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Kanwarias flock highways

By Our Staff Correspondent



Devotees and kanwarias throng the Pura Mahadev temple at Baghpat on `Ekadashi' during the holy month of `Shravan' on Tuesday. Photo: Praveen Kumar

HARDWAR, JULY 13. This holy city and the national highway upto Khatauli in Muzaffarnagar of Uttar Pradesh seem like a saffron sea as several lakh Kanwarias trek with Gangajal to perform Jal Abhishek of Lord Shiva at the Augarnath temple in Meerut city, Pura Mahadev temple in Baghpat or the Shivalayas in their villages on Shivratri that falls on July 15 and 16 this year.

The Delhi-Hardwar-Dehra Dun highway has been banned for vehicular traffic to make way for the trekkers. Vehicles are being diverted through alternative roads that are longer and full of potholes.

The Kanwarias undertake this trek for or on fulfilment of a ` boon' they had sought from the Lord. A few do this yatra on bicycles, motor cycles, scooters, mini trucks or jeeps. The Ganga water is brought from as far as Goumukh by some. Women also participate in the trek in small numbers.

The trek route is dotted by special tents put up by the various local Kanwar Sanghs, the Rashtryia Swayam Sewak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. Here the Kanwarias can rest, eat special food or get medical aid.

The Kanwars are beautifully decorated wooden structures containing vessels full of Ganga water carried on the shoulder. The men wear saffron lungi and vests and trek along chanting `Bam Bam Bholey' or `Har Har Mahadev'. Several Kanwars are huge expensive structures decorated on tractors or jeeps while some are on carts pulled by men. These vehicles as well as the roadside halts have loudspeakers playing bhajans at full pitch.

It is an experience to be seen to be believed as lakhs of jovial Kanwarias from as far as Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and Western Uttar Pradesh render bhajans in the local dialects or break into a folk dance.

The Kanwar yatra was a small affair but became perhaps the world's largest religious trek of the Hindus after the Ramjanambhumi- Babri Masjid controversy of the early 1990s.

The police keep a safe distance from the Kanwarias who have over the past years resorted to violence at the slightest provocation. "The yatra has been peaceful so far and we do hope it will end on a peaceful note," observed a senior police officer.

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