded by the Mughal Emperor Akbar as his eastern capital. Shah Jehan, builder of the Taj Mahal, spent much of his youth here. There are remains of palaces, forts and mosques submerged in vegetation which we shall explore before continuing on down to the great Farakka Barrage.
Day 7: Disembark cruise & transfer to Farraka station (B)
For those taking just Bengal Despatch 4, the Holy Ganges 6-night cruise, dawn transfer is arranged to Farakka station for morning 6 hr train journey to Kolkata. Alternatively it is possible to travel on by road or rail to Siliguri and Darjeeling (transfer not included in cruise price). Those taking BD5 remain on board for excursion to Gaur and Pandua.