Last December, three individuals from India: Yogesh Mathuria, Sabalsinh Vala and Somanath Bhosale started on a trail along the Western Coast of Sri Lanka. Their aim was to spread their message of Peace and Humanity to the people they meet along the way. Despite the language barrier, they managed to connect well with people.
During this walk they carried their own luggage and took no money. Neither of them spoke Sinhala or Tamil. All they wanted were the basic needs of food and a place to sleep. Everywhere they went, people were caring and welcoming. Challenges arose, but there were always solutions. They had to go look for shelter from one place to another. At the end, there would be someone welcoming them inside.
They walked for about 6 to 7 hours each day, covering 25 to 30 km. Normally they prefer to start walking around 4.00- 4.30 in the morning each day. If they were accommodated by a household, they’d delay it to around 5.00- 5.30 a m, to minimize the inconvenience to their hosts. If it was a religious place, then their usual plan was applied. From then they would continue walking till 10.30 a m. By this time, they have the target of 30 km covered for the day. After searching for about an hour, they will find a place to stay. Then they will have their lunch. In the evening, they would either continue walking or meet and speak to people. In India, they would hold sessions for communities and schools. However it was not possible in here due to the language barrier. So the time would be spent going to see a place of interest, relaxing or speaking to the locals.
During the 6 hours of their walk in the morning, they intend to connect with their inner selves. They would walk in silence, meditating, without talking among them. During the evening they would talk and connect with people. If not they have a special prayer for Peace, designed for the 7 key religions in India: Hinduism; Islam; Zoroastrianism (Parsi); Sikhism; Jainism; Buddhism and Christianity. If there were any friends around, they would ask them to join. Otherwise the 3 of them will pray together.
Sarvodaya Movement has been an immense support to this pilgrimage as we discussed in the first phase of this article. Mr. Mathuria is a follower of Mahatma Gandhi and Vinoba Bhave back in India. He has made connections with Dr. A T Ariyarathna, the founder of Sarvodaya from there. According to him, it was in fact Dr. Ariyarathna’s idea to walk from South to North of Sri Lanka for this pilgrimage. His letter introducing them, in Sinhala and Tamil was a great assistance.
Above all nations is the power of humanity. This Peace pilgrimage has been an inspiring journey with so many such examples. Some of which they shared with us…
“Throughout these 26 days of walk, not a single day did we have a bad experience. As a matter of fact, most of the time people went out of their way to support us. Say we stayed at somebody’s home today, he’d be so caring to ask us where do you want to go next day, he will try and use his contact and even try to give us a connection for the next day. So most of the time people have been very kind.”
“In Colombo we were sponsored by somebody to stay in a hotel. There we met one friend, he was so kind he connected us with his other friend somewhere else. He contacted another friend in Puttlam. He in return contacted some other friend in some other place. It was a string of youth connecting with each of their friends and they helped us out.”
“In Mannar we stayed in a Sarvodaya Centre. The daughter of the head of that Sarvodaya Centre was living in some where along our route. She kindly hosted us for the day there. One good relationship got us into another good relationship.”
“There were some places where we had no contacts. So we hunted for a place to stay. We went to social organizations. A wonderful example was, one day I (Yogesh Mathuria) was feeling a little uncomfortable. My body was aching and I was in pain. We passed by a hospital and my friend (Sabalsinh Vala) asked me ‘Do you want to go to the hospital’. We went to that hospital and showed that letter from Sarvodaya. There was a young lady doctor. She kindly said ‘yes you’re welcome to stay in our hospital for a day’ and we stayed there and had a good time. So in all places, may it be a hospital, a temple, a monastery or someone’s home, everybody has been so kind. As all three of us came to this country for the first time, we had no contact from here, and we didn’t know the language, we were concerned about how people will treat us. May it be social organizations, religious organizations, or may it be somebody’s house, we got support in all places, beyond our expectations.”
“Support given from some of the religious places when carrying the message of unity was very touching. We gave a session in the grand mosque in Puttlam after the evening prayer. To talk about all religions in a religious place was a bit challenging. They were trying to make us stay and have another session with one other mosque as well. But we could not because of our tight schedule. This was an eye-opening experience for us also. In the same place, some young guys were celebrating a birthday. So in the late night we said ‘shall we all do a prayer together?’. The young guys agreed. It was also a very touching experience. 15 to 20 young people probably in their 20s, all agreed to this prayer. That was good respect for everybody.”
“Whether you are following Islam or Buddhism, all religions want to make humanity connect together. We could see that live in here. You have come out of a 35 year long war in this country. A lot of people have half cooked ideas without getting actual exposure. I had ideas of how people will receive us, whether we’ll be able to talk to every religion and everybody. I’m happy to note that people are very open and our walk was very successfully done in here. We are all humans. If we are good human beings, most of the world problems can be resolved.”
We have heard that Sri Lankans are known for their hospitality. This walk of Peace proves it again and again. Also, highlighting our unity and togetherness as a country, it is filled with wonderful examples of humanity.