As cruises pick up pace in India, the Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) is looking at river pilgrimage circuits. At least one circuit covering seven temples in Assam has been developed on the National Waterways 2 (covering Brahmaputra river), while tours along the Ayodhya - Mathura - Varanasi circuit and also individually on these routes, along the National Waterways 1, are being planned, Union Minister, Sarbananda Sonowal told businessline.

According to the minister, new cruise vessels and electric Catamarans have been ordered for operation along these circuits. Some eight-odd Catamaran are being procured by the Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) covering Ayodhya, Varanasi, Mathura and Guwahati.

“The MoUs have been signed in May last year for going ahead with riverine-based religious tourism circuit through special purpose vehicles,” he said.

Four cruise vessels for pilgrimage river cruise are already plying in Varanasi.

In Assam, the specific route for pilgrimage tourism includes the temple circuit – Kamakhya, Pandunath, Ashwaklanta, Doul Govida, Umananda, Chakreshwar and Auniati Satra — and services are being carried out on a ‘Hop-on & Hop-off’ basis.

Ayodhya River Cruises

Keeping in mind the Ram Temple inauguration, the Ministry is also pushing for infrastructure development surrounding cruises to the city. The consecration ceremony is scheduled on January 22.

At least two electric Catamaran vessels, especially for pilgrimage river tourism “in and around Ayodhya” have been ordered by the Ministry. “One vessel, MV Guh, is already on its way to Ayodhya,” Sonowal said adding that the second is expected to be deployed in the next few months.

“There is special emphasis on pilgrimage tourism,” he added.

Meanwhile the Uttar Pradesh government is said to be pushing for river cruises in Mathura and Ayodhya, with tenders being invited for the same. Two cruises are reportedly planned and are underway on the Sarayu river in Ayodhya.

Existing Cruises

Currently, there are a total of 14 cruise vessels operating on National Waterways 1, covering the river Ganges.

Four cruises of ‘Nordic Cruise Line’ are operate around Varanasi; and two cruise vessels of Assam Bengal Navigation Company operate along Kolkata, Farakka, Patna, Ghazipur, Varanasi, Sarnath, Chunar, and Raj Ghat routes.

Three cruise vessels of Heritage River Journeys operate between Kolkata, Maitiari, Murshidabad, Chandernagore and Kolkata.

Vivada Inland Waterways has four cruise vessels plying between Sunderban, Ganga Sagar, Kolkata, Farakka, Bhagalpur, Mungher, and Semaria.

Four cruise vessels operate on National Waterways 2 across circuits like Jogighopa, Saulkhuchi, Guwahati, Silghat Kaziranga National Park, Biswanath Ghat, Majuli and Neamati.