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

100 thoughts on “River of Life

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

  7. 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!

  8. 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.

  9. 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..

  10. 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

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

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

  14. 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!

  15. 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

  16. 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
    Reply

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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

  21. 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!

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

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

  25. 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!

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

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