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.


About Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry, recognized universally as one of today’s finest image-makers, has won many of photography’s top awards.
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104 Responses to River of Life

  1. Pingback: What a beautiful world ! #2 - Grand Trunk Road | Travel Bag Tales

  2. Rahul says:

    This is undoubtedly one of my favorite photo essays by Steve. His work is a beautiful reflection on the cultures that the Grand trunk road straddles, and equally evocative of the struggles, the pleasures and the humdrum of daily lives of the people one will meet. My favorites are the market scenes from Kolkata and Peshawar – it is as if these photographs take you back in time.

    Resharing this link on my blog too: https://www.travelbagtales.com/what-a-beautiful-world-grand-trunk-road/

  3. Pingback: River of Life — Steve McCurry’s Blog – live

  4. orangewayfarer says:

    As an Indian child, we grew up reading about the road constructed by Sher shah suri and drawing the map in school exams. You are probably the fist man I have seen from our time to travel through the road and how painfully beautiful it is.

    The grand trunk road is so close to my heart, my eyes moistened seeing the pictures. I used to go to school from Howrah and come back using the street. It is named as Mahatma Gandhi road in Kolkata. In India every city has her own Mahatma Gandhi road, a metro station, he is the father of nation after all.

    the woman cooking on street with a child playing nearby has a long history. Kolkata streets were not always scattered with these homeless people. They came during partition, man-made famine during WW2 and many more catastrophe, leaving there home behind and embarking the streets to be their home. I have studied in bethune and the streets in front of Bethune were dotted with their Banzara households. They used to buy feets of chicken and cook them al dente. As a child I often wonder how they survived. Even now I go back to the city, walk on the street and try to find a familiar face, a child whom I must have seen as an infant.

    Loved loved loved your work, absolutely, they are painfully beautiful.

  5. want to see more from this side of the world 🙂

  6. Dina says:

    Each and every one a gem.

  7. Zinni says:

    Amazing post!! And pictures are so adhering that I couldn’t take my eyes off!!

  8. Gürol Tali says:

    Every photo is awesome. Master Steve McCurry : )

  9. Anonymous says:

    Love your work, makes me want to travel and take pictures whenI retire and I hope that is the case

  10. Evelina says:

    Every photo is amazing. Wow

  11. readrichmuch says:

    Splendid again Steve, there is a beauty in this post (too) that says: “slow down, leave all the dross out”. Thanks so much.

  12. No words, simply fantastic!!

  13. I went to this blog through me daughter, she sent me the link, the photographs are beautiful, transmit softy emotions, indescribable feelings of sensitivity exquisite.Thank you for your beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing.

  14. nida7 says:

    I stumbled upon this blog via Pinterest, but I’m so glad I did! These are gorgeous photographs. As someone who is from Pakistan and already knows how rich in beauty and culture South Asia is, I appreciate your efforts at trying to capture and share that sentiment. Keep up the good work!

  15. Mariana says:

    I see this, I read this, and I feel overwhelmed by the cascade of emotions stemming from your sensitivity as an artist. Words fail me to express how this makes me feel exactly.

  16. Dalo 2013 says:

    River of Life indeed ~

  17. rufio3 says:

    These photos are absolutely stunning!

  18. Fantastic! Especially love the ones of India.

  19. Adrian says:

    You make us dream with your images!!

  20. Emanuela Magi says:

    There are no words to define your work. Your shots are amazing, everything is perfect: light, frame, colours, characters. You always catch the perfect moment and fix it in beautiful images.
    I thank you so much for this blog.

  21. PIERRE says:

    As always, excellent & stunning photos!

  22. David Pfannenstiel says:

    Everytime I see his work and think it cant get any better because it is already the best, I am again amazed at the beauty of his work

  23. Cris says:

    very nice pics !!!!

  24. Shirin Sandstrom says:

    All that can be said in admiration of these superb photos is already said in comments above. I keep looking and relooking at the portraits, especially the three from Afkhanistan: a dignified gentelman in Jalalabad, the lovely young woman Murad Khani, Kabul, two women in blue with the lovely little girl peeping out of curiosity, Kabul, Afghanistan. You have captured their joy of living in perfect harmony under all circumstances . They are all dressed to give expression to human beings innermost need for art, creativity, colour and shape. Wish with all my heart to compliment them on their superb costumes as they dress to fullfil their artistic dersire. Bravo Mr. Steve McCurry!

  25. gkazakou says:

    such a beautiful answer to the ugly stories of violence, poverty, war and rape, all these beautiful faces full of experience and thought, may there be peace at their places and hope and goodness and life.

  26. I too have been fortunate enough to travel along much of the GTC. Your fine images Steve brought it all flooding back, the sights sounds and smells. I am inspired to continue with my own project for 2017, a celebration of the similarities and differences between India and Pakistan post Partition. Once again thank you. Your work is amazing..

  27. Reblogged this on Nyonya Whitfield's and commented:
    I love love love love Steve McCurry’s work! Look at these amazing pictures.

  28. You need to be a part of a contest for one of the greatest blogs
    online. I most certainly will recommend this website!

  29. Eva Mata says:

    Stunning scenery and people; your pictures reflect a thousand of stories in just one shot, they are magical.
    Thanks for sharing, a fan from Manila

  30. Alessio BARILARI says:

    As architect, I have had a great satisfaction in my professional life: a client of mine, after that I complete the design and the construction of his villa, told me that his wife bought 15 McCurry’s photos and so he asked me to help her to organize them in the villa. It was a perfect opportunity to appreciate one time more steve mc curry’s great opera!!!…and the perfect way to finish an important work like that villa!

  31. Anonymous says:

    Probably the Best in the World for strenght and Impatc. As You know in Italy all Your Photos and Exibitions are very appreciate. Grateful to You for Yor Blog. It’s a donation for us very beautiful. Ciao Steve, we are waiting In Italy for You.

  32. pilla51 says:

    Totally AWESOME photos!! Thanks so much for posting!! Someone posted this on FB, I will be following YOU from now on.

  33. Great and stunningly beautiful work! Huge fan here in Brazil…

  34. John Spengler says:

    I grew up along the GT (Peshawar, Kabul and Lahore) as the son of a US diplomat. I was also fortunate to have traveled its entire length. Your outstanding photos have brought back a flood of memories. Thank you!

  35. steve mccurry,
    the colors of life,brilliant

  36. Roos says:

    What a wonderful,delightful,colourful ,soul fulfilling experience .Through your images ,I was there with you seeing all that feels like a real life paintings of our beautiful world and all in it .I Thank you

  37. albi says:

    beautiful !! just beautiful ! thanks for letting us travel with you…

  38. RODOLFO says:

    Buenas historias.

  39. Kaisern Chen says:

    Each image tells a story beautifully, put together they tell a story masterfully.

  40. Jean-Pierre Martel says:

    Just amazing … Thank you for sharing so wonderful views of this world

  41. I don’t ordinarily comment but I gotta state thanks for the post on this great one

  42. Mansukh says:

    Through your amazing , outstanding and fascinating images we travel to the ‘real world’ and each image portrays a story . The colours, the details are truly spectacular. Thank you Stevebhai

  43. Spectacular work 😄 love this post.

  44. Mark Simms says:

    Fascinating and beautiful…..absolutely stunning. The shot of the Taj reflected is my favourite.

  45. abraham says:

    Thank you Steve for the awesome pictures.

  46. Myrna Rosa says:

    What a beautiful way to record history. Thank you.

  47. Richard Hunt says:

    Such awesome images, my soul food for this evening 🙂

  48. Tom Kostes says:

    Just an amazing spectacle of human life in all its many multifarious manifestations! You capture it all so well, with so much heart and soul.

  49. ian214 says:

    Thank you as always for these Steve. Appreciate how your images capture both what is hidden from common view, as well as the essential about some of these places. I’m pretty darn sure I’ve turned that corner in Varanasi, but maybe you’ve just captured the essential corner in the warrens of that ancient city. In any case – bravo.

  50. Anonymous says:

    what can I say, the most striking, the woman and the boy in the red train, Kalkota, bloody marvellous.

  51. Emiliano says:

    Your great shots doesn’t need my compliments, it’s easy to see that are awesome but what impresses me is the respect and affinity for the subject expressed in your pictures.

  52. iamioana says:

    amazing pics,…:D soooo nice post. kisses

  53. Yolanda says:

    Amazing pictures. It’s like you can step right into it.

  54. Sunita Pathak says:

    Very well captured daily activites of life, but with exeptional skill that direcly touch your mind

  55. Excellent photos and story telling.

  56. Corina says:

    I am admire your work, your photos inspire me Steve!

  57. ranu802 says:

    Thank you Steve, this is wonderful. 🙂

  58. Anonymous says:

    Through your amazing , outstanding and fascinating images we travel to the ‘real world’ and each image portrays a story . The colours, the details are truly spectacular. Thank you Stevebhai

  59. Sue says:

    Powerful, emotive images of humanity on this major trading route

  60. Cristina says:

    Best of the best , thanks ,you enjoy my life

  61. Thank you for sharing. Beautiful pictures. Each tells a real story. Great Job.

  62. Joe S says:

    Every McCurry photograph is a revelation! Great stuff.

  63. leanpower says:

    Reblogged this on amijkopstein and commented:
    How lucky we are!

  64. leanpower says:

    Reblogged this on amijkopstein and commented:
    How lucky we are!

  65. Kaushal Patil says:

    Hello sir, i admire you as a role model. You had really done a great work in journalism & photography. I really appreciate your dedication towards the work. Am also a avid photographer which am preserving it in an enthusiastic way since 8 years. I want to meet you sir once in a Lifetime. Can you please lend me 1hour from your schedule just wanted to have a conversation with you i would be truely greatful. Can you please convey through my email kaus.creativity@gmail.com
    Regards, Kaushal Patil. INDIA

  66. Kaushal Patil says:

    Hello sir, i admire you as a role model. You had really done a great work in journalism & photography. I really appreciate your dedication towards the work. Am also a avid photographer which am preserving it in an enthusiastic way since 8 years.I want to meet you once in a Lifetime. Can you please lend me 1hour from your schedule just wanted to have a conversation with you i would be truely greatful. Can you please convey on my email kaus.creativity@gmail.com
    Regards, Kaushal Patil. INDIA

  67. artnexus says:

    I drove overland from Germany to India in 1971, mostly following the Great Trunk Road, and then criss-crossing through India. My heart aches looking at these beautiful images. I’m so grateful to Steve McCurry for regularly sharing his exquisite art with us!

  68. Linda says:

    The rich tapestry of life as only Steve can capture.

  69. treesshrubs says:

    Thank you again for sharing your insights….always inspiring and profound!

  70. ninagrandiose says:

    As I travel annually to this part of the world, it holds a special place in my heart. I seek out the works of other photographers who also capture this unique region. What I see that sets your work apart is your humanity toward your subjects. There is kindness there, not just curiosity. You inspire us to be better, live better and see differently. Thanks.

  71. Wow, wow, wow, thank you so much for sharing your work with us.

  72. Maiva Smyth says:

    I traveled this route in 1975 just loved the people I met along the way. Steve McCurry’s images returned so many memories of those wonderful people. Thank you Steve. I so look forward to your images arriving in my email box they are so wonderful.

  73. Kris says:

    Amazing, emotional and powerful these images so beyond being photographs. Thanks for shedding light in this region.

  74. Vicki says:

    Brilliant (as always)…….and compelling viewing.

  75. Angelo says:

    Steve McCurry: simply the best!

  76. WOW! Breathtaking photographs. This images tell stories

  77. Every images are amazing, as usual !

  78. Accolades aren’t necessary for you or your work…both speak for themselves. However, as a student of great art, I count myself fortunate to have come across your blog. The photos, words and stories you tell through them are priceless. Thanks Steve!

  79. Jane Lurie says:

    Spectacular post, Steve. The vividness of life is astounding.

  80. Luke Ogar says:

    Remarkable! I look forward to each new blog post.

  81. aliwilford says:

    This is breathtaking. Thank you for taking me there with such amazing photography.

  82. Bill Bennett says:

    Reblogged this on PGS – The Way and commented:
    Some classic McCurry shots here…

  83. Mary Cifone says:

    Magnificent Photos. Steve McCurry is able to capture the lives of so many in beautiful and tasteful photographs.

  84. Stunning and informative–thank you so much for posting this.

  85. Pierangela says:

    Vorrei vedere il mondo attraverso la tua macchina fotografica…. sono stupende le tue foto. Grazie ciao

  86. Thanks for finally talking about >River of Life – Steve McCurry’s Blog <Liked it!

  87. Nick Jones says:


  88. Marijke says:

    I Will never ever never forget THE wonderfull exhibition in Italy, iT was so beautifull!

  89. No wonder Steve McCurry is one of my most admired and favorite photographers. I could look at his work 24/7. He is blessed with such a wonderful gift.

  90. Iris says:

    Great Shot!

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