Today the padayatra left at 6.00 am from Panathur. After a cup of morning coffee to wake up the jangled nerves, the yatris walked on the State Highway to Bhagamandala. The 130 walkers had the longest walk so far of 33 kms today. Challenging no doubt, but the walkers are now veterans after walking for almost two months now. Such a consistent practice creates a reserve of energy and gumption that can be called upon in such moments of formidable challenge. It is related to what Sri M often talks about the inner journey—a metamorphosis from which arises a mindfulness that can help one to meet challenges with equanimity.
Kerala has now been left behind—its trademark cheer, laidback attitude, spellbinding colours, romantic rains, restorative greenery, infinite paddies, mesmerizing spices, traditional music, and the almost envious communal harmony. It is now a memory to be cherished, besides being a reference template for the task of spreading the message of peace in the remaining nine states. In addition, the hospitality was amazing—coming naturally to a region that has welcomed explorers, sailors and eminent travelers with open arms and tolerance.
It was an uplifting experience walking through the deep and dense forests of the Talacauvery National Park. The roads twisted and turned, inclining and declining in moments. Sometimes, on one side of the road, usually towards the left, one could see old and towering trees, gently stooping over the road. Sunlight filtered through these trees as they walked. On the other side of the road, it was usually a steep cliff-face well hidden by trees. They walked in silence and it was one of the most beautiful walks since they started. There was hardly a vehicle, the air was clean and carried with it many fragrances of the spring.
Greater Talacauvery National Park is a wildlife reserve comprising three wildlife sanctuaries — Brahmagiri, Talacauvery, and Pushpagiri — in one continuous pattern. It is home to wildlife like tigers, leopards, wild dogs, jungle cats, striped hyenas and countless jackals. Herbivores include gaur, axis deers, sambar, mouse deer, four-horned antelope, wild boars, crested porcupines and the black naped hares. Common langurs and bonnet macaques are aplenty here. Other animals, which can be spotted here, are the sloth bears, pangolins, giant squirrels, flying squirrels, giant fruit bat and the elusive slender loris.
It has been designated as one of the important bird areas of the world. One can find a large number of birds including some rare species. The Yellow Browed Bulbul, Pacific Swallow, Grasshopper Warbler, Orphean Warbler and the Yellow Billed Babbler can all be seen in their magnificent and resplendent form. Twenty-five percent of species found in India are present in this region of Kodagu. The diversity of wildlife, flora and fauna in Kodagu can hardly be matched by any other place in India. The rain drenched forests and mountain ranges provide a unique ecosystem in which many species of birds, animals and plants find a home. Kodagu, which is also a part of the Western Ghats, is an environmental hot spot because of its’ fragile environment and is now endangered due to the disappearing forest cover, thanks to rapid urbanization.
The yatris were provided breakfast at 10.00 am by the roadside and lunch by 1.15 pm, again by the roadside; every 5 kilometers or so, they stopped for a small water break and some rest. They also had an hour-and-half break after lunch for rest and resumed the walk again at 3.30 pm. In all, they walked 33 kilometers in 9.30 hours—the longest and the most distant walk so far. They reached the halting point, Bhagamandala Shree Kashi Math only by 6.00 pm in the evening. The tired padayatris had dinner by 7.30 pm and retired for the night.
Bhagamandala Shri Kashi Math is a branch of Sri Kashi Math Samsthan of Varanasi. Sri Kashi Math Samsthan is the 'Dharma Peetham' of the Saraswat Brahmin community and has a traceable history of more than 500 years. Sri Kashi Math has branches in several states. Shri Sudhindhra Thirtha Swami, Matadhipathi of Sri Samsthan established the Bhagamandala Math 60 years ago.
Since then, the original structure has been renovated and can house only a limited number of people. It is one of the rare places where one can find beauty, quietitude, cleanliness and comfort - all at once. The stay here has been extremely comfortable and relaxing.
Bhagamandala is considered a holy pilgrimage point. At this place, the river Kaveri is joined by its two tributaries, the Kannike and the mythical Sujyoti River and is considered sacred as a river confluence. At a short distance from the Triveni Sangama (confluence of three rivers), there is a temple named Sri Bhagandeshwara temple, where Bhagandeshwara (Ishwara), Subramanya, Mahavishnu and Ganapati idols are worshipped. A short distance from Bhagamandala is the temple at Padi, which houses the deity Lord Igguthapp and is considered by many Kodavas to be the most sacred shrine in their homeland.
Tomorrow is a day of rest and the walkers rested their tired limbs, looking forward to a relaxed and restful day ahead.