Around 50 lakh pilgrims from different parts of the country, and neighboring Bangladesh and Nepal, took a holy dip on the confluence of the Ganga and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of Makar Sankranti. Around 50 lakh people had congregated here for the pilgrimage, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Wednesday.
"Like the Kumbh Mela, we have the Gangasagar Mela in #Bangla. just got the good news that the number of pilgrims attending has touched the 50-lakh mark. Am so proud and happy to share this news with you," Banerjee tweeted on Wednesday evening.
Every year on Makar Sankranti, lakhs of Hindus flock to the Sagar Island in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district to take the holy dip and offer prayers at the Kapil Muni temple.
"Last year, we had a record number of 20 lakh pilgrims visiting the island. This year, that record has been broken. It was peaceful and the pilgrims have also appreciated our arrangements," an official said.
Security has been beefed up in the island, around 100 km from Kolkata, and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is monitoring the situation, officials said.
Besides deploying senior officers, around 10,000 police personnel and volunteers have been posted for the gathering -- the Gangasagar Mela.
Security officials are also keeping a watch on the waters and patrolling is being done, they said.
Drones and around 1,000 CCTV cameras have been put up, and several watch towers set up.
The West Bengal government, for the first time this year, is using an air ambulance at the Sagar Island, officials said.
Pilgrims also visited several ghats in other parts of West Bengal, including Kolkata and Howrah.
Amid tight security, thousands of people participated in the rituals at Babughat, Doi ghat, Baje Kadamtala ghat, Saradamani ghat, Ratanbabur ghat, Bagbazar ghat and Kumartuli ghat, all on the banks of the Hooghly river in Kolkata, they said.
In the districts as well, thousands of people took a dip at sunrise.
Makar Sankranti marks the end of the month with the winter solstice and the start of longer days.
It is known by various names in different parts of the country and in West Bengal, it is celebrated as Poush Sankranti.