A boatman takes passengers for an evening float along the River Hooghly in Calcutta, West Bengal. The Hooghly connects the Bengal hinterland with the Bay of Bengal, and has always been a vital trade route where sea going ships would bring goods which were then transported to the interiors in country boats.

Barges and country boats all jostle for space on the River Ganges on the banks of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Two police boats on the left are used for patrolling the ghats, which has come under terror attacks in the past.

Beautifully painted wooden boats awaits passengers to be taken on a short trip to the Baneshwar temple in the middle of the Narmada in Maheshwar, Madhya Pradesh.

A boatman takes tourists for a joyride on the waters of the thundering Tungabhadra River in Hampi, Karnataka. The circular boats are called coracles and curiously, ply only on the Tungabhadra and no other river in India.

Fishing boats are beached on the Marina beach in Madras, Tamil Nadu. The Marina is a popular hanging out place for all Madrasis, especially in the evenings. In the early mornings the beach bustles with fishing activities and in the afternoons it is a popular place for Madras's young couples to meet up under the shades of the fishing boats.

A boat is tilted to one side for tar to be applied for waterproofing, as women dry saris along the Ganges at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The boats are popular amongst tourists and pilgrims who take a leisurely ride along the Ganges in the early mornings or evenings.

Two boats from two eras. A local fisherman casts his net from a traditional canoe against the backdrop of a massive luxury liner in the backwaters of Kochi, Kerala.

Fishermen paddle their way through the water hyacinth filled canals of Kaziranga, Assam. The rafts are made of floatable bamboo and extremely lightweight, making them ideal for many fishermen who can't afford wooden boats.

Men and machine all pile up on every available inch of space on the flat roofed barges that ply on the mighty Brahmaputra River. These ferries are returning from Majuli, the largest riverine island in Asia, near Nimatighat in Assam.

A whitewater rafting team struggles against the strong current of the Indus River at Nimmu in Ladakh. Nimmu is the place where the Indus meets up with the Zanskar River and continues into Pakistan. The greener water is the Indus, and the browner water is Zanskar, a result of different mineral compositions of the moutain ranges through which the two rivers flow.

Boats are stacked up with wood to be used for cremation at Manikarnika Ghat in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. This ghat is the holiest place for Hindus to be cremated anywhere in India, and bodies are burnt round the clock. The family of the deceased can select the quality of wood that is used for the cremation, with sandalwood being the most expensive.

A boy gives a helping hand to push a boat into the waters of the Tungabhara River in Hampi, Karnataka. The Tungabhadra swells during the monsoons and in the absence of any bridges, villagers have to ply on boats across the river.

Idols of the Goddess Durga are taken out in boats for immersion in the middle of the Hooghly in Calcutta, Bengal after the completion of the Dura Puja festival. Local boatmen earn a little extra money during the immersion week.

Dhow making workshop, Beypore, Kerala

Tanker, Fort Kochi, Kerala

Snake Boat, Allappuzha, Kerala

Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race, Punnamada Lake, Kerala

Sand Mining, Kasaragod, Kerala

A docking site of wooden canoes on the Rapti River in Chitwan, Nepal. These slender canoes are made from a single hollowed out log of tree, and used by villagers to navigate the many streams and rivulets in the densely forested Terai regions of Nepal.

Tourists and pilgrims watch an aarti on Dashaswamedh Ghat from boats on the River Ganges, in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. Situated on India's holiest river, Varanasi is considered as one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. The Ganges, as a giver of life and a mother deity, is daily worshipped here each evening in a ritual which hasn't changed in thousands of years.

Laborers carve a log to build a wooden Dhow in Mandvi, Gujarat. Mandvi has long been a famed centre for shipbuilding and maritime trade. The dhows now built are mostly commissioned by wealthy Arab merchants from the middle-east.


Ah boats! A little piece of portable land in the middle of water. The most ancient form of long distance transport, boats are still going strong. The subcontinent is blessed with a rich and varied history of boat making and maritime trade. From the giant wooden dhows made in Mandvi in Gujarat, to the humble circular coracle which ply on the Tungabhadra in Karnataka, boats are still loved and used everyday by people to cross rivers in the absence of any bridges. Here is a compilation of boats shot across the sub-continent and their various uses.