To bring the community together, San Ramon, California based Pathayathirai, a non-profit organization with roots in India, has transformed their religious walk into an inclusive, 21-mile social walkathon with friends and family on the famous Iron Horse Trail.
The annual religious walk, the “Thaipoosam” celebration held last month attracts thousands of Indian Americans not just from the San Francisco Bay Area but from other US states as well.
Thaipoosam is a Hindu festival celebrated on the full moon day in Tamil Nadu, India, during the months of Thai (January/February), and the festival commemorates the occasion when Parvati gave Murugan a vel “spear” so he could vanquish the evil demon.
This year, Thaipoosam was attended by over 2000 people. For the past 10 years, the participants walked past month from San Ramon Bishop Ranch to the city of Concord in California and its members say the auspicious event has turned into a fun walkathon that attracts people not just from several different communities.
Sridhar Verose, Commissioner of San Ramon Parks and Community Services told indica, “San Ramon is a diversity hub and diversity is its key ingredient.”
He said that he is happy to see the response and added, “It’s just our support and this is a kind of showing… our support and we welcome everyone in the city and the open space and we enjoy the quality of life.”
Adding further Verose said, “This is like appreciating the open space as well as nature and at the same time doing your spiritual walk.”
This brings family and friends together early in the morning. Its origin is from South Tamil Nadu. Verose, who is not from Tamil Nadu said that it’s a learning experience for him as well and being a commissioner he said one of the beauties of being a commissioner is that he gets to enjoy all the cultures.
Sounding a little sad, he said this past year over 4000 people participated but this year they only received a permit to register 2000.
He said that there were some challenges in getting the permit since for the past year four years the organizers used to get 4000 participants but the East Bay Regional Park District allowed only 2000. People come from all over the US and in the past, they would come from Singapore and Malaysia, and now they have cut it down to half.
“[I] Hope we work with them and raise the number next year,” Verose, who is running for a city council seat said.
Another participant at the spiritual walkathon was Mani Sundaram, who came from Seattle.
Sundaram, who came along with his cousin who lives in Sacramento, California told indica, “We are here for the padayatra which we do for the social walk. This is our fourth year and a great opportunity.”
“It’s a good way to measure your fitness,” he said laughing “…to cover 21 miles.”
His cousin, who lives in Sacramento finds the occasion to be an opportunity to meet your family and friends.
“You also get to eat good foods and, on the way, they offer breakfast and snacks,” he said.
Priyanka Mahesh Marepalli, who was distributing banana cake to kids said she along with friends have baked cake to serve 300 children, who would be walking 21-miles along with their parents.
“We always look forward to this,” she said.