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Gangasagar: Where Ganga Meets Bay of Bengal

''Devotees in large numbers throng this holy place on Makar Sankranti every year for a holy dip''

Also known as ‘Sagardwip’ or ‘Sagar Island’, this blissful place is popular with both pilgrims and adventure lovers for the tranquility it offers. If visiting for religious reasons, it’s advisable to land here on Makar Sankranti that falls in January when the annual Gangasagar Fair is organised. It is the time when thousands of Hindu pilgrims gather to take a holy dip at the confluence of river Ganges and Bay of Bengal to cleanse sins and have their wishes fulfilled. The pilgrims also offer prayers in the Kapil Muni Temple located close to the beach. The temple is named after Kapil Muni, who was born as an incarnation of Vishnu and became a great saint later. For the rest of the year, unlike other beaches, the place offers charm of an un-spoilt beach.

LOCATION : Gangasagar is an island located in extreme south of Kolkata in West Bengal. Although a part of Sunderban Administration, it does not have any tiger habitation or mangrove forests.

WHY GO THE DISTANCE : It is considered to be the second largest congregation of mankind after the triennial ritual bathing of Kumbha Mela. The place offers silver sand, clear blue sky and calm sea to the visitors for an eternal and blissful experience. The journey from Kolkata to Sagar Island through villages is in itself breath-taking where one can experience and get a hang of what village life is like in Kolkata.

At Gangasagar Ganga breaks up into hundreds of streams and kisses the sea. But the streams are way too large to be spotted from a location on the land. Only an aerial view to some extent may help. Even at the tip of the island, where the annual Gangasagar Mela is organised, one cannot make out make out which part of the water is Ganga and which one the sea. This aggravates during monsoons when waters wear the same muddy colour.

However, for panoramic views of the beach and the island, one can climb up the lighthouse and also enjoy magnificent sunrise and sunset. The sunset is an awesome view when the sky turns orange and golden with sun in red on the horizon. If interested in photography, take back home some of the best clicks from here.

In monsoons, the sea tides are way too high so be careful and avoid going in deep waters. It’s a scenic view to see many huge ships sailing in the sea at a distance from the beach. Fishermen too can be seen struggling to get food for their families and other locals. Take the opportunity to do social service here by feeding downtrodden living by the beach with biscuits and rice. If not anything, just take back their wishes home.

There are shops around the temple selling puja stuff for prayers and even decorative items made of shell. Temple is not at all a rush and payers can be offered at ease if going in non-peak months. Even the pujaris are co-operative and photography too is not prohibited. Locals are very welcoming and grounded with most deriving means of living from the annual fair.

GETTING THERE : Gangasagar is about 130 kms from Kolkata - towards its extreme south. One way journey easily takes 6 hours. So, one needs a full day if doing Gangasagar from Kolkata.

Since it’s on the Sagar Island, one cannot reach the place directly. From Esplanade in Kolkata, either board a bus or hire cab for Kakdwip, which is the last motorable point. The journey will take 3-4 hours. From Kakdwip, one has to now cross Muriganga by boat to reach Kachuberia on the Sagar Island.

The jetty service is in every one hour and per person ticket is Rs 8. It’s cheap indeed. If you see signs of thunder showers, grab hold of middle seats and you will be safe. It’s amazing to see even vehicles from bikes and ice-cream vending machines to cars and trucks being loaded on these big boats to help cross the river.

So, the jetty will take about 45 mins to reach Kachuberia from where again one needs to board a bus or hire a cab to reach the tip of the Island. The distance is about 30kms. The same exercise need to be followed when returning from the Island. There are no jetty services after 8 pm. So try and wrap up seeing the place in time.

EATING : Don’t expect too much from the place. If not too hygiene conscious, try food at the local dhabas at Gangasagar. The menu in a plate could range from 2-3 veggies, prawn curry and fish curry to rice, salads and pickles. Trust me, the food gives authentic local taste and is yum. But do check with them for the spices because if you don’t do that, the food may turn out to be very spicy. Coconut water is available in plenty.

ACCOMODATION : State Youth Hostel, Bharat Sevashram Sangha and Larica Sagar Tourist Lodge are some of the options available.

Source / Review By : Pramugdha Mamgain Nautiyal


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