Bol Kanwariya Bol Bam
Despite growing modernisation and Western influence, majority Indians are getting more religious and devoted to their age old traditions. The ongoing Kanwar Yatra is evidence to this fact. The Yatra not only strengthens social harmony but also connects the people across the length and breadth of the country. It has an economic angle too, as lakhs of people get employment at different places. Organiser spoke to some Kanwariyas as to why they undertook the Yatra, what problems they face, what drives them to the long journey and what the people serving them in different camps feel.
“Only Maha-dev drives me here every year. Otherwise, I don’t have the strength to walk hundreds of km and carry the load of kanwar,” says Krishna Devi (62) who has been joining the Kanwar Yatra for the past 9 years. She comes from Rewari (Haryana) and has so much faith in Lord Mahadev that she feels that all her wishes are granted by Mahadev. That is why she conducts the Yatra along with her all family members.
Balram (23) is a Gurgaon based auto driver. Taking rest at Shri Shiv Ganga Kanwariya Sewa Samiti camp at Pul Bangash in Delhi he says, “When it comes to spirituality, loss of money has no value. It is the spirituality which gives me the strength to walk such a long distance.”
Those who have never joined this yatra cannot feel the passion and devotion of this unique journey. It is a mantra of getting success for some devotees. “I dedicate my wish to Lord Shiva and He fulfills that. I have full faith in Him,” says Sanjay Kumar (28) at Mohan Nagar Kanwariya Camp. Five year old Sunny who belongs to Kishangarh Village under Ajmer district of Rajasthan joined the Yatra because he believes that Mahadev would fulfill his wish to become a doctor.
The Yatra not only connects people of all sections of the Hindu society but also brings the people of different communities together. In Delhi there are many camps which are exclusively organised by Muslims for the Kanwariyas. In many other camps also they offer their services with full faith. “What happened if we now follow a different faith. Once our forefathers followed Hinduism. I feel the God is one and there are different ways to reach Him,” says Smt Shahin Akhtar while serving the Kanwariyas in Seelampur camp.
There are some people who cannot walk with the kanwar, but they feel extremely satisfied by serving the Kanwariyas by setting camps at different places. “After realising and experiencing the pain and problems of the Kawariya’s we formed a group of 21 people who are bracing Kanwariyas for the last 18 years,” says Shri Pawan Agarwal, a businessman of Kashmiri Gate and member of Mitra Mandal, Paschim Vihar. They serve food, medicines, etc. to the Kanwariyas. He points out that more than 1.5 lakh Kanwariyas come to our camp within a week.
Seventy five year old Shri BB Chawla has been serving the Kanwariyas in Kashmiri Gate camp for the past 18 years. He is a retired Professor of Delhi University. He says that he finds extreme satisfaction in providing fresh food, water and refreshing drinks, shelter, and best medical facilities to the Kanwariyas. “I feel serving the Kanwariyas is equivalent to serving Lord Shiva” said Shri Chawala. Apart from Mitra Mandal Paschim Vihar, many other camps are also set up at different places so that the Kanwariyas do not feel any difficulty while passing through Delhi.
Shri Gopi Chand Bargwani, a businessman and president of Shri Shiv Ganga Kanwariya Samiti established the camp in Bara Hindu Rao. He has been serving the Kanwariyas for the last 26 years. Similarly, Shri Manoj Vats, vice president of Shiv Sewa Sangathan, Rani Bagh is working for 16 years for the service of the Kanwariyas. He himself has been a Kanwariya and understands the problems faced by them.
Gauri Shankar Mandir, Chandani Chowk, is the prominent Shiva temple of Delhi where more than 20,000 Kanwariyas perform Jalabhishek every year. Temple priest Pandit Lakshman Shastri says that the number of the Kanwariyas is growing every year.
(Shimona Gautam, Simran Srivastava, Ravina Rajani, Kamal Chhikara, Arvind Gulati)
Pawan Kumar, zonal organising secretary of BMS
Other than the religious significance, the Kanwar Yatra has an economic angel too. The Kanwariyas are a major source of income for various sections of the society. According to an estimate, around 1.5 crore Kanwariyas come to Haridwar in the span of just fifteen days. The cost of staying in hotels, travelling within the city and other expenses bring a huge inflow of money in the city. On an average if Rs 2,000 are spent by a Kanwariya, a whooping transaction of Rs 3,000 crore takes place in Haridwar alone in just 15 days.
In the month of Shravan, from Sultanpur to Babadham alone, 50 lakh Kanwariyas travel. There is a saying in Babadham that Ek mahina kamayenge, gyarah mahine khayenge (earn just one month and spend for rest of the year). In all, at 12 jyotirlingas all over the country, the transactions of thousands of crore take place due to Kanwar melas only.
These melas are an integral part of our ancient heritage. They are a big source of income generation. There are 300 townships in India, whose major revenue comes due to temples and religious festivals only. For example, Ayodhya, Jagannath Puri, Tirupati Balaji, Vaishno Devi, etc. Amarnath Yatra is not opposed by the general Muslims of those areas because it is the prime annual source to earn bread and butter for them. Due to such religious activities, today Tirupati Balaji has around 2,800 tonnes of gold in fixed deposit. This money is also used for various social activities like running hospitals, universities, skill development workshops, etc. It is due to these activities and our Gurudwara tradition that not even a single starvation death has been recorded in Punjab in the last 325 years!