Nearly 2.5 lakh people assembled on Sagar Island in the State’s South 24 Parganas district to take a “holy dip” at the confluence of river Hooghly and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on Tuesday.
The Gangasagar Mela on the Sagar Island, located in the Sunderbans archipelago, is held every year on the occasion of Makar Sankranti and draws devotees from all over the country.
“This year we have ensured smooth movement of pilgrims with round-the-clock ferry services bringing devotees from the mainland. Earlier pilgrims had to wait for long hours for the high tides to cross the rivers and reach the island,” Minister for Sundarban Affairs, Manturam Pakhira told The Hindu over phone from the island on Monday.
Describing the Gangasagar Mela as one of the “oldest melas and pilgrimages” in the country, he said devotees from more than 20 States come to the island on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
“The number of devotees will increase as pilgrims keep coming. It may exceed last year figures,” the Minister said.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in a post on a social networking said: “this year we are expecting a record turnout of pilgrims at Gangasagar. Lakhs of people have already come and many more are coming.”
The State has also introduced helicopter services for pilgrims this year.
Ham radio operators broadcasting from the island have put the mela before people across the world, Mr. Pakhira added.