Ghaziabad, July 25 (IANS) The Ghaziabad district administration has asked about a dozen schools and colleges located along the National Highway-58 to close for a week in view of Kanwaria Yatra, the annual pilgrimage of devotees of Shiva.
“Over a dozen public schools and engineering colleges which are situated on NH-58 have been asked to close till August 2, 2016,” said Additional District Magistrate Preeti Jaiswal.
The number of pilgrims this year is expected to go over 2.5 crore.
The administration restricted heavy vehicles traffic on NH-58 from Sunday and will restrict light vehicles from Wednesday, said Jaiswal.
A 2000-strong police force has been deployed to provide security to the pilgrims, she said.
Also, 40 companies of Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) and Special Task Force (STF) have been asked to be ready for deployment, Jaiswal said.
She said a contingency plan has been drawn up for the pilgrims whereby ambulance services, recovery van service and some hospitals have been identified. Roads are also being repaired for them.
The pilgrims are arriving in Ghaziabad district which is linked to Badrinath and Mana Pass in Uttarakhand near Indo-Tibetan border by the 538-km long NH-58.
The pilgrims go walking to Haridwar, Gaumukh and Gangotri in Uttarakhand to fetch holy water of the Ganga river, which they carry in ‘kanwads’ on their shoulders back to their home towns and villages and offer at their local Shiva temples.
They are easily identifiable with their ‘kanwad’ — a bamboo pole across their shoulders from which dangle on opposite ends two roughly equal pots of the holy Ganga water.
In Ghaziabad, the most popular temple for such offering is Dudheswar Nath temple where the pilgrims will begin to converge in a few days.
The Kanwar Yatra — the pilgrimage of those carrying the ‘kanwads’, hence the ‘kanwarias’ — takes place during the month of Shravan (Saawan) (July -August), according to the Hindu lunar calendar.