The Month of Shrabana and Kanwadias in Odisha


The month of “Shrabana” is regarded as the most auspicious month in the Hindu calendar. Following Ashadha, this month is the second part of rainy season in India and falls in the middle of July and August. During the course of the month, on Purnima or full moon day, the star “Shrabana” rules over the sky; that is the reason behind the month being named as “Shrabana”. “Shrabana Somabaars” or the Mondays of the month of Shrabana are regarded very auspicious. Although the name “Soma” in Hindu belief is ambrosia that the Gods use to drink, there are several other associated meanings of Soma. It also refers to the crescent moon that Lord Shiva wears on his forehead. It is mentioned in the epics that the Gods use to drink Soma Rasha pouring in moon shaped cups. In Rig Veda, “Soma” is said to be Lord Shiva himself. So these reasons might be behind the auspiciousness of the “Somabaars” or Mondays for the Hindus. As per Hindu belief, one who observes Shrabana Somabaar Vrata gets fulfilled of all his desires. The Kanwadias seen carrying holy water for Lord Shiva, mostly cherish to be blessed by Lord Shiva through fulfillment of their desires (material, emotional or spiritual). They walk the entire distance bare footed day and night.

Shiva is the “supreme being” of all auspiciousness and kindness. As per a legend, during Samudra Manthana or churning of the sea, including several other precious things Amrit or divine nectar and poison came out. Everything got distributed among the Deities and the Demons except for the poison which was about to destroy the creation. Then to save the creation, Lord Shiva drank whole of the poison and held that in his throat by binding it with a snake. Thence he is called Nilakantha or blue throat. The poison generated huge heat in the body of Lord Shiva. To cool Him down, river Ganga and crescent moon were placed on His forehead. The heavy rainfall during the month of Shrabana is believed to have connection with this legend. 

Observing the “Shrabana Somabaar Vrata” with utmost devotion and austerity, the saffron clad devotees of Lord Shiva, known as “Kanwadias”, travel several miles barefooted to collect holy water from holy rivers and ponds, and then carry the holy water in mud pots kept in Kanwadis to do Jalavisheka (pouring holy water on Shiv lingas) in their cherished Shiva temples. A kanwadi typically comprises a long bamboo stick with small mud pots carrying holy water tied to either ends. It is decorated with red and orange cloth strips, Bel leaves, flowers and other glitzy materials and is balanced on the shoulder of the Kanwadia. Until the Kanwadia reaches the destination, he/she never lets the holy water touch the ground. The Kanwadis are placed on a stand while the owners rest or bathe. The Kanwadias eat only once after the sunset which is part of their devotion. 

The popular Shiva temples in Odisha are namely Dhabaleshwara of Cuttack, Akhandalamani of Bhadrak, Kapilash of Dhenkaanala, Panchalingeswara of Baleswar, Gupteshwar of Koraput, Harisankar of Sambalpur, Huma of Sambalpur, Lingaraj of Bhubaneswar and Lokanath of Puri. During the month of Shrabana, these temples get flooded with hundreds and thousands of Kanwadias with their Kanwadis carrying water collected from Mahanadi, Baitarani, Bindusagar etc. Special arrangements are made by the city administration and voluntary organisations for the comfort of the Kanwadias. Temporary resting places for the Kanwadias are erected on the road sides. General public respect and cooperate with them in their long journey of faith. Walking miles of distance is not a small thing, after all. They get wounds and sores in their feet. Yet determined, they carry on walking, singing praises of Lord Shiva until their destination is reached. 

The Shrabana Somabaar Vrata and the observance by the Kanwadias are a part of the glorious Indian culture, signifying faith, purity and devotion. When man fails, he yields only to God. He believes that God would remove all his misfortunes; there would be peace, love and harmony all around him. He prays for himself and also for the whole world and victory of invincible faith is retold.

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