The padayatra started from the congregation point, the Subramanya Temple on the outskirts of Kozhikode, and stopped for breakfast at Thiruvannur Swathi Thirunal Kalakendram, run by Kaithapram Damodaran Namboodiri. They had walked for almost 2 hours by this time.
The Swathi Thirunal Kalakendram, based at Thiruvannur, is noted for its pioneering efforts in the field of music therapy. As a matter of fact, it is the only center of its kind in India, with over 20 years of experience. The music school has an architectural significance as the mud used for laying the foundation stone was brought from Jerusalem, Mecca and Kaloor. Kaithapram Damodaran Namboothiri, popularly known as Kaithapram, is a Malayalam lyricist, music director, actor, singer, screenwriter, and performer of Carnatic music.
Continuing along the route, Sri M planted some saplings on the way, reflecting the commitment to the Walk’s objective of protecting the environment. After a while, they stopped for lemonade at the Sreekanteswaram Temple.
The Sreekanteswaram Temple’s main deity is Lord Shiva, worshipped in the form of a Shivalingam. Other deities like Lord Subramanya, Ganapathi, Sree Dharma Shastha (Swami Ayyappa), Lord Vishnu, Bhagawathi and the navagrahams are also worshipped in the temple. The temple is more than a hundred years old.An hour later, they reached the Dargah of Sheik Palli where Sri M and the yatris spent some time in prayers and contemplation. They, then visited the Kuttichira Juma Masjid (Mishkal Mosque) in Kuttichira, a part of Thekkepuram region.
Thekkepuram is a quarter located inside the city of Kozhikode. There is a large pool called Kuttichira, which attracts many visitors. Thekkepuram also houses some of the largest and oldest Tharavads, which are traditional joint family houses. The Big Bazaar, one of the oldest and biggest trading lanes in Malabar, is located here.
The Kuttichira Juma Masjid dates back to the 14th century and is considered to be a haven of communal harmony between the Hindus and the Muslims. A rich Arab businessman named Mishkal built the Masjid and hence, it is also known as the Mishkal Mosque. Typical for similarly aged mosques in Malabar, it has no cupolas and minarets and heavily employs timber. According to some historians, Kerala’s Hindu temple architecture influenced the architecture of old mosques in Kerala, which have gopuram-style entrance arches and no minarets. Its large floor space can conveniently hold close to a 1000 worshippers at any time.
After walking 23.2 kms in 7 hours, the padayatra soon arrived at a Satsangi’s apartment, situated near the beach. The building faced the beach and lunch for the walkers was served on the terrace with a breathtaking view of the ocean. The azure waters of the sea merged with the cobalt sky in the distant horizon. One could see hawks and seagulls hover over the sea, hoping for a catch from the waters below. A strong breeze helped beat the heat of the sun blazing above.
The group rested in their assigned places and congregated again by 4.30 pm on the beach. The venue for the evening program was right on the beach. Set against the backdrop of the Arabian Sea, the stage for the public reception for Walk of Hope was truly spectacular with the evening sun setting, a splash of orange spreading across the distant horizon. The hour was serene and divine, lending a contemplative air.
The evening started with devotional songs from all the three major religions of India. The singers, Nishad and Athira, talented brother-sister group and their accompanying musicians regaled the large crowd with inspiring bhajans. Two films featuring the Walk of Hope were also screened before the commencement of the public function.
There was a host of dignitaries from the city gracing the occasion: Sri P V Chandran, MD, Mathrubhoomi (leading Malayalam daily from Calicut); Sri Thottathil Raveendran, former Mayor of Kozhikode; Sri Imichammad Haji, Chief Khazi of Kozhikode; Sri N E Balakrishna Marar of Poorna Publications; Advocate Beeran Kutty, Anakkayath Moosa, Smt M M Subaida, Social Worker and Singer; and Sri P V Gangadharan from Mathrubhoomi. In his presiding address, Sri P V Chandran said that the slogan coined by Sri Narayana Guru "One Caste, one Religion, One God for mankind" was one of the most profound ever. He felt that Sri M was walking for and towards that cause. He said he was sure that the unity of the nation would be bolstered by it and that it was an experimental effort coming at a very critical juncture for mankind. He stated that it has to be encouraged wholeheartedly and also that this walk is a major nation building exercise.
The Chief Khazi of Calicut stated that the Walk has started at a time when, unfortunately, we find people tearing into each other like wild animals for some insignificant reason or the other. He was sure that this voyage of self-discovery would go a long way towards quelling these evil tendencies and promote world peace.
Advocate Beeran Kutty said that this Padayatra was very different from normal Padayatras. He hoped its theme of love and unity would find a special place in the history of mankind.
Sri Thottathil Raveendran, former Mayor of Calicut, called Sri M as ‘Yuga Purusha’, someone who takes birth very rarely, with a special purpose. He hoped that the Padayatra would make a sea change in the way the fabric of our society has been woven. He wished the Walk all success and hoped it would be a solution to many of our problems. Subsequently, Smt M M Subaida sang a beautiful song about religious harmony.
All the other guests who spoke praised the initiative of the Padayatra and wished it all success.Sri M started his address at 7.15 pm with ‘Namaskaram & Salaam’ to all the dignitaries on the dais and the audience. He felt that there was no need to dwell on the Padayatra as many people had talked about it already. He then spoke about the fundamental reason behind starting the Padayatra.
“My Guru Maheshwarnath Babaji asked me to go to Ajmer to study Sufi philosophy from a Shaikh. The Shaikh had told me not to let go of my Babaji as he was a very evolved spiritual being. On the third day of my return from Ajmer, as Babaji and I sat on the banks of Ganga, Babaji suddenly told me, “Thirteen hours of meditation everyday, for thirteen hours would not be of any use if you do not hear the hungry cry of a neighbour’s child. All your efforts would be zero or ‘Shoonya ho jayega’. This is the foundation on which the concept of our Padayatra has been built. The touch stone to find out whether someone is really a spiritually evolved being is to watch his approach to other human beings, the quality of love he has towards others and his tremendous concern to ensure that no one is hurt.”
“Problems arise because we dare not open our eyes and see; like horses we wear blinds, which force us to see only in one direction. Across the infinite world, which is beyond our mind and intellect, we try to build a dam with our limited sense organs and mind. We may look at different religions as differently coloured beads strung together like a ‘maala’ (necklace).”
He moved to one of his favorite stories, Rumi’s story of the four visually challenged men who go about describing an elephant. One touches the feet and describes that the elephant is like a pillar, the second man feels the trunk and explains that it is in the shape of a hosepipe, the third one touches the tail and explains that it is a stick with bristles, and the fourth person feels the ears and describes them as fans. They start fighting amongst themselves claiming that their personal version of the elephant, as sensed by them, is indeed the right one. Noticing their agitation, a passerby with clear sight enquiring on the reason for their fight, laughed and explained that while each one was correct in their way, they had missed completely ‘the whole’, the elephant in its entirety. He said that varied religions were also like this. Each one sees only one perspective and concludes the truth from that whereas the essence was vast and infinite.
“What difference does it make if one addresses the Almighty as God, Khuda, Easwar or whatever? 2000 years ago, Rig Veda taught us ‘Ekam Sat, Viprah Bahuda Vadanti’ meaning ‘The truth is one, the wise call it by different names’. This is one of the basics of our journey.
“If we observe Sri Narayana Guru's dictum "whatever be the religion, man should remain good" in our mind, I feel that India will once again regain its lost glory. India has, over the last two millennia, told Christians, Muslims, Jews and Parsis to "come, sit, stay with us, drink our water, eat our food" continuously. Here, in this country, everyone can live together peacefully and happily. This is our hope. From what I hear and feel from the people I meet during our yatra, I get the feeling that everyone thinks on these lines.”
Sri M continued: “Our walk.... is it a sort of madness? There are about 35-40 people who have been walking with me from Kanyakumari without break. At the end of a hard day's walk, I enquire with them whether they have any problems. I know that they are going through pain, blisters and what not. But, not one has uttered a complaint to me so far. If others also can do and think on these lines, there is definitely hope for our country.”
Coming to his favourite chapter of Bhakti Yoga from the Bhagawad Gita, Sri M reiterated that only a person who has control over his sense organs, one who is equally disposed to all and who has the welfare of all beings at heart is the ideal devotee or ‘bhakta’, according to God Krishna. He stressed again on ‘Sarva bhuta hiteh ratah’ meaning ‘one who has the welfare of all at heart’.
“If one understands that everyone has a bit of Parabrahma within them and can try and merge with it in dhyana, one cannot even think of harming anyone. When you go to donate blood in a blood bank, do they ask you your religion or caste? Sufi teachings tell us that if we understand the individual atman (inner self or soul) and its manifestations, we will understand God. Our interaction with others and our love for others determines our understanding of God. We have major misunderstandings about some religions.”
Sri M then narrated another story about Mohammad Nabi, who was leaving to offer prayers on Ramadan day. The place was a little far away from a small mosque and he was getting late. It is usual for followers of Islam to buy good clothes for children on this auspicious occasion. On the way to the mosque, Mohammad Nabi found an orphan child in tattered clothes. He asked the child if he had any new clothes for the occasion. When he came to know of his plight, he took the child with him, bought new clothes, had them stitched for him and made the child happy. All the while, his followers were reminding him that he was getting late for the prayer. Mohammad Nabi told his followers that what he did for the child itself is the greatest prayer possible and, even if his prayer gets a little late, it is not of greater importance than this act of his.
“Whatever I have said, I have personally experienced. These are not things I have read from books. Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa could not pen his signature; Prophet Mohammed could not read, but their experiences were of a different order. Let us walk and demonstrate this. I am a ordinary human like all of you, and have a wife and two children and my daughter is not married yet!”
“Please support us either by praying for us and wishing us success or by walking with us as much as you can. I had decided to walk alone even if none was ready to accompany me. But, the first few who I asked, agreed to come with me. Over the last two years, this number increased and we are walking as a big group now.”
Sri M concluded: “I thank one and all for giving us such a warm welcome to this wonderful city.” The public reception, attended by more than 1500 people, was an extraordinary one. The yatris then walked back to the Satsangi’s house for dinner, again served on the open terrace. They watched the million star-studded sky under which a dark, pulsating sea let know its presence through the periodic shifting of the tides. The padayatris were then transported back to their places of rest, where they retired to their rooms by 10.30 pm.