What is ‘Gangasagar Mela’ for which Mamata is demanding ‘national status’
Gangasagar Mela, which takes place during Makar Sankrati (mid-January), is said to be India's second largest pilgrimage gathering after the Kumbh Mela.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee demanded a 'national status' for the 'Gangasagar mela,' which takes place every year on the island of Gangasagar in the state's 24 South Parganas. Mamata blamed the Centre that its focus is ‘Kumbh Mela’, which is celebrated every 12 years, but not on Bengal's Gangasagar Mela. She also stated that the demand for national status is to obtain funds from the Union government.
“The central government has been providing huge funds to the Kumbh Mela. But it is not providing anything to Gangasagar Mela. That is the reason that I will request them to declare it as a national fair so that we can get some funds,” she said. Banerjee arrived on Sagar Island on Wednesday afternoon to review the preparations for the upcoming Mela.
What is Gangasagar mela?
Every year during Gangasagar mela, devotees from all over the country gather at the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal to take a sacred dip during Makar Sankranti (mid-January). Gangasagar is an island in the Ganges delta located on the continental shelf of the Bay of Bengal roughly 100 kilometres (54 nautical miles) south of Kolkata, according to West Bengal Tourism.
The mela is said to be India's second largest pilgrimage gathering after the Kumbh Mela. This year, the mela will be held from January 8 to 17, with Makar Sankranti falling on January 15, and approximately three million people are expected to attend the mela to take the holy dip.
Mela to be held with Covid-19 protocols
Mamata Banerjee had earlier directed the state administration to set up Covid-19 surveillance teams for the upcoming mela, as well as the health department to set up a team of experts to monitor the situation during the mela.
Last year, the Calcutta High Court granted the state government permission to hold the Gangasagar Mela while adhering to strict Covid-19 protocols. To ensure that the protocols were followed, the court also formed a three-member committee composed of a state government representative, the leader of the Opposition in the legislative assembly, and the chairman of the State Human Rights Commission.
In response to the recent increase in Covid-19 cases, the chief minister previously stated that a 300-bed hospital is being built specifically for pilgrims, and that health infrastructure is being built in the areas surrounding the mela. She added that an air ambulance, four water ambulances, and 100 ambulances would be kept on call to transport critically ill patients through green corridors.
Since 2021, the state government has been arranging for e-snan (virtual bathing) and online darshan of the Ganga Sagarmela for those who are unable to attend.
However, a recent confirmation from an official, as per PTI reports, stated that the administration has not decided on mandatory screening of pilgrims visiting Gangasagar.
(With PTI inputs)