Kanwar Yatra: Significance and Rituals

Kanwar Yatra


Kanwar Yatra is the annual auspicious pilgrimage of the devotees of Lord Shiva. During this pilgrimage- Kanwar Yatra, the “bearer” called ‘Kanvaria’ visit Hindu pilgrimage places like Gangotri and Gaumukh in Uttarakhand and Haridwar, and Sultanganj in Bihar, to fetch water or “Gangajal” from the River Ganga or the Holy Ganges and then offer the jal in Lord Shiva temples. This Kanwar Yatra takes place during the auspicious Hindu month of ‘Shravan’, also known as Shravan Month that is usually the period from July to August.


IMP. TIPS: Facts about Kanwar YatraOrigin of Kanwar Yatra

The Kanwar Yatra from Sultanganj to Devgarh in the Indian state of Bihar and Jharkhand respectively, is done by the ‘Kanvarias’ the year round. They undertake this long and tiring 100 km journey barefoot with enthusiasm and utmost devotion to please Lord Shiva. The Gangajal bought from the Kanwar Yatra is then poured on Baba Baidyanath Temple at Devgarh by the Kanwariyas to pay homage to Lord Shiva. In earlier times, this Kanwar Yatra was performed in the month of Bhado, and since the year 1960, the fair or “mela” began in the month of Shravan during Kanwar Yatra and extended up to Dussehra time.

Kanwar Yatra is mainly undertaken during this time but at the onset of other significant Hindu festivities like ‘Maha Shivratri’ and ‘Basant Panchami’ the Kanvarias increase. According to recent statistics, nearly 2 crore Kanwariyas take this journey-Kanwar Yatra every year. The fair or mela known as the ‘Shravan Mela’ is one amongst the biggest religious congregations held in North India every year. The Kanwar Yatra not only includes men, but women take active part in this as well.

Rituals of Kanwar Yatra

·         During the Kanwar Yatra, the Kanwariyas carry ‘Kanvar’ or the small bamboo pole on which two earthern pots are hung on either end for carrying the Gangajal on both their shoulders. During the journey of Kanwar Yatra, the Kanvarias get the earthen pots filled with holy water for pouring on Lord Shiva’s temple by balancing them on their shoulders.


·         This Kanwar Yatra goes on for a month in which the devotees wear saffron clothes and walk barefoot and collect the holy water from pilgrim destinations. The kanwariyas in Kanwar Yatra then return to their towns and do the ‘abhishekam’ of the Shiva lingam at the local Lord Shiva temple, as an act of thanks for all the blessings in their life. The only thing they have to make sure of is that the “kanwars” or the earthen pots do not touch the ground during at Kanwar Yatra any point. There are multiple makeshift stands, which are constructed across the journey, which the devotees use to take some rest in the course of Kanwar Yatra.


·         They usually travel in groups during Kanwar Yatra, and while most of them travel by foot, some even use other modes of transport like bicycles, motor cycles, scooters, motor cycles, cars, jeeps or even mini tucks for the Kanwar Yatra journey. They chant ‘Bol Bam’ throughout the Kanwar Yatra and sing religious bhajans for Lord Shiva throughout the journey of Kanwar Yatra.

 

·         It is said that serving the devotees is very auspicious at the time of Kanwar Yatra. NGOs and other groups offer free services like food, water, tea or medical help throughout the journey of Kanwar Yatra. There are few specific NGOs like Bol Bum Sewa Samiti that work all year round for the kanwariyas in the course of Kanwar Yatra.


·         According to the statistics, in the year 2003, 75.5 million kanwariyas reached Haridwar during Kanwar Yatra, and the traffic keeps multiplying each year. Each year, heavy security measures are undertaken by the state governments for Kanwar Yatra. The traffic on National Highway 58 (Delhi-Haridwar national highway) also gets diverted during the period of Kanwar Yatra.


Rituals of Kanwar Yatra

Bol-Bam: Let’s speak the name of Lord Shiva

Lord Shiva


The famous Kanwar Yatra takes place during the auspicious Hindu month of ‘Shravan’, also known as Shravan Maas that is usually the period from July to August. During this pilgrimage- Kanwar Yatra, the “bearer” called ‘Kanvaria’ visits Hindu pilgrimage places like Gangotri and Gaumukh in Uttarakhand and Haridwar, and Sultanganj in Bihar, to fetch water or “Gangajal” from the River Ganga or the Holy Ganges and then offer the jal in Lord Shiva temples. Kanwar Yatra is mainly undertaken during this time but at the onset of other significant Hindu festivities like ‘Maha Shivratri’ and ‘Basant Panchami’ the Kanvarias increase. The Kanwar Yatra not only includes men, but women take active part in this as well.

The term “Bol-Bam” refers to pilgrimages and festivals in the countries of India and Nepal glorifying Lord Shiva who is also known as Bam.

The festivals run during the monsoon month Shravan (July–August). After taking water from the Ganga or Holy Ganges, the kanwariyas also known Lord Shiva Bhakts or the disciples of Lord Shiva at the time of Kanwar Yatra, travel barefoot in saffron robes with their Kanwar (small bamboo pole on which two earthen pots are hung on either end for carrying the Gangajal on both their shoulders) for 105 km in groups made of family, friends and or village neighbours in Kanwar Yatra, and return to Lord Shiva Temples to pour Gangajal on the Lord Shiva Lingam. While travelling the pilgrims continuously talk with "Bol Bam” and sing Bhajans or hymns to praise the name of Lord Shiva.

Samudra Manthan


The Kanwar Yatra is an acknowledgement to the great Samudra Manthan or the churning of the sea, which is one of the most important events of Hindu mythology. A dangerous poison, Halahala, came out of the sea during the churning and it threatened to destroy the universe. This Kanwar Yatra is a testament to the greatness of Lord Shiva, who swallowed this dangerous poison and saved the universe.

They are also prohibited from consumption of alcohol and non vegetarian food. They follow a strict vegetarian diet during this entire time of the Yatra.

It is said that serving the devotees is very auspicious. NGOs and other groups offer free services like food, water, tea or medical help throughout the journey. There are few specific NGOs like Bol Bum Sewa Samiti that work all year round for the kanwariyas.

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