My ear drums trembled with the sounds of BUM BUM BHOLE at 10PM in an Uttarakhand State Transport bus and my journey started as the bus headed towards the Ghats of Haridwar. In the bus, except me, the driver and the conductor the whole mammalian flock were robed in the variable shades of orange and yellow. After grappling up with the bitter smoke of cigarettes and chillum for around 7 Hours, I finally dropped off from the bus at 4:30AM at Haridwar’s bus depot and reached my pre-booked room by 5:00AM and immediately unloaded myself and went out to the Har-Ki-Pauri Ghat for shooting the Kanwariyas and Kanwar rituals in the Kanwad Mela, which they perform before heading back to their homelands.
After around 3 hours of shooting and many interactions with the Kanwariyas, it was now the time for some rest (as I hadn’t taken a single nap, the last night) thus after a heavy breakfast I ended up on the bed and woke up in the evening and again went to the Har-Ki-Pauri Ghat to attend the evening Aarti of the holy river, Ganga. After the Aarti, I ended my day with the dinner at my hotel’s room and slept early to witness another day’s sunrise. The 2nd day was somehow very same as that of the previous one, but that day I focused more upon the portraits of the Kanwariyas and ended the day with other wanderings in and around the city.
Finally it was the 3rd and the last day of my trip to Haridwar and the day started on a monotonous node because it seemed same as that of my previous days but I decided to kick start it by planning a visit to Rishikesh after shooting the much admired wide angle photographs of the Kanvad Mela early in the morning. BUT, it was just 10 in the morning and I was reviewing my photographs and wasn’t at all satisfied with the results, because they were missing something which Kanvad Mela represents from its soul, i.e Motions, Commotions, Colors, Vividness, Details, Expressions and everything which one can think of.
So I finally got an idea to shoot the Kanwadiyas late in the evening but, I had to visit Rishikesh as well, With a dwindling mind I decided to stay in the Haridwar for some long exposure photographs of the Kanwadiyas which I was going to shoot with the backdrop of the most celebrated sacred structures of the Har-Ki-Pauri Ghat, so with this thought in the mind I spent and passed my whole day, wandering in the Bazaars of Haridwar and reached at Ghat at 6PM for the shoot and after 2 hours of shooting I was totally numb with the results because they were up to my expectations, that 3rd day ended on a string of happiness on which I balanced myself for the whole night and headed back to New Delhi on an early morning train and came back home with increased energy levels and sense of happiness.
Kanwar Mela is an affair of ecstasy and the vividness of the life and is highly recommended for everyone to attend at least once in a life time on the Ghats of the Ganges River to feel the energy levels around you and the level of devotion people do posses. Kānvar Yatrā (Devanagari: काँवर यात्रा or कांवड़ यात्रा) takes place during the sacred month of Shravan (July -August) and is named after the word kānvar, a single bamboo pole with two roughly equal loads fastened or dangling from opposite ends. The kānvar is carried by balancing the middle of the pole on one or both shoulders. Devotees carry covered water-pots in kānvars slung across their shoulders and this practice is widely followed throughout India by over 10 million devotees annually.
It is an annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva, known as Kānvarias, to Hindu pilgrimage places of Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand to fetch holy waters of Ganga River, which is later offered at their local Shiva temples. While most pilgrims are men, a few women also participate in Yatra. Most travel the distance on foot, a few also travel on bicycles, motor cycles and other vehicles. Numerous Hindu organizations and other voluntary organizations sets up camps along the National Highways during the Yatra, where food, shelter, medical-aid and stand to hang the Kanvads, holding the Ganges water is provided for free. Once the pilgrims reach their hometown, the Ganges water is used to bathe the Shivalingam on the New Moon day in Shravan month or on the Maha Shivratri day.
There are several types of Kānvarias, depending upon the way they cover their journey back to their homelands. The most common of them are known as Kānvarias, who travel barefoot back to their home. Others are – I.Dak Kānvarias – These are those devotees who cover the whole pilgrimage on a vehicle within a certain period of time, depending upon the distance they cover. Usually it is 24 Hours.
II. Khada Bam Kānvarias – These are those devotees who cover the whole pilgrimage by foot and during the whole course of pilgrimage they never sit.
III. Mauni Bam Kānvarias – These are those devotees who cover the whole pilgrimage by foot and during the whole course of pilgrimage they don’t speak even a single word.
IV. Mahavari Kānvarias – These are those devotees who not just carry the Kanwars in the month of Shravan, but they carry it every month on a particular date and cover the whole pilgrimage by foot.
V. Shayan Kānvarias – These are those devotees who cover the whole pilgrimage with their eyes closed, they usually travel with a friend or a family member who guides him/her on the whole way back to their home.
VI. Dandvat Kānvarias – These are those devotees who cover the whole pilgrimage distance by their body length by lying down on the ground and marking it with a stick.
Kanwar Yatra is not just an annual pilgrimage but it is directly related to the people and civilizations in many ways and has supported its growth, since the ancient times Kanwar Mela brought the people from different parts of the country in contact with each other, which significantly supported the growth of the diversity in the country and hence supported the meshing up of various civilizations. Even today, it is playing a significant role at a psychological level of Kanwariyas by making them realize their efficiency and their eternal power of decision making and hence works as an overall personality development course which makes the Kanwariya realise his limits.