Day 128 | 19 May 2015 | Kolhapur City Walk | The Walk of Hope 2015-16

  • Offering flower petals to the mage of Sant Jnaneswar before the walk, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • In front of His Highness Chatrapati Saahu Maharaj's statue, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • The walk encapsulated the spirit of the old & traditional city of Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • 'Might look like a scene from a bygone era', Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Sri M after darshan of the Goddess Mahalaxmi, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • 7.
  • 'One more to go', an acrobatic 'Mardani' fighter cuts a lemon into halves in a demo, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Sri M garlanded at the beginning of the walk on Day 128, Kolhapur Maharashtra
  • Sri M being draped with a tri-colour sash in probably the most colourful reception so far, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • A saffron Tilak by the revered Swami says it all, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Cutting across borders of nationality, caste, colour and creed, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Sri M in deep prayer at the beginning of the walk to the Mahalaxmi Temple, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • A group of national level wrestlers with impressive physiques also joined our walk, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Sri M tries his hand at cymbals during the colourful, musical walk to the temple, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Colour, devotion, music, pomp, today's walk had it all, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Baby Krishna among the many exquisite carvings on the Mahalaxmi temple walls, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • 'Letting their hair down', members of the Bhajan Mandali inside the temple, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • An impressive demonstration of 'Mardani', a martial art form of Maharashtra, draws applause from all, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
  • Impressive architecture dot the street leading to the Mahalaxmi temple, Kolhapur, Maharashtra
It’s the last day in Kolhapur for the walkers and a city walk was planned from Dasara Chowk to the Mahalakshmi Temple. The walk today was relatively short—only about 5 kilometers—but the walk itself was an incredible experience. The day was filled with activity and left the walkers sapped of energy but happy as they participated in one of the most elaborate displays of Maharashtra’s spiritual traditions.

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In the morning, the yatris assembled at Dasara Chowk, a major centre of Kolhapur city, where many roads meet. At the center of the square is the statue of Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaj of the Bhosale dynasty. Shahuji Maharaj was the ruler of the Indian princely state of Kolhapur from 1900 to 1922 and was credited with furthering the cause of lower castes at that time. He made education available to all through subsidies and finally made them free of cost. He also opened several hostels in Kolhapur, thereby facilitating education of those coming from the rural and low-caste segments of society. He also ensured suitable employment for students thus educated, thereby creating one of the earliest positive action programs during his time. The padayatris were caught unawares by the reception that awaited them at Dasara Chowk. At least 200 people from the Varkari tradition were already at the venue. The statue was adorned with festoons and flowers. On all sides of the chowk, there were 50 to 60 musicians who played the Shing and sang bhajans. The shing or brass cymbal is a musical instrument with two metallic spheres tied together with a long piece of canvas-cloth thrown around the neck. Sri Viswanath Karad, educationist and founder of MIT, Pune had organized this part of the walk and the family accorded the walkers a warm welcome. There were troupes of performers with traditional Marathi tutaris, ektaris and dhols. On their arrival, a long scarf in the colors of India was given to all and a traditional cap was given to the men. Each padayatribwore the scarf in his/her own way; some simply draped it around their neck while others wore it in more elaborate and unique ways. The dignitaries, including Sri M, were adorned with the traditional ‘phetas’. Sri M arrived at the Chowk, a few moments after the padayatris and made a flower offering at the statue of Shahuji Maharaj. Prominent citizens who joined the walk were Sri Gulab Rao Ghorpade, Ex Chairman of Western Maharashtra Devasthanam Management; Smt Nivedita Mane, ex-MP and Sri Avinash Subedar, IAS and CEO of the Kolhapur Zilla Parishat. Sri M was felicitated by them and a few other people. Sri Viswanath Karad’s entire family was present at the venue and was engaged in welcoming and making the yatris comfortable. The Varkari tradition was started by Sant Gnaneshwar over 700 years ago to ensure that bhakti was sown in every person, whatever caste or community he or she came from. The word Varkari means ‘traveller’ or ‘periodic travellers’. They walk to Pandharpur every year from their home towns – all over Maharashtra, during the Hindu calendar months of Aashadha and Karthika – generally falling in July and November. They walk singing compositions of Sants Gnaneshwar, Tukaram and Eknath, to the accompaniment of cymbals and ektaris (a single stringed instrument like a tambura), to express their devotion to Vittobha and his consort Rukmini in Pandharpur. The walk commenced with a group of flag-bearers leading the procession carrying triangular orange colored flags. Then, followed the group of drummers, trumpet players and ektaris; all of them played in unison and perfect harmony and the sea of people moved to each and every beat. Then followed rest of the Varkaris, who walked in neat lines singing devotional songs and playing their instruments in complete unison. Many of the yatris were seen singing along with them. It was indeed a unique and wonderful experience walking through the old city, on the streets with just the music in their hearts. Sri M walked behind the Walk of Hope banner, leading the padayatris and a ‘rath’ – a chariot with an idol of Panduranga. Two Varkaris sat in the truck singing devotional songs broadcasting from the speakers installed on the vehicle, leading the tenor. The walk lasted 2 hours and the padayatris covered only 2 kilometers. Many stopped in their tracks to look at the grand procession passing by. The Padayatra thus arrived at the threshold of Mahalakshmi temple. The Mahalakshmi Temple of Kolhapur is one of the Shakti Peethas and is listed in various puranas. A Shakti peetha is a place associated with the Supreme in its feminine aspect – the Shakti. The temple takes its name from Mahalakshmi, the consort of Vishnu. The temple was first constructed in the Chalukya period, circa 550 CE. The idol of the main deity is considered to be at least 5000 to 6000 years old. There were hundreds of people at the temple and had the co-ordinators of Kolhapur not arranged special viewing for Sri M and the padayatris, it might have taken the whole day for the padayatris to get even a glimpse of Mahalakshmi. Sri M went in first for darshan and he spent some time in prayer there. After him, smaller groups of around ten followed and it took about three hours for everyone to visit the shrine. Meanwhile, others had gathered on the premises of a school nearby. This was also the venue for today’s breakfast. While batch after batch of padayatris visited the temple, everyone else was relaxing in the school's old stone courtyard called the Bhavani Mandap. It quickly got humid but by this time everyone had visited the shrine and Sri M too arrived there. The school had organized a cultural program, a Maratha martial arts display by students aged from 8 to 18. The performance included display of combat techniques including various sequences using spears and swords. After this, Sri M and a few others visited Baba Jamal Dargah, located about 2 kilometers away. The Baba Jamal Dargahis an old one - more than 700 or 800 years old. He was a saint of the Qalandar order. The Qalandars in India trace their origin back to the devotees of the Sufi saint Bu Ali Shah Qalandar, also known as Shaikh Sharafuddeen Abu Ali Qalandar Panipati, who is buried in Panipat, in what is now Haryana. Both Muharram and Ganesh Chaturthi are celebrated in front of the Dargah. One finds the Hindu-Muslim togetherness to be quite exemplary here; both communities visit the shrine and pray in their own manner. The padayatris walked about a kilometer to the Mahalakshmi Temple Anna Chhatra for lunch. The Anna Chhatra provides free food and there was what seemed to be an endless queue to get into the hall on the second floor. The walkers, however, did not have to wait because of special arrangements made just for them. The cleanliness of the entire place and the efficient way in which the food was served was truly remarkable. Food was served from large vessels to people seated at dining tables in clean steel ‘thalis’ - as soon as one container was empty,another came up. They savoured the delicious food, having their fill. The practice of serving free food to all who came to the venue has been in vogue for the last two hundred years. The entrance to the Anna Chhatra has a traditional market selling local vegetables and fruits. This market seems to be from another time zone. Vendors – men and women sat next to each other with their wares spread around them. The air was thick with the smell of herbs and there it was noticeably cool - quite incredible considering that it was a scorching heat just a few steps away. The shops were more of makeshift tents with multi-coloured canvas canopies to protect them from the hot sun – both outside and inside the compound wall. The Anna Chhatra is on the second floor of this seemingly ancient compound. The padayatris were transported back to the Ravi Rai complex by 3.00 pm. It took them an hour or so to settle down. They could barely rest before they had to get ready for the evening Satsang at Mahalakshmi Temple and they gathered there by 5.30 pm. The venue for the Satsang was very special; it was within the temple grounds in an open area. By the time the Satsang started, there were about 200 people from the local community. For lack of space, some were sitting on the ground, some were seated on chairs, and some were standing on the sides. Sri M was felicitated and introduced in pure Sanskrit by a Pandit. After this, he addressed to the gathering. “Akhaṇḍa-maṇḍalākāram vyāptam yena carācaram| Tatpadam darśitam yena tasmai śrī gurave namah|| (Which) pervades the entire unbroken form of the circle (of creation), moving and unmoving. To that beautiful and benevolent Guru through whom that state was revealed (to me), salutations. “Om SahaNau-Avatu Saha Nau Bhunaktu Saha Viiryam Karavaavahai Tejasvi Nau-Adhiitam-Astu Maa Vidvissaavahai Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih Om, May God Protect us Both (The Teacher and the Taught) May we both be Nourished May we work together with Energy and Vigour May our study be enlightening and give rise to no hostility Om, Peace, Peace, Peace Gurur Brahma Gurur Vishnu Gurur Devo Maheshwara Gurur Sakshat Parabrahma Tasmai Shree Guruvey Namah The Guru is Brahma (The creator), Lord Vishnu(The preserver, and Lord Shiva (the destroyer) To that very Guru I bow, for He is the Supreme Being, right before my eyes. Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti – Om, Peace, Peace, Peace. Loka Samasta sukinoh bhavantu - May the entire Universe be happy” “I do not know Marathi, so I will speak in Hindi. I feel that it is better to speak in Hindi than in English.This yatra of ours from Kanyakumari to Kashmir - I call it our padayatra. I call this our padayatra because all those who are walking and all those who are not, including all of you are part of this padayatra.” “You must have read about the padayatra in newspapers, so I will not speak much about it. Also because we are in a temple complex, a spiritual Satsang is much better in such settings, I will not speak on the outward aspects of the yatra. You will find all information about the yatra in newspapers, television and so on. I will speak a few words on the internal yatra.” “Our padayatra is our talk. Many people talk various things but do not follow up on them. We do talk but we are also walking. I think this padayatra will be successful if all of you will think of us in your minds. Today, we are in the Mahalakshmi temple and I thank you for this opportunity. I will tell you a few stories. These days, people talk about knowledge and philosophy but the thing is that the devotion in one's heart is capable of much more. If this devotion and faith is not there, one may read a lot but nothing will happen.” “There have been great saints who did not even read the Vedas. Ramakrishna Paramhamsa only knew how to sign his name. Yet, highly educated people came to him and learnt from him - it was because of his experience. Spiritual experience is the greatest thing; reading Shastras is okay but if one does not have spiritual experience, it is meaningless. When one has spiritual experience, the outward manifestations that happen have some meaning.” “What takes one to the highest spiritual experience is faith and devotion. Kabir has said Moko kahan dhunde re bandhe - Where are you looking for me, I am right next to you. I am going to tell you some stories now. If you find some meaning in these stories, that is okay. You can also take them as just stories; that is okay too.” “Through stories one can understand the highest Truths of Vedanta very easily. It is said that before writing Bhagavatam, Veda Vyasa had written the Brahmasutras but everyone cannot read the Brahmasutras. It starts with Athatho Brahma Jignasa - We will now study about Brahma. How can one start like that? It is not easy. After writing the Brahmasutras, Narada Muni came to Veda Vyasa and said, ‘You have written the Brahmasutras but there is no joy on your face. There is seriousness, what could be the reason?’” Veda Vyasa said that ‘something is missing’. So, Narada Muni advised him to write Bhagavatam, the story of Hari. Bhagavatam has small stories and through these stories what is written in Brahmasutras is easily understood. We have a very ancient and rich tradition of teaching through stories. You do not have to go to any university to understand this. The Varkaris, who chant Ram Krishna Hari and go from Pandharpur to Alandi, to what university did they go to? They just open their hearts and walk. They came and walked with us today.” “Even the Upanishads say what you are looking for is not outside. This is beyond the ordinary mind –Yat manasa na manyute - if the mind cannot reach there, what can go there? Only the heart can go there, only feelings can go there. With the intellect we can make many theories, we can make and break things but without the heart, even the Jnani cannot move forward. I will now tell you a story. If you take it only as a story, that is not a problem.” “In a village, a mother lived with her small son. He was her only child and did even know who his father was. Maybe, his father was a Rishi but he did not know. So, the mother, even at that time was very forward thinking. She wanted to educate her child no matter what. There were no teachers or schools nearby. There was a teacher very far away. She thought that she would go to him and ask. As she did not have any money to offer as dakshina, she was quite hesitant whether the teacher would agree. Anyway, she went to the teacher and seeing her eagerness, he agreed to teach her son in his school.” “The greatest worry now was that there was a dense forest in between where they lived and where the teacher lived. One had to go through the large forest. Now, you all know that there are many fearsome animals in the forest. The first time she took her son through the forest, he asked her, ‘How am I to walk alone through this forest. There must be so many animals in this forest, there may be tigers and lions.I am scared’.” “Now, just to make him get over his fear, she told him something. The boy took everything that his mother told him to be the truth. She said that it is true that there are tigers in the forest, but there is also a small boy who lives in this forest, who has a peacock feather in his hair and plays the flute. Actually, she did not know, she just said this because she could not take him every day to the teacher, as she had to work. She told him that whenever he felt afraid in the forest, he should close his eyes and call the boy - the one with the flute.” “He asked her what this boy’s name was and she replied that his name was Krishna. She said if you are ever afraid, close your eyes and shout ‘Krishna Krishna’. To her, this was a story and she narrated this story to her son so he would be able to walk through the forest. So, he said okay, I believe whatever you say.” “He was walking the second day and he heard fearful noises of a tiger and was very afraid. So, he called out ‘Krishna Krishna’, and he said further, please come Krishna, I am afraid of these noises. In no time, there came a small boy who said, there is a lot of time before you have to meet your teacher, come let us play a game of marbles here. The small boy saw that there was a flute tucked in the waistband and asked Krishna if he would play the flute. Krishna said not now, I will play it later, let us play marbles now; do not be afraid of anything now.” “Saying this, this Krishna with dark coloured skin, played with the little boy. After this, the boy went to the teacher and was late returning home. He was afraid again and called out for Krishna. Krishna came and they walked through the distance together, talking all the way. This went on for many days. He used to go home and tell his mother that I saw and spoke to Krishna. His mother was happy that he believed in the story she told him.” “Many days later, the birth anniversary of his teacher was approaching. On that day, everyone had to bring some offerings for the teacher. He asked his mother, everyone has to take something, so what can I give as an offering to the teacher? The mother and son were very poor and she said – I do not have anything to offer. She thought for a while and then said she would get some milk from a neighbour’s house. On that day, she took a small bowl and brought some milk in it for the teacher.” “As the little boy walked through the forest again, he called out to his friend and Krishna appeared. He asked what is this in your hand. The boy said this is a bowl of milk being taken as an offering to his teacher on his birthday. He said, give it to me; the boy hesitatingly gave saying there is very little and it was meant for the teacher. Krishna said don’t worry and drank a little of the milk and gave the cup back to the boy and walked with him to the edge of the forest.” “The boy stood in line with his small bowl of milk. When his turn came, the other children started laughing. To humiliate him even more, the teacher said, return this bowl after emptying the milk into a container, he must have only one bowl in his home with him. Now, the story goes like this - consider this a story or whatever you will - that the milk in the bowl was filled to the brim even when all the vessels in the vicinity were filled. It just would not finish.” “The teacher asked the boy, what is this? Is this some kind of a trick? The boy narrated what had happened, he told his teacher that there is a Krishna in the forest, who has a flute and plays marbles with me. It was he who drank from the bowl. The teacher said, ‘It cannot be’. The boy retorted that, you have taught me Mahabharat and you have taught me Bhagavatam, now you are saying this cannot be? The teacher said, this couldn’t be, not in this century. He asked, ‘Will you show us where your friend is?’ The boy agreed.” “They walked into the jungle and reaching the forest he called out to his friend, Krishna, Oh Krishna, this is my teacher and he does not believe that you exist, please come out and show him that you do. The boy called and called but no one came. He wept and cried out one last time – Krishna, please come. These people do not believe that you come and play with me. From deep within the forest came a voice – ‘Your teacher is not ready to see me, when he has a heart like yours, then I will reveal Myself to him.” “This is the thing, sometimes we study a lot more than what is required; it is like eating too much and not being able to digest it. If you can get rid of too much knowledge and your heart becomes simple, it is very good. When someone goes ahead and does any kind of sadhana, he or she faces many obstacles. But every sadhak has done this, every scientist has done this, the pain and suffering that is there has to be faced, one can never run away from it. There are people who begin to do sadhana and as soon as some unhappiness comes, they run away. They ask God to remove only that hardship and forget the higher goal! But it is okay, who else they will ask!” “This simple bhakti without ego, if that is there, one can reach God very easily. If He thinks that this devotee is my favourite and starts to take away things from him, the devotee gets afraid. I will tell you another story - today is a day of stories.” “One day, Krishna asked Uddhava to accompany him on a walk. Uddhava set a condition that Krishna was not to play any tricks, which he often did, during their time together. Krishna assured him and said, let’s go. So they went together. While walking, they came across a palatial house of a rich man. Here, Krishna said to Uddhava, ‘I am very thirsty, please go inside and say that my friend is thirsty’. Uddhava went inside and said that my friend who is standing outside, is very thirsty, will you please give something to drink. The rich man said, ‘athiti devo bhava’, please call him inside. Calling Krishna inside, he accorded him all due respects as a guest and offered him a glass of cool sherbet to him.” “Krishna enjoyed it thoroughly and while leaving blessed him with more riches and prosperity. Uddhava was happy that all was well and nothing untoward had happened and they continued on their walk. And moving forward, at a distance, they saw a small kutir and in that kutir was a yogi. The yogi had a cow tethered outside. Krishna said once again, I am thirsty. Uddhava, sensing mischief, said – Krishna, you are up to your games again. You had a sherbet a short while ago; how can you be thirsty again! Krishna insisted that Uddhava do as he was told and that everything would be fine.‘Just go and tell him that I am thirsty’.” “So, reluctantly, Uddhava went inside and said to the yogi, ‘My friend, who is standing outside, is very thirsty, will you give him some water?’Uddhava thought that there would only be water here in a place like this. The yogi replied whatever water I had, I used for abhishek of the Shiva Linga. He then said, I have a cow, wait here while I get milk from the cow. So, he took his kamandalu and got some milk. Krishna said he would have it in the kutir. After drinking the milk, Krishna said ‘I have not had better milk than this in my life’.” “So, the yogi was happy and Uddhava was also happy that nothing untoward had happened. While leaving, Krishna raised his arms high in blessing and said, ‘May his cow die’. Uddhava was shocked;he asked Krishna, what logic is this? He has only that cow and you say, ‘May the cow die’? How can God say this? So Krishna said, you have moved around with me for so many years and still you have not understood me, my logic is different than yours. The rich man we went to, he would have to be reborn many times, he loves wealth too much. So, I blessed him that may he have more wealth. But this yogi is very close to me, he is close to my heart but has not yet reached me and why? Because he loves that cow and that cow stands between him and me. If I remove that cow, he will surely reach me.” “This may happen, but if one is afraid, it won’t work. Anything can happen if one is simple and without ego. After one more story about bhakti, I will bring this to a close.” “The story goes like this, Krishna used to go to a bhakta’s house. The bhakta was very devoted to him and Krishna loved him. One day when Krishna went to the bhakta’s house, he was not there and only his wife was there. She was very happy that Krishna had come to her doorstep. She offered him a seat. He asked where the bhakta had gone. She told him that he would come back soon and brought some bananas to feed him. Her heart was beating fast that Krishna was sitting before her. She then started peeling the bananas and feeding him. She was not looking at the bananas but looking at Krishna’s face. In an immersed state like this, she was actually offering him the peels instead of the bananas.” “And Krishna ate the peels while appreciating it the whole time. The husband came back home on to this scene and was aghast. He said, what are you doing, you are feeding Krishna banana peels! He told her to move so that he could feed Krishna. She asked for forgiveness and moved. She was still sitting quietly and looking at Krishna, still so immersed that she did not even realize that she had done anything wrong. We yogis call this samadhi. So the Bhakta started feeding him bananas, Krishna ate the bananas and said, the bananas are very nice but the peels were much better.” “So, we have completed three stories. Now to the last story. This is a very nice story I heard from a Swamiji. In Karnataka, we have stopped at many maths. At the Taralabalu Math, the Swamiji of the math told us this story. That day there was going to be a Satsang only for the padayatris and he joined us. Afterwards, I asked him if he wanted to share anything and he told us this story. If you keep this story in your heart and work, you can work and also reach God. This story is about ego.” “Once, there was a very famous and skilled sculptor and he went to the temple to make some sculptures. The temple priest happened to be a great astrologer and he told the sculptor that your time is near; you only have three more weeks to live. The sculptor said, I believe you, but how will I live through this? So the priest said that you are such a great sculptor, go to your workshop, make ten or fifteen sculptures and stand between those.The yama-doota comes on a buffalo and is not that intelligent, he will come and look for you but won’t know which is the original and will go back.” “So, he went back, made a lot of images that looked like him and stood among those. The yama-doota came, looked for the sculptor and could not find him, so he went back. He went to Yama and Yama asked him where the sculptor was. The yama-doota stated his case and the Yama laughed. He said that the sculptor’s time is coming again soon and the way to get him is very easy. Go there, he would be standing in between his images without doubt, do not look for him. Go there and praise the images for 10 minutes - say how nice this sculpture is, how great that sculpture is.” “So, he went there and started praising the images. The sculptor could not stand still for more than two minutes and said, ‘I have made these”, and the yama-doota said, “Come, let’s go”.” “If this ego is burnt and one’s heart becomes like that boy’s heart, all we have to take is two steps, and God will walk four steps towards us. Each and every person here is a walking temple and in the heart of each person dwells a spark of the Supreme Lord. With this, I conclude this Satsang.” “Om Shanti Shanti Shanti!” After the Satsang, the padayatris were transported to Ravi Rai premises. After dinner, they retired for the day. Once again the day was very full and exhausting, The response from Kolhapur has been an unexpected one and the city's hospitality has surpassed all bounds. Tomorrow, the padayatra leaves Kolhapur, this also entails that the padayatris move from Ravi Rai complex after a stay of 5 days. With no luggage loading these last few days, the yatris were well rested. The Ravi Rai hosts displayed great hospitality to the padayatris and they felt quite looked after.

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  1. Well Dressed Beggar says:

    Jai Gurudeva… Jai Maheshwarnath…Jai Santa Gnaneshwar… Jai Kriya Babaji…Jai Sarva Santajana…

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