It was an early start from the Thanthra Vidya Peedham, with the walkers along with Sri M, onward, enroute, at 6 a.m. The gently rolling terrain, with the refreshing morning mist and a renewed sense of camaraderie had them on narrow roads, sometimes with paddy fields and paths through the local woods. The local pepper plantations seem to have infused their natural fragrance in the early morning air, invigorating the group, intent in their purpose. They mostly had the roads to themselves, and walked in quiet solitude.
Sri M and the walkers were greeted by a group of around 20 people at 6.45 a.m. Some of them joined the walk. After a small tea break at Manakkapady Junction, they reached Chendamangalam town by 10 a.m. Enroute, Sri M and the yatris were greeted by another group of 30 people, some of whom joining in as they moved onward.
Chendamangalam is a small and beautiful town in Ernakulam district, nurtured by three rivers and seven inlets, embraced by hillocks and verdant green. It is known for its cultural diversity, with Hindus, Jews, Muslims and Christians living in harmony since centuries. It is also one of Kerala’s popular centers of handloom and coir weaving.The hillocks of Kottayil Kovilakom at Chendamangalam has the unique feature of having the site of a temple, a church, a mosque and the historical remains of a synagogue, all residing within 1 km of each other. The synagogue’s history goes back more than 750 years. It is believed that St. Thomas, one of the twelve disciples of Jesus Christ, visited the village when he first came to India.
The group reached Holy Cross Church of Chendamangalam at 10 a.m. This church is also of historical importance, having the mortal remains of the Holy Cross and the twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. The parish priest welcomed Sri M and the walkers at the church, where Sri M, addressed the congregation.They proceeded to the synagogue , where Sri M along with the group spent time in prayer. Influenced by Indian building traditions coupled with the influences of visiting traders and imperialists over the centuries, the Chendamangalam synagogue is a wonderful example of the traditions of Keralan vernacular thachusasthra design.
From the synagogue, they made their way to the Juma Masjid a short distance away and after Sri M offered his prayers there, they walked to the Sree Venugopalakrishna Swamy temple or Lord Krishna which is also more than a 100 years old. After offering prayers, Sri M had an interaction with about 50 people from the local community. Refreshments were served to the group at the premises.
With the tropical sun at its fiercest by now, the padayatris walked to the Kottayil Kovilakam Boat Jetty which was their break point for the afternoon. They were served packed lunch , following which some even managed to grab quick and refreshing naps on the velvety green river bank, comforted by a benevolent breeze that kept revisiting through the coconut glades.
Resuming the day’s route at 2.30 p.m., the yatris were taken by ferry across the river in groups of 50 to Kodungallur in Thrissur district. This was a first for the walkers. The forty-minute, 7 km journey was the highlight of the day and they enjoyed their ride on the waters of the Periyar, glistening in the sunlight. The fishing industry flourishes on the banks.
Kodungallur ( the land of 10 million shiva lingas ) has a rich history and was one of the most important ports till around the 14th century. It still has the ramparts and remnants of a fort built by the Portuguese in 1523, rebuilt again in 1565. The place is also believed to have a rich heritage and a site of the Muziris – ancient life in India.
The Walk resumed on the other bank by 4.10 p.m, stopping over at the Thiruvanchikulam Mahadeva Temple where they were offered tea and local snacks. The Mahadeva Temple is reported to be more than 2000 years old, and is one of the oldest temples of South India, where Lord Shiva is believed to reside along with his entire family. The temple is known for the number of representations of Shiva in murals and is now maintained by the Archaeological department of India.Cheraman Juma Masjid, was the next destination, where they arrived at 5.15 p.m. This mosque is said to be India’s first mosque, built in 629 AD. It is believed that Cheraman Perumal, the then Chera King went to Arabia where he met the Prophet and embraced Islam and changed his name. He had sent letters with Malik Bin Dinar (the founder of this mosque) to his relatives in Kerala asking them to be hospitable to this traveler.
A group of Arabs led by Malik Bin Dinar and Malik Bin Habib arrived in North Kerala and constructed a mosque here, naming it after their contemporary Cheraman Perumal. The mosque houses an ancient oil lamp which is kept burning all the time and believed to be more than a 1000 years old. People from all religions bring oil for the lamp as offering. It is also notable that many Iftar offerings during Ramzan are done by non-muslims.
After offering their prayers at the mosque, the group reached Vivekananda Kendra at 5.30 p.m. which was their halting point.
Swami Vivekananda during his wanderings in South India passed through Kodungallur. A local well wisher and renowned social worker Dr. Sridhar Pai gifted a piece of land to Vivekananda Kendra to start a centre in Swamiji’s name. It is located in idyllic surroundings and has become a very positive popular centre promoting spiritual welfare of all sections of society.
The group dispersed, on being allocated their accommodation and met again for dinner at 8 p.m. With February 13, the following day being a rest day, there was a feeling of relaxation in the air.The group had walked 24.4 kms and travelled 7 kms by ferry to reach Kodungallur.