The yatris, numbering about 120, departed from Sree Maha Ganapathy Temple, Malliyoor, at 5.30 am. The padayatra left earlier than usual due to the relatively longer distance to walk today. Close to an hour later, Sri M was welcomed by a local group of about 30 people at Muttuchira, with some of them joining the walk later. At 7.30 am, another group of locals were waiting to receive Sri M at the Appanchira Junction. The yatris took a tea break here and Sri M interacted with the local community for a brief while.
After another greeting by the wayside, this time by a family, the walkers reached Kaduthuruthy Mahadeva Temple after walking 13 kms. The group had breakfast at this point. Kaduthuruthy is a small picturesque town nestled between the hilly mid regions of Kerala and the backwaters of the coastal land. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and the idol is said to have been installed at the same time as the Vaikom Shiva Temple.
As it had rained in the night, the day was very humid with hardly a breeze. These days, by 8.00 am, the sun is blazing and the bright sunlight almost blinds the walkers. The group walked on and stopped at a roadside school where Sri M interacted with the school children. They also enjoyed a refreshing juice break. The walkers reached the Vaikom Mahadeva Temple at 11.15 am—where they were welcomed and greeted by the local community. The temple, dedicated to Mahadeva-the Lord of Lords, has a mythology going back to the times of Ramayana.
This temple forms one of the triumvirates along with the deities in Ettumanoor and Kaduthuruthy—a prominent belief being that one’s wishes are fulfilled if one prays at all the three temples in a single day before ‘Ucha Pooja’(the Noon pooja). This again, is a very popular temple, as it is held in reverence by both Vaishnava and Saivite sects and is considered one of the oldest temples in Kerala where ‘puja’ (worship) has remained unbroken since its consecration.
Walking through the town, the padayatra reached the Vaikom Satyagraha Memorial where Sri M addressed the gathering. The 1924-25 Satyagraha movement in Travancore was mainly against the custom of untouchability prevailing in Hindu society. It was aimed at securing freedom of movement for all sections through public roads leading to the Sri Mahadeva temple at Vaikom. This was the first systematically organized agitation in Kerala against orthodoxy to secure rights of the depressed classes and brought to the fore the question of civil rights of the ‘low caste’ people in Indian politics.
Sri M’s address mainly narrated the significance of the Memorial: he recalled how the ultra-orthodox family of Nampoothiri Brahmins, running the temple, had restricted entry to all other sects. Nobody apart from the Brahmins could enter the temple and even the use of the roads on all four sides of the temple was restricted. This came to Mahatma Gandhi’s attention and he went on a hunger strike in 1924. The chief priest was scheduled to have a dialogue with Gandhiji but he delayed it by three days only because of his belief that he could not talk to or even be in the presence of a non-Brahmin like Gandhiji. Anybody who had traveled abroad was also considered polluted. Gandhiji was not allowed to enter their house. They built a small hut and had discussions in the hut, sitting 15 feet away from the satyagrahis. Though the discussions did not immediately result in freedom, the rulers of Travancore later declared the Temple Entry Act allowing non-Brahmins to enter any temple. Gandhiji visited the temple three years later when the Act was passed. Sri M concluded his short talk on this note.
The padayatris, along with the local community, walked to the halting point for the day—The Varmas Public School, Vaikom—reaching by 1.00 pm. As they reached the school, 100 students accompanied the procession with a group of them leading, chanting and holding regal umbrellas. The rest of the students formed two lines on either side of the walkers. Sri M was garlanded and was showered with flower petals.
While the men stayed at this point, the women were put up in a hotel three kilometers away. After lunch at 2.00 pm, the group retired for a well-deserved rest.
The walkers had traversed over 28 kms and had walked close to 8 hours. This was the longest stretch since the padayatra began on 12th January 2015. Exhaustion was evident today, it being a difficult walk in sultry conditions with not too many stops. They walked mostly on the highway, which is always a challenge. The walk through Vaikom town was a long stretch with at least three halts.
The Satsang was held at the school and started at 6.00 pm with a gathering of around 500 people.
Sri M commenced his address with an apology to the walkers for putting them through so many physical hardships. He said that there was no political agenda or profit motive behind the padayatra.
Over the years, there was something that had remained in his heart, a sense of incompletion. Once, as he sat with his Guru, Maheshwarnath Babaji, who always preferred a rock to a chair, Babaji said, “You have now spent two and a half years with me. Many years later, you will walk the entire length of the country with many people.” The young disciple then ventured to say, “You are not walking with many people, Babaji.” Babaji cut him short with his ‘aadesh’ saying, “Just do it!” He said these words were the motivating force behind his undertaking this journey of 6500 kms with a large bunch of ‘sahayatris’ or co-travellers.
Till now, he said, he could not muster enough courage to take up this arduous task. If he were to travel alone, it would have been very easy. Though he had a family, they knew his ways and they would not have held him back. But the task he had taken on, of having to travel with a large group, was indeed a different proposition. He had mooted the idea to few friends about three years ago, and interestingly, everyone, including the current Prime Minister of India had agreed with him. It was very evident that this was the right juncture to start the Walk. A walk on similar lines had never been done in one continuous stretch, though there had been instances like the Dandi March, which became instrumental in our gaining independence from foreign rule.
The big question was ‘How?’ In the last two years or so, many friends who were sitting in the satsang audience, have been engaged in mapping, organizing, traveling and planning halting points at an average of every 20 kilometers. At the nick of time, everything just fell in place and the Walk began on 12th of January from Kanyakumari, the confluence of three oceans, on a day which marked Swami Vivekananda’s 151st birth anniversary. This signaled the start of a significant symbolic journey northwards, to the higher precincts.
Another interesting thing, he continued, was that till now, none of the sahayatris had complained about the issues they faced, except showing their concern for him by frequently enquiring about his health and welfare! Not having even completed a month in the envisaged 15 to 18 months for the padayatra, he feels the unity amongst the walkers and said, “I feel we are a hundred different bodies with ONE atman – not that I am the atman and the others are mere bodies but meaning that the Atman or the One is guiding us all. I am sure this spirit will sustain and continue to guide us through the entire journey.”
He continued, “This walk is not based on any ideology or theory but on the profound experience that God, who is sarvavyapi (all-pervading), is in all human beings. Once the mind is pure and without ripples, God’s reflection is visible in it. Once you get such a blissful vision, just one such vision is enough for you to dissolve all your other desires. This experience alone remains.”
Sri M stated that he wanted to share this with all. “Once we realize the concept of ‘Poorna’ (completeness or wholesome), there is no question of receiving anything else or moving further.” He gave the example: “As you cannot pour any more water in a container that is already filled completely with water.”
He mentioned that Walk of Hope, organized by Manav Ekta Mission, had completed 28 days now.
Swami Vivekananda was once asked for the essence of the Vedanta. He summed it up as – “Each soul is potentially divine, the goal is to manifest this divinity within by controlling nature: external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control or philosophy - by one or more or all of these methods and be free. This is the essence of religion. Doctrines or dogmas or rituals or books or temples or forms are but secondary detail.”
Sri M said further we should understand this philosophy is nothing new to India. Rishis outside India too, with purity in their hearts, have found this connection with God irrespective of where they came from. For example, Jesus said -“Blessed are the peacemakers, as they will be called the children of God.” and St.Paul said –“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” India had innumerable such Rishis who had delved deep into this truth. It is indeed saddening to see that it is all now forgotten. Such a realization had often been forgotten. People are now fighting over caste, creed, gender and language, ignoring the words of wisdom from the 2000-year old Rig Veda: ‘Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahudaa Vadanti’ (The truth is one but the wise call it by many names).
The Gita teaches us that the physical body can be likened to a ‘Kshetram’ (temple) and the individual soul to a ‘Kshetragna’ (deity). Sri M said it was also his duty to teach whoever is available, even if is a small group, that our body is a sacred temple and urge them to pray to the divine within. It is indeed gratifying to see people dispersing, happier and friendlier than before, even if they are there just for a while.
On the same note, he mentioned how he always spoke to his fellow travelers about the internal ‘yatra’ they must undertake during the padayatra from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, the progress from the Mooladhara to the Sahasraara Chakra. They need to constantly observe and listen to themselves to realize what needs to change, what has to be acquired and what needs to be thrown out in order to purify the mind. The padayatra, he said, will be worthless if such an effort is not made by all of us. It is also important that the internal ‘yatra’ begin at home. Even if people were not able to join the padayatra physically, and instead they embarked on an internal journey, he would consider them as fellow travelers.
Sri M said that every school has to make an effort to educate both teachers and children to keep their body fit as only a fit body can have a fit mind. At the age of 66, he said, he does not have either diabetes or changes in blood pressure. It’s only because he has practiced yogasanas, dhyana and pranayama along with systematic food habits. Teachers, being role models, need to be briefed about this.
He revealed that evenings are an ideal time to visit a temple, meditate or do some ‘seva’ (service). If he, a normal and ordinary person can do it, everybody can do it. Sri M also said that everybody should possess a copy of the Bhagawad Gita, which in 18 chapters, succinctly describes the Truth. “I would like all of you to practice meditation – both in the morning and evening so that your minds are calm and you are able to take everything with equanimity.”
Quoting from the texts, he said that, “God is omnipresent but is manifested in love.” With constant practice, he said, changes happen in the heart. And once tasted, it never disappears. This will enable us to die happily, in the realization that we are only moving from one room to another, even if our body is shed. Death, Sri M said, seems painful only because we feel that we are losing our possessions and our loved ones. He reiterated that it was not wrong to have material possessions or have families and friends but one should realize that happiness is not completely dependent on them.
He concluded his talk narrating the story from Kabir Das about the musk deer. The musk deer, a deer species from the lower Himalayas, searches for the aroma of the musk which emanates from it’s own body in a certain season. It buries its snout in thorny bushes hurting itself not realizing that the aroma comes from within its body. He said that the yogic techniques are focused on the essence of this story, that the Truth is within us and consistent yoga practice helps us to reach this Truth.
Sri M then called upon stage six yatris to relate their Walk experiences. He apologized again to the walkers for putting them through so many physical hardships on the yatra.
Subsequently, there was a brief vocal ‘aalapan’ by Sanitha T K, a highly accomplished Hindustani classical singer.
The satang concluded with Sri M interacting with the local community.
The walkers were served dinner at 8.00 pm and they dispersed by 9.30 pm for sleep.