Sagar Island, or simply Sagar, is an island in the southeast region of West Bengal, India. Sagar Island is a religious spot for Hindu pilgrims. A lovely destination combining pilgrimage and fun, on an island by the Bay of Bengal, and holds the charms of a completely unspoiled beach on the estuary of the mighty Ganges.
|“||Sab tirtha bar bar Gangasagar ekbar
Translation: All pilgrimages again and again but Gangasagar only once
Sagar is a charming tourist destination, which attracts both pilgrims and fun-loving people. Sagar possesses the charms of an unspoiled beach on the estuary of the river Ganges. Sagar offers acres of silver sand and clear blue sky and a calm sea for visitors who would like to spend their weekend in a quiet mood. Sagar is still now unexplored and therefore unexploited.
The lighthouse at Sagar offers a panoramic view of this spectacular beach, from where you can enjoy the enthralling dawn and dusk. During sunset, the sky turns golden with a patch of red on the horizon, and the silver sand reflects the last rays of the sun, which form a delightful ambience.
Among the settlements on the island, Gangasagar is one of the most famous Hindu pilgrimage centres in India. Every year on Makar Sankranti (mid-January), pilgrims from all over India, gather at Gangasagar for a holy dip at the confluence of the river Ganges and the Bay of Bengal. After the holy dip, the pilgrims offer ‘Puja’ at the Kapil Muni Temple or Ashram. On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, Gangasagar Mela is organised on the island, which is one of the biggest fairs in West Bengal. The Bharat Sevashram Sangha temple is bigger, comprising three huge towers. This has been a famous pilgrim centre from ancient times. Gangasagar Mela held on the occasion of Makar Sankranti is the largest fair in West Bengal. Unlike some other religious sites in India, photography is not restricted in Gangasagar. The name was mentioned in many tales of Hindu mythology and in ancient Indian literature like the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, a novel by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and a poem by Rabindranath Tagore.
Sagar is about 80 km (50 mi) south of Kolkata, cut off from the mainland by the Muriganga River. There is no road bridge to connect the island to the mainland and you have to cross the river to reach Kachuberia in Sagar by ferry. If you want to spend your weekend in a peaceful way, then avoid the island in the middle of January during Makar Sankranti, when there is a huge rush due to Gangasagar. Before Makar Sankranti, there is a huge rush to board the ferry to Kachuberia. From Kachuberia, a bus or trekker will take you to Gangasagar (30 km) within one hour. Minibuses and hired cars are accessible for the journey.
Ferry services to Sagar are available from either Harwood Point in Kakdwip or Namkhana. Both points are linked by West Bengal Transport Corporation (WBTC) buses. The distance of Harwood Point is around 80 km (50 mi) from Kolkata and Namkhana is 13 km (8.1 mi) more.
Boats from Harwood Point and Kachuberia are accessible every hour. The fare is ₹8 per head from Lot No. 8 Jetty, Kakdwip to Kachuberia at Sagar.
Apart from Namkhana and Harwood Point, a direct ferry service is also available to reach Kachuberia (Sagar Island) from Haldia.
Due to low tide, ferry service does not operate between 4AM to 9AM, and also between 4PM to 8PM during the Makar Sankranti period. Before standing in the queue to board the ferry, you must enquire whether the ferry service is running or not. Otherwise, you may have to stand in the queue for 4 hours or more without any opportunity to turn back and crowds pressing you.
- 1 Kachuberia Ferry Terminal.
Get a Kakdwip-bound bus from Esplanade to Harwood Point (Lot No. 8) which is 30 km past Diamond Harbour. The bus would reach Harwood Point after almost three hours. West Bengal Transport Corporation runs direct buses between Esplanade and Lot No. 8 and ferry vessels across the river.
Alternatively, you can take a bus to Namkhana from Kolkata to Namkhana (105 km). From Namkhana, you can reach Chemaguri, across the river Muriganga by launch and from Chamaguri to Gangasagar by bus (10 km). During the Mela, buses will end at the ferry crossing in Harwood Point, and they will also start from Babughat, Howrah and Taratala.
Both Kakdwip and Namkhana can be reached by train from Sealdah railway station. The Eastern Railway (ER) runs a lot of special trains for the Gangasagar Mela and there are also special trains from New Delhi to Namkhana via Lucknow and Allahabad (Prayagraj).
During the Mela cycle, rickshaws operate between Kakdwip station and the ferry, and the price was fixed at ₹15 per person on a 4-person rickshaw. Trains tend to be overcrowded and are definitely a challenge during Mela's time.
By taxi or hired car
After crossing the river, Gangasagar can be reached via private taxis, which generally charge around ₹700, and it takes about 40 minutes to reach the confluence area from Kachuberia.
It is possible to go the entire length by private car or hired car from Kolkata. At Harwood Point, there is a provision to transport vehicles with the help of a barge, locally known as LCT. There are no fixed times for the crossings, because it is totally dependent on the water level and thus, on the timings of the high tides. The charge for a light or a medium vehicle is ₹250 in 2005. The fare increases at the time of the Ganagasagar Mela. SUV hiring charges are ₹600/₹500 respectively for 30 km. from Kachuberia to Gangasagar (one way).
If you are travelling in your own car, there is (only) one vessel now at 6AM from Kakdwip to Kachuberia and similarly at 6AM in the morning from Kachuberia to Kakdwip. Therefore, you should keep your car parked at Kakdwip near the jetty. Safe parking is available with a payment of ₹100 per day; night parking is also plentiful with a payment of an additional ₹100 for the next day.
Vehicles are allowed to a short distance from Kapil Muni Temple. Plenty of cycle vans are available to take you to the Gangasagar bathing spot (about 2 km). Charges are ₹15 per passenger one way. These are quite comfortable for those who cannot walk 2 km.
Sagar Island presents a quiet, silvery expanse of beach and the calm sea provides the perfect setting for a quiet weekend.
- 1 Bharat Sevashram Sangha temple, Gangasagar.
- Chimaguri Mudflat. It is the entry point to the Mangrove Forest.
- 2 Kapil Muni temple, South Sagar. The Kapil Muni Temple is the holiest place to visit in Sagar Island.
- 3 The Onkarnath temple. One of many religious sites of Sagar Island in Saga Island, the weekend tourist spot of Bengal.
- 4 Ramkrisna Mission Ashram.
- 5 Sagar Lighthouse and Port at Beguakhali. The lighthouse at Sagar Island provides a panoramic view of the surroundings.
- Sagar Marine Park, South Sagar.
- 6 Sea Beach. An excellent weekend beach tourish spot of Bengal.
- Sushama Devichowdhurani Marine Biological Research Institute. (SDMBRI), Bamankhali.
- Wind Mills. The island gets its electricity from the wind energy.
- Fairgrounds, South Sagar.. Religious place of Bengal.
- Coastal trek
Eat and drink
There are no hotels as such at Gangasagar. The accommodations available are all Ashram/Dharamshala type, where no food is available, nor outside food allowed to be brought in. Even for a cup of tea, one must leave the premises. Of course there are plenty of places to purchase food. However, for regular members of various Charitable Trusts/Ashrams or travellers coming with advanced bookings from the head offices of these Organisations, food may be provided by the organizations. There is reportedly no food available at the Youth Hostel, either.
That said, there are many cheap rice hotels all over the Sagar Island, serving good quality Bengali food to the visitors.
For accommodations, there are many places to choose from in South Sagar. In the time of Sagar Mela or the Fair, the number of accommodation increases drastically with temporary camps/hutments from many commercial and non-commercial organizations. It is advisable to book your accommodation prior to go to Sagar Island in the time of Sagar Mela. If you bring your own mattress and sleeping bag you will most likely find shelter.
There are tourist lodges at Sagar Island and a Youth Hostel. Also dormitory accommodation in a dharamshala run by Bharat Sevasram Sangha.
Dharmashala of Mission and Guest Houses of West Bengal State Government are there in Sagar Island for spending the weekend in the excellent Beach of Bengal. Some of the places for spending days and nights in Sagar Island as follows which provide shelter for tourists and pilgrims round the year:
- Dharmashala of Bharat Sevasram Sangha
- Dharmashala of Kapil Muni's Sangha
- P.W.D Bunglow Zila Parishad Bungalow
- Tourist lodges at Sagar Island and a Youth Hostel.
- Dharmashala of Sankaracharya Ashram
- State Youth Hostel, ☏ . Charge for a double bed room with attached bath is ₹100/day. Check in time is at noon. Bookings can be done at Directorate of Youth Services, 32/1, B.B.D. Bag (South), Kolkata.
- Bharat Sevashram Sangha and a couple of other ashrams usually offer accommodation and meals for free. They are oriented to pilgrims and would expect a donation.
- Larica Sagar, ☏ . Tourist Lodge.
- Vastra Vyasavi Seva Samity Dharamsala., Ganges Sagar, Road No. 1, 24 Parganas (near the Ganges Sagar bus stand). This is also a very good place to stay and eat. Rooms are neat and spacious and the complex also has a beautiful temple. Based on donations.
Carry mosquito and snake repellents. Snakebite mortality is considerably high in Sagar Island. Sagar Gramin Hospital is the only place on Sagar Island to treat snake bites.
Carry electric torches and other means of emergency lights, because Sagar Island does not get power from the main electric supply grid. The Island only gets a few hours of power supply in the evening, from a central diesel-operated power generating station, situated at Rudranagar. The power supply is available from 6PM to 9PM only. There is a complete blackout for the rest of the day/night. But you will never feel uncomfortable because the sweet wind blows from sea to land, round the clock. But in the time of Sagar Mela (The fair), Sagar gets a sufficient supply of electricity for the whole day
It is advisable to avoid travelling at night with insufficient light.