Have you heard about the Kanwar Yatra? It’s a very unique kind of tradition that Shiv devotees follow during the month of Shravan every year. Devotees pay an annual pilgrimage to the holy places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand, and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch the holy water of River Ganga. This water is then offered at their local Shiv temples.
The devotees who perform this ritual are known as ‘Kanwariyas’. They are clad in saffron clothes and travel a distance of around 100 kilometers barefooted! These include hundreds of thousands of devotees from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. They carry a ‘Kanwar’ on their shoulders, which is a bamboo pole with two covered water pots fastened on either side. While most pilgrims are men, a few women and children are also seen participating in this Yatra. During their journey, these devotees chant “Bol Bam, Bam Bam” or “Har Har Mahadev” together.
What is the story behind the Kanwar Yatra?
According to the Hindu mythology, during the churning of the ocean, Lord Shiva drank all the poison that had come out to save the world from getting destructed. He held all the poison in his neck, which is why his neck turned blue and thus the name ‘Neelkanth’ given to him. It is believed that the king Raavan offered Lord Shiva the holy water of River Ganga to lessen the effect of the poison. It is since then that devotees have been offering Gangajal on Shivlings in Shiv temples. This is why during this holy month, devotees walk barefoot to bring Gangajal and offer it to Lord Shiva as a gesture of thanksgiving.
What are the benefits of this Yatra?
First and foremost, devotees believe that bringing Gangajal from the holy river and offering it to Lord Shiva makes him happy, due to which he fulfills all their wishes and blesses them profoundly. Moreover, it is believed that this Yatra helps in the progression and development of our personality and individuality. It also increases our willpower and confidence. We are able to recognize our strengths, caliber and potentiality through this Yatra.
What are the limitations for the Kanwariyas?
During this procession, the Kanwariyas are bound by certain rules that are a must to be followed. It isn’t easy to walk 100 kilometers barefoot; moreover these restrictions make the pilgrimage even more difficult. But, devotees who trust Lord Shiva have enough confidence and strength to carry out this procession happily.
Kanwariyas need to be bathed before starting the procession but, they are not allowed usage of any kind of oil, soap, comb or any kind of beautifying products during the pilgrimage.
Kanwariyas are not allowed to consume any kind of non-vegetarian food, alcohol, tobacco and any other toxins during the period of procession.
Kanwariyas are allowed to sit only on bare ground and are not allowed to use any kind of vehicle too. Moreover, they are not permitted to touch any kind of leather items too.
This procession seems to be a must watch! If you are a Shiv devotee, you may also participate in this Yatra between 20th
July and 25th
August this year. Other than the Shravan month, this ritual is observed in high numbers during Basant Panchmi and Maha Shivratri too. Approximately 2 crore devotees perform this holy journey every year!
However, if you are not going anywhere and wish to perform rituals during this holy month in your own city (Bangalore), you can get in touch with MakeMyPuja
to hire the most professional and experienced Pandits to assist you.
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