A beach that stretches as far as your eyes go, teeming with devotees. The earthy scent of incense filling the dense January air. The bells chiming loud in sync with mantras, spreading a mystic charm all around. When you witness all of this at once, you know you are at Gangasagar.

The most important ritual in Gangasagar is dipping oneself in the holy water early in the morning. It is nothing but unwavering faith that inspires the lakhs of pilgrims to fight against the biting cold.

At first the saints who descend from the Himalayas, including the Naga sadhus undertake the sahisnan. This is followed by the general Gangasagar snan of the assembled devotees. Their hopes and prayers are all directed towards the attainment of ‘moksha’- the ultimate freedom of the soul.

The devotees also offer prayers to the Sun God and perform rituals called ‘tarpan’ in remembrance of their ancestors and in the hope that their souls too will be freed from the mortal world.

After doing this people congregate at the temple of Kapil Muni to perform ‘maha pujas’ and even ‘yajnas’. The powerful saint is thus remembered and his blessings sought.

The Naga sadhus also bless the devotees who visit them by carrying out performances that inspire awe.

In the evening, the diyas (earthen lamps) are lit and they float down the magnificent river. Evening aarti is also conducted where chanting of matras fills the air with a religious fervor. A million diyas floating down the river reminds one of the journey of humankind itself.