A River on Shoulders: Kanwar Pilgrimage
A twin-album containing 46 images and 21 videos of the annual fortnight-long foot-pilgrimage starting at Haridwar, India.

There are two albums on this subject.
'A River on Shoulders: Kanwar Pilgrimage' contains 46 images organised in 19 categories. The weblink is -

An accompanying album titled 'A River on Shoulders: Kanwar Pilgrimage - videos' contains 21 videos organised in 12 categories. The weblink is -

List of images
46 images in this album are organised in 19 categories.

1 Har ki Paidi
Most pilgrims like to collect water from Haridwar. There are a very few who go to Rishikesh, Neelkanth, Dev-Prayag, Uttar-kashi, and the higher regions.

Most Kanwariyas like to collect Ganga water from the spot known as Brahma Kund at Har-ki-paidi (Sanskrit: steps to God) in Haridwar. This is considered to be the holiest spot of Ganges. After churning of the oceans, a drop of nectar fell out (from the earthen pitcher or Kumbh) down here, as the scriptures of antiquity say. Due to this reason, the Kumbh festival is held here once in 12 years. It happens when the planet Jupiter come in the zodiac sign of Aquarius (Kumbh). Jupiter completes one orbit around Sun in 12 years while Earth does so once in a year.

A big market springs up near Har-ki-paidi in Haridwar. It offers a variety of Kanwar arrangements and accessories. On arriving at Har-ki-paidi, The Kanwariyas buy Kanwars (the structures that carry water) as per their budgets and desires.

The Kanwariyas take ritual dips and decorate their Kanwars with a variety of accessories.

2 Individual Kanwar Pictures
Most Kanwars are simple in design. Two pots are balanced on either side of a bamboo stick, like weighing scale, and this is Kanwar. Most Kanwars are carried by individuals.

3 Individual Kanwars in Convoy
Most persons come in groups from their respective villages and towns across India, largely north India. On the way back, they walk in single files forming unending convoys.

4 Single Kanwar Carried by Group
Many Kanwariyas also carry Kanwars that are large structures resembling a large palanquins. Teams of 4 / 8 Kanwariyas carry one single large Kanwar on their shoulders.

5 Children
It is quite common to see children as young as 8 years also carrying small Kanwars. Ocassionally, one comes across a toddler or even an infant being carried in make-shift prams.

6 Women
Women also participate in large numbers. They are always carrying single Kanwar. Most women are young, like most other male Kanwariyas. Middle aged and old women are seen more frequently then men of that age.

7 Family
Very few families can also be seen carrying Kanwars.

8 Differently Abled
Every day, one can spot a disabled person, every hour or so, carrying Kanwar. Those who are on tri-cycles carry the Ganga water in bottles and not Kanwars for practical reasons.

9 Ganga Background
The journey begins at Har-ki-paidi. From this spot, Kanwariyas cross the river and start walking along its side. At Singh-Dwar, they again cross back and start walking through the Arya-Nagar localility of Haridwar. After a couple of kilometers more, they again cross the river and start walking on the other side along Ganga. Soon after this, they exit the municipal limits of Haridwar town. This track continues till Roorkee, about 15 km away, and part of the Haridwar district.

10 On Wheels
There are Kanwar structures that are even larger than a palanquin. They are like floats seen in carnivals. They are pulled on wheels, like in a rath-yatra.

11 Others
Some innovative designs can be seen once in a while. One such design provides for balancing large brass bells on either side of the bamboo stick. This makes loud sound and attracts attention. But such a Kanwar is quite heavy.

Almost all Kanwariyas wear 'ghunghroos' - anklets made of series of hollow brass shells containing dried seeds or stones. These also produce musical sound. Some Kanwariyas, specially the ones who are in teams, blow whistles or hooters intermittently. Yet others are content with raising cries of 'Bam Bhole'. When an avid Kanwariya gives out this cry, rhythmic waves of 'Bam Bhole' reverberates across the vicinity.

12 Non Kanwar
To travel light, some Kanwariyas carry water in little bottles in chests that are wrapped around, like a shoulder-bag, on their torsos. Also, some like to carry flags -- trianagular Hindu ones as well as the national tricolour, on long poles anad thus need their hands to be not encumbered with a Kanawar.

13 Kanwars Alighted - On Bars
Soon after leaving the Har-ki-paidi, Kanwariyas pass by 'Dam Kothi' an old colonial structure that is connected by an old narrow elevated walk-way to an Ashram where the last remains of the Guru of Guru of Paramhansa Yogananda are buried.

From this point till about 4 km further, the river is dotted with several make-shift tea-stalls that come up only for this pilgrimage. Kanwariyas like to rest, pull up their energies, and plan their 2 week long journeys ahead.

All through the journey, a Kanwar can not touch ground. Each tea-stall has an accompanying parking spot comprising of two parallel bars -- resembling the ones seen in a gymnasium. Kanwars are rested on these.

14 Kanwars Alighted - On Stand
The Kanwars that are large, of both types -- being carried by a single person or the palanquin kinds, have their own little stands.

15 Kanwaria Group Resting
Resting is also a time for snacking and exchanging notes.

16 Night time
Some catch sleep at night time by spreading on the hallowed grounds and some break in to song and dance.

17 Nature
The Kanwar pilgrimage is held in monsoons. The clouds try giving cover to the Kanwariyas.

18 Kanwar - Chandi Devi
Har-ki-paidi is between two two hill-top temples -- Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi -- both serviced by rope-way gondolas. Usually, temples dedicated to these two goddesses are separate yet accompany each other. The Indian city of Chandi-garh is named after Chandi Devi. The same Shivalik hills that are in Haridwar continue to Chandi-garh which has its own two small and separate temples dedicated to Mansa Devi and Chandi Devi.

19 Dak Kanwar
The pilgrimage lasts for two weeks -- beginning on full-Moon-night, the day known as Guru Purnima -- and ending on no-Moon-night, known as Shiva-Ratri. Most of the Kanwariyas walk on foot. Some started travelling by motors. Accordingly, the last 3 days were reserved for motorised vehicles. With increase in disposable incomes, the number of those Kanwariyas travelling on motorcycles has increased. Now the district administration designates the last 6 days for vehicles.

A common sight is of tractors and trucks which are designed to have two tiers. Groups of Kanwariyas from a single locality bring these replete with power generators, bands, DJ speakers.

The last night of the pilgrimage witnesses entire Haridwar length of roads adjoining Ganges lined with swarms of two-wheelers and trucks. They are so dense that no pedestrian Kanwariya can squeeze through.

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