In Hindu mythology, a great prominence has been given to Lord Shiva. He has been referred to as the Adiyogi - the first yogi, who initiated the divine knowledge to the first seven rishis - the saptrishis on Earth and then guided them to spread the divinity in all seven directions.
There are many stories, folklores, traditions and rituals related to the revered Bholenath. And one such ritual is of the Kanwar Yatra: an annual pilgrimage done by the avid devotees of Shiva known as Kanvarias in the Shravan month which marks the arrival of south-west monsoons in India. It is the fifth month as per the Hindu year which begins from the first day of the full moon in late July and finds completion by the third week of August.
In the popular culture too, the month of Shravana finds its significance in various texts, songs and movies. A brilliant example would be the “Meghaduta” by Kalidasa.
The Kanvarias travel to Hindu pilgrimage places: Haridwar, Gaumukh, Sultanganj for the purpose of gathering the sacred waters of Ganges, and then carry the water hundreds of miles across to their homelands and offer it in their Shiva shrines or in some specific temples like Kashi Vishwanath temple situated in Kashi, Pura Mahadeva temple which is in Meerut.
Earlier, during the years of the 1980s, this yatra used to be a small affair. Only a few saints along with some other people used to participate in it. And it was when this pilgrimage started gaining popularity many people started joining this chain of incredible belief. And now it is considered as the biggest religious gathering held annually. As per the data, more than 3 crores Kanwarias will be taking part in the yatra this year.
Kanwar yatra traces its roots back to the churning of the ocean. According to the popular folklore, when the whole world started burning as poison came out before amrita, it was Shiva who saved the world from its retribution.
Yes, facing such a crisis, it was Lord Shiva who decided to take corrective measures and accepted that he will be the one who will inhale all the poison. As an after effect, he did face the consequences from the negative energy of poison.
Then, following Treta Yuga, Ravana, who was considered as one of the devout followers of Lord Shiva brought the holy water of Ganges by using the Kanwar and then poured it on Shiva’s temple which was situated in Puramahadeva thus relieving Shiva of the ill effects of the poison.
Did you know that Kanwar Yatra derives its unique name from the contraption or the pole on which the Kanwarias carry the water on their shoulders?
The whole month of Shravan has been dedicated to Lord Shiva. Many of the devotees indulge in fasting during this month. This is because of the fact that this month falls on the Chaturamasa - a period of 4 months in which people go through penance, austerities, fasting and bathing in the holy rivers.
It is during this season that thousands of saffron-clad pilgrims can be seen carrying the poles known as “Kanwar.” Most out of these pilgrims are men however a few women also participate in this holy pilgrimage. Generally, people travel on foot but some people also travel using vehicles like trucks, bikes, scooters etc.