The annual Kanwar Yatra which involves millions of pilgrims undertake a journey to the holy Ganges by foot began on Monday.
Majority of these Yatris head for holy plave Haridwar from where they collect water from the Ganges and take it back to temples in their native villages.
The UP and Delhi police have charted out a traffic plan with route diversions for the Kanwar Yatra 2017.
In the wake of massive influx of pilgrims, the entry of heavy vehicles has been closed on Dehradun-Delhi highway while the highway will remain fully closed for vehicles from July 18.
Heavy vehicles coming from Lucknow will move via Kanth, Jalalabad, Kolaghat, Mirzapur, Kalan, Usawa, Miao, Badaun, Sahaswan and Gunnaur-Naraua-Bulandshahar to reach Delhi and vehicles coming from Shahjahanpur will be diverted towards Jalalabad, said reports.
Kanwariyas taking water from river Ganga
Kanwariyas take water from river Ganga in Allahabad to perform abhishek of Lord Shiva at Kashi Vishwanath temple during the holy month of Shrawan.
Kanwarias carrying holy water of river Ganga
The festivals run during the monsoon month Shraawan (July-August). After taking water from the Ganges river (or other nearby river that wind up in the Ganges) the pilgrims, known as kanwariya or Shiv Bhaktas, are mandated to travel barefooted and in saffron robes with their Kanwar (walking sticks used to hang the urns of water) for 105 km by various routes and usually in groups made of family, friends and or neighbors, and return to their own local or other more prestigious and larger Shiva Temples to pour Gangajal on Lord Shiva (Shiv Linga).
Kanwariyas heading back home
File photo of Kanwariyas after collecting holy water from Ganga in Haridwar head towards their homes during rains in New Delhi.
Devotees carrying a woman in a Kanwar in Moradabad
Kanwar yatra is related to the churning of the ocean of milk in the Hindu Puranas. When the poison came out before Amrita and the world started burning from its heat then lord Shiva accepted to inhale poison. But, after inhaling it he started suffering from negative energy of poison. In Treta Yuga Shiva's devout follower Ravana did meditation. He brought holy water of Ganga by using kanwar and poured it on Shiva's temple in Puramahadev. Thus releasing Shiva from the negative energy of the poison.
Kanwariyas taking selfie
While most pilgrims are men, a few women also participate in Yatra. Most travel the distance on foot, a few also travel on bicycles, motor cycles, scooters, mini trucks or jeeps. Numerous Hindu organizations and other voluntary organizations like local Kanwar Sanghs, the Rashtryia Swayam Sewak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. setup camps along the National Highways during the Yatra, where food, shelter, medical-aid and stand to hang the Kanvads, holding the Ganges water is provided.
The month of Shravan is dedicated to Lord Shiva and most devotees observe a fast on Mondays during the month, as it also falls during the chaturmas period, traditionally set aside for religious pilgrimages, bathing in holy rivers and penance.
During the annual Monsoon season thousands of saffron-clad pilgrims carrying water from the Ganges in Haridwar, Gangotri or Gaumukh, the glacier from where the Ganges originates and other holy places on the Ganges, like Sultanganj, the only place where the river turns north during its course, and return to their hometowns, where they later perform abhisheka (anointing) the Shivalingas at the local Shiva temples, as a gesture of thanksgiving.