By RUBY CHOUDHARY
This year I had the first time experience of a tell-tale of kanvar yatra in Muzaffarnagar. A good description illustrated with photos provided every day by my husband, who happens to be a part of administration raised my interest. The thirteen day yatra culminating in Shivratri kept everyone in police, administration and health department on their toes literally. For the first time I was seeing the difficulties being faced by administration in managing this kind of great conglomeration of faith. It was estimated that more than three crore people took kanvar to Haridwar through this route.
In my early days in Bihar, I remember my neighbors used to go for kanvar yatra, from Sultanganj to Devgarh. My family too conducted kanvar yatra once, though being hostler I could not. All I knew was it being very tough as my mother explained how she had wounded feet, but still very satisfying indeed.
In North India the kanvar yatra in Shravan month is highly sacrosanct. Delhi to Haridwar route is one of the most important routes of kanvar. The kanvariyas comprise youth, old, children, and women as well as disabled. The kind of faith people have on the holy month of shravan and ritual of pouring Gangajal on Lord Shiva is unbelievable. Here people collect Ganges water from Haridwar and Gangotri like places and pour it to shivlings in local temples. This has great mythological importance with varying stories. Some believe Ravana was the first to take kanvar yatra while other links it with lord Rama, others to Shravan, the boy who took his blind parents to kanvar yatra. This ritual plays a great deal in removing all form of distinction of rich and poor by the very name when they say bhole and bholi for male and female respectively, by wearing saffron robes, and having same food from shivirs.
At many places religious harmony is observed when Muslims serve Hindu kanvarias by conducting shivirs and offering other form of services like giving massage to their feet, giving medicines, offering food etc. At many places the very kanvars are made by Muslim community.
However, this great festival is not without its share of problems. Sheer large number of kanvariyas put great pressure on administration. Hygiene problem is one such problem. Inability in providing sufficient facility of toilet due to fund crunch is a reason. Both the sides of national highways were witness of foul smell of human excreta everywhere especially nearby shivirs. Second major problem is of accidents which are caused due to daak kanvars, in which kanvariyas run their bikes in very high speed. Sometimes they sleep on roads and dividers which increase their accidents possibility. Third problem is that of noise pollution. Each big kanvars with big replicas put many a speaker with D J. These creates serious problem for people residing in nearby Kanvar route. Though government put rules for restricting D J use, kanvariyas are far from accepting such rules. Drowning in rivers is another problem. Consumption of Bhang, the growth of whose plants are found on both the side of this route is another such problem. It is a kind of smoke which is intoxicating in nature. Some neurosurgeons have sited negative effect of its consumption, though not in long term. Other problems like Stampede in such large number of gatherings are also feared. It was seen in Devgarh in Jharkhand in this year kanvar itself.
This so called ‘Aastha Ka Shailab’ is unique by its very nature. A season of fasting and feasting rejuvenates one’s mind and soul. It has scientific importance as well. The rainy season mixes a lot of herbs and minerals derived from upper reaches of rivers by rains, into the rivers. Taking holy dip into the Ganga and other rivers are beneficial for skin as well. Thus the shravan month celebrates the very beautiful nature.
Ruby Choudhary has doctorate in Geography from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. Rich cultural and academic environment of JNU inclined her to take up academic career. She taught in Delhi University for around five years. She has relocated and left teaching, and currently she is a full time mother.