The Hindu month of Shravan is dedicated to Lord Shiva with many devotees keeping a fast on Mondays. But for the last few decades, a large number of saffron-clad devotees have set out on Mondays for a barefoot pilgrimage, chanting ‘Bol Bom’ and carrying water from a river to pour on the Shivling. According to legend, demon king Ravan was the first to start the practice to get rid of the negative energy in Shiva when the latter consumed the poison that came out during Sagar Manthan (churning of the ocean). With the physical strain involved in the pilgrimage, the devotees were mainly males in the past. However, women and girls have now started participating in the month-long Bol Bom Yatra. Some women devotees share their experience with Orissa POST.
“Lord Shiva is known for being pure at heart and granting boons to his devotees frequently. It’s believed the holy month of Shravan is the best time to please him. If you worship him with sincerity and surrender yourself, you are sure to get his blessings and your wishes will be fulfilled. For the last few years, I have been taking part in the Bol Bom Yatra to earn blessings for my family. I hope my daughters will perform well this year in their annual examinations by the grace of God,” said Anita Barik of Cuttack.
The rising crime against women across the country has been a cause of concern. In such a scenario, how safe is it for women to travel, often at nights, to the shrines. Rossy Devi of Bhubaneswar said, “No untoward incidents have occurred so far during this Yatra. Women are participating in large numbers as the administration has taken adequate security measures for them during this pilgrimage. I have been participating in it for the last few years, and I don’t feel any insecurity with the presence of the police and my family members.”
Many unmarried women in the country observe fast on Mondays of the Shravan month to seek blessings from Lord Shiva who is known as a loving husband. It is believed that girls do this to get a life partner having the qualities that are found in Shiva, Rossy said. She is planning to go for Bol Bom Yatra on the last Monday of the month with her relatives.
Jhunu Parida of Delanga said, “There is no restriction on the participation of women in this Yatra. It is good that more women are coming forward to be part of this tradition. I believe that Lord Shiva dispels all negative qualities in living beings. So, we need to worship and urge him to remove our impurities if we want to live peacefully.”
Seconding Rossy’s view, Jhunu said the presence of police and members of many religious organisations at the night shelter points has led to an increase in the number of women devotees during Bol Bom Yatra as they feel more secure.
Puspanjali Swain of Cuttack said, “Participation of women in the Bol Bam Yatra is an age-old practice. Women used to participate in the short distance Yatra in Cuttack. But with better-lit streets and emergence of Bol Bom Seba Samitis, a group of voluntary organisations (with women as members also) that help with food and shelter during the journey which can be tiring, more women are participating.”