The Ganga Report | Day 30 | Haridwar Shivratri | 304km from Source

The build up to the Shivratri festival here in Haridwar has led to a huge influx of pilgrims, so much so that it seems the local police have resorted to bringing in the cavalry to keep order. Their job seems to be two fold: keep the crowds moving on the Bara Bazaar which leads down to the bathing ghat and also move on the unauthorised sellers of decorations for the pilgrims ‘Kaawars’.
Further explanations with more words (boo) and pictures (yay) after the jump
It’s been quite a site to see these mounted police wading through the crowds on their steeds, just look at the proud beast(s). While India seems to be a place of relatively few strict rules if there’s one it’s this: no moustache – no policeman.
The reason for the influx of people here for this festival is simple: Ganges water. The holy water is collected in plastic bottles of various numbers and sizes (all available for sale in the market) and the water is then carried back to the home place in an object called a Kaawar to be used in the ceremony for Lord Shiva on the day of Shivratri itself.
The shoulder carried Kaawars are purchased here in the local market and then decorated with pictures of the Devas (Gods), plastic garlands, snakes, bells you name it. I get the impression this festival is very important for the local economy, I couldn’t put a number on the amount of Kaawars I’ve seen since I’ve been here.
The mornings are when it’s most busy down at the bathing ghat, while it’s a significantly holy act for a devotee to bath in the Ganges (thus washing away all sins) it seems that the game of splashy splashy is universally enjoyed by people no matter what their faith.
You’ll often find objects called Shiva Lingas at the banks of the Ganges in places of holy significance. The object represents the fertility of Lord Shiva and is especially revered by female devotees. Water from the river is poured over it and offerings are left at its base (yes that leaf is what it looks like)
One thing that you can find quite striking about Indian society is just how tactile the men are with each other. Across India it’s not unusual to see grown men walking down the street hand in hand (the index finger of one held in the grip of the palm of the other is the usual thing).
While at first it can seem a little out of the ordinary you soon realise it’s just a sign of close friendship and I suppose, brotherly love. Nothing more than that.
So far on the trip I’ve met some great people, they always are curious about my visit and where I come from and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked to pose in photographs, here are a selection of the folk I’ve met on my travels
So far the trip has been photographically very productive and I’m more than happy with the images I’ve been getting. I’m pleased I’ve got the means to share these images across the blog, instagram, facebook and twitter but I have found these updates to be quite time consuming (my first trip to India in 2011 was just a matter of blog updates).
Due to this I find that I’ve got quite a bit of catching up to do as I’ve since moved onto another couple of locations since Haridwar. I should be up to date in the next few days so keep an eye on the blog and other social media feeds for updates.
In the meantime here’s a last few images from Haridwar, it was exhausting but great fun.