According to mythological stories, every year lakhs of saffron clad Hindu pilgrims known as ‘Kanwariya’ were to converge at Haridwar (or at Gomukh, Babadham, Dhar), bathe in the river, pray. They would collect holy water and start their marathon walk back to their local Shiva temple. The fetched water is offered to the deity on Shiv Ratri. The journey back could stretch from a few dozen kilometres to a distance as long as 1000 kilometres. It is performed on foot and the Kanwar is never allowed to touch the earth.
This is what a Shiv bhakt, a ‘kanwariya’ is perceived of by most of the society. Once society spectated an odd ageing devotee with blistered feet, actually walking long distances, carrying an urn of holy water.
However, the time demands for a reality check!
In today’s context, Kanwar Yatra has become one massive rave where Hindu youth can let off steam under the guise of religion.
Like in the Carnival or a fancy Japanese parade, the kanwariyas now move in procession, with trucks loaded with booming sound systems, on-board DJs and powerful generators. The once-upon-a-time bhajans have been replaced by Bollywood remixes; long foot-marches have been a part of history pages as today we see youth driving bikes rashly on busy roads blatantly ignoring traffic rules and choking up the traffic in city.
Not limited to the glorious parades, Kanwariyas add to the distress by littering the city. Just like every year, a lot of roadside camps were set up to welcome the Kanwariyas. In order to keep the city clean and free from plastic waste, the organisers had pledged to use utensils. However, the so-called shiv bhakts have made the capital look dirtier that it could during any other festive. The National highways had been booked by the rashly driven kanwariyas, staging nuisance, and littering the roads with empty ‘plastic’ water packets.
The embarking journey, supposed to be garlanding respect and empathy for the society, seems to be time-pass or vacation marches today as the nuisance and violence by Shiva-attired brigades have become intolerable.