Shiv Kanwar Yatra is one of most important festivals of Shravan Month for worship of Lord Shiva.
About Kanwar and Kanwar Yatra :
Kanwar Yatra is named after the kanwar a single pole with two roughly equal loads fastened or dangling from both opposite ends. The kanwar is carried by balancing the middle of the pole on one or both shoulders. The Hindi word kanwar is derived from the Sanskrit kanvanrathi. Kanwar-carrying pilgrims, called Kanwarias, carry covered water-pots in kanvars slung across their shoulders. This practice of carrying Kawad as a part of religious pilgrimage, especially by devotees of Lord Shiva, is widely followed throughout India. Yatra means a journey or procession.
Kanwarias are the ones who carry decorated ‘Kanwar’ or pole on their shoulder with the covered water pots balanced on its two ends. The annual Kanwar fair covers over 100- 250 kilometers by kanwarias barefoot. On the way they perform high decibel chants of bol bam, bam bam bhole or Har Har Mahadev as invocations to Lord Shiva.
Kanwar Yatra Jalabhishek :
The month of Shravan is dedicated to Lord Shiva and most devotees observe a fast on Mondays during the month, as it also falls during the chaturmas period, traditionally set aside for religious pilgrimages, bathing in holy rivers and penance.
During the annual Monsoon season thousands of saffron-clad pilgrims carrying Ganga Jal from the Ganges in Haridwar, Gangotri or Gaumukh, the glacier from where the Ganges originates and other holy places on the Ganges, like Sultanganj, the only place where the river turns north during its course, and return to their hometowns, where they later they perform abhisheka (anointing) the Shivalingas at the local Shiva temples, as a gesture of thanks giving.
Significance of Kanwar Yatra :
While most Kanwariyas (pilgrims) are men, a few women also participate in Kanwar Yatra. Most travel the distance on foot, a few also travel on bicycles, motor cycles, scooters, mini trucks or jeeps. Numerous Hindu organizations and other voluntary organizations like local Kanwar Sanghs, the Rashtryia Swayam Sewak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. setup camps along the National Highways during the Yatra, where food, shelter, medical-aid and stand to hang the Kanvads, holding the Ganges water is provided.
Smaller Kanwariyas (pilgrimages) are also undertaken to places like Allahabad and Varanasi. Shravani Mela is a major festival at Deoghar in Jharkhand, where thousands of saffron-clad pilgrims bringing holy water, from the Ganges at Sultanganj, covering a distance of 105 kilometres on foot. Here till about 1960, the yatra was confined to a few saints, old devotees, and rich Marwaris of neighbouring cities, and the phenomenon has seen considerable rise in the recent years.
Once the pilgrims reach their hometown, the Ganga Jal is used to Jalabhishek (bath) the Shivalingam on the Chaturdashi Tithi before (New Moon) day in Shravan month or on the Mas Shivratri day.