Locomotoring

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Holy walk on hot asphalt – from Haridwar to Delhi

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Kavadi-bearer near Connaught Place

Kavadi-bearer near Connaught Place

This is an ultramarathon of a different type. Every year in July, come Monsoons or not, hundreds of thousands of Kavadi (or Kaavadi) bearers walk from Haridwar to their respective Shiva temples. They carry the holy water of Ganges in pitchers mounted on shoulder slung bamboo carriers. A vast majority of them are young men between the ages of 20-30 from small villages or slums.

They wear orange garb – t-shirts and shorts, or traditional kurtas and dhotis, sometimes carrying a backpack or waist pouch, and rarely sporting sunglasses or shoes. A deep rooted religious belief combined with a sense of bravado motivates them to undertake this 200 km walk – often barefoot or in thong slippers. Although temples provide roadside rest areas and free food, this walk is arduous in the burning heat of Indian summers. By the time they reach Delhi, most of the bearers have bandages on their feet.

If you are near Delhi during July, you will see hundreds of them  in small and large groups carrying decorative carriers on their shoulders, or resting by the roadside. During this time, they also jam the national highway between Haridwar and Delhi and all other major roads. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that touching a kavadi bearer, renders the Ganges water impure. And invariably every year, there are a few roadside riots – a few buses and cars get burned, and a few drivers get beaten up – all in the name of Lord Shiva, the destroyer.

Some articles on locomotoring that reflect the local flavor of India:

  1. Watching Ramlila, a Hindu festivity in Delhi (more)
  2. Walking by river Ganges’ bank in Calcutta (more)
  3. Evening by the riverfront in Banaras (more)
  4. Walking across Kashmir (more)
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Written by Som

July 27, 2009 at 10:27 am

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