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Festival Lord Shiva Shravan

Kanwar festival or Shravan festival in India

Shravan festival in India

The month of Shrawan is a very holy month for hindu pilgrims. In this month, Lord Shiva is worshipped in Deoghar and people from all part of India throng at this place. They also undertook an arduous journey and offer water to Lord which they took from distant places and cover the distance on foot.

Kanwar Yatra is named after the Kanvar. Kanvar is a single pole  with two roughly equal loads fastened or dangling from opposite ends.  These loads are normally Ganges water which is offered to Lord Shiva after completion of Kanwar or Kanwad journey.

The month of Shravan is celebrated in worship to Lord Shiva and most devotees observe a fast on Mondays during this month. This festival is called Sharavn festival or Kanwar festival.

Kanwad festival

Ten days before Shiv-Teras thousands of Lord Shiva devotees gather in Haridwar to collect holy waters from the river Ganga to carry it back to their hometown and offer it at the local Shiv temple.

In north india, the Kanwarias take the water from Haridwar, Gangotri and other holy places. They take the water to their respective towns and offer the gangajaal to a local holy temple of Lord Shiva. This pilgrimage is done by covering the distance from Haridwar to their respective cities largely on foot. The devotees are mainly males, but females also celebrate this festival of Lord Shiva or Bhole Baba.

Kanwar festival – Devotees taking gangajaal from har ki pairi, haridwar

Smaller pilgrimages are also undertaken to places like Allahabad and Varanasi.

In Bihar, during this festival, the kanwarias take the holy water from Sultanganj. Sultanganj has a special significance since Ganga turns northward at Sultanganj. The water is carried from here to Deoghar, the nearest Shiv jyotirling. This is 105 km far from sultanganj. It takes four days for the devotees to reach Deoghar walking. The devotees generally walk by day and take shelter at dharamshalas during night, some adventurous ones continue their journey during night.  Then there are Dak Kanwariyas, who cover the distance by running only in a day. They are supposed to travel the distance in one day only is quite arduous.  After offering water in Deoghar, devotees travel to basukinath, which is another place of interest for pilgrims.

Dak Kanwariyas during Shravan or Kanwar festival
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Festival Lord Shiva Shravan

Deoghar, Baidyanath dham and Shravan festival

The Shravan festival

The festival of Shravan or Kanwar festival is the most auspicious one for lord Shiva devotees. During this month, devotees from various parts of Bihar and Jharkhand observe strict rituals. They carry holy water of Ganges (Gangajal) from Sultanganj to Deoghar for Lord Shiva.

Pic. – Baidyanath Dham Mandir

This month normally falls in July – August according to english calendar and hindu devotees travel to Baidyanath Deoghar to worship Baba Baidyanath ( Lord Shiva).

How Lord Shiva came to Deoghar

There is an interesting story that Ravana once worshipped Lord Shiva so that he awarded him saying that I will stay with you in form of Shivlinga. This posed a problem for Devtas who thought that this would make him invincible. They used a ruse which forced Ravana to put the Shivlinga in Deoghar and it became Lord Shiva’s permanent abode. Since because of Ravana only Shiv has came to Deoghar, Ravana is treated with respect here.

Why Gangajal is offered to Baba Baidyanath

The custom of carrying holy water from Sultanganj on Kanwar and offering to it Shiva started in the Treta Yuga. This yuga was the silver age of Hindu mythology. Lord Rama had carried the holy ganges water from Sultanganj in a kanwar and offered to Lord Shiva at Babadham.

Another legend says that when the churning of oceans – Samudra Manthan – took place, this was in the month of Shravan. During manthan, fourteen different types of rubies came out. Thirteen of these were distributed amongst the deamons, except Halahal (poison). Lord Shiva drank the Halahal and stored it in his throat. Hence the name Neelkantha (meaning blue throat) is attributed to Shiva.

To reduce the strong effect of poison, Lord Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. All the Gods, thereafter started offering the Ganges water to Lord Shiva to make lessen the effect of poison.

This happened in the month of Shravan. The Shiva devotees offer the Ganges water in this month and Shravan festival is observed. This festival and Baidyanath Deoghar is one of the holiest ones for Hindu devotees.

Baidyanath jyotirlinga temple

Importance of Gangajal from Sultanganj

In Sultanganj, the Ganges flows to the North. This is why, the devotees collect water in their kanwars and carry the holy Ganges water, with the kanwars on their shoulders. They walk 109 km up to Baba Baidyanath temple at Babadham reciting Bol Bam on the way.

Importance of Belpatra

Lord Shiva has three eyes – Mother Parvati, Lord Kartik and Ganesh. Lord Shiva is also called Mahadeva, the god of gods and his three eyes- Trinetra are his identification. Three eyes, three virtues, three truths, three swords of the Trident (Trishul) and three leaves (Belpatra) are very dear to Shiva. Lord Shiva becomes pleased if one offers Ganga water with Belpatra.

 

pic – Mandir at Night

Bol – Bam and its importance

The word Bam is a short name for Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The letters BA came from Brahma and Vishnu and M came from Mahesh.

It is a long efficacious mantra (a hymn). When it is chanted during the way, it generates energy and enthusiasm amongst the kanwarias and gives them the psychological strength to carry on walking and succeed in covering the long distance from Sultanganj to Babadham.

According to the Skand Purana, those who complete the holy journey by reciting Bam-Bam obtain the virtues of Ashwamedha Yajna. According to the Puranas, the demon king Ravana had brought the Ganges water from Haridwar and offered to Lord Shiva.

During their journey from Sultanganj to Deoghar, kanwariyas are supposed to observe strict vrata:

To maintain celibacy (Bramhacharya)
To remember Lord Shiva by keeping mind, heart and speech pure
To speak the truth
To be inspired by charity and service
To take bath before taking the kanwar
To recite Bam – Bam
Not to use oil and soap
Not to wear shoes
Not to take any article made of leather
To avoid dogs. (dogs should not be touched)

Pilgrims to the temple later visit the Basukinath temple.

Where to stay and how to reach: Lot of hotels and dharamshalas are available in Deoghar. During the month of Jul-Aug, there is great rush, so this is advisable to book prior to your journey. Closest railway station is Jasidih, which is on howrah main line. Nearest airport is Ranchi/ Patna.