After a nearly two-year gap due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kanwar Yatra – an annual holy pilgrimage observed by the devotees of Lord Shiva – returned on July 14th, much to the delight of the thousands of pilgrims that had been yearning for this sacred journey for so long.
Kanwar Yatra is an annual festival that takes place during the month of Shravan (July-August) when millions of saffron-clad Lord Shiva devotees collect pitchers of the sacred water of Ganga from places such as Haridwar, Gaumukh, and Gangotri and then walk barefoot to specific Shiva temples – such as the Neelkanth temple in Rishikesh – to offer the sacred Ganga Jal (water) to Lord Shiva. The Kanwaris also carry the Ganga Jal back to their hometowns to anoint ‘Shivalinga’ on the Amavasya (new moon) day, popularly known as Maha Shivratri.
For the safety, health, and well-being of the Kanwaris undertaking the sacred Kanwar yatra to Neelkanth, Parmarth Niketan – in collaboration with GIWA WaterSchools, DSF, Harijan Sevak Sangh Uttarakhand, and other like-minded organizations – extended myriad services and programmes inspired and blessed by HH Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji to be carried out by His devotees and sevaks.
GIWA’s Director of Projects, Sushri Ganga Nandiniji, warmly invited the Hon’ble Cabinet Minister of Uttar Pradesh Shri Suresh Kumar Khannaji to inaugurate the 2022 Kanwar initiatives with the lighting of the lamp on July 14th and to offer a message on selfless service meant to inspire the team who would be leading the services throughout the Kanwar Mela.
The variety of services extended to Kanwaris included:
1. Free Medical Camp
A free 12-day medical camp was organised near Baghkhala from July 14th to July 26th by Dr. Priyaji and a dedicated team of sevaks.
Patients of all ages and genders from Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Assam, Maharashtra, Uttarakhand, and even Nepal were treated at the Camp – some for the very first time!
Presenting symptoms ranging from fatigue, aches, pains, low BP, injuries caused due to walking barefoot, fever, cough, cold, skin allergy, and upset stomach – and, all were expertly treated with love and compassion by Dr. Priyaji and her team!
Benefits of Free Medical camp:
During the 12-day Camp, over 12,000 patients registered – an average of 1000 patients per day benefitting from the Camp!
2. Jal Mandir (Water Stations)
Jal Mandirs were installed at 8 points between Rishikesh and Neelkanth from July 14th to July 26th to provide clean drinking water. 3 sevaks refilled the water stations – each containing over 500 liters of potable water! – on a regular basis.
Impact of Jal Mandir:
To beat the scorching heat, the Kanwaris were provided more than 128,000 liters of clean drinking water at 8 water stations. They also carried water to keep themselves hydrated on their journey.
Dustbins were placed all along the main Neelkanth Temple route, and Kanwaris were encouraged to dispose of their waste in the dustbins instead of on the roads or temple premises.
Recycled cotton bags were distributed to the Kanwaris for use in picking-up garbage on their journey to and from the Temple – something that many of them were delighted and excited to do!
Impact of recycled cloth bags:
- A total of 25 cloth bags were distributed during the 12-day Kanwar Mela.
- Kanwaris brought back garbage in 5 bags on their return from Neelkanth.
4. Awareness Campaigns
- An innovative Puppet show was designed to inspire the Kanwaris to end single-use plastic and any form of pollution to Mother Ganga and her tributaries.
- Hoardings with the message of “Clean Ganga” and “Say No to Plastic” were placed along the route, and Swachhta Kranti videos were run on LCDs installed on the Swachhta Kranti vehicle.
- Kanwaris were encouraged and motivated to take the Swachh Kanwad pledge to make India Plastic-free and keep Mother Ganga and other rivers clean.
- Free caps were distributed to Kanwaris who took the pledge.
Impact of the Awareness campaign:
- 30 Puppet shows staged from July 14th to July 26th with a message of Clean India and Clean Ganga. Around 520 Kanwaris stopped to watch the show.
- 364 Kanwaris took the Swachh Kanwad pledge. 35 T-shirts and 250 caps were distributed to Kanwaris who took the Swachh Kanwad pledge.
- 71 hoardings were placed throughout the marg to build awareness of Clean India and Clean Ganga among the Kanwaris.
5. Cleanliness rally
Acharyas and Rishikumars embarked on a cleanliness rally on Neelkanth Marg during the Kanwar Yatra to spread the message of cleanliness to the Kanwaris, sharing that sanitation, good health, improving mental health, and social well-being – as well as prevention of infection – are essential.
Yoga for Kanwariyas
To overcome the fatigue caused by long walks, a yoga session was organised for the Kanwaris on July 21st by Senior Iyengar Yoga Teacher Ms. Marla Apt and facilitated by Ganga Nandaniji, who is also a certified Yoga Teacher.
The Kanwaris practiced various forms of yoga to strengthen the muscles of the legs, improve digestion and reduce fatigue.
Distribution of Tulsi Saplings
Tulsi saplings were distributed to Kanwaris with a message to plant more trees. Kanwaris pledged not only to plant more trees back home but also to encourage others to do the same.
The Water Blessing ceremony was conducted by Sushri Ganga Nandaniji and Arun Saraswatji.
Sevaks and Kanwaris shared their appreciation regarding the services extended to Kanwaris during the Kanwar Mela.
- “Congratulations on organising such a meaningful and very helpful camp.”
- “Messages from Pujya Swamiji and Sadhviji on the hoardings were wonderful.”
- “Thanks to Parmarth Niketan for installing water stations at different places as it was very helpful to Kanwaris.”
- “The Puppet Show inspired us to end the use of single plastic and keep the rivers and the environment clean.”
- “Thanks to the free medical camp. I felt sick and the medicines given at the camp made me feel better and helped me to complete the journey. Keep serving people.”
Our gratitude to Pujya Swamiji for His blessings and for inspiring us sevaks to give our best and make the Kanwar Mela a memorable event.
The medical camp would not have been possible without the services and medicines provided by our donors. Special thanks to – Ankita Sabooji from Mumbai, Khemaji and Jeewan Guptaji from Chandigarh, Sonikaji and Vipinji from Delhi, Alok Saraswatji from Haridwar, Subhas Mittalji from Dehradun, Ekam Pharmacy Haridwar, Samarpit Jan Kalyan Sansthan from Bareilly and Sivanand Ashram.
Thanks to the untiring effort by the Seva team who attended to more than 12,000 patients during the 12-day medical camp. The team was led by Dr Priyaji and joined by Dr. Anilji, Kalpanaji, Anita Mishraji, Upasanaji, Pushpalataji, Shakuntalaji, Devji, Sandeep Rishiji, Meena Malhotraji, Jyotiji, Krishna Kumarji, Rishabhji, Rakeshji, RCji, Ruchiji, Reshmiji, Sevanandaji, Anitaji, and Suraj Bhai.
A special word of thanks to our rockstar Rishikumars who made the puppet show joyful and, through their impressive performance, spread the message on Clean Ganga and Clean India.
A big thank you to the organising team for the complete preparation of this event, the transport team for their support, and all those who participated and extended help in ways big and small for the smooth conduction of this event.