River of Life

For more than 2000 years, travelers have walked, ridden,
prayed, traded, invaded, escaped, fought, and
died along the 1,500 miles of the Grand Trunk Road
which stretches from Kolkata to Kabul.

Tram, Calcutta, India, 1996; A Tram, Calcutta, India, 1996 MCS1996002 K010 Magnum Photos, NYC5923 "For McCurry, Calcutta is the most visual city on the planet, spinning with chaos and clutter, crumbling under the weight of its overpopulation, utterly out of control, yet vital and alive. Vendors spill into streets, which hold a confusion of cars, trams, rickshaws, bicycles and pedestrians. So how to make this picture? McCurry looked for an office or apartment on a second floor of a street corner. 'And that is the wonder of the place. Twenty minutes later, I am on a bed in a couple's apartment, making the picture and staying on for a cup of tea." Anthony Bannon. (2005). Steve McCurry. New York: Phaidon Press Inc., 37. National Geographic, March 1997, India: Fifty Years of Independence Phaidon, 55, South Southeast, Iconic Images, final book_iconic, iconic photographs final print_HERMITAGE Dirty, hot, smoggy, friendly- that's how one resident describes Calcutta, a city so humid even the buildings seem to sweat. With crowded streets pockmarked with potholes, an unreliable phone system, and a long love affair with Marxism, Calcutta is only now trying to lure foreign investors. National Geographic, Jeffrey C. Ward (May 1997). India: Fifty years of Independence. National Geographic, vol. 191(5) A tram winds its way through the streets of Calcutta. Dirty, hot, smoggy, friendly, it is a place so humid that even the buildings seem to sweat. This Calcutta street is a cacophony of visual noise. McCurry spent a long time searching for a way to capture the energy and vitality of this most unique of cities. His response was to find a vantage point above street level. Fortunately, he was welcomed into an apartment on the street corner by a young couple. After taking this image he stayed for a cup of tea. South Southeast_Book Steve Mccurry_Book Iconic_Book final print_Sao Paulo final print_Birmingham final print_HERMITAGE retoucher_Sonny Fabbri 3/24/2015
Kolkata, India

This ribbon of humanity stretching northwest from Kolkata,
the city of culture and joy, to Kabul, the city of conflict,
has been moving merchants, buyers, conquerors, refugees,
prophets, nomads and pilgrims through what is today
India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Kolkata, India
Kolkata, India

Here are some pictures of people and places
I have taken along the route of the
Grand Trunk Road during the past thirty years.

Street scene, Calcutta, India, 1996
Kolkata, India
Howrah Station, Kolkata, India
Howrah Station, Kolkata, India
Kolkata, India
Kolkata, India
Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India
Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India

 Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism, and Buddhism all developed along the route,
and Muslims proclaimed their beliefs on their journeys along the road.

Bihar, India
Bihar, India
Varanasi, India
Varanasi, India
Agra, India
Agra, India

“Look! Brahmins and chumars, bankers and tinkers,
barbers and bunnias, pilgrims – and potters – all the
world going and coming.
It is to me as a river from which I am
withdrawn like a log after a flood.
And truly the Grand Trunk Road is a wonderful spectacle.
Such a river of life as no where else exists in the world.”
– Rudyard Kipling, Kim

Red Fort, Delhi, India
Red Fort, Delhi, India
Kumbh Mela, Hindu Pilgrimage, Allahabad, India
Kumbh Mela, Hindu Pilgrimage, Allahabad, India
Amritsar, India
Amritsar, India

Along the route of the GT there is a  struggle between secular
modernity and the conservatism of ancient religions.

Golden Temple, Sikh Holiest Place of Worship, Amritsar, India
Golden Temple, Sikh Holiest Place of Worship, Amritsar, India
Lahore, Pakistan
Lahore, Pakistan

 The Grand Trunk Road served as the two way escape route for
75 million refugees caught between Indian and Pakistan during Partition.

Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

Peshawar is strategically located at the crossroads of Central and South Asia.

Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan
Landi Kotal, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan
Landi Kotal, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan
Near the Afghan/Pakistan border
Near the Afghan/Pakistan border
Near the Afghan/Pakistan border
Near the Afghan/Pakistan border
Village near Surobi, Afghanistan
Village near Surobi, Afghanistan
Jalalabad, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan
Jalalabad, Nangahar Province, Afghanistan
Murad Khani, Kabul, Afghanistan
Murad Khani, Kabul, Afghanistan

Kabul is over 3,500 years old; many empires
have  invaded the valley for its
strategic location along the trade routes of Central and South Asia.

Chindawal, Kabul, Afghanistan
Chindawal, Kabul, Afghanistan
Kabul, Afghanistan
Kabul, Afghanistan

Along this road, forged by conquerors and invaders,
the GT facilitated some of the most significant
historical developments which still affect us today.

 route_of_grand_trunk_road