Start living the best of both worlds. India offers you the possibility to admire the old and enjoy the modern. An intense, eternal, magical country. Live a balance that you will not find anywhere else in the world. You can see on one hand industrialists, computers and programmers, while at the same time, but on the other side you will have all the spirituality impregnated on you. India gives you all of this, however, if you want to live it to the fullest, you need to go to the Sagar Islands and live the Ganga Sagar Mela festival, in Makara Sankranti.
This festival is one of the great festivals characteristic of the Hindu religion, the main religion of the country, in which the pilgrims bathe in water to heal all their sins and get rid of the endless reincarnation. Although it is said that the perfect time to bathe is January 14 after midnight, as it is believed that the Ganges joins the Bay of Bengal at that time. The actual confluence is further away, but the currents are much more dangerous in that point, so it is forbidden to bathe there.
Saga Island is located in West Bengal, near Calcutta, just at the point where the sacred river of Ganges reaches the Bay of Bengal. In January of each year, more than half a million believers come to this place to celebrate Makara Sankranti at the beginning of the sun’s journey northward.
This place at night has in its nature a fog that lasts until the wee hours of the morning. The colors that cover the island are orange, green, blue and red, marking the main roads so that the pilgrims and Analabetas can guide themselves with them.
There are a lot of people, many of them have traveled from far away to share their beliefs and intention. You will see a lot of joy and euphoria since that is the way Hinduism is. You will not see a typical ritual of people bathing in a river like a solemn act, instead, you will see people bathing, having fun, swimming, splashing and smiling, clearly happy.
You will not feel uncomfortable, the local people are very kind and they will encourage you to include you and to bathe you since they consider inconceivable that you go to Saga and leave withoiut doing it. After the bath, you will climb along with the pilgrims to the Kapil Muni temple, where they will give offerings to the priests in exchange for prasad, a sweet that has been blessed.
Upon leaving the temple, walk along a path lined with ashrams filled with naga sadhus. They are holy ascetic men, who are considered living saints, and they walk alone with incense ash covering their body, as they avoid material possessions, such as clothing. In India, the fact that they choose to walk naked is normal.
Naga sadhus are famous people for their extreme spirituality and commitment; they do yoga, fasting, days of meditations and even perform permanent penances, standing for years.
Although Ganga Sagar is primordial for religious reasons, it is also a time to benefit economically, as pilgrims who arrive throughout the year are blessed in exchange for a break. The money is saved for the next festival to attend.
On one hand, you have all the spirituality and on the other, you have bazaars and fairground attractions; this is what you will find on Indian festivals. Many people invest a large amount of money to get to Sagar, go to the festival and buy items and clothes that are not available at home. To return you can board the buses that take visitors to the point of embarkation of the ferries, although some people can not afford it and walk about 30 km on the island.
To get to India you can arrive from many international airports, then you connect to Kolkata and there you rent a car. You must book accommodation well in advance. It is wonderful to live the Ganga Sagar, you will enjoy a happy and satisfying time, one of the last great pilgrimages in the world.
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