By Swami Harshananda
Gaṅgāsāgara literally means ‘the place where the river Gaṅgā joins the sāgara or ocean’.
The river Gaṅgā is the holiest river of India. Thus it has been revered for at least five millennia. Its origin (Gaṅgotri), the various places of pilgrimage on its banks, and the region where it joins the ocean in the Bay of Bengal are all considered as holy.
Gaṅgāsāgara (and also Guhyakṣetra) is one holy site on the banks of the Gaṅgā, was once the hermitage of the sage Kapila, who had reduced to ashes, the 60,000 sons of the King Sagara. The Pāṇḍavas, during their vanavāsa or sojourn through the forests had visited this place.
The place is situated about 144 kms. (90 miles) from Diamond Harbor which itself is 61 kms. (38 miles) from the metropolis of Kolkata. There are steamer or boat services from the harbor to the island. There are some old temples in the region known as Vāmankhal and Candan-pīḍi. One of them is that of the goddess Viśālākṣī. On the occasion of Makara Saṅkrānti (14th-15th January) thousands of pilgrims take bath here.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore