Gangasagar Yatra: A Journey to attain Salvation

A pilgrimage to coastal West Bengal in search of moksha


January 23, 2017

/ By , and / Kolkata

Every year, millions of Hindus from India and beyond undertake an arduous journey to an island of West Bengal to take a dip in the holy Ganges, where it meets the Bay of Bengal, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.

Gangasagar Yatra is a Hindu pilgrimage at the estuary of the Ganges in the southern tip of the Sagar Island, in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal. Located at 110 km from Kolkata, this quaint hamlet comes alive during Makar Sankranti as millions of pilgrims flock the place in a quest to cleanse the soul and attain a passage to heaven. Among Hindus, this is the third-most important pilgrimage of a lifetime, after the Maha Kumbh and the Kumbh, and is the second largest congregation of mankind on the planet. Gangasagar has recorded a footfall of close to two million in the recent past.

The itinerary of the pilgrimage ideally consists of visiting a temple dedicated to Kapil Muni (a mythical hermit in Hindu scripture), attending the annual fair and of course, offering prayers and taking the holy dip. Apart from the devotees, the pilgrimage also sees a wholesome attendance of ascetics and yogis from various sects and their presence adds value to the event. The fanfare of this magnitude also draws the press, photographers, artists and tourists from across the globe.

Mythological Relevance

How did Gangasagar come to be of such monumental significance? According to Hindu mythology, Kapil Muni, in a feat of a rage of having been framed for stealing a royal horse, cursed the sons of King Sagar, turned them to ashes and sent them to hell. Later, taking mercy, he agreed on the restoration of their souls if Goddess Parvati, Lord Shiva’s better half, came down to earth in form of Ganga. King Bhagirath, through deep meditation, brought Ganga to earth to bring salvation to the souls and bless them with an abode in heaven. Ganga stayed on earth and is considered as the source of moksha to this day. Hence, pilgrims come to take a dip and attain salvation and also offer prayers for the souls of the deceased.

Responsible and Sustainable Tourism

Pilgrims from around the world converge at the state capital, Kolkata, in transit, before heading to Gangasagar. This annual pilgrimage also offers a lease of enterprises to the laidback locales of Sagar Island. The place springs to life with sights and sounds galore. While the island has numerous hotels and inns, they are seldom full apart from this time of the year. Accommodations are reportedly booked months in advance for the occasion. Similarly, makeshift eateries, parking lots, and transportation services come up to cater to the seasonal demand. Apart from these, the fair, which is one of the major attractions of the pilgrimage, also provides local artisans and traders the opportunity to exhibit and sell their offerings. Ranging from local handicraft to utility products, you get it all in this fair. The contribution of a pilgrimage this huge to the local economy is crucial and provides the populace with added incentives. Spiritual tourism garners huge gatherings worldwide; Gangasagar is no exception to the theory. The state government is modernising amenities and is pushing for eco-friendly and responsible tourism. But, the sustainability of income opportunities and the development of the region will ultimately depend on the foresightedness of the administration in recognising the potential of such gatherings.

You can catch some more exclusive glimpses of the fanfare on MIG EYETALK.



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