400,000 take dip as Gangasagar Fair ends
The pilgrims assembled at the island, with several thousands waiting at various entry points to take a dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. Rituals at Gangasagar | India celebrates Makar Sankrantiindia Updated: Jan 15, 2012 20:36 IST
Around 400,000 devotees from across the country took a holy dip in the Ganga, braving the icy cold water and chilly winds at the annual Gangasagar Fair in Sagar Island on Makar Sankranti on Sunday.
The pilgrims assembled at the island, with several thousands waiting at various entry points to take a dip at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal.
However, cold claimed one life on Sunday and two on Saturday, while 147 were admitted to various hospitals, officials said.
About 150 km from Kolkata in South 24 Parganas district, this island is considered auspicious by the Hindus, who gather here at this time of the year to take a holy dip and pray by offering coconut at the Kapil Muni temple.
The devout believe that a single dip in the sacred water washes off life's sins.
West Bengal public health engineering minister Subrata Mukherjee, who was present at the fair, expressed satisfaction at the overall arrangements.
"After a long time, people witnessed such a well arranged fair. We have taken special care of sanitation and unlike previous years, this time the beach has been fairly clean. After the fair is over Sunday night, a cleanliness drive will also be undertaken," said Mukherjee.
Stating that there still existed problems regarding transit of people to and from the island, Mukherjee said a permanent jetty will be built before next year’s fair.
With the chief priest of the Kapil Muni temple, Gyan Das, demanding the fair be declared a national festival, Mukherjee said he will talk to chief minister Mamata Banerjee on the issue.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Uma Bharti too was among the bathers. Her party colleague Jaswant Singh had taken the holy dip on Saturday.