The hand-pulled rickshaws of Kolkata


Offered by: Soumya Shankar Ghosal (Widely published documentary and street photographer)

Starting at $150/person

up to 3 people

approx. 4 hours

Street and Documentary

Explore an archaic practice steeped in Kolkata’s tradition

Several iconic motifs decorate the City of Joy’s image in visitor’s minds — the Howrah Bridge, Victoria Memorial, and the tram cars — and another one that distinctly sits in this list is the hand-pulled rickshaw. Post India’s independence, Kolkata was the first city to adopt the underground metro railway, yet remains the only city in the world to continue the 150-year-old practice of hand-pulled rickshaws as a mode of transport. The rickshaw is deeply linked to Kolkata’s socio-economic development over the past hundred years and this experience traces its roots and evolution, along with a first-hand account of this parallel industry that supports the livelihood of over 5,000 people.

  • See Kolkata streets and its street life from a unique perspective, its hand-pulled rickshaws
  • Get immersed into the gritty lives of rickshaw pullers and their back stories, this is a community of over 5,000 people living on the margin
  • Benefit from Soumya Shankar’s unique insights on this trade, shaped by many years of his documentation on the topic
  • Experience first-hand the physical manifestation of sitting in a rickshaw, or pulling one, if you choose

Anybody interested in documentary/street style photography looking to immerse themselves in an authentic slice of colonial and present-day Kolkata.

  • Immerse yourself in a thorough historical context of the hand-pulled rickshaw and its socio-economic impact on Kolkata
  • Interact with several rickshaw pullers to first hand understand and document their backgrounds, lives, and struggles
  • Visit the garages where rickshaws are parked as well as the workshops where they are repaired and shoot interesting frames
  • Explore key pockets of Central and South Kolkata to see the hand-pulled rickshaws in action
  • Ride a rickshaw yourself or try pulling one yourself to experience the physcial act yourself

Additional information

Meeting point
Shyambazaar in North Kolkata. Exact meeting point TBC upon booking.

Recommended equipment
Any camera and lens are fine. A regular range zoom such as 24-70mm works great.

Activity level
Medium, a fair amount of walking is involved. We will also travel to different parts of the city using the Metro, or take a taxi (at an additional cost)

Important Notes
Please wear comfortable walking shoes, and carry drinking water with you. The rickshaw workshops and garages will be clumsy, dirty and dusty. Please be mindful of the surroundings and carry a handkerchief if you have reactions to dust.

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