SAGAR ISLAND (WB), Jan 16: Over 31 lakh pilgrims from different parts of the country, and neighbouring Bangladesh and Nepal, on Wednesday took holy dip at the confluence of the sacred Ganga and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of 'Makar Sankranti'.
Around 40 lakh people have congregated here for the pilgrimage, "breaking all previous records", a senior state government official said.
"Till noon, more than 31 lakh people have taken dips in the holy waters. The final count could even exceed this figure," he said.
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," the 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 civic volunteers have been posted for the gathering -- the Ganga Sagar 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 to use, 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 took dips at several ghats in other parts of West Bengal, including in 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 dips 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. - PTI