Sab tirth bar bar, Gangasagar ek bar
On the holy occasion of Makar Sankranti, I paid a visit to the Gangasagar Mela held every year in January. Thousands of devotees from different parts of India come here to take holy dip in Sagar (where the Ganga merges with the sea) to wash away sin in early morning in Makar Sankranti and pay a visit to the Kapil Muni Ashram for blessings. After Kumbh Mela, this is the second largest in India. As the Kumbh Mela collided with the Gangasagar Mela this time, crowd is said to be less.
How to reach Gangasagar?
Anywhere from India, however you are coming, you have to first reach Kolkata. Reaching Kolkata, pilgrims usually spend a day in Babughat beside Hoogly river where the state government arranges some basic facilities like drinking water, toilets, fooding,etc . However, you can take up a hotel if you want.
By bus: Gangasagar Mela Special buses are run by the State Transport Corporations from Howrah Railway Station/Babughat/Esplanade Bus Terminus to Kakdwip Lot No. 8. Fare is around Rs. 100.
By train: Eastern Railways arranges Gangasagar Special Fast local trains from Sealdah Railway Station and Kolkata Terminus to Namkhana. You have to get down at Kakdwip. Fare will be Rs.25. You can take a Rickshaw to Lot No. 8.
By car: From Kolkata, take Diamond Harbour Road upto Kakdwip, take right turn for Lot. No. 8
From Lot No. 8, take a jetty upto Kachuberia side of Sagar island. If you are coming via Namkhana, you will get jetty to Chemaguri side of Sagar island. Movement of jetties depend on high tides and low tides, i.e. jetties stop plying during low tides and you may be halted for hours to cross the river. For cars, berges charge around Rs.2300 per car to cross river as told to me by a local.
From Kachuberia and Chemaguri, Special buses runs upto Gangasagar.
Accomodation arrangements in Gangasagar
State government arranges temporary accomodation for pilgrims though that may run short. You can also opt for cheap lodges nearby or may bring your own tent to stay. Temporary toilets and mobile toilets are available everywhere in the campus.
There is a food court run by the West Bengal Tourism Department. Also you will get temporarily set up cheap small restaurants to have meals. You can also cook food there like many does. Temporary water tanks are set up to supply drinking water to pilgrims.
Attractions in Gangasagar
Pilgrims usually come here to take a holy dip in Sagar on the occasion of Makar Sankranti to wash away sins and visit Kapil Muni Ashram for blessings. Also a new park is constructed by depicting various God and Godess and the story behind Gangasagar.
My Experience in Gangasagar
I boarded the first Gangasagar Special train from Sealdah at 6:15 in morning and got down at Kakdwip which took 2 hours to reach, then a rickshaw to Lot No. 8. It was around 9:30 am, after seeing a long queue near the jetty ghat, I enquired with a local police, and came to know that due to low tide, jetty service is suspended. It would start again at 12:30 pm. I had a plan to visit the place in the day and return to Kolkata by evening, so it was obviously not a good news for me. After having breakfast and killing time for 2 hours ultimately at 12:15 pm, announcements were done for commencing of jetties. I booked jetty tickets for Rs. 40, after which I came to know from the locals, the fares are just Rs.9 for the rest of the year. There was a lot of mad crowd waiting from morning under Sun to board the jetties, and as the service started, all started running madly towards jetty. Though announcements were made not to hurry, all fell into deaf ears. In the race, my slippers opened while running though I was lucky to get it back, I found many slippers here and there thereafter. At some point ,I felt I was going to be stampeded, but I reached the jetty somehow.
After I got down at Kachuberia, the police arranged for a long walk upto the bus stand from where there will be a 30 kms journey in bus upto Gangasagar. If you are very lucky, you will get a seat in bus which are usually overloaded. I reached Gangasagar to find a long queue of pilgrims waiting to return Kachuberia. I doubted wheather I will be able to return that night. There are temporary changing rooms set up in beach where you can change. I took a holy dip in Sagar, had a Darshan to the Kapil Muni Ashram, and headed towards the food court to catch a meal. I took a veg thali for Rs.50.
It was almost Sunset, so I had to figure out a way to get back. While I could see the long queue once again to return Kachuberia, I headed towards it, I found another way going towards the main road from where I saw some bus plying. I rushed towards the main road and luckily I found a bus to Kachuberia though it was very overcrowded and I found myself hanging outside the door crying for space, as I said you ‘ll be extremely lucky to get a seat in the bus. There was a long traffic jam before reaching Kachuberia which forced me to walk all the way to jetty ghat. Announcements were made that the last jetty before low tide will leave in a few minutes and people started running madly again and I felt that I was again going to be stampeded. I also started to run to avoid missing the last jetty. Crossing the river, I took a rickshaw to Kakdwip Railway Station, boarded the Gangasagar Special Train back to Kolkata. The train was madly overcrowded and female old pilgrims sat on the floors of the train. Other passengers crying for space involved with a heated argument with them. I also had a tough time standing for 3 hours(though it took 2 hrs while coming). The journey was super hectic compared to just 120 kms distance and I felt like I washed away some real sin. The State Govt. however has proposed a bridge over the river to ease transportation to Gangasagar.
Points to know before heading for Gangasagar
- If you want to travel cheap, avail train upto Kakdwip against buses. Fare for train is Rs.25 and for buses its Rs.100.
- If availing train, board the Gangasagar Special local as it gives very few stops, reaching the destination in less time. The normal local has a lots of stoppages which can be time consuming and irritating.
- Try to know beforehand the timings of high tide and low tide, as jetty service is suspended during low tide, which may result in hours of halting. However, there is a camp in Lot No. 8.
Nearby Places to visit
- Bakkhali & Mousuni Island