Origin of Kanwar Yatra
The 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. Kanwar Yatra is the annual auspicious pilgrimage of the devotees of Lord Shiva, during which 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.
During the 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, the Kanvarias get the earthen pots filled with holy water for pouring on Lord Shiva’s temple by balancing them on their shoulders.
This 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 then return to their towns and do the ‘abhishekam’ of the Shiva lingam at the local 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 at any point. There are multiple makeshift stands, which are constructed across the journey, which the devotees use to take some rest.
But how did this yatra start and what is the significance behind it, let’s have alook:
- As per ancient Hindu mythology the Samudra manthan or the churning of the sea was the joint effort of the Gods (Devatas) and the demons (Danavs). According to age old legends, the holy month of Shravan was the one during which the Gods and Demons decided to churn the ocean to decide who among them was the strongest. It is said that 14 kinds of pious things came out of the ocean. An innumerable amount of gems and jewels along with the poison (Halahal) came out of the sea. But the demons and the Gods were unsure of what to do with the poison, as it had the ability to destroy everything. Lord Shiva then came to the rescue and stored this poison in his throat, which became blue. Hence, earning the name Neelkanth. Lord Shiva gave life to everyone in this world by drinking the destructive poison, this is why this entire month is dedicated to him and is considered very auspicious.The impact of this poison was so strong that Lord Shiva had to wear a crescent moon of his head and all the Devatas or Gods started offering him the holy water from the river Ganges, so that poison is tamed.The tradition of offering gangajal to Lord Shiva during the holy month of Shravan has been going on ever since.
- The rituals of Kanwar yatra began in the Treta yug. King Rama had taken Gangajal from Sultanpur in a kanwar or earthen pot and offered to Lord Shiva.
- According to the Puranas, Ravana had also bought water from the Holy Ganges and had offered to Lord Shiva.