Gangasagar Mela: Devotees, seers take holy dip in Ganges on Makar Sankranti
South 24 Parganas, West Bengal: Devotees and seers took a holy dip in the Ganges at the Gangsagar in the South 24 Parganas on Saturday, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
A prominent festival on the Indian calendar, devotees make offerings to the Hindu deity Surya on Makar Sankranti. The day marks the first day of the sun's transit into the Makara, marking the end of the winter solstice and the start of longer days.
West Bengal Fire Services minister Sujit Bose said around 14,000 police personnel have been deployed at the fair site for security reasons, adding that 31 lakh pilgrims had arrived, till Friday, for the auspicious occasion.
Bose further informed ANI that at least three devotees were airlifted for medical reasons and one person died.
Bose said the devotees airlifted were identified as Chandravati Verma (39) from Uttar Pradesh, Rupa Shahi (56) from Nepal, and Devrani Mondal (65) from the South 24 Parganas.
The deceased devotee was identified as 75-year-old Asha Ashok Korewar from Maharashtra. Her death was attributed to a heart-related problem, according to the minister.
The dip in the Ganges is believed to be sacred on January 14 and 15. Makar Sankranti is one of the most auspicious times in the year, marking the transition of the Sun from Dakshinayan to Uttarayan.
Celebrated on January 14 every year, the festival is known by various names -- Pongal, Bihu, and Maghi.
Devotees were seen taking a dip at ghats and performing rituals across the country.
Devotees and Naga Sadhus from different parts of the country also gathered at Kolkata's Babu Ghat to take a holy dip during the Gangasagar Mela, the largest fair after Kumbh, on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
He said as many as 40.7 lakh devotees have registered themselves for e-Darshan this year while 1,834 have registered for e-Snan.
Also, 10.5 lakh devotees will offer puja virtually, the minister informed.
"We have also deployed fire personnel and made necessary arrangements to prevent any untoward incident. Fire safety arrangements are in place and 29 people have been arrested, so far, for trying to disturb peace here," Bose told ANI.
Several Naga Sadhus, who travelled hundreds of kilometres from across the country to take a holy dip in the Ganges, drew attention at the transit camp for the Gangasagar Mela.
"I have been here since December 25 and will return to Ujjain after taking a holy dip in the Ganges," a Naga Sadhu, hailing from Madhya Pradesh told ANI on Friday.
The temporary hamlet has been set up at Babughat for devotees visiting Gangasagar to camp.
Naga Sadhus have been pouring into West Bengal for the annual pilgrimage fair from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, and Jammu.
"Gangasagar is considered as the largest pilgrimage in 'Sanatan Dharma' in India, and has been talked about for ages," said another Naga Sadhu, who has been visiting the fair since 2003.
The second largest fair after Kumbh, the Gangasagar has returned after two years due to a Covid-induced hiatus.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on January 4 said her government will provide Rs 5 lakh insurance if any untoward incident takes place between January 8 to 17 at the fair ground.