The departure time of 7.00 am, as scheduled, was changed to 6.45 am. The walk left earlier after a cup of coffee. Again, though the walk was to be one of the shorter ones with the published distance of around 13 kilometers, it was later found that they had actually walked 17 kilometers!
Leaving from Eagleton Resorts, after a benedictory prayer by a Parsi priest, the walkers started at 6.45 am to Sarva Dharma Kendra on Kanakapura Road. The route avoided the main highway and used only a narrow road through farmlands, shrub forests and areas earmarked for future housing development projects. The walkers proceeded through sparsely inhabited areas and a couple of small villages like Kodiyala. At Kodiyala, a group of about 30 people welcomed Sri M and the padayatra was led to an open ground with a shelter for breakfast. The padayatris had a long break here as some media persons were interviewing Sri M at this juncture. A group of school children and people from the village came to meet Sri M.
The day was celebrated as Rama Navami where it’s a common practice in these regions to have small shelters distributing buttermilk, a melon or a lemon juice to all people passing by. The intention is to ward off the summer heat and keep the body cool.
Walking on, they had another break where buttermilk was provided to them at another small village. This too was a longer break than intended as the media continued its conversation with Sri M. He sat under a Peepal tree next to an open ground, much to the curiosity of the people from the village. The local community gathered there and found it incredible that Sri M and many of the yatris had walked more than 1300 kilometers to that point.
The path was quiet and serene except for a passing vehicle. The surroundings also changed from green mulberry and marigold farms to open dry lands with a few old trees and dry shrubs. As they approached Kanakapura Road, they came across prosperous farmhouses and a motor racing track. The people from the local community welcomed Sri M and did a ‘padapuja’ (washing of feet) just hundred meters from the Sarva Dharma Kendra.
Sarva Dharma Kendra has been conceptualized on a land donated by satsangis, under the aegis of Sakshi Foundation, to Sri M’s Manav Ekta Mission. Envisioned by Sri M—spiritual guide, social reformer and educationist— Sarva Dharma Kendra is an initiative by Manav Ekta Mission (a wing of Satsang Foundation), working towards unity of all faiths. The Sarva Dharma Kendra is an experiment in human oneness. Sarva Dharma Kendra conceptually seeks to transcend the outer-shell of all world religions—by exploring their core to nurture the innate goodness in every human being. It experiments with the truth common to all religions to find whether faiths can go beyond disparities and evoke basic human unity and brotherhood, thus bringing alive the ideals of love, peace and freedom. The centres are planned to accommodate individual places of worship for all religions, common meditation halls for contemplation, encourage inter-faith dialogues, welcoming everyone irrespective of disparities, and act as a nodal point for those who wish to meet Sri M. Sri M foresees more such centers being established in every state across India, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir—intending to bring together people irrespective of caste, creed, religion, language, region or gender. These centers will seek to root out intolerance and divisiveness through community dialogue—an exercise to restore the innate spirituality of the nation.
A small ‘kutir’ has been built at Sarva Dharma Kendra for Sri M to spend time here. It is envisaged that all major religions would be represented at this place with a place of worship. A beginning has already been made with one of the satsangis having built a temple for Rama here. It was indeed a heartwarming thought for many gathered there that Sri M and Walk of Hope started their sojourn in Bangalore on Rama Navami.
Sri M and the padayatra were welcomed with a traditional vadya-mela on the main road and led to Sarva Dharma Kendra. After a welcome drink of watermelon juice, they were led to the Rama Temple. A group of people welcomed Sri M singing bhajans in Hindi, Kannada and Telugu. After the bhajans, Sri M did the arathi at the temple, which heralded the end of the program. ‘Prasad’ was offered and a light lunch was organized for all gathered there.
The padayatris dispersed around 12.30 pm. Some of the walkers from Bangalore proceeded home after a long period of about 2.5 months while some went back to their home towns for the break. Some of the walkers proceeded to the Madanapalle Satsang Foundation campus, where arrangements were made for their stay.
For the old, Bangalore instills a sense of nostalgia and for the young, it is a city of opportunities. Already on the international map, thanks to its pleasant climate and software boom of the 90s, much can be said of this big city while a greater deal can be left out in terms of the exacting price of progress. A great city it may for the one who travels through it but for many who live in it, it means many things – a home which has changed beyond compare, a city with huge open gardens and many erstwhile lakes having given way to tall buildings of the real estate sector. About 9 million people live here, making it the third most populous city and fifth most populous urban agglomeration in India. Bangalore is known as the Silicon Valley of India because of its role as the nation's leading information technology exporter.
Thus commenced the first big break for Walk of Hope. With major programs planned in Bangalore from the 1st to the 5th of April, the local coordinators are gearing up to make arrangements for the large attendance expected at these events in the city.
The padayatra leaves Bangalore on 10th of April.