Gangasagar is a charming tourist destination, which attracts both pilgrims and adventure lovers. As you travel southward from the bustling city of Kolkata, further down the South 24 Parganas, you would reach the largest delta zone, where the holy Ganga meets the Bay of Bengal. Nestled in one of these delta islands is Gangasagar. Also called Sagardwip or Sagar Island, it is one of the largest islands on the Ganges delta and holds immense religious significance. The blend of blue bay waters and green marshlands, Sagar Island contributes to the natural beauty of the region. Gangasagar has acres of silver sand and clear blue sky, and the calm sea to spend the time in tranquillity. Gangasagar is about 135 km away from Kolkata, capital of Indian state of West Bengal.
KAPIL MUNI’S ASHRAM
Kapil Muni’s ashram was located on this island. Kapil muni was a Vedic sage credited as one of the founders of the Samkhya school of philosophy. He is prominent in the Bhagavata Purana, which features a theistic version of his Samkhya philosophy. He is also believed to be a descendant of Manu, a great-grandson of Brahma. The Bhagavad Gita depicts Kapil as a yogi hermit with highly developed siddhis or spiritual powers.
Kapil Muni was the son of Kardam Muni. In the mythological history, it was said that Kardam Muni had to go through his marital life according to the directions of Lord Vishnu, but the Muni agreed this under a condition and as per the condition Muni wished to Lord Vishnu to have him as his son. As per this condition Lord Vishnu had taken birth and named Kapil Muni.
King Sagar of the Ikshvaku dynasty ruling at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh had two queens, Keshani and Sumati, but neither had a child. Sagara performed severe austerities before his wives could produce sons. But whereas Keshani gave birth to a son called Asmajas, Sumati bore 60,000 sons. King Sagar performed the Ashwamedha Yajnya (sacrifice) to declare his suzerainty over the neighbouring kingdoms. According to the prevalent custom, the sacrificial horse was let loose and allowed to wander into the neighbouring kingdoms. If the horse was caught, a battle ensued and the outcome decided the winner.
One day King Sagar’s sacrificial horse disappeared; it was stolen by Lord Indra. The king sent his 60,000 sons to find it, and they found it next to Kapil Muni’s ashram, where Lord Indra had hidden it. Mistaking Kapil Muni for the thief, the sons accused Kapil Muni, who in his wrath at the false accusation burned the sons to ash and sent their souls to Hell. Later having compassion for the King Sagar’s sons, Kapil Muni acceded to the prayers of King Sagar’s descendants, agreeing to the restoration of the sons, if Parvati in the form of the river goddess Ganga would descend to Earth to perform the Last Ritual (Hindus also called as”Tarpan“) of mixing the ashes with holy water (niravapanjali).
Through deep meditation, King Bhagiratha, grandson of King Sagar, induced Shiva to order Ganga down from heaven and the 60,000 sons were freed (moksha) and ascended to Heaven, but the river Ganga stayed on the Earth. The date of the descent of Ganga coincides with that of Makar Sankranti (when the Sun enters Capricorn constellation) i.e. “Uttarayan” as per Hindu Panchang — at present the 15th Day of January of the Gregorian Calendar.
To avoid the rush, we went to Gangasagar in the month of December. From Kolkata, Diamond Harbour Road (NH-117) runs south around 90 km to Harwood Point, near Kakdwip, where a ferry runs to Kachuberia at the north end of the island, a 20-minute cruise over the Muriganga river, a distributary of the Ganga river. Small boats also cross from Harwood Point to Kachuberia. Then another 45-minute drive to Gangasagar.
On reaching Gangasagar, also known as Sagardwip, we went to the place where the holy Ganga River meets the ocean — Bay of Bengal. We dipped in the water and enjoyed at the beach. Then we went to the temple of Kapil muni.
After worshiping at the Kapil muni temple, we moved to return to our home in Kolkata.
Gangasagar is one of the biggest and most famous pilgrimage in the Hindu Pantheon. There is a popular saying about Gangasagar:
সব তীর্থ বারবার, গঙ্গাসাগর একবার !
सारे तीर्थ बार-बार, गंगासागर एक बार !
English translation: the virtues acquired from visiting other holy places several times is equivalent to the virtue acquired from visiting Ganga Sagar only once.
On the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti (January 15), hundreds of thousands of people take their holy dip at the confluence of the holy river Ganga and the ocean in India. The most popular belief is that you go to the heaven once you take a dip in the holy waters of the Gangasagar during the Makar Sankranti. The fair assumes a great place of meeting for all kinds of people including pilgrims, sadhus, mystics, tourists, traders and foreigners as well. Gangasagar finds mention in many tales of Hindu mythology and in ancient Indian literature like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata.
The Gangasagar pilgrimage and fair is the second largest congregation of mankind after the triennial ritual bathing of Kumbha Mela.
Har Har Gangay!