The Ganges with Sue Perkins
thu 19 Oct, 9.00pm (regions vary) BBC1 Factual
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.’
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