The longest train journey in India

A passenger train coming from Jammu moves over a bridge on the outskirts of the city August 5, 2011.
PHOTO: Reuters

On an 85-hour train ride of 57 stops, 21 carriages and three sunsets, photographer Ed Hanley discovered the true beauty of India.

The Dibrugarh-Kanyakumari Vivek Express train number 15906 crosses India from the northeastern state of Assam to the southernmost town of Kanyakumari.

The 85-hour journey along the country's eastern coast covers 4,273km and carries, at times, more than 1,800 people, taking passengers through seven states and traversing beautiful landscapes in destinations such as West Bengal and Kerala.

For most people, this train ride - without flushing toilets, sufficient air conditioning or comfortable sleeping arrangements - would bring with it dread and discomfort.

For Canadian photographer Ed Hanley, it was a chance to explore a different side to a culture he holds very dear.

This epic cross-country adventure marks Hanley's 10th visit to India. However, his adoration for the country began with music rather than photography.

"I'm a professional musician specialising in tabla, the principal percussion instrument of North Indian classical music," he said.

"I've spent lots of time in India studying music and performing over the years. I love the country and her people."

Soon, Hanley saw that India was a country that begged to be photographed.

"India is the most photogenic place I've ever been," he said.

"It's a mix of colour and personality, where beauty and chaos coexist in the same moment, and where ancient traditions absorb and integrate modern ways."

Throughout his 85 hours in motion, Hanley documented every aspect of the journey he could: passengers, landscapes, facilities and vendors were all captured as the Vivek Express trundled southwards.

Hanley described the train as "a rolling street market", where customers can buy anything from the mundane (soft drinks and chocolate) to the bizarre (a new mobile phone or a hardboiled egg).

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