“Sab tirath bar bar, Gangasagar ekbar”, may we visit other holy places several times – but a visit once to Gangasagar is worth a life-time, keeping it in mind Hindus from all over the world, from Nepal, Thailand, West Indies, Canada, Japan, far from Australia and from every state of India reaches the confluence of Ganges at Sagar Sangam situated in southern part of West Bengal in India.
|Aerial View of Gangasagar Mela|
Ganga Sagar, located on the western edge of the Sunderban Delta in West Bengal, is for many Hindus a very renowned Place of Pilgrimage, because there the Ganga River has a confluence with the Bay of Bengal. Every year, on the auspicious occasion of Makar Sankranti (when the sun makes a transition to Capricorn from Sagittarius) a huge fair is held here. The most prominent site in GangaSagar is Kapil Muni Temple and millions of Hindu pilgrims visit this holy place all year round to take a dip in the Ganges.The biggest attraction of this place is “Ganga Sagar Mela(Fair)" that happens during “Makar Sankranti" every year. This Mela is the largest human gathering after "Kumbha Mela(Fair)", and it’s also called Ardha Kumbha Mela(Fair). This is an annual festival happening on 14th January and is one of the biggest Hindu gatherings worldwide.
|Prayer of Faith|
|Devotees assembled for Gangasagar Mela|
People start celebrating the Ganga Sagar Mela from the first week of January in West Bengal. The popularity of this fair can be understood from the fact that without any formal or informal invitation, advertisement and organizing authority, more than a million pilgrims come here every year, from different parts of India, just to take a holy dip in the Ganges. Apart from the general pilgrims, the assemblage of Naga Sadhus here gives a unique identity to this festival. In 2011, around 5 lakh piligrims took holy dip in the river Ganga braving the icy cold water and a chilly wind at the annual Gangasagar Fair.
|A Dip for Faith and Devotion|
|Piligrims taking holy dip during Makar Sankranti|
During Ganagsagar mela, the site of pilgrimage was a fascinating exchange of so many sincere spiritual seekers from so many lineages and backgrounds. Sky clad devotees of Lord Shiva covered in ash, saffron-robed sunnyasis, red-robes, leopard skirts, big turbans, small turbans, dhotis, sarees tied every which way, silk, cotton, nylon...the diversity was unique and one of its kind.
|Naga Sadhu at GangaSagar Mela|
|Holy Dip at GangaSagar Mela|
Only in India, one can get wake up at two in the morning to hike down to Mother Ganga with tens of thousands of pilgrims to take bath in the company of calves, sadhus, gurus, coconuts, marigold flower garlands, floating candles and millions of sticks of incense burning everywhere. That’s the strength of devotion.