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Kanwar Yatra: A Holi Water Pilgrimage

Har ki Pauri, thronged by Kanwarias, during the Kavad Mela, Haridwar. Wikipedia.

For those who stay or used to stay in India, have you even seen the religious activity as shown in the images above?

When I had been in Varanasi, I used to see these people in parade all along the road. Especially, I saw them when I traveled by train to-and-fro Gaya-Mughalsarai/Varanasi (Bihar-UP) junctions, but hadn’t gone through details of this religious ritual. This usually happens during this July (Monsoon).

Now let the cat out of the bag. This is called “Kanwar Yatra” a Hindu pilgrimage dedicated to Siva. The people seen carrying water in jars are called Kanwariyas, mostly in their twenties and thirties in saffron-clad. In this Yantra, they go to take the holi water from the sacred river of Ganga in the sacred city of Varanasi (aka Kashi) and most popularly from Haridwar, Gangotri or Gaumukh in Uttarakhand state and Sultanganj in Bihar state where the Ganga originates, and go round dispensing it (holi water) to local Siva temples. They travel on food miles away.

Participants are mostly from the surrounding states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar and some from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. In 2010 and 2011, number of participants reached the peak of 12 million, made it the largest religious performance in India.

I conclude this with the following statement, though not my own expression:

“These devotees—called bhola, gullible or fools and seen as miscreants by many Indians—are mostly young, destitute men, who have been left behind in the globalizing economy.”
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