Monday, January 25, 2021
Home Opinions This is why swords have been drawn out against the Kaanwar Yatra

This is why swords have been drawn out against the Kaanwar Yatra

A running acrimony necessitated a walk down memory lane for me, into a time when the sun seemed to be a little cooler, the air a little clearer and we heard the chirp of birds more than honking vehicles.

For as long back as I look into my childhood I remember the annual celebration of “Saawan” with the unbroken chain of my parents’ Kaanwar Yatras with their large yatra group. I remember my father going on the yatras with my grandmother who was in her late 60s then. After I learnt to button my own shorts, grandmother stopped and my mother joined my father on the annual pilgrimage. My father had an unbroken run for more than 30 years, I remember my mom going along with him for more than 20 years.

Preparations would begin a couple of weeks before the onset of Saawan. There was great excitement for visiting Lord Shiv in Devghar on the first Somvar (first Monday) of Saawan. The saffron kurtas, shorts, mom’s saffron saree would be brought out, washed and dried. My sisters and I were tasked with repairing and decorating the Kaanwars. On the day of departure, many uncles and aunties (everyone in your parents’ age group is either an uncle or an aunty) would gather at one place, men in saffron short sleeved kurtas adorned with the words “Bol Bum” and/or images of Lord Shiv, and shorts, and women in saffron sarees.

My parents’ group, like all others, had people from diverse backgrounds. There’d be Singhjis, Jhajis, Sinhajis, Paswanjis, Manjhijis. There were Brahmins, Rajputs, Bhumihars, Baniyas and Dalits, men and women, young, not-so-young, and old, many of them my father’s subordinates at office. But on the pilgrimage, they’d all address each other with perfect equanimity suffixing “bum” after the names, as Singh-bum, Manjhi-bum, Tiwari-bum, Babloo-bum, Chhotu-bum etc.

This cultural tradition perhaps predates by centuries (possibly millennia) the communist discovery of the need to call each other “Comrades” for equality’s sake!

The kaanwariyas congregated and pooled auto rickshaws to the bus stand and even the autos would have stickers of Lord Shiv or ‘Bol Bum’ written. The entire road and nearly the entire colony would be in a deluge of saffron, for almost every house had a kaanwariya. Before they left they’d sing and dance on the roads to beats of the dholak and folk songs in honor of the Lord. Maithilis would tastefully sing Vidyapati’s songs written in the 14th century. It was great fun to watch the otherwise grumpy looking uncles in shorts, dancing clumsily but spirited, happy and carefree, to the beats of the dholak.

The party would leave and the colony would be in the hands of the kids until the next week. This was particularly exciting for me because there’d be no one to stop me from watching TV or playing beyond sunset or coaxing me to study. Or so I would think…

My sisters would suddenly turn mom for me and stop me from doing everything that mom or dad would stop me from. In a few years I would myself learn to conduct more responsibly in my parents’ absence. The colony would also turn up to parent us in the interim, with aunties and uncles paying visits and checking if we needed something. The neighborhood doodh-wala would deliver milk at homes of all the pilgrims. The kirana-wala would often reassure “paisa rakho, kuchh aur zarurat pada toh? Note kar lete hain, papa ayenge to le lenge”. (Don’t pay, you might need it for something else. I’ll make a note in my books. I will take it from your father upon his return).

This annual pilgrimage brought out the best even in those who did not go for it. Apart from the inherent human goodness and community values, they did it for sharing the blessings of Lord Shiv by serving families of the pilgrims in whatever little way they could. They were not bound by considerations of caste or status.

On the 108 km barefooted walk from Sultanpur to Devghar, my parents and their group would walk together in the rain and the sun, support when one slipped, nurse each other’s blisters or when one hurt their feet. They cooked and ate together, sang religious and folk songs together. The speed of the journey was determined by the slowest, for nobody should be left behind.

Upon their return from the Kanwar Yatra, us kids and our neighbours would get together and we would wash the feet of all Kanwariyas with lukewarm water and wipe them dry. All kids and our neighbours would partake in washing the Kanwariyas’ swollen feet, ridden with cuts, huge blisters and the skin of their soles scaling out. It was believed that Kanwariyas on the pilgrimage and back are manifestations of Lord Shiv himself and serving them is the surest way to earn the Lord’s bliss.

My mom was particularly greedy about it and would ensure that we had touched and washed every foot. I would feel icky about the blisters and the hanging skins initially and would make sure I only touched the cleaner areas. Embarrassed, my mom would yell at me and order me to wash properly. One Majhi uncle, a Dalit, would feel very shy and coyly tell my mom, “Ap bachho se pair chhulwa ke paap karwayengi bhabhi ji” (You’ll make me sin by having my feet touched by children). But he’d have to give in to my mom’s insistence.

The next few days would be very difficult for my parents as it would be for others. They’d invariably fall ill. They’d be cranky and irritable and in a lot pain with aching bodies and blisters. Hoards of people would visit us to touch their feet, as with other pilgrims at their homes. As long as the blisters stayed, the grace of Lord Shiva was with them! And my parents wouldn’t mind elders by a few years, touching their feet because they knew they only wanted to earn some of the lord’s bliss and were happy to share it.

With such fond memories of Kaanwar yatras alive and vivid in my mind, it hurts to see news articles and tweets from eminent media personalities viciously attacking and maligning Kaanwariyas. Over the last few days, in interludes between “dalit atrocities have risen under Modi” stories, kaanwariyas have been charged with being traffic nightmares, being hoodlums, being jobless and causing terror:

News reports on Kaanwar Yatra

This is how Kaanwar Yatra and kaanwariyas are mentioned now

One eminent journo who specializes in coup-fiction, fell short of declaring them as the cause of deluge in Delhi and Gurgaon. I am intrigued by the sudden attention to and animosity for Kaanwariyas in the liberal circles.

There are complaints of angry behaviour, bordering on “terror”, from kaanwariyas. The dumbing down and appalling usage of the word “terror” is shocking. One must understand that a crowd has a different mentality and a lesser bandwidth for reason vis-à-vis instigation. A crowd oppressed with travail may be even more flippant towards commuters (I mentioned my parents’ crankiness earlier). But likening them to “terror” is doing grave injustice to the people who have suffered at the hands of real “terror”.

The scale may be less pronounced but we are not unknown to the socio-ecological phenomenon at play here. In ecology, we study man-animal conflicts, in demography we study migration, refugee crises and the conflicts that fall out of it.

Kaanwariyas used to own the tracks, but the tracks have now been replaced by pitched roads. The cities and their motorists own the roads. There are two kinds of participants on the same route now, each unable to relate with the other’s priorities, each thinking of the other as the “invader”. Lately, governments have thought over it and laudably so:

news about traffic diversion due to kaanwar yatra
The conflict?

But could this administrative focus have brought Kanwar Yatras into liberal focus too? A celebration so massive that governments have to ramp up and make elaborate arrangements, and that must prove to be an eyesore for the “liberals”.

Holi has been beaten with the stick of water conservation concerns, Diwali with environment conservation and scared stray dogs’ concerns, Maha-kumbh with drug abuse and prostitution concerns, Ganpati Puja with law & order, corruption, water pollution concerns, but fortuitously, Kaanwar Yatras were left out… until now. Will they be beaten with law and order and administrative concerns until studies are conducted in JNU, Jadhopur and by Oxbridge liberals and more solid concerns, threatening human existence on planet earth are identified?

At a time when liberals are disturbed, pained and outraged by “sudden appearance of, and rapidly increasing atrocities against Dalits under Modi”, the egalitarian tradition of Kaanwar yatras where castes and classes evaporate, should give them hope! Or could this be their biggest problem?

At a time when they’re assiduously peddling re-emergence and virulent propagation of Dailt atrocities, Kaanwar yatras stand in the way of their targeted imagery? The entire liberal ecosystem’s existence in India depends on keeping Dalits as Dalits. When dalits stop feeling wronged, there’ll be none to outrage for! More importantly, if Dalits connect with their Hindu identity, their entire dream of a divided Hindu society falls flat. This would be a giant thorn sticking from their throats right down to the liberal intestines!

Maybe it’s a combination of all these concerns for the detractors. That’s why the modern propaganda must be countered to keep these age-old traditions alive and realize their integrative potential. All the same, the genuine concerns should be dealt with administratively and with targeted messaging in order to deal with changes and conflicts.

My parents’ Kaanwar group transmorphed into an extended family, specially post-retirement. All Kaanwariyas from the group keep in touch and visit each other often. Owing to age & frailty, their kaanwar yatras have discontinued but have been replaced by get-togethers once a year over satsangs. Most kids have families and the kids are each other’s family friends now. 108 km of torturous walk together has given all of them friendships that would comfort them for life.

  Support Us  

Whether NDTV or 'The Wire', they never have to worry about funds. In name of saving democracy, they get money from various sources. We need your support to fight them. Please contribute whatever you can afford

Thought Gun
Flying with a Right Wing coz the left one blew!!


Related Articles

Trending now

Delhi Police grants permission for Tractor Parade by farmer protesters on Republic Day: Details

Permission has been granted to the farmer protesters to conduct a tractor parade at Delhi on Republic Day, said Delhi Police.

Russian Government metaphorically spanks Shekhar Gupta’s The Print for peddling fake news, advises editors to focus on facts, not flashy headlines

MFA, Russia said that The Print's "attempt to create a sensation from nothing failed and looked ludicrous and helpless."

Rahul Gandhi says if farmers and labourers are strong, India does not need to deploy armed forces at Indo-China border

Rahul Gandhi said that if India's labourers, farmers and weavers were strong, China would never dare to come inside India.

Photograph of PM Modi landing in Kolkata goes viral, clocks over 1 million likes on Facebook in less than 24 hours

The photograph was captured after PM Modi reached Kolkata to pay tribute to Netaji Subash Chandra Bose on 'Parakram Diwas'

How to be “Godi media”? Learn from American ‘liberals’

It’s a classic case of projection. Liberals see their opponents as they themselves are. Fawning over their leaders in a way that would rival North Korean state television.

From Rafale jets to Bangladesh contingent: Here is what will make 2021 Republic Day Parade special

Rafale jets, Bangladesh Armed Forces, Ram Mandir and VIjaynagar Tableau are the few main attractions of Republic Day parade this year

Recently Popular

#BanSportsTak: Netizens angry after India Today owned sports channel claims Virat Kohli suffers from ‘disorder’

"It is a disorder for a captain to (be as aggressive as Virat Kohli). It might be acceptable for a player to have this aggression (but nor for a captain)," the journalist claimed.

‘I allow you housewives to have extra-marital affair with man of your choice’: Video of Mamata Banerjee’s ‘progressive’ speech goes viral

Mamata Banerjee says she is so "flexible" that she has given permission to housewives to have extra-marital affairs

Professor who translated Rahul Gandhi’s “don’t need army if farmers are strong” speech in Erode faints after the speech: Reports

Muhammed Imran, who translated Rahul Gandhi's speech at Erode, collapsed after interpreting the speech from English to Tamil

Gujarat Forest Dept to take legal action against Christian Evangelist Paul Dhinakaran over unauthorised use of the department’s logo

Website of Paul Dhinakaran claims of collaborating with the Gujarat Forest Department, a claim junked by the latter

How Brazil thanked India for sending Coronavirus vaccine doses: Pawan Putra Hanuman

President of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has expressed his gratitude towards India and Prime Minister Modi for vaccine exports from our country.

Watch: Taking offence at Jai Shree Ram slogans, Mamata Banerjee walks off stage even as PM Modi and Bengal Governor look on

Mamata Banerjee who was sharing the stage with PM Modi, lamented "being disrespected" because she heard Jai Shree Ram slogans
- Advertisement -


The Rahul Gandhi blooper collection: When the Gandhi-scion goofed up and made zero sense at public rallies

Rahul Gandhi announced his return to India quintessentially by goofing-up public rallies recently, which has now taken the internet by storm.

Media houses spread fake news saying RBI is discontinuing old series of Rs.100, Rs.10 and Rs.5 notes from circulation

PIB said that RBI did not issue any order that says Rs.100, Rs.10 and Rs.5 notes will go out of circulation in March-April

Congress MP says Khalistanis are attempting to hijack farmer protests after party accused govt of maligning farmers for saying the same

Congress MP Ravneet Singh Bittu says Khalistanis are attempting to hijack farmer protests after being booed away.

Madhya Pradesh Protem Speaker Rameshwar Sharma sends Ramayana to WB CM Mamata Banerjee

Rameshwar Sharma, Protem Speaker of Madhya Pradesh, asked Banerjee if she is under pressure of extremists, and sent her a copy of Ramayana

Farmer protestor writes to PM Modi’s mother requesting her to order the PM to scrap the farm laws

Harpreet Singh said that mothers can pull the ear of son, and hoped that Modi's mother will order the PM to revoke the farm laws

Delhi Police grants permission for Tractor Parade by farmer protesters on Republic Day: Details

Permission has been granted to the farmer protesters to conduct a tractor parade at Delhi on Republic Day, said Delhi Police.

Pakistan-sponsored Islamic terrorists hiding in launch pads to infiltrate into India to carry out attacks: Intelligence reports

Intelligence reports say that terrorists have been given clear instructions to carry out attacks on Army installations in Kashmir.

‘This is Tulsi Gabbard’: Former US Congresswoman announces the launch of her podcast

On the 22nd of January, she released a video on YouTube announcing that 'This is Tulsi Gabbard' will be launched soon.

While India administers over a million vaccine doses in a week, Pakistan awaits its ‘unsafe gift’ from China

Pakistan is world's fifth most populous country but it is amongst the 51 countries which is yet to start immunisation program for its citizens.

Professor who translated Rahul Gandhi’s “don’t need army if farmers are strong” speech in Erode faints after the speech: Reports

Muhammed Imran, who translated Rahul Gandhi's speech at Erode, collapsed after interpreting the speech from English to Tamil

Connect with us