The Kanwar Yatra to Deoghar-baba baidyanath dham

Deoghar also known as baidyanath dham is a town, in Northern Part of the newly formed state of Jharkhand, in north eastern India. It is a major rail and road junction and agricultural trade centre. An ancient town, it is famous for its group of 22 temples dedicated to the Hindu god Lord Siva (Shiva). Numerous Buddhist ruins are nearby. The Muslim invader Bakhtiyar Khalji made Deoghar his capital in 1201 after the conquest of Bihar. It was constituted a municipality in 1869.

The sanctity of any place is believable by the number of people who are seen rushing to it for various times of their lives whenever in a turmoil, but the state of belief where people feel, be it a moment of despair or happiness, it should be in baba’s presence, almost makes him (read baba) like an ethereal family member whose premise one can never leave once you have witnessed his divine blessings. This kind of faith can probably explain the non ending saffron clad kawariyas from Sultangang to deoghar every year during shrawan, in the tune of 7 to 8 million pilgrims, most of these people taking this pilgrimage every year !

Like in all other shrines like Shirdi or Tirupati which are famous for their crowd pulling capacity, what one sees at Deoghar is enormous faith, reverence in the salutation ‘bol bam’ that is the 1st greeting one will get from anyone known or unknown. And every welfare is left to “baba” once you are in his “nagari” by anybody you come across. What brings in such faith?

Practicing hinduism which is often considered anonymous with chanting enormous number of mantras and shloks, probably has two things as purpose, First, those who will understand the meaning of those mantras (most of it being Sanskrit) will get into understanding of his action of why he was reciting one, (that’s why the Vedas describe the methodology of each sanskar to be carried out in certain ways). Second these shlok uccharan derives focus from both, the mind and the action, that have to be in tandem with each other, which in turn will bring the person’s state of being into meditation, the starting point for any purposeful thought process, which in turn propels concrete action in a positive direction. These acts dispel negativity, which usually confluences our mind when in array of different worldly thoughts.

All these chants are usually not understood by many but recited. Small mantras like bol bam and jai shree Krishna are likely to have more followers in real life because they are short, understood by people and they have a positive vibe which dispels negativity instantly. Biologically the recitation of such hymns makes us release stress as scientifically any chanting which ends with a nasal consonant (MMMMMM) produces tranquility of the mind by producing delta activity in the EEG. These are also weeping sounds.(8) The word Bam is a short name for Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The letters BA came from Brahma and Vishnu and M came from Mahesh.

It really seems an easy way out to people to reach out to god and bring in focus in their lives for things which they wish to achieve. People go on the Kanwar yatra with some wish or intent

Chanting of bol bam generates energy and enthusiasm amongst the kanwarias and psychologically the journey gives an instant boost to the mind, cause one gets away from the stress of their daily lives, and one is inspired by the hordes of people around, undertaking the same journey doubles one’s confidence and faith in the whole process. Physically it is so exhausting a foot journey that it doesn’t leave the mind being empty with the worldly problems which usually occupy our minds. Hence all three together, the mind, body and soul come into the positive meditation and feels rejuvenated. But why kanwarias offer only Ganges water from Sultangang? And why only in Shrawan month?

In mythology, when the churning of oceans – Samudra Manthan – took place in the month of Shravan, fourteen different types of rubies came out. Thirteen of these were distributed amongst the demons, except Halahal (poison). Lord Shiva drank the Halahal and stored it in his throat. Hence the name Neelkantha (meaning blue throat) is attributed to Shiva. To reduce the strong effect of poison, Lord Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. All the Gods thereafter started offering the Ganges water to Lord Shiva to lessen the effect of poison. Since, this happened in the month of Shravan, since then the Shiva devotees offer the Ganges water in this month (8).
The custom of carrying Kanwar started in the Treta Yuga. Lord Rama had carried the holy Ganges water from Sultanganj in a kanwar and offered to Lord Shiva at Babadham. According to the Skand Purana, those who complete the holy journey by reciting Bam-Bam obtain the virtues of Ashwamedha Yajna (the one done to control the senses). The demon king Ravana had also brought the Ganges water from Haridwar and offered to Lord Shiva.

The scientific explanation of this spiritual belief of why this is done in this particular period of the year(8) is that Shravan is the first month of Chaturmas which is the starting four months of Dakshinayana. In Uttarayana the days are longer and in Dakshinayana the nights are longer. Uttarayana is the period of positive state of the mind and Dakshinayana is the period of negative state of the mind. In the month of Shravan the mind is most unstable. As per Ayurveda it’s a period of Vata imbalance. Main festivals to control the mind are held in this month stating from Guru Purnima, a day to go to your Guru to learn the ways for managing the negative mind in Chaturmas period (8).

In spiritual language attachments, anger, greed, desires and ego are slow poisons representing Halahal of Lord Shiva.One should not drink anger or spit anger but temporarily keep in the throat and modify it when the opportunity arises. In mythology ‘vish’ is poison and ‘vishay’ is slow poison like negative thoughts. Pouring gangajal to the halahal poison of Shiva indicates that we should calm down all anger or negative thoughts in our life if not routinely at least during the spiritual journeys cum retreats(8).

The mythology description of Samudra manthan depicts churning of mind in meditation and subsequent release of negative thoughts. They can only be tackled by the release of positive thoughts (Ganges- a flow of positive thoughts) by the moon (cool mind).Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh signifies the controllers of start of a work, doing the work and completing the work respectively (creator, organizer and destroyer or winding up), Mahesh or Shiva therefore is the controller of any work which needs winding up (8).


8- Shravan-Month