A short trip to Sagar Island

The Sagar Island, where the temple of Kapilmuni is located is a famous place of pilgrimage in West Bengal. In earlier days, it was really very difficult to reach Sagar Island because of tiger, crocodile, snakes and various diseases. But now, the civilization has progressed a lot and Sagar Island can be visited easily from Kolkata. In this article, the author recounts his experience of visiting the island.

During my childhood my mother always used to say: "Sob Tirtho Barbar, Gangasagar Ek Bar". The meaning of this well-known Bengali adage is: "You can visit other holy places many a time, but Gangasagar can be visited only once in your life time". This adage talks about the difficulty which the pilgrims used to face in earlier days. Sagar Island is in Sundarban. It is well-known that the pilgrims who used to go on pilgrimage to Gangasagar, only 80% could return safe and sound. This was due to the fury of the Bay of Bengal, menace of tigers and snakes and last but not the least, diseases like cholera and typhoid, which used to strike every year and kill many pilgrims. However, over the years and with the progress of civilization, the situation started improving. We used to see hundreds of buses at Esplanade in Calcutta (now Kolkata) carrying thousands of pilgrims on the eve of 'Makar Sankranti' during our childhood. Even at that time, some people used to leave the world during the pilgrimage. Even in our childhood, the place was difficult to reach.

I left Calcutta in 1989, but from my friends I came to know that the State Government has developed Sagar Island and the Kapilmuni Temple in a beautiful manner. The place has been totally changed. But even then my mind could not come out of the memory of earlier difficulties to reach Sagar Island, which I had read in innumerable Bengali stories and heard from my mother. Although I knew very well that the Sagar Island is not very far away from my South Kolkata residence, I never attempted to go there.

Ultimately I had an opportunity to visit Sagar Island in 2013. I was ordered by my office to visit all Cyclone Protection Shelters of South 24 Paraganas district of West Bengal and submit a report. I came to know that there are two Cyclone Protection Shelters in Sagar Island. So these were in my itineraries. On the day of my visit, the State Government car came to my Kolkata residence at 5.45 a.m. We (two officials of State Government, the driver and myself) started at sharp 6 a.m. The road was clear in the morning and within 5 minutes, we reached Diamond Harbour Road. In no time, we crossed my college at Thakurpurkur, IIM-Joka (the informal border of Kolkata) and reached Amtala, Diamond Harbour and then to Kakdweep. From Kakdweep the car took left turn and we reached Harwood Point Jetty. But at Harwood Point, we faced a small hurdle. Due to less flow of water (low tide) in the Muriganga river at that time, the State Government steamer could not cross the river immediately. We had to wait till the high tide.. After one hour, we started crossing the river. During the journey on the river, I was thinking about the stories which I had read about tigers, snakes and crocodiles which the pilgrims faced while crossing Muriganga river, The river is also infamous for its erratic behaviour. I knew very well that many pilgrims had lost their life while crossing this river due to storm, attack by tiger, crocodile and also because of snakes. But on that morning, Muriganga was pleasant and quite. We did not face any problem to cross the river. Crossing the river we ultimately reached Sagar Island. It was not even 10 a.m!

A car was ready at the jetty. The main road was spotlessly clean. I was astonished to find the main road of Sagar Island much better and cleaner than the roads of Kolkata. The island was very developed. I noted many schools up to 12th standard in the island, although there was no college. The island is densely populated and agriculture is the main profession of the people. The land is very fertile. Paddy and betel leaves are the main products. The betel leaves of Sagar Island are sent all over India. The place where the steamer arrived is known as Kachuberia Jetty. I came to know that the island is very big. From Kachuberia I visited to cyclone protection shelters as per my official assignment. I also visited the Block Development Office and had a meeting with the B.D.O. Thereafter, I went to the temple of Kapilmuni. The place where the temple is located is more than 10 k.m from the jetty where we got down. There were many hotels for stay. Electricity was available. I came to know that electricity came to Sagar Island in 2012. I also noticed extensive use of solar energy throughout the island. Mobile phones were the essential companions of almost all residents of the island. I found some pilgrims came to visit the temple. It was informed to us that not only during 'Makar Sankranti', pilgrims now visit throughout the year. Some shops were there to cater to the needs of the pilgrims. I also noted with interest the helipad for the VIPs and another small jetty near the temple, where businessmen come from Tamluk (East Medinipur district) to purchase betel leaves.

We returned to the Kachuberia jetty and crossed the Muriganga before 5 p.m. The accompanying officials informed me that even now Muriganga is not crossed at night. Returning to Harwood Point, I took the car and reached my Kolkata residence by 9 p.m.

I have recounted my experience of visiting Sagar Island to intimate the readers about the present state of the island, which people used to be very afraid to visit even 30 years ago. I expect the readers to visit Sagar Island and the Kapilmuni Temple for pilgrimage and also to feel the light of development which has reached the furthest corners of Sundarban.

Note for the visitors

  1. Sagar Island is only 80 k.m. from Kolkata, cut off from the main land by Muriganga river.
  2. Muriganga river can be crossed from Harwood Point and from Namkhana, both well-connected from Kolkata by bus and by train (from Sealah railway station). The fare is less than Rs.80/- per passenger in very good buses. The train fare to Namkhana is much less.
  3. Crossing the Muriganga depends on high-tide/low tide. Ferry service is good throughout the day. Steamers/Motor-boats are not allowed to cross Muriganga at night.
  4. If the visitors start early morning, they can return to Kolkata on the same day. Even if they can't, there are some very good hotels at Sagar Island at affordable rate. Non-vegetarian food (with many different varieties of fish) is available, except during the time of Sagarmela. Vegetarian visitors also don't face any difficulty.
  5. Priests and Pandas are now available throughout the year for the pilgrims.
  6. For visit during Sagarmela in Makar Sankranti, check the State Government website/Mela website.


Author: Natarajan05 Jan 2018 Member Level: Gold   Points : 3

Intrigued by this excellent narration, I checked further details, Travellers are cautioned against snakes and mosquitoes, it is advisable to have adequate protection. If one is hoping for a calm, relaxed holiday, then Makara Sankranti around mid-January would not be the best time as it would be very crowded and at times people may have to wait for around 4 hours for the ferry boats.

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