An annual pilgrimage is taken up by the followers of Lord Shiva in North India during the rainy months of Shravan (i.e. July and August) to fetch holy waters of River Ganga from several places including Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri. The pilgrimage is called kānvad Yatra. The word kānvad stands a single pole (usually made of bamboo) with two roughly equal loads fastened or dangling from opposite ends. The kānvad is carried by balancing the middle of the pole on one or both shoulders.
The pilgrims participating in this Yatra are called kānvadiyas. Kānvadiyas from numerous villages walk all the way from their villages (or towns) to the abovementioned places (mostly to haridwar, as the other two are pretty inaccessible). They collect Gangajal (the holy waters of the River Ganga) and walk all the back home to offer it to their local Shiva temples as a symbol of thanksgiving to the Lord.
The Yatra has gained immense popularity since the 1990’s and almost a hundred lakh saffron-clad kānvadiyas reach Haridwar. While the most pilgrims are males, young women have also started participating in the yatra lately.
As the number of participants in this yatra is constantly on a rise in recent years, the government and a number of local organizations do their utmost to provide all kind of facilities to the kānvadiyas on their journey that takes several days to complete. Even the traffic on national highways is diverted to facilitate the pilgrims.