Kanwariyas Kanwar Yatra Images, Stock Photos:
The Kanwar (कांवड़ यात्रा) is an annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, known as Kanwariyas (कावड़िया) or “Bhole” (भोले), to Hindu pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch holy waters of Ganges River. Millions of participants gather sacred water from the Ganga and carry it across hundreds of miles to dispense as offerings in their local
shrines, or specific temples such as Pura Mahadeva and Augharnath temple in Meerut, and Kashi Vishwanath, Baidyanath and Deoghar in Jharkhand.
Kanwariyas Kanwar Yatra Images, Stock Photos
A kanwariya, wearing shirt with Yogi Adityanath’s picture is seen on the bank of river Ganga in Allahabad.
A Shiva devotee walks along with other Kanwariyas during their pilgrimage in Meerut.
Kanwariya offer Ganga Jal to Lord Shiva at Durga Temple in Gandhi Nagar, New Delhi.
Kanwariyas taking a dip in the Ganga river during holy month of Shravan in Allahabad.
Millions of ‘Kanwarias’ from different states ,carry Kanwars on their shoulders, wearing orange dresses and walking hundreds of miles barefooted to bathe the ‘Shivaling’.
Strides of faith Kanwariyas undertake arduous journey on foot from Haridwar.
Thousands of Dak Kanwars throng the national highway on the penultimate day of Kanwar yatra.
Young men carry the national flag and chant ‘Bharat Mata ki jai and Vande Mataram’.
A monsoon ritual once known only in pockets of the Gangetic plains, the Kanwar Yatra is today India’s biggest annual pilgrimage. Where only a few thousands made the journey until the 1980s, around 20 million carried the kanwar between Haridwar and Delhi in 2016. Clad in saffron robes and balancing urns of Gangajal along hundreds of kilometres, here’s a look at the journey and motivations that draw these men to the pilgrimage in larger numbers each year.
A vast majority of the young men taking part in the pilgrimage come from low-income families in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan, often hanging on to the edges of the informal economy as drivers, labourers and security guards. Many are the first generation among their families to take up occupations beyond the farms and pool resources towards a collective fund to make the journey.
For others on the yatra trail the period is an experience of camaraderie among men sharing a purpose and sense of identity. Religion may not feature as heavily on their agenda with the constant sprinting, speakers blaring music from the back of trucks, the accompanied dancing, shows of strength with their hockey sticks and the occasional high, peppered with the name of Bhole.
Occurring in the Hindu month of Savan, the journey of the Kanwariya revolves around the kanwar, traditionally a bamboo pole with urns containing water from the River Ganga which is transported by the pilgrims from holy sites such as Haridwar, Gangotri and Gaumukh as an offering to the Shiva temple back home. The aim of the pilgrimage is to chant the name of Bholenath (a name for Shiva meaning Lord of the innocent) and return without spilling a drop of the water.
The annual Kanwar Yatra spells a disruption in normal life for North India with the kanwars taking over public life, occupying roads and public spaces, causing traffic congestions and altercations that often make headlines. This season alone, kanwariyas have been in news for falling off trains, being electrocuted on a street, being hit by a bus, vandalizing buses, blocking highways, blowing up a police vehicle and later a police station.
The arrival of the kanwars in Haridwar spells the deployment of special police battalions, while in Delhi is means a shutdown of schools. Along the highway from Delhi to Haridwar, unofficial bans on the sale of meat and poultry and the lockdown or concealment of eateries that serve non-vegetarian food to prevent altercations based on religious sentiments can be observed.
The method of transporting the holy water is left up to the devotee undertaking the task. The journey in older times would only draw saints or the elderly walking to and fro with simple kanwars, but rising popularity since the 1980s has swung demographics towards a younger and more masculine crowd. Kanwariyas may undertake the journey solo, with elaborate kanwars that may not touch the ground or even as a team, using motorcycles and trucks to run relays without a pause in the movement of the Gangajal.
The usual response of being called to the journey by Bholenath himself masks behind it a momentary escape from the uncertainties of daily life and the rigors of eking out incomes, giving these men a chance to prove their physical strength, resourcefulness and wit along the route. The yatra period gives the kanwariyas an experience of life beyond caste or class boundaries — they are provided free meals, discounts by shopkeepers and are served upon by locals vying divine favour through these saffron clad men out on a journey to holiness.