Kanwarias – Hindu Pilgrims carrying Ganga Water to bathe Shivling



In the month of Shravan (July – August) the roads of Delhi, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar and Jharkhand will be taken over by saffron-clad Hindu devotees carrying Ganga water. They are the Kanwarias who are undertaking the Kanwar Yatra. They collect water from the Ganga in Haridwar, Gangotri, Gaumukh, Allahabad, Sultanganj and other holy places and return home to bathe the Shiva Lingam in their homes or villages on the Amavasi day in the Shravan month.

The name Kanwarias because they carry a pole called ‘Kanwar’ on their shoulders and pots with Ganga Water hang from the two sides of the pole. It is estimated that more than six million Kanwarias visit various holy places through which Ganga flows in Uttarakhand.

Another one million devotees carry Ganga water from Sultanganj – the only place where Ganga flows towards north – to the famous Deogarh Shiva temple during Shravan Mela. Some devotees in Uttar Pradesh collect water from numerous places in the state including Allahabad or Prayag.

Each devotee approaches the Kanwar Yatra differently. Some prefer to walk the entire stretch silently chanting prayers. Some go in groups singing praise of Lord Shiva. Some devotees create a mela atmosphere by traveling in trucks and carts with loudspeakers playing different types of music. Then there are the relay marthon runners called ‘dak kanwarias.’ In it each yatri runs a certain distance and is then taken over by another yatri.

Numerous voluntary organizations setup camps along the National Highway during the Kanwar Yatra. The Kanwarias are proved food, shelter and safe place to keep the Ganga water.

The movement of Kanwarias during the July – August period is a major concern for authorities, especially the traffic blockade created by them in the major National Highways. The young Kanwarias create a carnival atmosphere and often get into quarrel with the public.