Kanwar Yatra: Shiva devotees set to start annual trek from July 14
MEERUT: Uttar Pradesh is preparing for the Kanwar Yatra from July 14, the annual pilgrimage wherein Lord Shiva devotees travel on foot to fetch holy water of the Ganga from Uttarakhand’s Haridwar to shrines in their localities, people familiar with the matter said.
A large number of devotees are expected this year because the yatra could not take place due to Covid-19 in the past two years, said Surendra Singh, divisional commissioner of Meerut who is overseeing preparations across the five districts of western Uttar Pradesh.
To be sure, the Uttar Pradesh government did try to go ahead with the pilgrimage last year despite fears that it could spark a third wave of Covid cases but was forced to back down after the Supreme Court intervened.
In 2019, the yatra attracted nearly 36 million devotees hailing from 10 states -- Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh -- converging at Uttarakhand’s Haridwar and undertaking the arduous trek on foot to offer the Ganga water in shrines of Lord Shiva in their localities.
Singh, who recently held a meeting with district officials of Meerut, Baghpat, Hapur, Bulandshahr, Ghaziabad and Noida to prepare for the July 14-26 yatra - it will culminate on Shivaratri - said the district administration did not keep track of the number of pilgrims passing through the five districts to western UP, Delhi, Haryana and Rajasthan but it will be in lakhs.
The district officials were told to ensure waste management, enforce restrictions on the use of single-use plastic at camps, repair roads used by devotees, street lights, deployment of security personnel, washrooms and install CCTV cameras.
Singh said eating joints along the highway have been told to put up rate lists prominently because the dispute on prices sometimes leads to arguments with the pilgrims
Senior superintendent of police Saharanpur Akash Tomar said the devotees will be encouraged to take the newly constructed bypass rather than enter the city. “It will reduce the pressure on vehicular traffic inside the city during Yatra”, he said and claimed that all strategic locations have been identified for the deployment of forces to ensure the safety of devotees.
Uttarakhand police chief Ashok Kumar recently convened a meeting of top officials of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Uttarakhand for coordination among states to ensure a hassle-free and safe yatra for the devotees. Another meeting is expected to be scheduled soon.
Kanwar Yatra routes
Millions of Lord Shiva’s devotees from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi and converge at Haridwar, Rishikesh, Neelkanth, Gangotri and other places in Uttarakhand with the onset of the Hindu month of ‘ Shravan’. They fetch holy water of Ganga in urns known as ‘ Kanwar’ and offer it to Lord Shiva in temples of their localities.
Devotees from Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, western UP and Rajasthan take national highway 58 to reach their destinations. The highway passes through Haridwar, Roorkee (Uttarakhand), Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Meeeut, Ghaziabad and Noida (UP).
Devotees from Delhi, Haryana and western UP also take another route via Saharanpur, Shamli and Baghpat districts. Another route for devotees of Haryana passes through Roorkee, Gagalheri, Sarsawa (UP) and Yamunanagar in Haryana.
Devotees from Moradabad and Bareilly go via Bijnor, Amroha and Moradabad.
Camps for devotees
Registered organisations and devout individuals play a vital role during the yatra. These organisations set up roadside camps which offer food, water, bedding and washrooms to devotees.
Jagmohan Shakaal and Sudhir Rastogi of Meerut are associated with Om Seva Samiti for over 30 years and they have been organising camps for Kanwarias for the past 28 years.
Jagmohan Shakaal said the district administration gives permission to registered organisations to set up camps and issues the necessary guidelines in this connection. Guidelines were also issued and this year they would be more stringent because of Covid. “They have directed us to follow Covid protocol in the camp and to depute a doctor,” said Shakaal.
Sudhir Rastogi said the camps are funded through donations by devouts and many individuals also offered their services to kanwarias.
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