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The Shravana month has begun and the fourteenth day of the month shall be celebrated as the festival of Maha Shivaratri. Devotees of Lord Shiva offer water to a Shivalinga on this day. Did you know, that this is not ordinary water, it is the water of the river Ganga? Yes, the devotees go on a pilgrimage to places such as Gaumukh, Haridwar, Allahabad, Gangotri and Sultanganj.
From there they get the water of the river Gaga, popularly known as Gangajal. When they return from the pilgrimage, they offer this water to a Shivalinga. Besides this, Hindus use this water for various other purposes as well such as Pavitrikaran (purification) of the place of worship before performing a puja.
This pilgrimage undertaken to fetch the water of Ganga is known as Kanwar Yatra. The pilgrims are called Kanwarias. Dressed in saffron as saints, or in other casual wears, the devotees carry a bamboo stick on one or both the shoulders; from the two ends of the bamboo hang bottles of water from the Ganga river. The stick and the whole set of the stick and the weights on both the sides is known as a Kanwar.
Lord Parshuram As An Inspiration
The history of the start of the Kanwar Yatra can be traced back to Lord Parshuram who is believed to have started this pilgrimage for the worship of Lord Shiva. He established a temple for Lord Shiva in Pura Mahadev, and brought the water of river Ganga with which he wishes to worship the lord.
He brought the water of Ganga from Garhmukteshwar and offered it to the Shivalinga in Pura Mahadev, situated near Bagpat in Uttar Pradesh. Thus, is believed to have begun the tradition of Kanwar Yatra.
Samudra Manthan And Kanwar Yatra
Another story relates it to the times when the Samudra Manthan was performed by the gods and the demons. This was done as Goddess Lakshmi had left Devloka upon getting disappointed with Lord Vishnu. But the whole Devloka had to suffer because prosperity resides only where Goddess Lakshmi resides.
But before the goddess could appear from the water, a pot of poison appeared from it. This poison is believed to be so venomous that it had the power to destroy all those around. When Lord Shiva drank it, to protect the universe from its effect, though his body was strong enough to not be affected by the poison, some minor negative effects were witnessed, due to the excessive negative heat.
Upon this, all the gods brought the water of river Ganga, which soothed his body and pacified the poison. Thus, it is believed that the inspiration to offer Ganga water to Shiva came from this event.
Ravana Also Did Kanwar Yatra For Shiva
Ravana, besides being the demonic king of Lanka in the Ramayana, was also a staunch devotee of Lord Shiva. It is believed that at the same time when Lord Shiva's body saw the negative effects of the poison, Ravana offered the water of river Ganga on a Shivalinga, which worked to sooth Shiva's body.
Thus, Ravana is also believed to be an inspiration for the Kanwar Yatra.
Helps Get The Blessings Of Lord Shiva In Various Forms
Kanwar Yatra is famous throughout India. Along with getting other virtues and good luck for his devotees, this pilgrimage also blesses them with a boy child. Lord Shiva grants the wishes of getting a boy child when the devotees perform Kanwar Yatra.