BY MAHADEV DESAI
Cover photo credit: Antara Cruises
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off MV Ganga Vilas and also inaugurated the Tent City in Varanasi, via video conferencing, on Friday January 13, 2023.
MV Ganga Vilas will cover 3,200 kilometers across 27 river systems, in five states in India and Bangladesh, with stopovers at 50 tourist sites, in 51 days. The world’s longest river cruise began its maiden journey from Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and will reach Dibrugarh in Upper Assam, via Bangladesh.
During the flagging-off ceremony, Modi congratulated the tourists and said, “The beginning of cruise service on River Ganga is a landmark moment and it will herald a new age of tourism in India. India has everything you can imagine. India cannot be defined in words. India can only be experienced from the heart. Because India has always opened her heart for everyone, irrespective of region or religion, creed or country. We welcome all our tourist friends from different parts of the world. The cruise will give the tourists an opportunity to experience rich art, culture, history and spirituality of India and Bangla Desh It will be an awesome blending of India’s heritage and modernity. The cruise has something special for everyone. Those seeking spirituality will be interested in visiting Kashi (UP), Vikramshila and Bodh Gaya, and Patna Sahib (Bihar) and Majuli on Brahmaputra River. Sundarbans and forests of Assam will delight the tourists with its amazing flora and fauna. Those who have interest in knowing about river systems will have that opportunity as the cruise will pass through 25 different river streams.”
The cruise will help promote tourism in India, and provide employment opportunities to the youth in Eastern India. Foundation stones have been laid for the development of 111 national water highways across 24 States worth more than Rs 1000 crores.
It is a matter of pride that MV Ganga Vilas is the first-ever cruise vessel to be made in India. The cruiser has been designed with three decks, 18 suites on board with a capacity of 36 tourists, and equipped with all luxury amenities. It will have a French balcony, gym., spa and salon.
Modi also inaugurated the Tent City in Varanasi. It will be on the banks of the Ganga, opposite the ghats of the holy city. It will provide accommodation facilities to tourists along with live classical music and yoga sessions among others. Tourists can reach the Tent City by boats from different ghats of Varanasi. It will be operational from October to June and will be dismantled for three months due to the rise in river water level in the rainy season.