This time, as I was travelling to Rishikesh to spend some time on the banks of Holy River Gange’s and in Shivananda Asharm, I realise that it’s difficult to take to the usual roads that have been clogged by Kanwaria’s and govt had diverted all the normal routes for general traffic. It was a long detour for me to reach Rishikesh.
Every year the roads to pilgrim places like Haridwar, Rishikesh, Gangotri or Gaumukh (the glacier from where the Ganga originates) in Uttaranchal turns into flaming orange color with Kanwars – the saffron clad devotees, who’s mission is to collect holy ganges water from these holy places and consecrate the Shiva Linga’s at their villages and homes.
Its written Hindu Scripture’s that at the time of Samudra Manthan (churning of the sea) both ambrosia (amrit ) and poison surfaced. While every one wanted amrit, no one wanted to have poison. Since it was necessary to consume the poison as otherwise it would have poison the earth, Lord Shiva drank the poison. As His consort Parvati Devi protested this act, she stopped the poison going into the stomach by holding it at adam’s apple, which turned blue (Hence He got to be known as Neel Kanth - Blue Adam’s Apple). Yet the poison caused tremendous heat in Shiva’s body. It is to pacify this heat that Gangajal (water from the Ganga) is poured over Shivlingas, a process known as jalabhishek.
It is a convention that water- pot (kanwar) must not touch the ground till the time of consecration. Chanting Har Har Mahadev, the Kanwariyas carry the vessels containing the holy water on their shoulders. All along the route voluntary organisations as well as the government put-up make-shift stands where the kanwars can be kept. They also put-up food and medical stalls for the benefit of the yatris.
The craze for becoming a Kanwariya has increased so much that for almost 20 days normal life comes to standstill in most of these states. The main highways connecting the rest of the North India to Haridwar are closed for heavy traffic to facilitate the safe passage of the devotees.
The Rishikesh, being the Dev Bhoomi – Land of God, was totally clogged with Kanwarias. All night long chanting, walking and running by Dak Kanwars – The Devotees who cover the whole distance by running, which in some case can be as long as 100-150 KMs. But the Shivanand Ashram, where I stayed has its usual calmness within.
Coming down from Ashram at night to be with the Holy Ganges is in itself a powerful ritual but bathing at early morning and then meditation at the bank of the river till sun rise is very uplifting and cleansing.
Brief Note about Kanwar's
Text from WikipediaThe Kānvar Yatrā or Kavad Yatra (Devanagari: काँवर यात्रा or कांवड़ यात्रा) is annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, known as Kānvarias, to Hindu pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand to fetch holy waters of Ganges River, Ganga Jal, which is later offered at their local Shiva temples. TheYatra takes place during the sacred month of Shravan (Saawan) (July -August), according to the Hindu calendar. The Yatra used to be a small affair undertaken by a few saints and older devotees till the 1990s, when it started gaining popularity, today lakhs of devotees from surrounding states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh,Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab and some from as far as Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh reach these places to participate in Kanwar Mela, in 2003. 5.5 Million pilgrims reached Haridwar, with traffic growing each year, heavy security measured are undertaken by the government and the traffic on Delhi-Haridwar national highway (National Highway 58)is diverted for the period.
ॐ नमः शिवाय
Om Namah Shivaya