Starting from theSree Siddaganga Mutt Yatri Nivas at 5.30 am, Walk of Hope departed for their next destination– Kora. The padyatris walked north on the state highway #33,passing through many small villages on the service road along the 24-kilometer route.
The early morning walk is usually very pleasant and energetic. The walkers cover the distance quickly and time seems to fly before the sun is up. The yatris soon reached Tumkur town and were welcomed by a group of 200 policemen and women. They joined the walk up to the breakfast point on the outskirts of the town. Walking through the main streets of Tumkur town, they soon reached Sridevi Engineering College, which served as the breakfast point. A group of people, who had read Sri M’s autobiography and had heard about the padayatra just a couple of days before it entered Tumkur, had organized refreshments in addition to breakfast pre-arranged by Walk of Hope organisers.
Tumkur (Tumakuru) is an industrial city, 70 kilometers northwest of Bengaluru, along National Highway NH4 and NH206. The name ‘Tumakuru’ may have mutated possibly from "Tumbeooru" due to the abundance of Tumbe huuvu, a kind of flower which is generally used in the worship of ‘Shiva’, or tamate ooru due to the folk musical percussion instrument Tamate (a drum), that might have been used most here.The chief industries are the manufacture of coarse cotton cloth, woolen blankets, ropes, and watches (Hindustan Machine Tools). Areca-nut and coconut groves are in abundance in these areas.
Leaving Tumkur behind, the walkers passed through many small villages like Annenahalli, Yalapura and Oorukere where they had a short break with refreshments.These are mostly agricultural villages dotted by a few houses and shops.
The walk starts getting tougher after 9.30 am. The heat of the sun depletes energy at a fast rate and the fairly cool mornings turn blistering as the day progresses. The highway gets a little monotonous for the long-term walkers with absolutely no wayside trees and flat land with a few shrubs and short trees. Only cultivated farms of coconuts and arecanuts provide a touch of coolness to the eyes in the heat. The only blessing is that they do not have to walk with heavy traffic breathing down their necks, as the service roads are quite regular with a few vehicles now and then.
The yatris’ depleted energy was replenished with fruit squashes, fruits and buttermilk at regular intervals. The Police force too pitched in with their contribution at some points. There are hardly any hotels or lodging houses equipped to host such a group size. The yatris, after passing Kora village, had to walk through open grounds with no buildings in sight for about 2 kilometers before they reached ‘Saakshi Resort’ which was their halting place for the night. Clouds started gathering by the time the yatris reached ‘Saakshi’ and the atmosphere turned humid.
Saakshi resort is a new retreat centre, away from the noise of speeding vehicles. It is built with traditional eco-friendly architecture and thatched roofs that keep the heat away. Men and women were housed in dormitories and a few rooms. The entire campus is ideal for quiet getaways and retreats with a meditation hall, a library with spiritual books and a small kitchen and dining hall in the middle of nowhere. Greening of the area has been initiated with saplings just coming up. The yatris could hear the cry of peacocks in the vicinity.
Once room allocation was done and the yatris went to freshen up, the skies opened up and there were heavy rains. Today, the Police Department from the area hosted lunch. The walkers were served a traditional rural Karnataka meal of ragi mudde with soppu saru and obbattu (Cooked round-shaped ragi balls accompanied by lentil and greens soup and obbattu or holige, a sweet flat-bread) along with chapattis and rice, for the not so adventurous.
Owners of an Ayurveda Retreat center in the area, hosted the evening program. The walkers had to trek through farms to reach the place. In all, there was a gathering of about150 people apart from the walkers. A ‘harikatha’ performance by Dr. Lakshman Das entertained the gathering with his wit and humour along with a devotional rendering of songs of the Lord. Harikatha (stories of the Lord) is a form of storytelling in which the storyteller explores a religious theme. Harikatha is a composite art form composed of story telling, poetry, music, drama, dance, and philosophy. Any Hindu religious theme may be the subject for the Harikatha and it involves the narration of a story, intermingled with various songs relating to the story.
Usually the narration involves numerous sub-plots and anecdotes, which are used to emphasise various aspects of the main story. This is usually accompanied by music – a harmonium and tabla or mridangam.One of the stories he narrated was thus: A Guru and a disciple were walking through a deep and dense forest one evening. It was time for evening prayers and the Guru sat down under a tree and meditated while the disciple sat nearby. Suddenly, the disciple heard something and saw a fierce lion approaching them. The frightened disciple quickly scrambled up the tree and sat safe on a high branch and peered down through the leaves. While the Guru sat quietly, the lion came close to him and, much to the disciple’s surprise, the lion went around the Guru, prostrated in front of him and went away without causing him any harm. All through this, the Guru was deep in meditation. The disciple came down and once the Guru finished his meditation, they started walking again. As they walked and night fell, the disciple was surprised to hear a cry of irritation and pain from the Guru. He saw that his Master was chasing away a persistent mosquito. This confounded him and he questioned his Guru – I am really surprised at your reaction! Oh Guru – you remained unfazed when a lion came before you but you let out a scream when a mosquito bites you! What is this? The Guru responds – Oh disciple! When the lion came to me, I was in the presence of God but when the mosquito bit me, I was with you !
The recital was much appreciated by the audience who could understand Kannada and often the crowd broke into peals of laughter. Following this, Sri M addressed the crowd briefly. He began his short address thus :
“Oṁ ajñāna-timirāndhasya jñānāñjana-śalākayā cakṣur unmīlitaṁ yena tasmaiśrī-gurave namaḥ
Gurur-Brahmaa Gurur-Vissnnur-Gururdevo Maheshvarah | Gurureva Param Brahma Tasmai Shrii-Gurave
I was born in the darkest ignorance, and my spiritual master opened my eyes with the torch of knowledge.
I offer my respectful obeisances unto him.
The Guru is Brahma, the Guru is Vishnu, the Guru Deva is Maheswara (Shiva),
The Guru is Verily the Para-Brahman (Supreme Namah Brahman); Salutations to that Guru.
Loka Samasta Sukinoh Bhavantu - May the entire Universe Be Happy
Sri M continued: “I do not know Kannada, I will speak in English. First of all, I must thank Dr. Tulsi Prasanna and Mrs. Aparana Prasanna for inviting us to this wonderful place. Ayurveda is not medicine; it is a way of life. So, I saw a lot of people from abroad here and you will derive all benefits from coming here, thank you for coming. Dr. Lakshman Das, I would call him Hari Katha vidvan. Normally, I do not understand Kannada but I understood every word that he said. Because it was like this, you were speaking from your heart to my heart and so I understood every thing you said. It is a big thing. It has nothing to do with words. What comes from the heart, every one understands.” Sri M then honoured the artistes.
“This Walk that is going on, just like you we too are bringing people together and making music. From Kanyakumari, we are walking upto Kashmir. We have finished only a thousand and five hundred kilometers.We have another six thousand kilometers to go. This is an inner journey, a sadhana, which we are doing. I thank all the padayatris who are walking with us; who are suffering the difficulties, who are staying here and there; they are practically parivrajakas. Thank you very much.”
“Om Shanti Shanti Shanti.”
The padayatris walked back, taking the long road back under the starry, inky-black sky. Reaching the resort, they had a quick meal and went to sleep after a long day.