Every year in the Shrawan month of the Hindu calender ( July, August ) more then 10 lakh ( one million ) number increasing every year, devotees from various part of North and Central India gathers at Haridwar and Gangotri to to take holy water of river Ganges, carry it on their shoulders walk to their respective Lord Shiva temple in their city or village and pour it on Shiva Lingam.
The prepration is done much before the Kawariayas leave from their home by observing strict disipline of simple vegetarian food , sleeping on floor and away from induldging sex ,tabaco and alcohol, wearing saffron colour cloths, they leave from home at least 7 -10 days before Shivaratri after performing the pooja for Haridwar or Gangotri by any means of transport , again after performing the pooja they fill their small copper or brass urns , hang it on a decorated bamboo stick , wearaing saffron cloths bare foot or non leather sandals or shoes start their return journey back home trekking up to 600 – 700 kms to reach their respective destinations before the Shravan Shiva Ratri . these devotees of Lord Shiva are as young as toddlers with mothers and as old as one can walk long distance I have seen 80 years old covering distance of more than 300 kms with young devotees even crippled , lame and blinds undertaking this journey chanting BOL BUM. One wonders is it just faith that makes them complete such a long journey on foot or there is some divine power which makes them perform to do.
There are kawariyas who carry the Ganga water themself upto their destination , there are another set of Kawariyas who carry it as a relay race a team of devoties accompany in a truck and turn by turn each one carries, walk or run with the Ganga water while others rest and wait for their turn in the vehicle these are called the Dakiyas or the Postmen.
Legend is when the churning of Sea took place ( Samundra Manthan) ambrosia (amrit ) and poison (vish) surfaced. No one wanted to have poison. Yet consuming poison was crucial as it would have caused destruction had it touched the earth. Lord Shiva drank the poison but kept it holding in his throat which caused tremendous heat in his body. To pacify that heat Gangajal was poured over Lord Shiva.
It is not only a yearly ritual for the Kawariyas to carry the holy water of Ganges but villagers and people on the way take it as their religious duty to feed , medical help , offering foot massage, arranging for night stay and rest to Lord Shiva devotees, large number of camps are erected on highways from Haridwar to Delhi , Jaipur , Alwar, Agra, and Haridwar to Sahranpur, Ambala , Panipat, Rohtak , the main highway Haridwar to Delhi NH8 is closed for traffic for 4-7 days due to heavy rush of walking Kawariyas back home .
There are similar rituals at Deoghar in Jharkhand state , the devotees over 7-8 million in number bringing holy river Ganga water from various places and pour it over the Shiva lingam at Baidyanath Dham Deoghar
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