The Ganges with Sue Perkins

thu 19 Oct, 9.00pm (re­gions vary) BBC1 Fac­tual

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Fol­low­ing her jour­neys up the Mekong and through Kolkata, Sue Perkins explores the lives of peo­ple liv­ing by the river Ganges in her new three-part se­ries. Sue will travel through the in­dus­trial and agri­cul­tural heart­lands of In­dia to the an­cient city of Varanasi, and on to the vast delta that leads into the Bay of Ben­gal...

Co­me­dian Sue Perkins won over view­ers with her pas­try in­nu­en­dos on BBC1’s Bake Off, but her hu­mour is tested on a 1,500‑mile trip along the Ganges, where she learns the sa­cred river is un­der threat.

For de­vout Hin­dus, the Ganges is a liv­ing god­dess with the power to wash away a life­time of sins – and the three‑part se­ries be­gins in the Hi­malayas, as Sue bat­tles al­ti­tude sick­ness while trekking to the river’s source.

But the jour­ney ends up hav­ing a pro­found per­sonal ef­fect on her.

‘I’ve had a hor­ri­ble year,’ says Sue. ‘My dad died six months ago and be­cause I live in Lon­don and it’s so fast‑mov­ing it’s meant I’ve sup­pressed ev­ery­thing, so I don’t have to feel the pain.

‘What this trip has done is give me the space to be truly sad. My dad’s re­ally worth griev­ing over, so

I’m re­ally glad I’ve started that process.’

De­struc­tion

With 30 mil­lion tourists vis­it­ing the moun­tain­ous re­gion ev­ery year, Sue learns how the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment has been im­pacted. Trees have been cut down to make way for guest houses and raw sewage is pumped into the river it­self.

‘It makes me re­ally sad,’ says Sue. ‘Ev­ery­one wants to come here, but in do­ing so they’re de­stroy­ing the very god­dess they’re here to hon­our.’

Sue also vis­its the city of Rishikesh, where The Bea­tles came in search of divine in­spi­ra­tion in 1968, and spends two nights in an ashram with west­ern­ers seek­ing en­light­en­ment. Later in the se­ries, she’ll travel to the an­cient city of Varanasi and to the Bay of Ben­gal, where the Ganges meets the sea.

‘It’s been an emo­tional few weeks,’ says Sue.

‘I may not be­lieve in gods and god­desses, but this pil­grim­age has gen­uinely touched me.’

River jour­ney… Sue meets the peo­ple liv­ing

along the Ganges

Sue dances with trans­gen­der ‘hi­jra’ peo­ple she meets in Kolkata

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