With budgetary allocation for the first time, and with Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami washing pilgrims’ feet, the Uttarakhand government Wednesday welcomed Kanwar Yatris with much fanfare into the state.
At an event held on the banks of the Ganga in Haridwar, Dhami took the blessings of the pilgrims, stating that every Kanwariya “has a part of Lord Shiva in them”. Kanwar Yatra is being held after a gap of two years due to Covid, and the newly elected Uttarakhand government is laying out the red carpet, matching counterpart Uttar Pradesh’s fanfare.
Dhami said they expected five crore Kanwariyas this year, setting a record, which is why they had made the allocation in the budget for the Yatra to ensure better facilities and smooth arrangements.
“Just like the Chardham Yatra this year, a record number of devotees are expected to visit. Over 27 lakh have already been part of the Chardham Yatra so far, which is a record. The Kanwar Yatra has also started without any hiccup and I want to thank all the social and voluntary organisations and the administration for their hard work,” he said.
On welcoming the yatris personally, by washing the feet of several, applying tilak on their forehead and showering them with rose petals, Dhami said: “I have been saying that we will welcome all Shiva devotees in the state. This isn’t just a formality. I am myself a Shiva devotee and I believe that there is a part of Shiva in every Kanwariya.”
Dhami also offered yatris a shawl and prasad as a welcome gesture.
The state government has set up toll-free numbers and created a WhatsApp group for Kanwariyas. “I am myself a part of the group and am monitoring the situation. I have alerted officials to ensure relief if there is any landslide, road closure or any other situation,” the CM said.
All liquor and meat shops falling on the Kanwar Yatra route will remain closed in the state. Around 10,000 police personnel, over 10 Additional SPs, 38 Deputy SPs and five companies of the ATS have been deployed to ensure there are no law and order issues. Over 400 CCTV cameras and drones will keep a watch.
A pilgrimage organised in the Hindu calendar month of Shravana, the Kanwar Yatra involves Shiva devotees walking with pitchers of holy water from the Ganga or other holy rivers to temples back home. In the Gangetic plains, the water is taken from pilgrimage sites such as Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand, Sultanganj in Bihar, and Prayagraj, Ayodhya or Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh.