The two week long Kanwar Teerth Yatra, also known as Kanwar mela, starts with the first day of the month of Sawan of the Hindu calendar. It culminates an Shiv Chaudas of the month and gives a big boost not only to the econo – my of the region, but also to the communal harmony in this part of the country. Millions of Shiva devotees called kanwariyas, mostly from Western UP, Delhi, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Rajasthan, undertake the journey of faith to fetch Gangajal from Haridwar, Rishikesh and remote holy places like origin of the Ganga.
With lakhs of kanwariyas marching back to their destinations with Gangajal, reverberating the entire route with chants of ‘Bum Bum’ and ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ and thousands of Muslims having Roza these days in the holy month of Ramzan in villages and towns falling on the kanwar route, the en-tire region presents a unique picture of communal amity.
As this year, the sacred month of Ramzam of the Muslim calendar coincides with the pious month of Sawan of the Hindu calendar, the people of both the communities are performing their rituals side by side and echoes of ‘Bum Bum Bhole’ by the kanwarias and ‘Allah Hu Akbar’ by the rozedars are simultaneousiy heard in the entire region. Many Muslims offers their services as special police officers (SPOS) to help the police force to maintain law making the kanwar yatra hassle free. The Hindus hold Roza Iftar parties for their Muslim brethren, while the members of the Muslim community may be seen welcoming the kanwarias offering them food, tea, water, etc. as they pass through their colonies. It is a perfect picture of the harmony between the two communities.
The Kanwar Teerth Yatra passes through many Muslim dominated colonies, but it has always remained free from communal tension. Another positive feature of the Yatra is that most of the kanwars are made and embellished by the Muslim artisans and laborers from the district and by those coming here from the adjoining districts of UP, such as Bijnore, Saharanpur and Muzaffarnagar, weeks before the commencement of the Yatra.
Abdul Hussain of Bijnore says that his family has been coming to Haridwar to make and sell kanwars for the last five years. “We earn about rupees one lakh each year by making, decorating and selling kanwars. It is not only a source us a great satisfaction that we are lending a helping hand in the holy mission of our hindu brothers and Ansari, a prominent social activist of Jwalapur township in the district, “Only the rituals are different. The underlying spirit of all the religions is the same.”
The manifestation of communal harmony on such a huge scale, as witnessed in the region these days, is rare and speaks volumes of the composite culture of the country.