At Hindustan College of Science and Technology - MAthura
It was another cold morning and the yatris found it tough going. A buffeting wind made things worse for them. At Surkuti, the Delhi team started the day's proceedings with prayers. Yatris were adorned with 'tikas' and dry fruits were distributed before the walk started.
Within a short while, the padayatris crossed over from Agra to Mathura on National Highway 2 –earlier the imperial highway connecting Agra and Delhi. The Walk of Hope was warmly received at the Suraj Govind Senior Secondary School. By then, the sun was up and the weather turned pleasant. The students dished out a fabulous cultural program of dance and music which was enjoyed by all. The Principal of the school, in her address, aptly reminded all that we were in the first week of February, the 'UN World Interfaith Harmony Week'.
Sri M addressed the students and staff of the school and the padayatris thus: "You must already know about the yatra. I'm from Kerala, so if I make any mistakes in Hindi, I apologise. This yatra started from Kanyakumari on 12th January 2015 and we will reach Srinagar in the first week of May. We had a very good welcome in Kanpur on January 12th, 2016 where we completed a year of walking. This is a K to K yatra because India is united right from Kanyakumari to Kashmir and we don't want this unity to break. The objective of this yatra is Manav Ekta. You won't find any country with so many languages, so many religions. India has welcomed everyone from time immemorial. Even among Hindus, there are so many different sampradayas. A Vishnu worshipper doesn't go to a Shiva temple. There are differences amongst Muslims as well and also amongst Christians. In spite of it, in our passports, we are all Indians. I'm so happy that there have not been any fights based on religion in this region. You know, when some small fight breaks loose, it can become big. We don't want this to happen. We believe prevention is better than cure and this message of peace and harmony has to go from India.”
“The responsibility of this country as the spiritual leader of the world lies in your hands. If we can sow seeds of Manav Ekta among the youth, then India will become very powerful. When you go to a blood bank, do you ask them from which religion the blood comes from? We only look at blood groups. So you understand human beings are one. We need to stay united. I know you can't come with me but if you believe in this yatra and think that we will succeed in our mission, then we will be successful even before we reach Kashmir."
He also made it a point to introduce to the gathering a select few of the padayatris who have been walking right from Kanyakumari. A yummy breakfast was served in the school canteen for the padayatris after which the walk resumed.
During receptions at the Hardayal Technical campus and Hindustan college of Science & Technology, the students got to interact with the senior members of the padayatra. Sri M addressed the students of the Aashlar Business School as well. The walk ended here after snacks and a briefing by the organizers.
The week-long stay in Agra enabled the padayatris to visit the chief tourist attractions of this city which lures tourists in thousands every year. Taj Mahal was a must see of course, but many visited the Agra Fort, Sikandra, Fatehpur Sikri and the tomb of I'timād-ud-Daulah.
Many padayatris including Sri M and wife Sunandaji couldn't give The Taj Mahal a miss. The Taj looked splendid as always, despite two of its minars being scaffolded for renovation. The green electric buses and golf carts are efforts by the Archaeological Survey of India to reduce pollution around the Taj and maintain it better. Many wondered how Taj would have looked originally in all its glory – with diamonds and precious stones, glittering all over at the touch of the morning sunlight.
Sikandra, the tomb of one of India's greatest and tolerant monarchs, 'Emperor Akbar' looks like a poor cousin! Set in a sprawling land of 123 acres, the giant mausoleum was built by Akbar. It was greatly damaged and looted by the King of Bharatpur in the early 19th century, and the ASI should definitely promote this monument better with some renovation.
Though a bit far from Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, the capital city constructed by Akbar and which was later abandoned due to paucity of water, also attracted attention. Many could not get enough time at the Agra fort as it proved to be vast and replete with many structures and legends, needing time and careful study. I'timād-ud-Daulah– the exquisitely carved tomb of Jahangir's father-in-law also drew praise.