Thursday, May 8, 2014

Gangasagar Mela, One of the Most Religious Pilgrimages of Hindus in India


http://westbengaltourism.gov.in/web/guest/bakkhali
Sagar is an Island located on the Muriganga River. This island is cut off from the mainland with this river. At present, the island is not linked with any road bridge and the visitors have to cross the distance with the help of ferry services that are available from the mainland. After reaching the island one has to travel some distance in order to reach the southernmost part of the island, where the holy shrine and the ashram of the renowned saint, Kapil Muni is placed. Gangasagar Beach holds vast and shallow water.

History
Gangasagar is a holy place where the sacred river Ganga meets the sea, Bay of Bengal. A dip in the place, where the Ganga River merges into the sea is regarded to have a religious significance, especially on the Makara Sankranti day when the sun makes a transition to Capricorn from Sagittarius. During this time, the town, Sagar holds huge fair, drawing visitors from all over India, which is one of its kinds. Many legends are associated with this fair, the most common one that the locals believe in is that the girls who take a holy dip during this time get good looking grooms and the boys will get pretty brides. After the ritual obligations are completed, they head to the nearby temple, Kapil Muni, to worship the deity as a mark of respect. Another legend that is associated with this mela is that before merging into the sea, Ganga River watered the human remains of King Sagar’s 6,000 sons, freeing their souls for eternity. The King’s sons were believed to have been burned by the rage of Kapil Muni, who got angry on getting disturbed during his meditation. The King’s sons had come to this place in search of their father’s Sacrificial Horse. The horse was stolen by Devraj Indra and tied it beside the hermitage of Kapil Muni. When they saw the saint at this place, they started blaming him for stealing the horse and thus, interrupting his meditation.

Time of Celebration
At Gangasagar, thousands of visitors take a holy dip annually during the time of Makar Sankranti, which generally falls on 14th or 15th of January. Gangasagar Mela or fair is arranged yearly but people from all over India come to this place throughout the year. There is a common believe among the Hindus that by taking a bath at this place will relief them from all curse and sins, thus, earning blessings from the God. The place is the ‘Punya Tirtha’ for Hindus.

How It Is Celebrated
GangaSagar Mela or fair is the second largest Mela after the Kumbh Mela in India.  Gangasagar Mela is one of the most popular Hindu pilgrimage centres in West Bengal. Every year, thousands of Hindu pilgrims come to this place to take a holy dip into the holy river of Ganga. A long fair is held from January to February annually. The fair is hoarded by large number of devotees on the Makar Sanskriti day. The popularity of this fair can be assumed with the involvement of more than million pilgrims, without any formal or informal invitation, endorsement and organizing authority.  Besides the general devotees, the fair also witnesses the attendance of Naga Sadhus.

Main Activities
The entire journey to this fair is tough, but this does not dishearten even the weakest. Large numbers of devotees hoard the beach night and day to occupy a space on the sandy beach. People move with the huge crowd along with the sounds of bells, blowing conch shells and chanting prayers. Several devotional songs can also be heard during this time. Huge number of stalls and shops are lined along the pathway, selling different varieties of vermillion, rudraksha, colorful beads, saffron clothes, conch shells and other religious items. The mela is not complete without the sight of Naga Sadhus, who sit naked in their little huts close to the temple, enjoying a chillum of ganja.

Almost every devotee takes their turn to take a dip on the auspicious day on the holy river, to purify their mind, body and soul from all the sins and receive the blessings of the God. A considerable number of marriages are also conducted on the beach on this day. As well as, many young girls get married to the sea on this day, as it is believed, that by doing so, they will never become widows, even if their men go through the roughest time in their life.

Every year, the fair is witnessed by millions of devotees in Sagar Island, which makes it quite tough for the pilgrims. Still they come to this place, to celebrate Makar Sanskriti with joy and devotion in their eyes.