February 11 was the awaited day of the trip as this evening was the grand event at Cherukolpuzha Hindu Matha Parishad. This mela was founded by Swami Theerthapada Paramahamsa in 1913, making this the 100th event. Swami was a famed Hindu reformer of his time (search Wikipedia for "Chattampi Swamikal"). The area is both heavily Christian and Marxist. The Parishad provides strength to the local community. Dozens of religious organizations and hundreds of merchants set up shop on the mela site.
Bodhinatha's talk was full of very practical advice, and touched time and again on the inherent Divinity of man. It was translated into Malayalam, printed in a booklet and appeared to be well received.
We didn't get a picture of it yet, right after Bodhinatha's talk and before the translation, we honored Suresh Kumar, one of India's outstanding artists, who was commissioned by us to paint the visions of Gurudeva which led to the founding of Iraivan temple. He brought one of the paintings which drew oohs and awes from the audience when unfurled. He and other artists have been commissioned to paint a wall at the Mumbai airport which is 8 feet high and 1 kilometer long! He estimates his section of 80 feet will take 6 months.
The visit was arranged by GK Nair, our Hinduism Today correspondent for Kerala since 1995. The mela is held on the Pampa river bed, on a large sandbar. During monsoon, the area is completely flooded.
The visit got off to a rather late start as our flight from Bangalore was delayed, causing us to miss our connection in Chennai. We finally got on a 10:45 pm flight, and arrived at our hotel at 3:30 in the morning. We managed to still be up and about by 8 am, and adjusted our schedule.
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