What is Kanwar?
Kanwar is a type of religious ritual where people who take part, carry water from the holy Ganga in containers that are put on either side of a pole. Devotees wear saffron-colored attire and carry the Kanwar on one or both their shoulders depending on the size of the Kanwar. Kanwar is a pilgrimage that is dedicated to Lord Shiva. People who carry the Kanwar are called Kanwariyas or Bholas. Bhola means innocent and Lord Shiva is also called Bholenath or Bhole Baba. Kanwar Yatra, which means Kanwar pilgrimage is usually carried out in North Indian parts of the country.
Lord Shiva is known as the Destroyer among the Three Gods (Trimurti), which also has Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. As per Shaivism, which is the tradition of followers of Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva is the Ultimate God who creates, protects, and even transforms the entire world. Lord Shiva blesses his devotees with a lot of happiness and peace if he gets pleased. Which, devotees perform different types of poojas during the month of Sawan.
The Sawan month has started on 14th July 2022 and that's why devotees of Lord Shiva have started Kanwar Yatra in North India wherein they walk barefoot carrying the Kanwar and sing bhajans and the slogan of Bol Bam and songs of Lord Shiva on their journey. Kanwar Yatra is dedicated to places of Haridwar, Gangotri, and Gaumukh in the state of Uttarakhand. Devotees from various states of India carry out the Kanwar Yatra to reach the above places to get the holy water of Ganga in their containers. Some devotees use personal vehicles or even other modes of transport if walking barefoot is difficult for them to reach the above places.
Then they carry the water and travel to famous Lord Shiva temples such as Pura Mahadeva and Augharnath temple in Meerut, and Kashi Vishwanath, Baidyanath, and Deoghar in Jharkhand. If these temples are beyond the devotees' reach then they carry the holy water of Ganga to take to the local Lord Shiva temples and pour it on the Shivling on the Amavasya day, which is on the 28th of July this year. Some devotees even take the holy water to visit Lord Shiva temples in their hometowns. Kanwariyas also observe fasts on Mondays during the Sawan or Shravan month as Monday is a favorite day of Lord Shiva.
Huge camps and gatherings can be seen of devotees of God Shiva in Gangotri and Haridwar during the Kanwar Yatra, which thus becomes a 15-day long journey from 14th July to 26th July this year. The gatherings on the Ganga ghats in Haridwar are said to be one of the largest human gatherings in India every year during the pre-pandemic times.
Kanwariyas also rest for a while in the number of makeshift accommodations that are created along their spiritual journey. Many NGOs offer free services such as tea, water, food, and medical help for Kanwariyas so that they reach their chosen destination without any major hurdles. It is interesting to note how Kanwariyas manage to do the yatra with full devotion and trust that Lord Shiva will bless them and become happy.