Millions of Kanwarias and an arduous journey of faith

July 31st, 2008 - 9:44 pm ICT by ANI  

By Pratibha Verma

New Delhi , July 29 (ANI): The annual Kanwar pilgrimage taken up during the Shravan month (July-August) is one of the toughest pilgrimages in north India on all holy occasions mentioned in the Hindu almanac.

Millions of Lord Shiva devotees, popularly known as Kanwarias, visit Haridwar and during their return, they carry Kanwars, a bamboo stick with two small pots hanging on both ends, on their shoulders.

Lakhs of Kanwarias from as far as Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh, tread long, tortuous and undulating paths to fetch Ganga water from Haridwar against all odds.

But the chants in the praise of Lord Shiva—Bol Bum and Har Har Mahadev, are the holy words everyone holds deep faith in for energy and determination to complete the miles long trek.

Suresh Kumar, one devotee from Palam Colony said while returning from Haridwar after completing his fourth pilgrimage: Lord Shiva blesses us with power to walk long distances despite pain. All our problems are cured when we chant Bum Bholey or Har Har Mahadev. Long distances look short when we feel attached to Shiv Bhola, who can be easily pleased by water.

Though many devotees (Kanwarias) have started using private vehicles these days, ideally this entire pilgrimage is to be taken up on foot.

Wearing saffron coloured clothes and carrying Kanwars on their shoulders, inch their ways back from Haridwar to their native temples where they offer this collected holy Ganga water to Lord Shiva as Jalabhishekh to please him.

The pilgrimage is taken up for or on fulfilment of a wish.

These days many women and children have also started taking the Kanwar pilgrimage with equal devotion and faith.

Shubham, a standard IV student, who lives in Delhi Cantonment area, said: I went to Haridwar and carried Kanwar on my shoulder for the first time. I was not afraid of going alone as everybody on the pilgrimage was helpful and had offered me whatever I asked for. I wanted to stand first in my class and therefore made a wish. I know I can please Bhola by offering the holy water of Ganges which I fetched after a long walk.

Sumitra a resident of Kapashera said: I am carrying Kanwar for the seventh time but this time I chose the difficult Kanwar pilgrimage known as Khadi Kanwad in which I have to carry it all the time on my shoulders and cannot keep it or hang it anywhere. So when I take rest, I have to ask my accomplice to place it on her shoulders.

I had promised to God that I will undertake Kadi Kanwar pilgrimage if my wish of having a grand son comes true. Now I am blessed with a beautiful grandson. So, to thank God for his gift, I undertook this difficult trek.

The trek is dotted with special camps put up by various local Kanwar Sanghs, the Rashtryia Swayam Sewak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

Kanwarias can rest, eat vegetarian food or get medical aid at these makeshift camps.

Dhaula Kuan Kanwaria camp organizer Krishan Garg said: We have been organizing camps for the Kanwarias for the past 19 years. This pilgrimage is based on a belief that Rishi Parshuram had established shivalinga in Pura Mahadev and poured Ganga water on it. Pura Mahadev, which is located on the main Baghpat Meerut Highway , is 30 KM from Baghpat and around 36 KM from Meerut .

Every Year, during the month of shravan, a fourteen days festival is organised here. Kanwarias from all around gather here in this temple to pay their tribute to Lord Shiva, he added.

Kanwarias walk twice a day. Early in the morning they start at 4 a.m. and walk until 11 a.m., and in the evening they start at 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. In the interim, they take rest, he informed.

Several Kanwars are made as huge expensive structures decorated on tractors or jeeps while some are on carts pulled by men. These vehicles as well as the roadside halts have loudspeakers playing Bhajans at full pitch.

A few do this yatra on bicycles, motor cycles, scooters, mini trucks or jeeps.

There are different types of Kanwarias apart from the regular ones walking the entire route like Dak Kanwarias (marathon runners), Khadi Kanwarias (in which Kanwar is to be kept on shoulders), Jhula Kanwaria (in which it can be kept on a stand while taking rest) and (Baikunth Kanwarias with least restrictions). (ANI)

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