There are many people who want to know what is kawad yatra or what is the significance of kawad yatra, why do people go on kawad yatra. During the months of July and August, the roads of India’s northern plains are full of Shiva’s devotees dressed in orange or bhagwa clothes which are considered auspicious to wear, walking barefoot while balancing the bamboo sticks on their shoulders. This stick is called ‘Kanwar’ or ‘Kawad’ and the one carrying it is referred to as ‘Kanwars’ or ‘Kanwadiyas’. They have to make sure that the pots of water do not touch the ground in any case before they offer the Gangajal on Shivaling.
In Kawad Yatra in India, nearly 12 crore devotees collect the holy water of the Ganges or ‘Gangajal’ from Haridwar, Gangotri, Gaumukh in Uttarakhand and Sultanganj in Bihar every year. Earlier this practice was followed by only saints, old Shiva devotees, and other interested people but from last three decades, there has been a tremendous hit in the people undertaking this ardent journey to express their gratitude to Lord Shiva. Some of the mythical reasons as to why this journey is undertaken are:
- When the ‘Samudra Manthan’ or the ‘Churning of the Ocean’ was taking place, before the ‘Amrita’ or the nectar of Immortality came out, came out the Halahala poison, since the Shiva took the initiative to inhale the poison and store it in his throat, hence bore the name ‘Neelkanth’ means the blue throat, the poison started to affect him, to negate the effect of the poison the Gods poured Gangajal over him to soothe him.
- In the Treta Yuga, his sound devotee Ravana went on to a yatra to carry Gangajal tied in pots to the ends of the bamboo stick and bathe Shivlingam with it in Puramahadev.
Since both of these events took place in the Shraavana Mas or the fifth month according to the Hindu calendar, the devotees started to follow the tradition and brought the Gangajal with them to pour it over to their local Shivlingam or any other sacred temple of Shiva nearby on the Amavasya or the day of new moon knows as Maha Shivratri.
There are four types of Kawar yatras:
- Jhoola Kawad: In this, the Kawar is never kept on the ground but can be hanged.
- Baithi Kawad: In this, the Kawar can be put on the ground.
- Khadi Kawad: In this, the bamboo stick is never kept on the ground or hanged, even when the bearer is taking rest someone has to hold it on his behalf.
- Dak Kawad: This is, in fact, the toughest of its kind because the person has to run with the Kawar on his shoulder while returning with the Gangajal. It has to be completed between 24 to 72 hours depending upon the distance to be travelled. It is like the relay race, where the kawadiyas travel in groups on motorbikes, trucks or jeeps to support the one who is running, in turns carrying kawar and complete their arduous journey.
While some of the devotees carry on this yatra to ask Shiva to grant their wish, the other devotees carry it out only as a form of expressing their deep devotion to the Lord and embrace such tough tasks to cleanse their soul to worship their Lord with even more sincerity and devotion.
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