Pilgrims from all over the country have begun arriving at Sagar Island in the 24 Parganas district of southern Bengal to take a holy dip in Ganga Sagar on the occasion of ‘Makar Sankranti’, an official said Saturday.
The holy water fun begins around 6:50pm on Saturday, but in the morning thousands of devotees braved the cold weather at the confluence of the Hoogly River and the Bay of Bengal to take a dip and offer prayers at Kapil. Muni Ashram said.
From January 5 to Friday evening, more than 310,000 pilgrims arrived at the Ganga Sagar Mela, considered the second largest religious congregation after the Kumbh Mela.
“After I bathed in the Ganga (Hooghly River), all my sins were washed away.” said Ram Swaran, a Chaivasa resident of Jharkhand, flashing a ‘V’ sign, standing in waist-deep water.
Some devotees were seen singing and dancing to reach Ganga Sagar Mela on Sagar Island, about 100 km from Kolkata.
“There is a saying ‘shob teertha baar baar, Gangasagar ekbar’ (other pilgrimage sites can be visited many times, but Gangasagar can only be visited once). said Latika Chatterjee from Howrah District in West Bengal.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard (ICG) and disaster management teams have stepped up vigilance along the coastline, while police and civil defense volunteers have been deployed to the fairgrounds, he said.
Over 1,000 CCTV cameras and 25 drones were deployed to monitor the entire fairgrounds.
Pilgrims from all over the country are flocking to Sagar Island for the annual event, and the task of the South 24 Parganas District Administration is managing people while crossing the Muriganga River to safely reach Ganga Sagar, officials said.
An official from the district office said, “Due to the thick fog, boats and buses to Sagar Island were suspended for three to four hours in the morning, and now everything is normal.”
The state government has taken all measures, including setting up shelters on the island for those seeking Ganga Sagar Mela, and the administration is anticipating a huge step forward.
Sundarbans Development Minister Bankim Hazra was at the fairgrounds to oversee the preparations along with state officials.