Kanyakumari – the first stop of our HoHo trip, this southernmost tip of India is easily accessible from Trivandrum, Kerala, though it is officially a part of the state of Tamil Nadu. Towards the peninsular India, it was the end of the land and still not the end of India.. A tiny yet interesting tourist spot, it was worth spending a day here.
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One of the folklores of the most popular Hindu deities, Shiva and Parvati, Kanyakumari unfolds an interesting tale of how this place got its name. Located on the tip of India, today this tiny town in Tamil Nadu receives much deserved attention from tourists all across the country due to its geographic location.
Though most people recollect the tale of Lord Rama building the magnificent Ram Setu(bridge), from India to Lanka over the Indian Ocean for bringing Sita, her wife home, no signs of that bridge are visible today. It is now a hotspot, mainly for the Indian tourists, because of its geographical location. There is no further piece of land to step onto; it is like a finishing line of India. However, there is a wide view of the sea in all the three directions. The peninsular tip converges here at a rock where the great saint, Swami Vivekananda meditated and realized his Self. Representing the journey of one of the greatest Karma Yogis, Kanyakumari was the starting point of our very own journey.
The distance of about 90 kilometers from Trivandrum to Kanyakumari can be covered in three hours. There are plenty of buses that ply on the Salem-Kochi-Kanyakumari National Highway. From Thampanoor, the main bus stand of Trivandrum city, Nikita and I boarded the 7 o’ clock bus for Nagercoil; a popular town situated 20 kilometers before Kanyakumari. Though almost all buses lead to Kanyakumari through this bus stand, one should look for Route No 303, which is a direct bus to Kanyakumari. Kanyakumari for obvious reasons is the final destination for many of the buses entering the city. Reached within three hours, we decided to binge on some breakfast before heading to the touristy spots of the city. The major attractions of this town are rather touristy and yet very compelling to visit.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial, the meditation stupa of Swami Vivekananda, initially appears to be at a walkable distance inside the sea, as if a rocky bridge would lead through the sea. Instead, there is a to and fro ferry service maintained by a private shipping company that takes you across. Within five minutes of sitting into a large ferry, you would find yourself on what is literally the last piece of land belonging to the Indian subcontinent. Looking towards the water, there is Bay of Bengal towards the left, Arabian Sea towards the right and exactly in the front is the massive Indian Ocean.
As we stepped on the rock, we were charged an entry fee to the two main temple areas on the rock. A minimal fee of INR 20 each, is to be paid to walk about anywhere on the rock. This money they say is used for the maintenance of the rock.
These temple areas are called the mandapams. Sri-pad-mandapam; or the feet temple is a building protecting a rock in the shape of feet. Legend has it that Lord Shiva put one of his feet in Kanyakumari. The other one is called the sabha-mandapam; the meditation hall, where the statue of Swami Vivekananda is placed. Though it is a temple of silence and the sound of Aum constantly plays, it is not at all surprising that the average Indian tourist can’t maintain the silence. Sadly, for many it becomes just another picnic spot. Despite the instructions, there are loud chattering and mutterings which somehow disturb the aura of the place. Nevertheless, some of these chats caught our attention for they were discussing tragic stories of the 2006 tsunami and how the rock memorial had to be restored after the damage.
Right beneath the meditation hall, there is a book shop selling a variety of books on yoga, meditation, Hindu philosophies and other writings by Swami Vivekananda and the people associated with the Ramakrishna mission.
Outside the bookshop, there are vast open spaces that appear to be a balcony opening to the sea. A cloudy blue sky, the water hitting the rock and splashing up high, the sunshine penetrating through the clouds and the cool breeze flowing through the air, makes it an ideal photo-shoot spot. Fortunately, photography is not prohibited in this part of the premises and it is a good idea to capture some moments here. We spent quite some time here, looked at the families that were giggling and enjoying their selfie moments, while some like us were just astonished to be standing at the tip of our homeland and yet no border protecting it. Freedom flows here very naturally, making it a scenic as well as a spiritual spot. From the rock, we could see the colorful multi storey buildings of the city. The vibrancy of the multicultural diversity is revealed from the monuments of the city. On the edge of the water, towards one side is the Kanyakumari (Parvati) temple while on the other there is a bright white church. The population of the city is majorly Tamilian and the houses are built very close to the water. The fishermen boats are parked on the sands surfacing the mainland. During the day, the fishermen keep busy making the fishing nets. Many still prefer knitting them with their own hands which they say last longer.
As we ferried back to the mainland, we decided to take a stroll towards Triveni Sangam, the confluence of the three seas of India. Different shades of water coming from three different seas and merging into one left us bewildered. For a long time, it felt that it was probably the shade of the sun that was bringing out the peculiar colors of water. But as the time passed and there was no change in the colors, we finally realized that water flowing from different sources is carrying different properties. In the end, it all becomes one.
The good thing about exploring Kanyakumari is that every place is at a walk able distance from one another. One can visit anywhere by foot and feel no need at all to hire a taxi. What we essentially missed seeing was the Padmanabham Palace, which remains closed on Mondays.
The day was quite sweaty and sticky, but post the lunch hours, it becomes windy enough to cool down the sweat. Kanyakumari is one of those rare spots where you can enjoy both the sunrise and the sunset; unfortunately, we could not include any of it in our day trip. Many more splendid sunsets awaited us. With this thought in mind we took the 3o’clock bus to Trivandrum and set forth the journey in a local state bus.
Kerala buses are highly ventilated and ply on minimal fares. It costed us no more than INR 70 per head for a three hour journey in a bus which had wide open windows. For quite some time, we pulled our neck outside the window and clicked some random shots of the road and the hut shaped houses from Nikita’s mobile phone; my headphones attached to the phone delivered Coldplay and the driver took charge of the bus with great control on the single lane road.
The color of the sky changed subtly from sky blue to dark grey, making us believe that it is going to rain or is possibly raining already on a distant peak. It was indeed one of those well imagined bus rides thrusting the colors of daily life onto us and we absorbed every bit. On the way we saw some mud ponds full of lotuses. In their full bloom they were spread whitish pink. We could not grab hold of them for they were studded into the mud. There was a widespread use of loudspeakers primarily for religious purposes. As the bus speedily ran, the background voice kept on changing within a few miles.
As we reached Trivandrum, I looked for a big scoop of ice cream to forget about the heat and enjoy the pleasant evening. A day in Kanyakumari feels like a good weekend getaway. If you are in the vicinity and do not have any major travel plan and yet do not want yourself hugging the couch, just rethink of paying a visit to the tip of India; it is a perfect bus ride, the widespread sea under the sky and some positive vibes from Swamiji himself.