As per Hindu puranas, the history of Kanwar yatra is associated with Samudra Manthan — the churning of ocean by the Gods (Dev) and the devils (Asura) — which helped to remove the poison out of the ocean. To protect everyone else, Lord Shiva consumed that poison and his throat turned blue. From then on, he was known as ‘Neel Kantha’. To reduce the impact of the poison, the devas poured Ganga water over Lord Shiva to cool off his throat
· During the Kanvar Yatra, the devotees carry the ‘Kanvar’ on both their shoulders. ‘Kanvar’ is a small pole made from bamboo to which two colored earthen pots are tied on the opposite ends. During this pilgrimage journey, the Kanvarias fill the earthen pots with holy water for offering in Lord Shiva’s temple by balancing the Kanvars on their shoulders.
· The Kanwar Yatra is a month long ritual in which the Kanvarias wear saffron colored clothes and walk barefooted to collect the holy water from the chosen pilgrimage destinations. The devotees then return to their hometown and perform the ‘abhishekam’ (holy anointment) of the Shivling at the local temple. It is considered to be an act of thanksgiving for all the fortunate things in their life. The only thing to take care is that the earthen pots should not touch the ground at any point of the journey. There are numerous makeshift stands constructed across the journey, using which the Kanvarias can take some rest for a while.
· The Kanvarias walk in groups during this holy yatra. While most of them travel the distance on foot, some devotees even use bicycle, scooters, motor cycles, jeeps or mini tucks to cover this journey. Al through the journey these Lord Shiva devotees chant ‘Bol Bam’ and religious bhajans in the praise of Lord Shiva.
· Serving the Kanvarias is also considered to be an auspicious act. Several NGOs in different segments of the journey offer free service like offering food, water, tea or medical help. While most of these organisations are functional during the month of Shravan, there are few NGOs like Bol Bum Sewa Samiti that work all year round. These organisations function by the means of donations and they also exempted from paying any income tax.
The ritual of Kanwar Yatra has a significance of its own. By practicing this form of worship, the Kanvars take a spiritual break and try to relax their mind by chanting the religious hymens. It is taken as a form of diversion to get away from the stressful and negative situations and through the journey get inspirational ideas. It is a known fact that a mind can get creative only when it is relaxed. Collecting the holy water from River Ganga signifies collecting the creative and positive ideas that is carried back to the work place for finishing the incomplete tasks. It is also believed that by completing the Kanwar Yatra, the Kanvarias receive divine blessings from Lord Shiva and all their wishes will come true.