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Varanasi 'Dak-Bam', a Religious Practice of Savan, Slowly becoming Extinct Aug 06th, 2019 from Times of India

Kawariya  in Ghats of Varanasi

As lakhs of Kanvariyas have visited the city during the holy month of Sawan and performed Jalabhishek at Kashi Vishwanath Temple , locals, priests and those serving these kanvariya miss witnessing arrival of 'dak bam'.

Unlike the kanvariya, who travel on foot, buses, bikes, private cars etc to perform Jalabhishek, 'dak bam' are the one who cover the entire journey on foot and once they start their journey, after felling the water of river Ganga, they don't stop even for a second, not even for attending to nature's call.

They also refrain from consuming water leave along food during their entire pilgrimage. Wearing white T-shirt, they are given access on the way and even within temple premises over other kanvariya who wear safforn coloured T-shirt. However, this strong and unique practice of worshipping the deity is slowly becoming extinct and there are seldom any takers for the same.

As per norm for undertaking this testing practice of strength, stamina, commitment and devotion, anyone who takes the pledge as "dak-bam" starts the journey from Allahabad—or for that the concerned river in terms of Deodhar and Haridwar .

"The journey commences after filling the water of Ganga and the devotee cannot stop or take rest throughout the journey, even if stopping is inevitable, the dak-bam will continue to march at the same spot, but the legs should not rest unless the devotee performs Jalabhishek”, said Pundit Chandreshwar Mishra, a former faculty member of Sampurnanand University of the city.

He added, that the dak-bam also uses a whistle, which they blow whenever they have to make way for themselves. "As the only word they utter is 'bol-bam', they have been permitted to use the whistle, and the kanvariyas and organisers immediately give them way as they listen to the whistle” said the expert.

"We have seen these 'special kanvariyas' licking lemon to quench their thirst because if they consume water, they may have to stop for passing urine and their pilgrimage would break", said Laxmi Narayan Jaiswal, who has been serving kanvariyas for the past 20 years.

However, the numbers of Dak-bam is falling by every passing year.
"Around Five years back, we used to serve groups of dak-bam but now we hardly find around 50-60 such devotees, we feel that there is dearth of time and commitment among the kanvariya nowadays", said Jaiswal. Earlier, we used to see even some women devotee, a practice which has ceased to exist now, he added.

The organisers also feel sad that one of the reason, responsible for this 'slow death' of this religious practice is that several of the local Kanvariya had started misusing the facilities provided to 'dak-bam'.
“It was very unfortunate to see that some of the local groups, belonging to places like Raja Talab, Kachwa, Aurai, Badhoi etc used to join as dak-bam midway and use the facilities provided exclusively to a proper dak-bam coming from Prayag (Allahabad)”, Mahesh Shukla, a local.

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