The padayatris left at the break of dawn from Hunsur after a cup of hot coffee for the destination of the day—Bilikere. Starting off at 5.30 am, they walked on the state highway again; a quiet and uneventful affair, even a little colourless, now and then a splatter of buildings and the strip of sweltering, black tarmac standing out in the open land. Trees again in clusters were only far and in between. The minimum temperature of around 20 degrees in the morning turned to a blazing 34 degrees as they proceeded towards Bilikere.
It was very obvious that the buildings they saw when they passed through villages like Somanahalli, Jadagana Koppal and Mallinathapura had come up on either side of highway to cater to the needs of travelers passing by and many a livelihood depended on this. Moving closer to Mysore, it is expected that they will see increased urbanization.With no other stops except for the customary refreshments, the yatris reached Bilikere (White lake) by 12.30 pm. They covered 21 kilometers on this day. The halting point was a large marriage hall, Nanjundeswara Kalyana Mantapa. This was also the resting point for both men and women with basic amenities.
Lunch was ready when they reached the hall and, post lunch, they retired to their personal space by 2.00 pm.A welcome change was that the walkers did not have to move out of the place of rest for the evening Satsang as this was also the venue for the evening program. After tea at 4.30 pm, the group congregated in the ground floor at 6.00 pm where space had been cleared for the evening Satsang. There was no public program today and it was an intimate meeting with the padayatris. Sitting in a semi-circle around Sri M, the satsangis had many a personal question answered to their satisfaction.
After the satsang, there was an interaction with a few people from a tribal community – the Todas, a pastoral community from a small settlement. The Toda tribe is mainly from the Nilgiri plateau around Ootacamund. Before the 18th century, they lived peacefully with other communities like Kota and Kuruba in a relaxed, caste-like community. The Todas have been in the limelight despite their small numbers only because of the variance of their appearance and ethnicity in comparison with other tribes. A vegetarian tribe, the Toda diet consists of rice and dairy products including cheese. Their numbers are extremely small now – around 700 or 800. During the last quarter of the 20th century, some of the Toda pastures were lost due to agriculture by migrant people or afforestation by the State Government. This threatened to weaken the Toda culture because of the gradual decline of the number of buffalo herds. However, in the last few years, because of the focus of an international effort centering on culturally sensitive environmental restoration, the Toda lands are under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee as a World Heritage Site in the Nilgiris. Their beautifully crafted silver jewellery is much in demand in big cities.
Sri M had a lively interaction with the tribal community. They also demonstrated some of their ritual songs and dances. Dinner was served at 8.00 pm and the yatris retired soon after. It was a relaxed evening for all concerned, since there was no public meeting and none had to walk to a distant venue leaving their place of rest. They retired for the night eagerly as the countdown for the next big city, Mysore has already started.