Every year, the auspicious month of Sawan or Shravan in the Hindu Calendar brings the most awaited journey for devotees, kanwarias, of Lord Shiva. July 3, 2023 saw the start of this year’s pilgrimage of the kanwarias with their never-die spirit in spite of nature’s fury. This year’s Sawan was special, spanning two months due to an extra lunar month, known as Adhik Sawan Month, in the Hindu Calendar. The last time this happened was 19 years ago.
As in past years, Vishav Manav Ruhani Kendra (VMRK) held kanwar camps to serve the pilgrims with medical services, food, and resting facilities. VMRK organized week-long kanwar camps in North India and month-long camps in Central and Eastern India. The map shows the locations of these camps.
This year’s heavy rainfall and floods in North India were particularly challenging. Some camps became inaccessible after unrelenting monsoon rains that flooded and disrupted roads and caused water logging. Regardless, VMRK volunteers steadfastly kept the camps functional, dry, and usable.
The floods hampered the setting up of some camps. However, VMRK volunteers did not give up and persevered. Sure enough, the camps were able to start after a delay of a day or two. At one location, the designated campsite could not be used. Instead, VMRK arranged for one of its ambulances to be positioned 20 kilometers from the camp. There, they set up a makeshift booth on the side of the highway and offered medical services and fruits to the pilgrims.
Fully serviced safe and clean resting places
Every camp was set up in accordance with the safety measures and hygiene guidelines issued by the local, state and central authorities. Additional services were arranged for the care and comfort of the pilgrims. Read the details in our blog posts Organizing the kanwar camps 2022 and Serving kanwarias at kanwar camps 2022.
Kanwarias who came to the VMRK kanwar camps appreciated the safe and clean resting places, free medical care, free food, and other supplementary services. The separate male and female accommodation and washrooms gave the pilgrims a comfortable stay. The camps were peaceful and serene through observance of silence, while alcohol and smoking are strictly prohibited.
Healthcare professionals at each camp offered medical care including treatment for blisters, cuts and wounds. Some VMRK camps also offered foot massage service to the pilgrims. This was a welcome relief for the pilgrims’ tired feet.
VMRK offered freshly prepared wholesome vegetarian food, fruits and milk to the pilgrims. VMRK volunteers prepared the food with utmost love and devotion. Due to the hot summer season, some kanwarias preferred to walk at night. Accordingly, freshly cooked food was available round the clock so the pilgrims were fed no matter what time they arrived at a camp.
Hygiene, security, and other supportive services
Each camp maintained a high standard of cleanliness and hygiene, and ensured adequate water facilities for the pilgrims. In places where water was scarce, water tankers transported more water to the camps. A dedicated team of sanitation volunteers ensured that the camp premises and toilets were kept clean and hygienic at all times. Security volunteers were on duty round the clock to ensure the safety of the kanwar camps as well as the belongings of the kanwarias who took rest. VMRK volunteers also mended pilgrims’ clothes that were torn at the armpits because the kanwarias were holding their kanwar for such a long time.
While these services were done with utmost devotion, sometimes VMRK volunteers took this service to another level by serving the kanwarias who carry the specific types of kanwar known as daak kanwar and khadi kanwar. The kanwarias carrying daak kanwar must walk continuously so VMRK volunteers walked alongside these pilgrims to offer them fruits and water as they continued walking. The kanwarias carrying khadi kanwar cannot place their kanwar on the ground or hang them, so VMRK volunteers held their kanwar on their shoulders while the kanwarias took rest.
KANWAR CAMPS ORGANIZED BY VMRK
KANWARIAS RECEIVED MEDICAL CARE
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS
From July 7, 2023 – August 23, 2023, VMRK organized 52 kanwar camps on different weeks in a total of seven North, Central and East Indian states and one union territory of India. Additionally, one more camp is planned in Maharashtra. Since the Sawan month begins and ends late in South India, a kanwar camp in Maharashtra will be conducted in September 2023.
VMRK served the pilgrims with the help of thousands of volunteers from VMRK centers across India who worked tirelessly. After experiencing the good facilities provided in the camps, the pilgrims left very happy and satisfied and asked VMRK to set up more camps next year. Authorities who inspected the VMRK kanwar camps were pleased with the level of service.
Here is the English translation of the letter of appreciation from the Static Magistrate of Rajwada:
In the holy month of Sawan, devotees eagerly wait for the opportunity to offer water from Uttarvahini Ganga, Sultanganj, which is situated at Devghar, to Lord Shiva. With devotion, we call them kanwarias. Numerous camps were set up here by the devotees of Lord Shiva to provide services to these kanwarias. I am Subodh Kumar Mishra, offering my services working as the magistrate of the kanwarias’ path in Rajwada.
Vishav Manav Ruhani Kendra, Nawan Nagar, District Panchkula, Haryana, organized a kanwar camp on this road. They are providing wholeheartedly, selfless devoted services free of cost. The volunteers of this camp not only politely request everyone to sit and have food but also offer fasting food. This is the only camp on this road where a large number of kanwarias can be seen taking lemon water, having food, refreshment, medication, and rest. Most of the kanwarias have rated the arrangements at this camp as the best. During the course of my service, I visited the kitchen, water storage, and utensils. I found them to be the best in terms of cleanliness parameters. I thank the team of the volunteers for their selfless, free of cost services provided at the camp for 10 days, from July 8 – 17, 2023. I wish them the best for the future.
Many thousands of kanwarias took advantage of the services provided at the camp, of which 17,785 registered their names at the camp.
Subodh Kumar Mishra, Static Magistrate, Om Nagar, Bihar