Lakhs of pilgrims take the holy dip at the confluence of the Hooghly river and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of Makar Sankranti on Saturday at Gangasagar in West Bengal's South 24 Parganas district.
Two septuagenarian devotees died of heart attacks during the day, an official said. Another person died here on Friday.
“On the occasion of Makar Sankranti, around 40 lakh pilgrims have come to the Gangasagar Mela since January 5. Most of them have left for home,” Minister of State Power and Sports Department, Arup Biswas, who is in charge of the fair, told a press conference.
Braving the cold weather condition, lakhs of devotees took the holy dip and offered prayers at the Kapil Muni Ashram, as the auspicious hour began at 6.53 pm.
It will last for 24 hours and many pilgrims are expected to do the same on Sunday.
Of the two pilgrims who died on Saturday, 72-year-old Pratapchandra Giri had come from Odisha while the other, Biola Devi (73), was a resident of Bihar.
The minister said that so far, around 3,500 devotees availed of the ‘e-snan’ service in which the holy water of Gangasagar is delivered to the doorstep of the person who orders it online.
Over 60 lakh people have also watched the Kapilmuni temple during the Gangasagar Mela sitting at home through e-darshan.
Biswas said devotees from the USA, Australia, the UK, Spain, Russia, Ukraine, New Zealand, Brazil and various parts of India have participated in the Sagar Pravachan programme, where the message of spirituality and peace is preached.
He said that this is the first time that the Information and Culture Department has arranged for announcements in seven languages – Bengali, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Marathi, Odia, Tamil and Telugu – for the benefit of the pilgrims coming from different states.
Altogether 35 people have been arrested so far by the police for various crimes during the fair which is being held under tight security.
Personnel of the Coast Guard (ICG) and disaster management teams have stepped up vigil along the coastline, while the police and civil defence volunteers were deployed at the fairground, he said.
Over 1,000 CCTV cameras and 25 drones are deployed to monitor the entire fairground.