Kanwar Yatra 2019 Special: On the Road With Kanwarias

Who is a Kanwariya and what is the essence of the Kanwar Yatra? The Quint travels to Haridwar to find answers.

Short DoQs
2 min read

Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video Editor:
Prashant Chauhan
Story & Production:
Badsha Ray
Executive Producers:
Ritu Kapur and Rohit Khanna

The end of lunar eclipse and Guru Purnima marks the beginning of one of the holiest months for Hindus, Sawan. During this month also begins the Kanwar Yatra, which sees millions of devotees flock on the ghats of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand, Prayagraj in UP and Sultanganj in Bihar to fetch Gangajal in Lord Shiva’s name.


It is believed that Lord Shiva drank the ‘Halahal vish’ (poison) that came from the Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean) and held it in his kanth (throat), resulting in it turning neel (blue), hence earning him the name ‘Neelkanth’. Shiva’s body temperature soared as a result and the gods had to pour water on him to bring it down. Since then, it became a tradition to offer Gangajal on Shivling in the month of Sawan to please the Mahadev.

Kanwar Yatra is a two-part journey. First, the Kanwariya travels to a Ganga ghat – by truck, tempo, car or motorcycle. Once there, he/she collects the Gangajal in a Kanwad (vessel) and carries it all the way back to a Shivlinga near their home. The return journey is done by foot.

Whether a Kanwariya can halt on their way back or not depends on the kind of journey she/he has promised to take out — whether he/she is carrying a jhoola kanwar (a Kanwad on hung from the shoulders), has set out on a daak Kanwad (a non-stop Kanwad), or on a khadi Kanwad (standing Kanwad) etc.

This year, The Quint decided to follow the Kanwariyas on their journey and document a first-hand experience of the Kanwar Yatra.

What triggered us was a story reported last year in Delhi where Kanwarias were caught on camera vandalising a car. Our idea was simple. To report what we see, whether good bad or ugly. In the documentary, we have tried to fit in all kinds of voices. What we witnessed was contrary to common perception of the Kanwariyas.

Kanwariyas or Bhole/Bholi (as they are addressed during Sawan) were friendly and accommodating. Majority felt that certain disruptive elements indeed try to malign the name of the yatra, but not all are bad.

“We are here to offer our prayers to Lord Shiva and not to spread rowdyism. Hence, one shouldn’t be afraid of us.”

So, who is a Kanwariya, how is a Kanwar Yatra done and, most importantly, should one be afraid of Kanwariyas? Watch our short documentary and decide for yourself.

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