Sagardwip or Gangasagar is one of the most sacred Hindu pilgrimages – where visit once is worth a life-time. Gangasagar is the second biggest fair after Kumbh Mela. According to the philosophy of Kapilmuni, the Purush(the Absolute) and the Prakriti (the Nature) are both infinite. The infiniteness could be attained only once.
Gangasagar is one of the holiest Hindu pilgrimages in India. The Gangasagar pilgrimage was founded by the Kings of Ikshwaku dynasty of Ayodhya. A strip of sandy land surrounded by water is Sagardwip or Sagar Island. This is a cluster of 51 big and small islands, with an area of 580.9 sq. km. In 1688 swept in the flood, Sagardwip was nothing but a vast expanse of sand, wretched and desolate, deprived of any human inhabitation. Sagardwip is surrounded by Muriganga river on the east and Bhagirathi on its west. In 1822 it attracted the attention of the Government. Then the British Government took an initial move to set up a settlement there by sending five native families of Arakan. Their plan became successful. Now Gangasagar village has population of 10340 as per Population Census 2011. In the cyclones of 1833 and 1864 destruction and loss of life and property took place. Sagardwip today is not as dangerous as it was in the past, the roads are more accessible and less risky.
Just like Poush Sankranti Pithe-puli(bengali special sweets), preparations for the Sagar Mela begin one monthe in advance. Over a 3 acre land temporary reed huts are constructed, shops are set. Lakhs of pilgrims come from all over India to bathe in water at this special time – a dip in the water at the point where Ganga meets the sea(Bay of Bengal), in the dawn on Makar Sankranti. Bathing in this confluence of Ganga and Sagar is considered as holy as performing as Ashwamedh Yajna. Naga Sadhus are also one of the biggest attractions in the Gangasagar Mela. They live in camps, where they perform rituals.
About 300,000 pilgrims took the holy dip in 2007 . In 2008 almost five-hundred thousand pilgrims thronged Sagar Island. For the rest of the year about 500,000 people come to the island. During Sagar Mela, temporary tourist colony, hospital, drinking water and sewage systems are built by the Government. Some precautionary measures like inoculation and cholera vaccination are mandatory for the pilgrims. Vaccination certificates are to be produced at the check- post. Vaccination certificates is not necessary for a trip of Sagar Island at any other time. You can also visit Ramakrishna Mission Ashram at Manasadwip. The light house and Panchali of Sagardwip must be seen on foot.