Exploring the Battle of Plassey

Today, we explored the site of the Battle of Plassey, which took place here in 1757. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Exploring the India’s Ganges River with G Adventures has been one of the surprise moments of my travel year so far. India is intoxicating, and G Adventures showcases it in a way that is accessible to those like me who are first-time visitors. At the same time, the company is dedicated to providing authentic experiences ashore – and that’s exactly what the 17 of us were treated to today.

The Varuna, as seen this morning from the banks of the Ganges. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Breakfast began at the usual time, at 0730. Breakfast, like all meals, is served buffet-style, and I find myself having the same thing each morning: an omelette with spicy jalapeno peppers, a bit of bacon, and some of the excellent toast that the crew of the Varuna make onboard. It’s as thick as cornbread and tastes delicious, with homemade preserves that are something of a cross between a marmalade and a chutney.

At 0800, Varuna weighed anchor and sailed downstream for 30 minutes. This proved to be an excellent chance to enjoy another cup of coffee up on the Varuna’s sun deck before we set off for our excursion half and hour later.

Varuna’s comfortable dining room, shown here at night. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Place settings change with each meal. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

This morning, we’re touring the small garden of Khughsbah, which houses the tombs of Siraj-ud-Daulah and his family. He was the last Nawab of Bengal, and had a reign of just 15 months, from April 1756 to June 1757.

There’s a good reason we saw his tomb this morning. He was executed on July 2, 1757, after the disastrous Battle of Plassey, which is widely considered to be a major turning point in Indian history, as it opened the country up for eventual British rule.

By all accounts, Siraj-ud-Daulah wasn’t a nice guy. His own biographer states that he was a “monster of vice, cruelty and depravity.” Which is a heck of a statement from someone that’s probably looking to put your best foot forward.

The tomb of the last Nawab and his family…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…at Khushbagh. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The gardens and temple still receive plenty of visitors to this day. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The Battle of Plassey involved the British East India Company and the Nawab, and took place on June 23, 1757. The whole thing was over in 11 hours. When the dust settled, the British East India Company was victorious.

The Nawab had, at his disposal, 50,000 infantry, 40 cannons and 10 war elephants. The British beat him with just 3,000 soldiers, but the Nawab didn’t help matters: he retreated back to Murshidabad, and much of his army defected.

Today, the battlefield is a quiet, serene place filled with local farms and a small village. Locals herd goats through the dirt roads, and one man, stripped to the waist and sitting in a plastic sun chair, has taken it upon himself to act as the local radio station, pumping club beats out of two massive speakers and subwoofers situated on the dirt road. You can hear it for kilometres.

Some photos from our time at the site of the Battle of Plassey:

Where the battle was fought, there is now farmer’s fields…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and a quaint village. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Make way! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

This is my favorite guy: the local DJ in the village, pumping out club beats for all to hear. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Houses are simple affairs, but effective. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Afterwards, we returned to the Varuna for the usual unofficial cocktail hour up on the Sun Deck, followed by the official one down in the Saloon, where we’re briefed on tomorrow’s plans. My two favorite times of day aboard the Varuna are my morning coffee up on deck at 0700, and my evening beer up on the Sun Deck at 1830. The red haze of the rising and setting sun is a sight to behold, and I always enjoy watching it from one of the wicker loungers while the unexpectedly cool breeze washes over the deck.

Returning to the Varuna…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…for some scenic cruising on the Ganges. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

While most of my fellow guests and I end up chatting about the day at these cocktail hours, it is worth noting that the Varuna actually has free WiFi access. But G Adventures cautions (rightly so) that it is often fickle, slow, and cuts out with little warning. I used it, once, to check my email, and found it to be functional but frustrating. I think the company does the right thing by not really advertising it at all.

If you must keep in touch with home, it’s worth buying a cellular data plan for India. I did just that, and have had cell coverage for the vast majority of our journey so far.

Pick your Poison: local beers, wines, liquors and imported soft drinks are offered onboard Varuna. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

After dinner, G Adventures brought more local entertainment onboard for us. I’m really enjoying these performances, as they add a local flair that would otherwise be impossible for us to experience.

The best praise I can give to G Adventures is that its tours are wonderfully authentic. Our guides have taken exceptional care of us, providing for both our entertainment, knowledge and security while ashore. We haven’t been hassled in any way by anyone. Instead, we’ve been welcomed to ever port, town and village we’ve been to.

This is a challenging part of the world to operate a river cruise in. For the first-time visitor to India, I can’t think of a better way to see this diverse country.

Some local entertainment up on deck to end our evening with! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Our Voyage Report aboard G Adventures’ Varuna along the Ganges continues tomorrow as we visit Murshidabad, India! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

On the Ganges with G Adventures

March 1, 2017Arrival in Kolkata, India
March 2Train to Farakka and embarkation of Varuna
March 3Guar, West Bengal
March 4Barangar & Murshidabad, West Bengal
March 5Plassey, West Bengal
March 6Matiari & Mayapur, West Bengal
March 7Kalna & Chinsura, West Bengal
March 8Barakpur, West Bengal
March 9, 2017Disembarkation in Kolkata

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