Amar Pal, 52, a farmer in Uttar Pradeshs Shahjahanpur, has been for over three decades accompanying Kanwariyas from his village to Budaun to fetch water from the Ganga in the Hindu month of Shravan, covering over 150 kilometres on foot.
“To walk such a distance is very difficult but it feels like we have achieved something in life by undertaking this journey for our Lord,” says Pal while talking about the motivation behind undertaking the yatra.
Over the years, the number of Shiva devotees undertaking the yatra to pilgrim centres on the banks of the river has swelled. This year, the yatra began on July 14 and will continue till July 26. The entire law and order machinery is on alert to ensure its smooth execution.
For devotees like Pal, the authorities have diverted traffic, banned the sale of meat on their routes, set up camps for their halting besides providing medical kits and clean toilets.
Pal says two groups of around 50 men each left his village on Friday for Budaun. They will return by Monday and offer the Ganga water to Lord Shiva at a village temple.
Two tractor-trailers carrying food items, first-aid kits, mattresses to lay down and a music system also accompany the devotees, he adds.
People who have been associated with the yatra for years say till the late 1980s, only a few thousand devotees undertook it.
“Nowadays, it has turned into an outing on which most of the village youth go,” says Dinesh Trivedi, a retired UP Police official.
Shambhu Nath Singh (75), a former village head in Moradabad, told
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