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.

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

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

Calcutta, India
Howrah Station, Calcutta, 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
Varanasi, 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withdrawn like a log after a flood.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

Agra, India
Red Fort, Delhi, India
Kumbh Mela,, Allahabad, India
Amritsar, India

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

Golden Temple, Amritsar, India

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

Lahore, Pakistan
Lahore, Pakistan
Rawalpindi, Pakistan

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

 Peshawar, Pakistan
 Peshawar, Pakistan
Landi Kotal, Pakistan
Torkham Border Crossing, Kabul, Afghanistan
Afghan Border
Near the Afghan/Pakistan border
Village near Surobi, Afghanistan
Jalalabad, Afghanistan
 Jalalabad, Afghanistan

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.

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.

Kabul, Afghanistan
Kabul, Afghanistan

By Steve McCurry

Steve McCurry has been one of the most iconic voices in contemporary photography for more than thirty years, with scores of magazine and book covers, over a dozen books, and countless exhibitions around the world to his name.

To read more about Steve go to

35 replies on “River of Life”

Steve, I’ve been a huge fan of your work for at least the last 25 years. You have been an inspiration for me, but I’d like to ask you something, please do not crop your photos to present them here. It brakes my heart to see them maimed. My honest opinion! Thank you, and keep shooting those wonderful photographs!

The ancient world has always fascinated me. I’ve always wondered about human ascent from the savanna animals that we were to the complex societies that we’ve created. I’ve always wondered whether our evolutionary path shaped our cultures or whether our cultures are another path in our evolution. Studying ancient cultures, even if I don’t do it professionally, is a way to answer some of these questions.

Amazing pictures by the way!

Photography and travel are two of my passions in life, and I always find your images so inspiring. The colors and textures of your images are amazing. Thanks for another set of beautiful photos from my favorite photographer.

You captured the footsteps of humanity and civilization that had travelled on this road, in hundreds of years, and captured in your camera the traces of humanity that had suffered pain, happiness, in defeat, victorious, and the survivors. Is there change, a big difference now when humanity, this civilization is “under pause” when people refuse to relate, to feel, to mix and integrate when they spend so much time on the internet and lean heavily on the smartphone?

You captured the flow of humanity and civilization along this much travelled Grand Trunk Road, where the imprints of the passing of time left traces which you had captured in your camera. Time has changed, still the road swells of humanity, traders, workers, men in conflict, in the present times. Is there now a big difference when the flow of humanity is “under pause”, when people refuse to interact, to mix, and to relate and spend so much time on the internet and dependent on the smartphone?

Your photos are simply fabulous and touching and educational. I always look forward to receiving your post and it is always uplifting
Thank you Stevebhai.

I have always loved your work and the subtle art of storytelling. Love it.
This was one of the most important trade routes across Asia.

I always look forward to learning about my cultural heritage and history of Afghanistan. Your photos and blog capture it beautifully.

A pictorial history but also a cultural lesson. School age children should be exposed to images and stories like these to open their eyes to the world beyond their city.

Your pictures are always a delight. They have taught me much – to see the beauty,pathos and pattern in everyday items as well as the rich tapestry that is life. We are blessed to live in a less concentrated environment but the magic of humanity and its beliefs are concentrated in your images

Fantastical portrait of the most colorful highway on earth. Brings such good memories of the wonderful journeys I made in the 80’s & 90’s.

Get Outlook for Android


I was in Pakistan in the 50s of the last century several times visiting my father who worked for a German company in Karachi for 17 years. We also travelled through Pakistan from the south to the north in 1957 by car. When I look at your impressive pictures I remember that Pakistan in those days had a much higher standard of living and it was much cleaner everywhere. Thank you very much for those interesting pics.

I travel , tray to live the moment , feel de atmosphire, smell and hear through you photos and the amazing notes from notorius authors.Thanks from Argentina

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s