Great Indian Railway Journeys: Series 1
Michael Portillo travels across India guided by his Bradshaw’s 1913 Handbook of Indian, Foreign and Colonial Travel.
Part 1: Amritsar to Shimla
Beginning in the Sikh holy city, Michael is dazzled by the beauty of the Golden Temple and awed by the scale of its langar – the world’s largest free kitchen. His route then takes him through the Punjab, India’s breadbasket. Michael samples traditional chapattis, has a colourful kurta made up in one of the Punjab’s biggest cloth markets, and can’t resist the foot-tapping rhythms of Punjabi bhangra dancing, made famous by Bollywood. At Kalka, Michael glimpses the Himalayas for the first time and joins the 1906-built mountain railway for a stunning climb to Shimla.
Part 2: Jodhpur to Delhi
Michael embarks on a stunning rail journey from the Thar Desert in Rajasthan to the Indian capital, taking in desert landscapes and dazzling historic palaces. From Jodhpur, Michael strikes out into the desert, taking a camel ride to a village where life has changed little in centuries, before embarking on the Jaipur-Agra-Delhi ‘Golden Triangle’ tour. Continuing east, Michael breaks his journey in drought-prone Bandikui, where he marvels at the extraordinary architecture of one of India’s largest and deepest step wells.
Part 3: Mysuru to Chennai
Michael Portillo’s Bradshaw’s 1913 Handbook of Indian, Foreign and Colonial Travel leads him on railway journey through the modern south Indian states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, from the former princely state of Mysore to the first stronghold of the East India Company in Chennai, formerly Madras. At sunset Michael joins selfie-stick wielding crowds back at the palace as they wait to capture it being illuminated by thousands of bulbs. An early morning yoga class is the perfect way to stretch out before boarding a train to Bengalaru. After a sticky encounter with a mango, he meets the entrepreneurs whose innovations are driving India’s hi-tech boom with inventions from mobile heart scanners to cooking apps.
Part 4: Lucknow to Kolkata
On an epic railway journey from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh to Kolkata in West Bengal, Michael Portillo uses his Bradshaw’s 1913 Handbook of Indian, Foreign and Colonial Travel, published when the British Raj was 55 years old, to chart a course through India’s history from the days of The East India Company to the dawn of independence. In Lucknow, Michael tastes the famous local kebabs before seeking the truth about 1857 Siege of Lucknow, a key moment in the rebellion which precipitated the end of the East India Company’s grip on India and the start of direct British rule.