The month of monsoon which is known as the 'Shrawan Maas' or 'Saawan' in Hindu religion, is devoted to Lord Shiva and pilgrims from all over India visit the holy cities on the bank of the Ganges to collect its holy water.
Kanwar Yatra: The annual pilgrimage of devotees of lord shiva, known as Kanwarias, is taking place in towns like Haridwar, Gaumukh, and Gangotri, Varanasi, etc., which are proclaimed Hindu pilgrimage sites. The pilgrimage is a quest to fetch the holy water of river Ganga in the Hindu month of Shrawan (July -August) devoted to Lord Shiva. Delhi and the surrounding areas are preparing to shelter these pilgrims and as many as 225 camps have been build in the past two weeks by hundred of labourers in the capital to provide much-required shelter to Kanwarias who are expected to cross the city on their way back to home after the pilgrimage, with pots full of the holy water of Ganga.
The number of Kanwars who reached the holy city Haridwar last year to collect holy water was approximately 3.76 crore, with which they walked back home in faraway states. “The number is expected to be bigger this time,” Director General, Uttarakhand, wrote to Delhi Police chief on June 26 according to a report in The Indian Express.
In order to eliminate all the risks and to make sure the tough task of handling the pilgrimage in a very subtle manner, the states of Delhi and UP are leaving no stone unturned. There are provisions for aerial surveillance though drones, petal showers from choppers, additional police deployment, water tankers, mobile toilets and registration of Kanwars.
Starting in Uttarakhand
On July 17, 2019, the Kanwar yatra began from Haridwar. Pilgrims from all across the country reach Haridwar via various transports, carrying a bundle of clothes and a wooden stick over the shoulder balancing two pots. The devotees of Lord Shiva, take a dip in the Ganga and fill pots with holy water which is carried by Kanwarias to their home and is meant to be poured at temples near their home. After they have filled the pots with the holy water of the Ganges their walkathon begins and a huge number of these pilgrims travel via UP and Delhi, the reason why portions of highways and roads are cordoned off and overnight camps are set up.
The DG of Uttarakhand, in his letter, mentioned that “The Kanwars in the first phase prefer walking but in the last five-six days, they just use any means including trucks, trolleys or any means available to reach home early for Jal-Abhishek, and in a quest to do so they compete on the roads… This can lead to accidents or fighting or an act against an unsuspecting local”. The reason behind this is, maybe the lack of means of transport due to the huge number of pilgrims and unavailability of transport.
He also mentioned in a cautionary manner about the sound systems that are used by these pilgrims and can lead to accidents and hamper the move of “dak kanwars”. Dak kanwars are pilgrims who run with several pots and relay them to the next person every one km.
The DG in an affirmative manner stated that any weapons, if found, and sound systems will be seized at the Haridwar border but the numbers are quite huge and thus there is always a risk. Notably, there are three possible routes to move outside Haridwar, which are Haridwar-Roorkee-Delhi, Haridwar-Najibabad-Moradabad-Delhi, and Haridwar-Roorkee-Saharanpur-Panchkula-Delhi. The event is so huge that from July 23-30, the schools, colleges and Anganwadi Centres will be closed, Rupendra Dutt Sharma, Haridwar’s chief education officer, said.
In Uttar Pradesh:
The Uttar Pradesh administration under the chief minister Yogi Adityanath is all set to welcome these pilgrims in a very lavish and organised manner with a technological tinch. The government has deployed around 8,000 security personnel of Rapid Action Force and BSF, ATS units, snipers similar to the pattern of Kumbh Mela. The government has also made provision of aerial surveillance drones and helicopters which in turns could also be used for showering of rose petals. The Uttar Pradesh administration seems to have invested a huge amount to make the four crore devotees happy who are set to criss-cross the 130-km Delhi-Haridwar highway in the state.
The traffic SP of Meerut said that “A request has been sent to UP government and are hopeful the helicopters will come to Meerut by July 25.” There is an interesting plan also, that is to shower devotees with rose and marigold petals from July 26 onwards. “Approximately five tonnes (5,000 kg) of petals, at a cost of Rs 20 lakh will be needed,” an official informed.
In order to make sure the safety of Kanwarias as well as the places they pass through, a new provision has been made this time and now Kanwarias would have to register themselves at police stations in their villages and towns before leaving for the pilgrimage and would be allotted a registration number. Instructions have been given to the Uttarakhand and UP police to record the presence of Kanwarias at each check-post. Also, the government has decided that all liquor and meat shops along the route would also remain closed for 15 days, beginning July 17 onwards.
In order to avoid any incident similar to the 2018 Moti Nagar tussle which led to Kanwariyas overturning a car at a traffic junction, the National Capital is shoes-tied. The message is simple and says ‘Aage badho shanti se’, as that is what has been instructed to the traffic constables stationed for 12 hours daily for the next 15 days at a Shahdara traffic junction.
“The police deployment has been increased manifold this year,” said an officer. After passing through Uttar Pradesh, kanwars enter East Delhi and as much as 83 camps have been set up, the Joint CP (Eastern range) Alok Kumar said in a statement. “A brief about maintaining law and order has been given to the Samiti that host kanwars at the camp. The instructions are very clear and are needed to be abided by, among the instructions given, some important included ‘use the left side of the road to walk’, ‘Don’t believe in rumours’, and ‘fire-fighting systems and good lighting at the camps is a must.”
“The organisers have been asked to issue ID cards to kanwars, as this will deter anyone from being mischievous and will keep a check on anti-social elements,” said DCP (East), Jasmeet Singh.
The president of Delhi government’s Tirth Yatra Committee, Kamal Bansal said that “At least 25 per cent of the 173 camps installed this year will be steel hanger camps, which don’t require wood or ropes and won’t disrupt traffic as they don’t take much time to set up.”
Notably, in the month of monsoon known as the ‘Shrawan Mas’ or ‘Saawan’ in Hindu religion is devoted to Lord Shiva and pilgrims from all over India visit the holy cities on the bank of the Ganges to collect the holy water of the River Ganga.