In the Hindu religion, a kanwar is essentially a bamboo stick with pots holding water at both ends. It is never supposed to touch the ground, and can only be rested on special stands. The person who carries this rod is known as a kanwariya. 


But why exactly do they make this vast and voluminous journey every year?

In case you’re not familiar with how Shiva’s throat turned blue in Hindu mythology, here’s a quick recap. During the churning of the oceans to find amrit, the poisonous halahala was also created. This substance was toxic for gods and asuras alike, so Shiva swallowed it and stored it in his throat. 

In order to soothe the poison’s effects, the other gods offered him Ganga water. 


Because of this, devotees of Lord Shiva carry Ganga water in the month of Sawan from Haridwar and offer it to their local Shiva shrines.

Once there, they pour the water on the Shiv Lingam. While a majority of the pilgrims are men, a few women also participate in the yatra. They mostly travel by foot, though many of them also use motorcycles, jeeps and trucks.

Special camps are set up along the national highways by Hindu organisations like local Kanwar Sanghs, the RSS, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. These camps offer food, shelter, medical-aid and stands to hang the Kanwars.


The kanwar yatra used to be a small affair undertaken by a few babas and older devotees. In the late 80s however, it gained popularity, becoming a massive movement today.

The sheer volume of people making this journey has led to some problems, as expected. Last year, a group of kanwariyas vandalised a car after it brushed past them. There have also been other instances of violence and hyper-nationalism by some kanwars. 

For now, they have created separate paths for the kanwars to take. Let’s see how the next year holds up.