Today being the Republic Day, a flag-hoisting ceremony was organized at the Satsang venue, close to the Araya Samajam Guest House. Sri M hoisted the national flag in the presence of the padayatris and local community, totaling about 50 people. The group sang the national anthem, following which there was a brief photo shoot.
There was a change in the daily routine of walking since a shorter distance of 8 kms only had to be traversed today. The delayed start saw Sri M spending some time on the beach in silence introspection and the yatris going about various activities.
Today is Ratha Sapthami — marking the seventh day of the Sun’s northerly movement (Uttarayana) of vernal equinox starting from Capricorn (Makara). It also marks the birth of Surya, the Sun God, and hence is celebrated as Surya Jayanti. Ratha Sapthami is symbolic of the season changing to spring—the harvesting season.
The group left for the padayatra at 7.30 am — first visiting the Kottamkulangara Temple in Chavara. This temple, dedicated to Goddess Bhagavathy, is famous for an annual tradition called ‘Chamayavilakku’— where men dressed in women’s attire carry lamps (Vilakkeduppu) to the temple as an offering to the Goddess.The temple was built around 1799 AD.
Soon, breakfast was served 2 kms away from the starting point.
Proceeding further, the group passed by The Kerala Minerals and Metals Limited’s Titanium sponge plant. Being the first of its kind in India, the plant extracts and produces Titanium Dioxide — a metal used in many of the produces we use in our daily lives like paints, coatings, cosmetics, plastics, toothpaste, etc. The beach sand in this area of Kerala is replete with this mineral. The walkers came across a school being operated from a hut on the road. Sri M spent some time interacting with the children. The children cheered as the padayatris continued on their journey.
At 9.45 am, the padayatris reached Panmana Ashram, the halting point of the day. Panmana Ashram houses the Samadhi of Sree Vidyadhiraja Parama Bhattaraka Chattampi Swamikal (1853-1924), a Hindu sage and social reformer. The Swami was a contemporary of Narayana Guru and, along with him, worked towards reforming the heavily ritualistic and caste-ridden Hindu society of the late 19th century Kerala. He also worked for the emancipation of women, promoted vegetarianism, professed non-violence and the oneness of all religions. He is the author of several books on spirituality, history and language.
The apostle of peace, non-violence and oneness, Mahatma Gandhi had stayed at the Panmana Ashram for 2 days on 19th & 20th January, January 1934. On reaching the Ashram, Sri M met Swami Pranavananda and interacted with him. He also spent time in silent contemplation at the Samadhi.
The ashram is situated in a peaceful, serene environment in the midst of lush green paddy fields and coconut groves. A particular tree attracted the group’s attention. The tree, commonly known as the Cannonball Tree (Couroupita guianensis) has flowers resembling the hood of the Naga, a sacred snake, protecting a Shiva Lingam. The flower is commonly known as the Shivalinga flower or Nagalinga Pushpa. The trees flower profusely until they cover the entire trunk and the flowers emanate a beautiful aroma.
Lunch was served at 12.30 pm and, after lunch, there was a short, memorable yet informal satsang with Sri M.
Assembling again at 5.30 pm, the evening satsang began with Sopana Sangeetam by Ms. Asha Praveen, a disciple of Kavalam Narayana Panicker. It is a form of Indian classical music that developed in the temples of Kerala in the wake of the increasing popularity of Jayadeva's Gita Govinda or Ashtapadis and is sung by the side of the holy steps (sopanam) leading to the sanctum sanctorum of a shrine. Ms. Asha Praveen is one of the last traditional performers of this form of music. She sang devotional songs simultaneously playing a percussion instrument called the Edakka. After this soul-lifting music, one of the satsangis sang the Guru Vandana, in dedication to Sri M.
Sri M started his talk for the day remarking that the Guru Vandana is a prostration to the nameless, Supreme soul. “I bow down to the Supreme soul – the ‘Para Brahman’-- and also the great Chattampi Swami”. He continued that he had been to many ashrams so far but the Panmana Ashram was unique and special for him as it is very modest and divine. He also said that the padayatra’s halt at the Ashram was not by accident but by design. The design was not his but rather, that of a higher power.
Sri M further added that there were many paths to realization. Some prefer Kriya Yoga, others Bhakti Yoga and yet others prefer different practices and paths, all culminating in the same goal. Chattampi Swamigal was initially a Vedantin, who then practiced Raja Yoga and later, composed songs of Bhakti. He cited another person of similar antecedents, Sri Sadashiva Brahmendra Yogi, who authored the famous commentary on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali called Yoga Sudhakara.
He then moved on to the subject of Ashtanga Yoga and spoke about its aspects – Yama, the moral codes, Niyama – self purification and study, Asana – postures, Pranayama – control or observation of breath, Pratyahara – withdrawing the mind from the senses, Dharana – focus or concentration, Dhyana – deep meditation and finally, Samadhi – Union with the object of meditation.
Sri M said that one proceeds from one aspect to the other and without proper and sustained practice, one does not go far. He said that one should focus on having one-pointed attention and control over the senses. He repeated the story of Kunti’s prayer and said that only a para bhakta or a supreme devotee should attempt this prayer.
Sri M added that the Walk of Hope from Kanyakumari to Kashmir is a symbolic journey through the chakras to the Sahasrara chakra. Kanyakumari symbolises the union of three nadis – Ida, Pingala and Sushumna and this was, therefore, the ideal starting point for the Walk.
He ended his talk by exhorting people to join him in the Walk. The chanting of OM and a short period of silence marked the end of another illuminating satsang.
After dinner at 8 pm, the group retired for the night.