Kanwar or KanvarYatra is an annual pilgrimage or a festival of Lord Shiva devotees. Devotees from different parts of country visit to Gangotri , Gaumukh and Haridwar. They cover a large distance by walking barefoot and bring the holy water Ganga from these sacred places. The devotees who are a part of this divine Yatra (journey) are called as Kanwarias. This name is derived from word ‘Kanvar’. Kanwar or Kanvar means a single dedicated pole with two ends and each end hanging two pots to carry water. It is generally carried on the shoulder.
The Yatra takes place throughout the sacred month of Shravan (Saavan) (July -August), in keeping with the Hindu calendar.
The purpose of this Yatra is to bring the holy water of Ganga from pilgrimage places like Haridwar,Gangotri and Gaumukh. This sacred water of Ganga is brought back to their native villages or city and offered to the Lord Shiva’s linga in the local temples. Pouring of water on the divine linga of Lord Shiva is known as Abhishekam. Saffron clad Kanwarias dedicate whole monsoon season to the worships of Lord Shiva. There is a rule for Kanwar Yatra , Kanwariyan can not put their Kanwars on the earth.
Now a days devotees are traveling to a nearest place by vehicle, and then starting the rest Yatra on foot from there. Those who are terribly far away from Haridwar ,Gangotri ,Gaumukh or other big pilgrimage take up the Yatra to a local river or pond and fetch the water in their Kanwar and then offer to the Ling of the Lord Shiva.
There are many mythologies which are related to the Kanwar Yatra.Some mythologies are here:
- Kanwar Yatra started by the Lord Rama in Treta Yuga.when Lord Rama had brought the holy water of river Ganga in the Kanwar from Sultanganj and poured that on the Ling of Lord Shiva at Babadham.
- When the Samundra Manthan (churning of the oceans) took place in the month of Sawan and fourteen amazing things came out then thirteen of them were divided among the demons, deities and demigod except the dangerous poison i.e. known as Halahal.For the saving of all Lord Shiva drank the poison and stored that in his throat thereafter all gods offered the holy and cold water of river Ganga to Lord Shiva to reduce the bad effect of poison. This Manthan was happened in the month of Sawan, since then the devotees started Kanwar Yatra to offer the holy water of Ganga to the Lord Shiva.
- It is also a believe that demon king Ravana also brought the holy water of river Ganga from Haridwar and furnished to Lord Shiva at the local Shiva temples.
This year,the Kanwar Yatra 2014 has started from 13 July. It is the sanctified and blessed month to worshiping Lord Shiva. Furnishing Ganga Jal Abhishekam and taking fast during this month showers miraculous benefits of the devotees. It is one of the beliefs of Hindu religion that the worship of Lord Shiva during Shravan month is pondered 108 times more effective than worshipping during another day. Worshiping Lord Shiva with Ganga water is a way to seek Moksha(freedom from the cycle of death and rebirth).