Kaawad Yatra is an annual pilgrimages in India of the devotees (Kaawadiya) of Lord Shiva, to Hindu religious places like Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri. It is a procession or ‘Yatra’ in which many men and women participate. Most devotees travel the distance from their homes to these religious places and back, on foot, or on bicycles, motor cycles, scooters, mini trucks or jeeps. On their way, pilgrims continuously sing hymns to praise Lord Shiva.
Upon reaching these religious places, the pilgrims take some water from the Ganges river which is considered Holy. Then they continue to travel back barefooted and in saffron robes with their Kaawad (poles used to hang the urns of water) for hundreds of kilometers to their own local or other more prestigious and larger Shiva Temples. The holy water is then poured on the Shiv Linga in an effort to serve as ‘Amrit’ for Lord Shiva who is believed to have consumed poison to save the other deities.
Today, the Kaawad pilgrimage to Haridwar has grown to be India’s largest annual religious gathering, with an estimated 12 million participants in the past years. The devotees travel from the surrounding states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
Heavy security measures are undertaken by the government each year, and the traffic on the Delhi-Haridwar highway (National Highway 58) is diverted for the course of the Kaawad Yatra. Various organizations and NGOs set up camps, along the National Highways which mark the route of this Yatra, where food, shelter, and medical aid are provided to these devotees, free of cost.
This year the app named ‘Kaawad Yatra Management App’ has been launched on Play Store, as an initiative by Meerut Division and in collaboration with Branmark Infomedia Pvt Ltd. This app enables users to track the routes, locations, and contacts of the various facilities on the way of the pilgrimage.