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The Kanwar Mela is a religious pilgrimage carried out by devotees of the Hindu God Shiva, that starts around the town of Hardwar, 250 km north of Delhi. It takes place at the end of July to the beginning of August. Pilgrims collect water from the River Ganga and then carry it back to their villages, many will pass through Delhi on their way home. The sacred water is then poured over the linga (sort of an altar) within the temples in their villages as a form of purification.
The water containers are not meant to touch the ground on the journey home, so they are tied to poles which are carried on the shoulder's of the pilgrims. It is these poles that are known as kanwars and the pilgrims are referred to as kanwarias. Many of the containers and poles are richly decorated while the kanwarias dress in orange. During the pilgrimage many organisations provide free shelter and rest points at the side of the roads and the kanwars are sat on racks.
A kanwarias , while this man was walking by himself, some travelled in large groups.
A roadside stop with many kanwars left on racks.
Apparently in recent years the number of kanwaries have increased considerably and this is giving the authorities some headaches. With large numbers of people walking on the road it can cause considerable traffic problems, and if accidents occur some of the pilgrims have become aggressive with drivers.
In the newspapers there was also some discussion as to the devoutness of the pilgrimage by some participants who perhaps see it as more of an adventure. Some groups were also making a lighter load of the task by travelling by car and motorbikes and rotating the walking amongst the group, reducing the amount of walking for the individual. Whatever the motivation of the individuals it made for quite an unusual site to see so many people walking in orange on the roads.
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