The Chamber of Commerce building, Kannur saw the padaytris congregating between 5.30 and 6.00 am for their morning coffee and departure. Sri M joined them here and the padayatra left as usual at 6.00 am for their destination of the day – Pazhyangadi in Kannur district. The sun was yet to make its appearance at this time. The group continued its progress along the highway as the day dawned in a short while.
About 30 minutes later, a group of around 40 members of a Walking club from Kannur (PPC Walking Club) greeted Sri M and, later, these club members joined the walk for a while. Soon after, the padaytra arrived at a local school where they were greeted and Sri M planted a sapling. The walkers were served an early breakfast at the school.
Though the highway was lined with trees, the day was getting warmer as the sun climbed the arc. March is here and summer begins. The sunlight is blinding, and at this time, it is sheer inner strength that makes one continue on the path. By now, the walkers are conditioned to the obstacles they face on a daily basis and the random challenges are teaching them lessons of acceptance and not taking things for granted. A far cry from their otherwise comfortable lives before the Walk, the walkers are now fully aware of the gauntlet thrown down by the route and weather and are meeting it admirably without grievances.
By 8.30 am, they reached the Aiyappa Temple, Pallipulla. Sri M was welcomed by a group of about 20 people here and Sri M offered his prayers at the temple. Ayyappan (also called Sastavu, Manikandan or Sasta) is a Hindu deity who is the son of Harihara, a Rig-vedic deity fused with both Shiva and Vishnu. He is generally depicted in a yogic posture, wearing a jewel around his neck, and hence named Manikandan, literally meaning "With bell around the neck".
Walking on further, the Walk was greeted by a group of 20 people, some of whom joined in. The yatris reached the Pappinisseri Moonnu Pettumma Palli Sharif Dargah just after noon. A small group greeted them here and Sri M offered prayers at the Dargah.
Pappinisseri is a small town of two adjacent villages. Moonnu Pettumma Palli (In the memory of the mother who gave birth to the three), popularly known as "Kattile Palli" ie Mosque in the Jungle, is the one of the most popular mosques of Northern Kerala. The annual festival known as "Kattile Palli Nercha" is attended by people from all religions. According to local lore, there was a muslim lady with three children. One day, all were found dead. The local people buried them according to customs. Gradually a burial ground came up around it. Many people of different religions started visiting and over the years it has grown into a pilgrimage center with an annual festival being held annually.
There is also a Shiva temple on the top of a hill – Sree Vadeswaram Shiva Temple, which is called ‘Sree Kailasam’ of North Malabar.Malik Dinar, a scholar during the times of the Islamic prophet Muhammad arrived here to set up a mosque, making it one of the first places that Islam was introduced in India. Much of the population of Pazhayangadi is Muslims, although followers of other religions also live here.
Today was one of the hottest days the yatris had walked so far and the sun beat down fiercely. The volunteers from the region ensured that they were kept refreshed with fruits / juice breaks every hour or so.
After the initial walk on the highway, the padayatra proceeded along a smaller road without much traffic. They passed by the beautiful landscape and had an opportunity to see the mangroves of this region. Along the route, they walked through small hamlets like Ellipuram and Kannapuram. Kannapuram is a small town, which has rich deposits of China clay that is mined and sent to factories in southern Kerala.
Sri M and the walkers soon reached Madayi Kavu temple, Pazhayangadi, the halting point for the day. Men and women were assigned adjacent halls. They had walked close to 26 kms today, most of it in the blazing sun. Though tired, it was equally interesting as the places they passed through were truly picturesque. The place where they were stayed was also very pretty—on a hill with absolutely no traffic activity. There were two ponds in the vicinity and wide-open, rolling fields.
Pazhyangadi (old market) is a small town. To the west are the hills and to the other side is the Pazhayangadi River. The hills are considered a haven for medicinal herbs and have an ancient history. The Indian Naval Academy is situated close by.
The Thiruvarkadu Bhagavathy Temple, also known as the Madiya Kavu Temple, is considered the mother of all Bhadrakali temples of North Kerala. The deity here is the fierce form of Bhadrakali. She is the goddess who destroys evilprotects the good and is considered auspicious. This particular temple is considered a last resort for the removal of occult sorcery.
Shiva is the deity seen at the entrance before proceeding to the sanctum sanctorum. Folklore has it that Bhagavathi or Madayaikkavilamma (the Mother protecting Madayi, Pazhayangadi) was a resident in the Rajarajeswara Temple. She, being a non-vegetarian, could not co-exist in the temple and ordered the then King of the region to construct a separate shrine for her. Another myth goes that the town Madayi was troubled by a demon, Daruka, and the Goddess Madayikavilamma killed him and requested that a temple be built for Shakti. Parashurama created Madayippara and built the holy shrine upon it.
The temple is believed to be more than 3000 years old. The Shiva shrine faces East, while the Kali shrine faces the West. A particular aspect of the temple is Kozhi Kalasham—which is the sacrifice of poultry for the Goddess, which is held in high regard.The walkers were served lunch at 2.15 pm and after a brief rest, they returned at 5.45 pm for the satsang.The venue for the satsang was the porch of a typical Keralan house near the temple. Around 200 people sat around Sri M to hear him speak.
Sri M commenced his address with his now customary greetings of ‘Namaskaram’ and ‘Salaam’.
“Today we have completed 49 days of our padayatra. If you ask me, I would prefer to walk another 2 kms instead of talking. There are many people who can talk but very few who can walk the talk. Many ask me, if I am mad to take up such a journey. There are many differences between a ratha-yatra and a pada-yatra. I have many friends here and I have come here several times. On all those trips, I would use a car. We normally get angry with the pedestrians who cross our path, little realising that the road belongs to all of us. But, as I walk, I am noticing many things which I had not noticed earlier during my trips in the comfort of my car.”
“We started our padayatra in Kanyakumari, which is a sangam—a confluence of three seas—and also the place where Swami Vivekananda envisioned his work for India. Dara Shikoh, a descendent of the Mughal empire, was the first to translate the Upanishads into Persian. He carried out this work in Kashmir. The Persian version subsequently got translated into Greek. Till then, Greece was looked upon as the leader of the Classical Arts and Philosophy in that age. Only then, did the world realise what treasures lay in the East, which was commonly thought of as a dark land!”
“On this Walk, each one of us has become a parivrajaka—spending each night in a different place, seeing different sights and talking to different people on our way.” “Manav Ekta (Human oneness) is our goal – is this possible? It is a Hope. What Hope? It is that human beings from different religions, thoughts, beliefs and even non-believers can live as one without harming each other. My conviction is that it is possible to forge unity despite the diversity in our country.”
“Not only me, most people at heart don't want to hurt anyone. By error, slip-ups happen sometimes. It is our duty to assuage the hurt feelings and set things right. We have no other agenda.”
“Spiritually, I do not want to achieve anything further. Upanishads say, 'Poorna-mada-poorna-idam' i.e. if you touch the ‘parabrahman’, which is complete, you will not need anything more. Instead, you will think of others who have been not so fortunate. You will empathise with their agonies and think about putting an end to those. Many great souls, even outside India, have thought on these lines.”
“Jesus Christ said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of God’. In India, he would have been called an ‘Aniketa Parivrajaka’ (A wandering, homeless monk). When someone asked Swami Vivekananda whether he considered Jesus as a Son of God, Swami Vivekananda had replied that he would treat Jesus as an Avatar.
“Spirituality means being at peace; compassionate and loving, never even thinking of hurting or killing people. I admit wrong interpretations have been created to suit the needs of some.”
He continued, “The Bhagavat Gita says ‘One who has control over his sense organs, is equally disposed to all and has the welfare of all beings at heart is the ideal devotee or ‘bhakta’, according to God Krishna’. The portion of parabrahma is an indispensable part of all of us and it's character is love and compassion. It is often not recognised because the mind is not clean due to impurities. In fact, we are all ONE.”
All human beings are like a Kshetra (temple) within which the Kshetrajna, the ‘parabrahma’ (Supreme Cosmic Spirit, or Godhead) resides. “My goal of Manav Ekta is based on my personal experiences and the padayatra is based on Manav Ekta. On our way, we have had many experiences, which reinforce our belief that Ekta is possible in our country. For example, before we entered Malappuram, we were told it was dangerous and we could be harmed. But we experienced good hospitality in this sector. In fact, we met an old Muslim lady who asked us, ‘Why are you doing this padayatra?’. When we explained, she replied, ‘There are no differences in religions, there is no difference at all, except between men and women. We need to live together’.”
“When my friends approach the rich for donations to make this Walk possible, very often the answer is ‘wait, let us see’. I keep telling my friends that if the cause is good, it will happen. I had a touching experience in Kollam when an auto driver approached me and gave me his day's income of 100 rupees, saying 'let it be with you'. I will never forget that incident. Thereafter, I always shake hands with all auto-drivers.”
Sri M continued, “This proves that people who live at a grass-root level recognise what we are walking for. I have nothing against rich people and their habits, as I also sleep in air-conditioned comforts when it is too hot. Our padayatra alone may not make a sea change in the way things are in our country. But it can sow seeds of unity and communal harmony. It is up to the people at each of the locations we have visited, to nurture them, and carry it forward. Just as the saplings we plant in many places have to be nurtured and grown by people who live around.”
“Change has to happen within oneself first, then within the family and change in the society will automatically follow. It was very common during the olden days to approach your neighbour if you ran out of sugar. I don't think it happens anymore. I would like you to form a group of men and women to take these things forward. Maybe 10 people are needed. If you can do this, before we reach Kashmir, the goal of the padayatra might already be achieved.”
“You could lead a smaller padayatra to nearby places to convince people about the importance of peace and love to bring unnecessary strife and violence to an end.”
Sri M concluded his talk thus: “This is an inner yatra as well as an external yatra. We should consider this as an inner journey and continue our sadhana”.
The session concluded with the chanting of OM thrice and silent meditation.
Dinner was served at 7.30 pm and they retired to their lodging on the hillock. Up there, above the plains where lights from homes shimmered, the stars seemed very close in the wide expanse of the night sky.