Today, a change in routine saw a late departure with the padayatra starting only at 9.30 am. Well-rested, the padayatris were a picture of cheer and confidence, as they set out on a 22 km walk for the day. A sultry sun kept company all along, while the emerald tapestry on both sides of the road kept it much bearable and, at times, even enjoyable. The day would be different for it departed from the usual routine in so many ways.
At 10.30 am, the group was treated to a grand welcome and rousing reception by the local community at Kozhencherry—having walked 4 kms already. With the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Prof P J Kurien, taking the lead along with Sri M, the next four hours of the padayatra were interspersed with receptions and meetings. Sri M also met with the local community heads, including religious leaders, during this time. There was a luncheon meeting with them at Prapancham House.
Leaving Prapancham House at 2.00 pm, the padayatra reached Ayroor at 3.00 pm where Sri M was scheduled to attend the 103rd Cherukolpuzha Hindu Matha Convention. The annual religious Maha Mandalam (convention) features spiritual discourses and expositions by eminent sanyasins and scholars. Held on the vast sand bed of the river Pampa, the objective is to bring home traditional ideals and values into daily lives in the present-day context.
More than 1000 people received Sri M and the walkers at the Convention. Other dignitaries who attended the function included Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Dr P J Kurien, Shri N.K.Premachandran, MP, and Shri T.K.A.Nair, former advisor to Prime Minister. Delivering the benedictory speech, Sri M, said all souls are potentially divine. He further explained the need for peace and harmony in contemporary times and stressed on the need for unity between faiths.
With the advent of dusk and the fading light, the group continued on their walk. This was a new experience for most since the Walk finishes everyday by noon. There were no street lamps and, most of the way, guided by the light beams of passing vehicles, the group had to walk with caution. The group proceeded in silence and reached the halt for the day, Vennikulam, at 8.30 pm.
Another impressive welcome by a group of around 500 people awaited the padayatra at the halting point. Musicians and drummers, playing Panchavadyam, led the procession with ceremonial umbrellas on either side, adding pomp and colour. As they reached the venue, the music built to a crescendo and stopped abruptly—the effect truly dramatic. This was the grandest welcome ever accorded to the Walk of Hope since it started.
Sri M and the yatris were led to the stage. Sri M again addressed the gathering briefly. The other dignitaries including Dr P J Kurien addressed the gathering. Sri M was felicitated with shawls and other gifts. The event ended at 10 pm.
Again, on this day of ‘change’, the padayatris stayed in the local homes instead of the usual rest-house/dormitory, with 3 to 4 being accommodated in each home, for the night. Vehicles ferried them to their place of rest. Dinner was served at these homes and some of the yatris retired late by midnight only. The reception and the media coverage were unprecedented.
With no organized satsang for the day, the essence of Sri M’s address at the meetings were brief and to the point. The essence was to convey the objectives of Walk of Hope, ‘ONENESS’ of humanity in all aspects – religion, gender, people, communities, locations, man and nature. He urged people to join and walk with him.
Though the day was exhausting with the long walk and it’s varied activities, the padayatris retired for the night with a feeling of exhilaration as they had witnessed the truly unifying spirit of the land—emerging in the course of the day in the form of spectacular receptions.