In view of the Corona Pandemic, the State government has suspended the Kanwar Yatra, one of the biggest annual religious congregations of the country for this year. In this two-week-long congregation, millions of devotees turn up every year in the month of July in western UP and Uttarakhand where the Yatra takes place.
The Kanwar Yatra, which commences with the onset of the Hindu month of monsoon (Sawan) in July every year draws a crowd of millions of Kanwarias (devotees) who after collecting holy Ganges water from Hardwar in Uttarakhand walk on foot towards their home carrying the Kanwar on their shoulders and offer it to Lord Shiva on the occasion of Shiv Ratri. For this Yatra period, the devotees completely take over the Delhi-Hardwar highway.
The decision was taken on Saturday by the government after having a consultation with governments of Haryana and Uttarakhand.
However, the biggest challenge before the police and administration would be the implementation of this decision of the government. “It indeed is going to be challenging for us to communicate to the devotees this decision and convince them to remain indoors during the Yatra season,” said Rajeev Sabharwal, Additional Director General (ADG) of police, Meerut zone.
In fact, millions of Kanwarias (Devotees) turn up for the Yatra every year from Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, UP and Uttarakhand. A sea of Kanwarias, all clad in saffron-coloured clothes and carrying Kanwar on their shoulders is seen walking on the Delhi-Hardwar highway during this fourteen-day period. The highway is closed for almost a week in view of the heavy influx of Kanwarias when the Yatra is at its peak.
A large number of people also organise camps all along the route providing hospitality to these Kanwarias. In view of the Coronavirus, the camp organisers had approached the officials to suspend the Yatra this year.
According to ADG Sabharwal, many camp organizers from different districts approached their SSPs and district magistrates to call off the Yatra this year in the wake of Corona pandemic. Henceforth, the matter was brought to the notice of the higher-ups in Lucknow.
The state government reviewed the situation and on having discussions with the Haryana and Uttarakhand governments the decision to suspend the Yatra for this year has been taken, informed the ADG.
This year, the Yatra was scheduled to begin from July 5 till July 19, the day of Shivratri. Last year, over 20 million devotees from nearby states of north India had turned up for the Yatra which is considered as one of the biggest congregations in the country. Last year, the state government had also made it special for the Kanwarias by showering flowers on them from the sky and allowing them to play loud music on DJs that was banned earlier.
This year, however, there would be no Yatra which has also come as a disappointment to many camp organisers and devotees. “The government could have worked out an alternative as it is a matter of our religious belief,” says Alok Sharma from Meerut who goes for the Yatra every year with his friends.
On the contrary, Sapna Kumari appreciated the move of the government and said that people should abide by this as it is for our own well-being. Sapna used to go on Kanwar Yatra every year with her husband and two daughters.
The management of Kali Paltan Temple in Meerut too seems unhappy with this decision of the state government. Kali Paltan Temple is considered to be the place from where the country’s First War of Independence in 1857 is said to have started. Every year, 3 to 4 lakh devotees offer Ganges water to Lord Shiva on Shivratri. With this announcement of the state government the temple management is uncertain about Shivratri celebrations.
Satish Kumar Singhal, Secretary of Management Committee of the temple suggested that the government should work out some amicable solution as it is a matter of faith. Temple is not yet opened so how ‘jal’ ( Water) would be offered during the month of Sawan, he asked.
It may be noted that jal is offered to the Shivling throughout the Hindu month of Sawan, especially Mondays besides Shivratri for which a large number of devotees turn up. In spite of the government orders, the Kali Paltan temple is still closed in view of the restrictions for Corona Pandemic.