As the day of much-awaited Shivaratri dawned, a large number of people, including many first-timers, joined the Walk to spend time with Sri M on this important day. Maha Shivaratri marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti and also the advent of spring and the end of the winter season. Maha Shivaratri and Guru Purnima, usually celebrated on the Madanapalle campus, are red-letter days in a satsangi’s calendar. This is when Sri M lights the ‘dhuni ‘and people congregate in large numbers to attend the Satsang.
The yatris congregated at 5.30 am for their morning tea and left at 6.00 am for their next destination—Kadavallur.The Walk, in itself was rather uneventful, and the group walked mostly on the highway for the entire stretch. Breakfast was served at 8.10 am at Kunnamkulam Ganapathy Temple.
Kunnamkulam (meaning mountain and ponds) is a small town with several hills around it interspersed with ponds. The town is also called Parayil Angadi (Market among rocks). Like most towns in Kerala, it has its share of antiquity—being part of Mahodaya Pattanam, the capital of the Chera kingdom.
Proceeding further, the group had two tea breaks at wayside teashops and reached Kadavallur at 11.30 am. The village of Kadavallur is mostly known for its ancient temple dedicated to Sri Rama, which is said to be around 1800 years old. The temple is also known as Matte Kadavallur Sree Rama Temple. It is believed that Ghatotkacha, the son of Bhima and Hidimba, blessed the temple. An annual Vedic contest called Anyonyam, a Rig Veda debate between two major Rig Veda schools (known as "Brahmaswam Math") based in Thirunavaya and Thrissur, takes place in this temple.
After lunch, the yatris were assigned their places of stay. Men were put up in a large hall while the women were assigned to rooms in a lodge about 2 kms away. The group, numbering around 250, had walked 20.5 kms during the day.
The venue for the evening program was the open grounds of the Sree Rama Temple.
Tea was served at 5.00 pm, after which Sri M and a small group of people visited the temple and offered their prayers. People came from many a place and around 350 Satsangis had gathered at the temple grounds. The setting was very beautiful and Sri M sat under an old huge peepal tree, just as in Madanapalle. A dhuni pit was prepared about 2 meters from the tree and people sat in a wide semi-circle around the dhuni.
Sri M’s satsang today was very short and he spoke in three languages to satisfy the gathering from all over the country – Hindi, English and Malayalam.“We are at a very important place today - Kadavallur. This is a Rama Swamy temple with a prathistha of Lord Rama. As usual, there is someone, inseparable from Rama, whom you see on the left side as you enter the temple. The temple is very old”. He jocularly remarked, “It is called Kadavallur because Ghatotkacha did the prathista here and therefore, you get very good food here!”
Speaking about Shivaratri, Sri M spoke about the ‘bhang’ (a mild intoxicating drink made from cannabis leaves and buds) and said; “Bhang that Shiva takes is different from the bhang that we people take - it is the spiritual ecstasy.” He commented that he would not say much today as it is a day of celebration, being Shivaratri, and one should be focused on the singing of bhajans, meditation and chanting.
Speaking on the significance of Shivaratri, he gave various interpretations of the word ‘Shivaratri’. One, it is the day Shiva and Parvathi were brought together in wedlock; hence the night of Shiva is the celebration of the coming together of Shiva and Shakti. Two, he narrated the story of ‘samudra manthan’ - the churning of the ocean of milk where Mount Mandara was used as the churning rod and Vasuki, the king of serpents who is wound around Shiva’s neck, became the churning rope. The Asuras demanded that they hold the head of the snake while the Devas (Gods) on the advice of Vishnu, held the other end. Vishnu, to save the mountain from sinking into the ocean, took the form of a turtle ‘Kurma” and supported the mountain on his back. The manthan released a number of things from the ocean – treasures and poison. When the poison ‘halahal’ was released, the terrified beings rushed to Shiva to rescue them as the powerful poison could destroy all creation. Shiva consumed the poison in a move to protect the world and his wife Parvathi pressed her hand on Shiva’s throat to save the universe. Shiva’s throat turned blue and is thus called ‘Neelakanta’ (the blue-throated one).’
Sri M said: “Only if we surrender to the Lord and pass on all the poison, will we be able to reach him and taste the bliss thereafter.” Three, he narrated the story of Ganga descending to the Earth. “Ganga said she couldn’t come down to the earth due to two problems. One, I am too powerful and how will my force be controlled? And, two, earth has too many sinners and I will get polluted. Shiva answered thus: I will control your force in my locks and your second problem will be solved as there are a large number of yogis on this earth and just one foot of a yogi washing himself in your waters will cleanse you of all sin!”
Sri M said referring to the Nath tradition: “In our parampara’”(lineage), the dhuni is lit every day - outside and inside. It is the fire of desire for perfection. But Babaji has exempted me from that. Gurupoornima and Shivratri are compulsory for me. I do so because I made a promise and I never break promises. The dhuni represents the fire for understanding the Supreme – something that takes place when everything else is reduced to ashes. So these are the symbols…” – the fire in the dhuni being symbolic of the internal fire that keeps the yearning for ultimate truth alive.
He concluded his talk saying that once the Deeparadhana (worship by lighting of lamps) is over, the gathering would chant the Panchakshari Mantra (Om. Namah Shivaya).
Sri M then lit the dhuni and, after the aarti, the chanting of the Panchakshari Mantra started, followed by the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, the Kali Mantra and ending with again chanting Om Namah Shivaya. Sri M led the chant and, after the first few chants, everybody joined him in the chanting. Pranaams to Sri M started at 7.15 pm and ended by 8.30 pm. Sri M then left the venue after dinner. Many satsangis continued to stay near the dhuni and kept vigil till midnight.