Friday, 8 August 2008

Days of Kanwarias

Kanwaria pilgrims in Delhi morning traffic

Every summer the road from Haridwar in the Himalayan foothills to Delhi gets painted orange by hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, known as Kanwarias. This was the first time I actually got to witness this growing phenomenon since I have not spent the month of July in India before. On my way to work I would see thousands of Kanwarias making their way to their home towns and villages.

Kanwarians wandering on the side of the road

The point of the pilgrimage is to carry two jugs of water from the holy river Ganges back to their local Shiva worshipping temple where it will be used in a ceremonial bathing of the lingam phallic stone which symbolises lord Shiva. The Kanwaria's walk all the loooong way in the scorching heat, many of them bare foot. The majority are young men, but you will also see old people, women and children making the pilgrimage.

Kanwaria boy

Friendly group of pilgrims

Another group relaxing in the shade. The leopard print is commonly associated with Shiva

Happy times

The jugs of water are balancing on each end of a stick known as a Kanwars, which - to make things even more colourful - is decorated with all sorts of shiny items and in certain cases something which looks almost like doll houses.

Getting back on the road after a well deserved break

Kanwar decorations up close

The jugs are not allowed to touch the ground at any point, so whenever the pilgrims hold breaks they put their stick on makeshift stands put up by charitable organisations, which also feed them. Most of the pictures here were taken at one such pilgrimage pit stop.

Finding your Kanwar again can be difficult!

The pilgrim pit stop, which I visited was at the site of a very large Shiva statue on the way to Gurgaon. You can see a few people in the bottom right of the picture.