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The importance of Babadham increases during the month of Shrawan. During this period, lakhs of devotees throng the Baba Baidyanath temple. Most of them first visit Sultanganj, which is 105 km from Babadham.
In Sultanganj, the Ganges flows to the North. It is from this place that the devotees collect water in their kanwars and carry the holy Ganges water, with the kanwars on their shoulders. They walk 109 km up to Baba Baidyanath temple at Babadham reciting Bol Bam on the way.
On reaching Babadham, the kanwarias first take a dip in the Shivaganga to purify themselves, and then enter the Baba Baidyanath temple, where the Ganges water is offered to the Jyotirlingam.
This pilgrimage continues during the whole of Shravan for 30 days, during July-August. This is the longest religious fair in the world.
People from foreign lands also visit Babadham not only during Shrawan month but also during the rest of the year.
The sight on the way from Sultanganj to Babadham is of a 109 km long human chain of saffron clad pilgrims. It is estimated that within this period of one month around 50 to 55 lakhs pilgrims visit Babadham.
Besides the great pilgrimage of Shrawan, almost the whole year remains under fair with Shivaratri in March, Basant Panchami in January, Bhadra Purnima in September.
Why the kanwarias offer ganges water in the Shravana month?
The custom of carrying Kanwar started in the Treta Yuga - the silver age of Hindu mythology. Lord Rama had carried the holy ganges water from Sultanganj in a kanwar and offered to Lord Shiva at Babadham.
The legend says that when the churning of oceans - Samudra Manthan - took place in the month of Shravan, fourteen different types of rubies came out. Thirteen of these were distributed amongst the deamons, except Halahal (poison). Lord Shiva drank the Halahal and stored it in his throat. Hence the name Neelkantha (meaning blue throat) is attributed to Shiva.
To reduce the strong effect of poison, Lord Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. All the Gods, thereafter started offering the Ganges water to Lord Shiva to make lessen the effect of poison.
Since, this happened in the month of Shravan, since then the Shiva devotees offer the Ganges water in this month.
Importance of Bol - Bam
The word Bam is a short name for Lords Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. The letters BA came from Brahma and Vishnu and M came from Mahesh.
It is a long efficacious mantra (a hymn). When it is chanted during the way, it generates energy and enthusiasm amongst the kanwarias and gives them the psychological strength to carry on walking and succeed in covering the long distance from Sultanganj to Babadham.
According to the Skand Purana, those who complete the holy journey by reciting Bam-Bam obtain the virtues of Ashwamedha Yajna.
According to the Puranas, the daemon king Ravana had brought the Ganges water from Haridwar and offered to Lord Shiva.
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