June 29, 2022 2:10:10 pm
Kanwar Yatra is an annual pilgrimage of devotees of Lord Shiva, the Hindu God of Destruction. Also known as ‘Kavad’, the yatra or the journey entails several days of walking bare feet to appease the God.
Devotees, who are known as ‘Kanwarias’, travel to pilgrimage places like Haridwar, Gaumukh, Gangotri in Uttarakhand, and Sultanganj in Bihar, to fetch holy waters of River Ganga. Then, they carry it across different states — all while walking and resting intermittently — to offer it to local Shiva shrines, like the Pura Mahadev Mandir and Augharnath in Uttar Pradesh, the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple, and the Baba Baidyanath Temple in Deoghar, Jharkhand.
This year, the Kanwar Yatra is scheduled to be held from July 14 to July 26, after a gap of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
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Kanwar Yatra derives its name from ‘kanvar’, which is a single pole made of bamboo with two containers filled with holy water dangling from the opposite ends — kind of like a scale. Devotees carry them on their shoulders as they walk many miles.
The religious significance
According to Hindu scriptures, the Ganga river emerges from the locks of Lord Shiva, and so, there is a great association between the two. In fact, Kanwar Yatra is related to the churning of the ocean of milk, also known as ‘samudra manthan‘ as per the Puranas.
When the poison came out before the amrita or the elixir, the world started to burn, and Shiva stepped up to ingest it and protect mankind. But, his own throat turned blue. In Treta Yuga, Shiva’s devout follower King Ravana meditated and poured holy Ganga water on a Shiva linga in Pura Mahadev, thus releasing the God from the poison’s negative energy.
This is why devotees are understood to continue this tradition.
The journey is usually undertaken in the monsoon month of Shravana (between July and August). The kanwarias usually wear distinct saffron-coloured robes and chant ‘Bol Bam’ to glorify Shiva.
There are camps set up for them in various places, for the pilgrims to rest and relax, before they continue with their yatra. While it is predominantly undertaken by men, many women participate, too.
The journey’s culmination
Once the pilgrims reach their destination, the Ganges water is used to bathe the Shiva lingam on the 13th day (trayodashi) in Shravana month, which is also known as the Sawan Shivaratri. This year, it falls on Tuesday, July 26.
According to reports, this year, Haridwar and surrounding areas have been divided into 12 super zones, 31 zones and 133 sectors and around 9,000-10,000 security personnel are likely to be deployed to maintain law and order.
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