Puri – The Last Stop of Golden Triangle

Heard of the “Golden Triangle” of India? If not, here is a short brief on this 🙂 The “Golden Triangle” is a pilgrimage circuit which comprises of the Lingaraja Temple in Bhubaneshwar, the Sun Temple of Konark and the Lord Jagannath’s Temple of Puri. The last stop on the “Golden Circuit” Triangle – Puri is also one of the four great ‘Char Dham (the Purushottam Dham)’ pilgrimage sites and most sacred of India! I feel blessed for being arrived in Puri during a particularly auspicious time – the annual Rath Yatra or the Chariot Parade!

25.06.2017:

It was still raining by the time I woke up! Though it was a disturbed sleep all through the night, the charm of the city and the festival vibes that day made me feel positive 🙂 A perfect way to start a day! When came out the room to check on the guys, I was surprised to see Bhojnadh watching the rain holding a cup of hot tea in the balcony. Eshwar too was awake while Pappu still lay tucked inside his blanket. I asked the bell boy for a bucket of hot water for my shower and he simply rejected my request :-0

We got ready quickly and checked-out from the hotel to go to the temple. The roads were muddy coz of the rain and they were jam-packed with thousands of devotees who are proceeding towards the temple to catch a glimpse of the Lord Jagannath (God of the Universe). Every nook and corner is under the scrutiny of the Armed Forces, Para Military forces and the Odisha Police. The roads were filled up with barricades to regulate the movement of vehicles during these peak hours. Though we thought of parking our car near to the Railway Station, we ended up parking it on road-side, a little near to the temple.

After walking through the narrow streets and alleys, we reached the Bada Danda or Grand Avenue of Puri on which the famous Rath Yatra takes place. The Avenue is filled up with shops of all kinds and various ashrams for the pilgrims. Volunteers were providing drinking water, lemonades and fresh food to the thronging pilgrims and tourists. Further towards the temple, a huge crowd of people were competing to stand as close as possible to the temple in order to get a better view of the deities.

We too started walking towards the huge mass of people. The security forces had cordoned off the place near to the temple for around a distance of 800 mts. As we were closing nearby, we got the first glimpses of the mighty chariots and the temple tower. The great Jagannath Temple of Puri was built in the 12th century atop the ruins of the Gundicha temple by the progenitor of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, King Ananatavarman Chodaganga Deva and the temple complex covers a huge area of over 400,000 sq ft. The temple tower, built on a raised platform of stone to a height of 214 feet above the inner sanctum, is truly dominating the surrounding landscape.

The temple style here is quite different – it is mainly dominated by colossal cylindrical and pyramid-shaped towers rising skyward in multiple tiers, covered with elaborate stone carvings. A striking feature of the Jagannath Temple is the flag atop and it is said that it always flaps in the opposite direction of wind. Yet another one is the wooden deities! In most of the Hindu temples the icons of the deities are either made out of stone or metal, but here it’s wood and this is replaced every twelve or nineteen years ceremoniously.

Owing to the Rath Yatra, the temple is closed for pilgrims and entry into the temple on normal days is restricted only to the Hindus. This is the only occasion when people of all castes and creeds can catch a glimpse of the gods and hence the annual Rath Yatra draws close to a million of devotees all over India and the world!

Stay tuned!

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Playing our cards safe with Eshwar ;-)

24.06.2017:

Eshwar’s plan was to visit Gopalpur on Sea and return back to Vizag, spend a day there and head to Rajahmundry – our native! But, Bhojnadh and I had other plans for him 😉 . Though we told him that let’s think about this on our way to Gopalpur, we didn’t get a chance to discuss it as we were quite occupied in rewinding our childhood and discussing our present lives! Once to Gopalpur on Sea, Bhojnadh and I planned how to persuade Eshwar with going on this trip further!

It was at this time, Bhojnadh reminded me that Eshwar is a bit religious person and the icing came as a phone call from Maithreyee saying that the Annual Rath Yatra or Chariot Festival of Puri is the next day 🙂 The card which we need to play is in our hand and the only thing we need is to find the right time to play it 😉 On our way back from Gopalpur on Sea to the NH 5, I told Eshwar that the Rath Yatra is tomorrow!

Bhojnadh took up from here and told Eshwar that it’s a matter of another 180 km and we would return back to Vizag after attending the ceremony. Eshwar, who was silent all this time surprised us by immediately saying an yes to the proposed plan :). So, there we go, the next destination – Puri! Reaching Puri is not a problem at all, but the issue at that point of time is our accommodation, as getting accommodation at the time of Annual Chariot festival is way too difficult 😦 We took a short break in the mid-way to stretch our legs and continued with our journey.

The signals were poor owning to the bad rain all through out the way and though I checked all the travel websites like makemytrip and goibibo, I couldn’t find any rooms available in any of the hotels in Puri. I called up Maithreyee and asked her to check in the other websites too to find some suitable accommodation for us. It’s 22.00 hrs when we all felt hungry and we were still to travel another 100 kms and it might take us another 2 hours owning to the traffic on that road because of the Rath Yatra.

We stopped at a roadside Dhaba, not a big one though, in fact we were the only customers during that hour. We ordered some roti, egg bhurji, aloo matar and some crispy fried mushrooms. The food is tasty, budgetary and hygienic too 🙂 Satisfied, we started with our journey again and proceeded to Puri. The road leading to Puri is narrow and way too dark. Except for a village or two here and there, there is not even a small lamp flickering anywhere else except the headlights of our car! It is as if a sea of darkness had engulfed the entire area. The road is potholed, it was raining continuously and there were no street lights or any lights along the road – one of the scariest roads so far 😦

Maithreyee informed us that there are few rooms available; gave us the number of the person whom we should contact and asked us to call and inform him that we would be a bit late! In fact we were late, we reached Puri only around 12.oo in the night as it took more time than expected because of the road. We reached the hotel and the manager told us that he had only one room and a common washroom. We rejected the idea of staying there and went around the place to find out if any other accommodation was available!

Owing to the rush of tourists and pilgrims during this time, it became really difficult for us to find accommodation. After inquiring here and there, we reached a small hotel where two rooms were available and we checked-in to grab some sleep before going to witness one of the biggest festivals of India!

Once upon a time….. in Gopalpur on sea

24.06.2017:

Berhampur – the silk city of Odisha, is just about 30 kms from Icchapuram – the border area of Andhra Pradesh and we looked out for a right turn after crossing Icchapuram as showed by the Google Maps. Gopalpur on Sea is located at a mere distance of 15 kms from Berhampur and is easily accessible.  The road which leads us to Gopalpur on Sea from the NH 16 is a bit narrow, but enough number of sign-boards were placed along this road to show us the way to Gopalpur.

Gopalpur was once buzzing with maritime activities which Odisha is known for ages. It was one of the outlets through which early settlers of South East Asia sailed off. During the days of Kalingas, Gopalpur on Sea was known as the port of Paloura from which traders sailed as far as Java, Bali and Sumatra mainly dealing in silk and pearls. Later it became a prominent trading port mainly a transit point to  export sugar and cheap laborers for the tea gardens of Assam in North Eastern India during the days of the British East India Company. Like Middleton-on-sea, the ‘on-sea’ tag has been conferred on Gopalpur by the Britishers.

Gopalpur-on-sea is a small quiet town which is popular for its beautiful pristine  sandy beach and a perfect beach destination for a tranquil holiday. We reached here around 16.30 hrs when it was drizzling a little. The beach is fairly isolated and there are not many tourists – the continuous rain may be one of the reasons! We parked our car aside and started walking towards the beach. The beach with its golden sand of the blue sea has its own sleepy charm and looked pretty during the drizzle! 🙂 There are no palm trees along the coastline and one get an uninterrupted view of the mammoth Bay of Bengal!

There is a light house which stand witness to the past port and also acts as the landmark of the place. This would be open only for a while in the afternoon and if you are lucky enough to visit this place during that time, you can get a sweeping view of the country side as well as the Bay of Bengal. But we were late that day 😦 We walked along the quite seashore which is undisturbed by the regular tourists or day-trippers. It was so serene that all we could hear is the symphony of the waves and our own heart-beats. And all that we could see is a vast stretch of blue waters with the fishing boats anchored on the sands of the beach by the fisher-folk with the crumbling walls and pillars of an ancient jetty together with some crumbling bungalows in the background!

The sea here is a bit rough and completely idea for sailing and surfing. And importantly, it’s comparatively a clean place to swim, but one has to take precautions as this beach is not that shallow! Once onto the road after a long walk along the beach, we went around the place to explore a bit. Once a favourite of British travellers during the Raj and home to retired British and Anglo-Indian railway employees, Gopalpur-on-sea still has several bungalows and mansions belonging to the Europeans and this gives the place still a colonial look.

Some of these buildings and bungalows were modified into small hotels and offers accommodation to the budget travelers. The promenade along the beach is filled up with small shacks selling a wide range of food products like prawns, fish, crabs, delicacies of mutton and chicken etc. Though we didn’t try any of these delicacies here, we ate few ice-creams and made our way further deep into the town. There is also a local market here which looked deserted at that hour of time and just about 3 kms from the beach, the local creeks in the vicinity of the sea have created a network of backwaters, which is an ideal place for a picnic.

Men were fishing; children were playing and boat-men were patiently waiting for the tourists who would like to go on leisure boat rides and others waiting for passengers who would travel across these backwaters to reach their villages on the other side. This is one of the most picturesque place in the vicinity, but one should be more cautious as these backwaters are quite deeper and the undercurrents more stronger! We returned to our car after clicking enough of photos without knowing what our next destination would be :-p 😉

If you are looking for a perfect weekend gateway away from the busy city life, Gopalpur-on-sea would be a perfect choice, as this beach with her backwaters continue to spread its aquatic magic since times immemorial! 🙂 There is also this 99 year old Mayfair Beach Resorts which offers luxurious accommodation for the tourists!

Let’s find our destination for the day….

24.06.2017:

I got a flight from Trivandrum to Vizag on the previous day, while Eshwar was already into Vizag. Bhojnadh too started from Nellore on 23rd to Vizag. By 22.00 hrs, each of us were into our respective places and decided to start our journey around 07.00 hrs the next day. Trust me, never ever would we make out on the exact time! 😮 I woke up around 06.00 in the morning and got ready by 07.00 and was waiting for these guys to pick me up from my uncle’s home. I tried to call them since 05.00 hrs in the morning, but none of them attended my calls and Eshwar called me only at 08.00 hrs!

He started with a sorry and told me that they would be there at my place by 09.30 hrs, but they turned up only at 11.00 hrs. Pappu (Krishna), a friend of Eshwar’s younger brother too tagged along them and I bid a bye to dad, mom and uncle, aunt. Once onto the road, Eshwar told me that as we are just 4, we would go till Srikakulam and return back. But, I told him that we will go atleast till Gopalpur on Sea – a good beach destination. All the four of us agreed upon this and the destination was decided thus – It’s Gopalpur on Sea! 🙂 🙂

Gopalpur on Sea can be reached easily from Berhampur in Odisha and is around 250 kms from Visakhapatnam. Vizag is connected to Berhampur by the National Highway 16 (NH16), previously NH5 and is a part of the Golden Quadrilateral Project. The weather was cloudy and cool. We took a 10 minutes break near Bhogapuram to sip the tender coconuts that were being sold on the roadside and got our bottles filled with sweet coconut water before we started our journey again. We reached Srikakulam within an hour and planned to have our lunch here. But then, none of us were hungry and so we continued with our journey.

In the meanwhile, Eshwar checked with couple of his friends about restaurants/dhabas where we can get some good food and few told him to have it in Srikakulam while few suggested to drive to Palasa. When checked online we found a restaurant in Palasa with some decent reviews on google. We decided to have our lunch there. Just after crossing Srikakulam, the weather changed drastically and it started raining heavily making the climate more cool and our drive a bit slow. The clock ticked 14.00 hrs! While Eshwar was driving, pappu was sleeping, Bhoje was busy answering his office calls and I busy in finding a gas station online.

Though we reached Palasa, we were not able to find the restaurant and after inquiring with few people, they asked us to take the Palasa – Kasibugga road to reach this restaurant. From this, we were able to conclude that the restaurant is famous in and around its surroundings perhaps! Wondering how could a restaurant could be so famous in such a remote place, we started driving on the narrow Palasa-Kasibugga road and reached there. To our surprise, the restaurant was jam-packed and we had to wait for almost 15 minutes to get a table 😦 While Eshwar, Pappu and I started going through the Menu Card, Bhoje went near to the ATM to do some business transactions!

A perfectly dressed gentlemen came to us and asked for our order and Eshwar inquired about the specialties of their restaurant. The answer came instantly – it’s Biryani! Ofcourse Biryani, especially the Hyderabadi Biryani is quite famous in the states of Andhra Pradesh and neighboring Telanaga, but this restaurant is famous of two unique variants of Biryani i.e Gongura Biryani and Aavakai Biryani! Gongura is a sour leafy vegetable that is available in Andhra Pradesh while Aavakai is a hot and spicy pickle Andhra Pradesh is famous for. Don’t think these two are as simple as they sound – they are the base of a small-scale industry in the state 🙂 😉

Without further discussion, Eshwar and I ended up ordering Gongura Vegetable Biryani for us while Pappu chose Aavakai Chicken Biryani for himself and Bhojnadh. We ordered Hot and Sour soup too along with Mushroom Tikka – a spicy stater of barbecued Button Mushrooms marinated with yogurt and spices. The food was served hot and truly it’s delicious. I never ever imagined that we could get such good food in this pocket of the state and Eshwar ended up ordering for Paneer Tikka too – a variant of Cottage Cheese, to munch on during our drive!

Once onto the Highway, we changed our driving turns! Clouds…Rain…Soothing Music…Childhood friends…A long drive.. What else could be an ideal therapy for a tired soul? 🙂 🙂 We made our way to Berhampur with a brief halt on the road-side just to stretch our legs and relish the cool weather. Ofcourse, munching some Paneer Tikka along with a hot cup of tea on the roadside while it’s drizzling is not such a bad idea. What would you say? 😉

 

A million dollar question – Who are going to join me on this trip?

Whomever made this is absolutely right 😉 😀 Because, group travels will be always like this! This time, I thought of exploring the east coast and asusual had put-forth the plan infront of my friends. My goodness, everyone was ready – Maithreyee, Bhojnadh, Meghna, Eshwar, Sharat, Naveen, Praveen, Divya, Shruti and ofcourse I was already there! Just 10 days before the trip, Praveen informed us that he won’t be able to make it as he had to attend some official work in Pune, Naveen can’t because his exams were around, Divya can’t coz she can’t skip her classes of Big Data, Shruti is going to Delhi to join her Civils Mains classes and Meghna is going on another trip with her other group of friends. There we go, the Toyota Innova became a Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire!! 😀 😀

5 days before the trip, Sharat called me only to say that his Section Officer didn’t sanction him leave and so he can’t join us on the trip. Still, we stuck to the Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire! 4th day while I was in the office, my phone beeped and when I unlocked it, the next obvious thing happened –  A photograph of Maithreyee with a huge Plaster of Paris bandage  around her left leg popped up on my WhatsApp. 😦 Therefore, the Maruti Suzuki Swift D’zire became a Maruti Alto!! 😀 😀

Finally, it was Eshwar, Bhojnadh and I who were left to go on this trip if we are not to cancel it. I made up my mind and told them that we are going to Odisha anyways, no matter who else joins! There is no proper plan as such, but we made a point that we all will meet in Vizag (Visakhapatnam) and then decide what we gonna do.

Stay tuned to see what happened next 😉

Padmanabhapuram Palace – The Travancore heritage in Tamil Land

Off to Mathur Hanging Bridge – We reached Kanyakumari Bus Station and inquired about the route which we need to take to reach Mathur village. Some of them suggested us to go to Nagercoil as we could get more number of buses from there and we followed the same. After reaching Nagercoil, they suggested us to catch a bus to Thuckalay and catch another bus to Mathur Village from there. Thuckalay is about 25 kms from Nagercoil and it took us around 30 minutes to reach this place. We sought the help of few people to guide us to reach Mathur bridge but could see people being confused either because of the language or the place about which we are asking. No idea what’s going in their minds!

After a long wait of about 45 minutes, we started feeling frustrated as we were not able to get even a single bus which could drop us off at our destination. In the mean while, my friend got busy surfing the internet when I was about to tell her that we would go back to Trivandrum as it’s getting late. It was at this point of time that she showed me her mobile pointing out the Padmanabhapuram Palace, which is like just 5 minutes from the bus station. That’s how we ended up at this place instead of the Mathur Aqueduct! 😀 😀

What will be one’s expectation will be like when heard of a palace? The Mysore Palace, The Falalknuma?? Here is a different one from the routine. The Padmanabhapuram Palace located in Padmanabhapuram Fort against the backdrop of the Veli Hills that form a part of the Western Ghats in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. A magnificent wooden palace of the 16th century, this is a fine specimen of Kerala’s indigenous style of architecture. Though this palace is located in Tamil Nadu, the palace and its surroundings are owned and governed by the Kerala state.

The palace was built by Iravi Varma Kulasekhara Perumal, the ruler of Travancore in 1601 AD and was also called Kalkulam Palace. At a later point of time, the King Marthandavarma rebuilt this palace to its current state. Spread across some 6.5 acres of area, the palace enthrall its visitors with intricate wooden work. Lavish use of wood can be seen in this palace; thanks to the rich forest cover of Kerala! 🙂 Also one can witness the defining aspects of Kerala structure in this palace, like the high steep sloping roofs, often covered with tiles, copper plates or thatched palm leaves supported on a roof frame made of hard wood or timber.

 

The first structure we encountered after entering the palace complex, is Poomukkham with images of horse riders on both sides of the entrance, showing exquisite wood carvings. There are few people who guide us inside the palace and explaining the history. The main attraction of this structure is the wooden ceiling which is ornamented with almost 90 lotus medallions and each one is different from the other. It was here that the erstwhile king used to entertain his special guests. Yet another attraction is a chair presented to the former king by Chinese merchants and Onavillu presented as a tribute by landlords and chieftains.

On the first floor of this structure are the Mantrasala, the King’s Council Chamber and the main attraction of this part of the palace is the bed used by the erstwhile king. It is said that the bed is made of sandalwood and is layered with a mix of 400 different kinds of medicinal herbs which are available abundantly in the state of Kerala. One can also see the Dining Hall which can accommodate 400 persons at a time!

Next structure is Thaikkottaram (Mother’s Palace), built of finely decorated and carved wooden pillars. The other structures include the Navarathri Mandapam, built by King Marthandavarma in 1744 AD which is breathtakingly beautiful and mesmerizing with it’s exquisite architecture. We came across a temple inside the palace which is dedicated to Goddess Saraswati, but it was closed at the time we visited!

There is a long corridor in the first floor of the building bordered with small balconies on the sides called Ambari Mukhappu (bay window). It is said that the kings and queens used to view chariot races during festivals and make public appearances from this very place.  A significant feature of this structure is the lattice work on the sides of the pathway. Once out of the palace, we walked towards the southern side of the palace called Thekkekottaram. It has a heritage museum now which shows the younger generations the old palace articles, belongings of the royal family like kitchen utensils, easy chair, swing etc.

Another antique piece of this palace is the Manimalika (Clock Tower), which is believed to be some 200 years old. This tower contains a rather unique clock as its movement is regulated by two weights made up of disc-shaped blocks, that is raised every week by a 1.5 meter pendulum. This can be see from the entrance of the palace.

There is no spectacle of pomp and show about the palace and looks understated when compared to other royal palaces of India.

But what truly makes this palace outstanding is it’s rich architectural grandeur, indigenous craftsmen ship of Travancore artisans and royal splendor of erstwhile Travancore!

A day in the Land of Virgin Goddess – Kanyakumari (II)

Part-II:

After having a darshan of the Goddess, we were onto the streets of Kanyakumari which are packed with various shops selling a wide range of goods like clothes, antiques, toys for the children and souvenirs. We went to a shop where my friend bought a jewelry box for her cousin while I bought  a small sindhoor box for my mom. After going around few more shops, we headed towards another important tourist place of this town – ‘Gandhi Memorial‘, which is located near to the Kanyaka Amman temple.

From the outer view and architecture of this Memorial, one can find it different as this is not of the Dravidian style which is quite common in South India. Instead this was constructed in the Kalinga style or the style which is most common in Odisha. It is said that the urn containing the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi was kept at this place before immersing them in the waters here. This is a two-storied building with the roof-top offering some of the best views of the town. The ground floor has a meditation hall with it’s walls adorned by various photographs of Mahatma Gandhi and the height of the central dome is 79 feet which indicates the age of Mahatma when he died! Though they said that there is a library here, which will remain open on Saturdays, we couldn’t find any that Saturday!

Our next place to visit is the church which we saw from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. It seemed huge from there, so we made a point to visit this church also. We took an auto-rickshaw asking him to leave us at one of the most beautiful churches I would say called the ‘Our Lady of Ransom Church‘. It is 15 minutes away from the Amman Temple and when we reached there, the church was indeed huge. It is a pristine and exquisite example of Gothic Architecture and the church is dedicated to Mother Mary. The church stands on the sea shore and this huge white structure with the blue sea in it’s background is picture perfect!

The height of this church is 153 ft with a cross on top of it which is made of pure gold. And a mast is erected infront of the temple, which was donated by a merchant who bought a foreign ship that got stuck on the seashore of Leepuram at Kanyakumari. This is an added attraction to the church! Having enough of photographs of this beautiful monument, we left the place to visit yet another significant structure called the ‘Mathur Aqueduct‘ or the ‘Mathur Hanging Trough’.

A day in the Land of the Virgin Goddess – Kanyakumari (I)

Part – I:

On a Friday evening, a friend of mine asked me whether I had been to Kanyakumari and I nodded a ‘no’. She was a bit surprised to see me saying a ‘no’ as I was living in Trivandrum for the last two years and I didn’t visit this place yet 🙂 She then casually asked me why couldn’t we visit Kanyakumari the next day? And of course, I said Y can’t we? 😉 We booked two tickets for the Guruvayur-Chennai Express which could drop us at Nagercoil Junction and we could easily get into a bus to Kanyakumari from there. The plan was set and we were ready by 03.20 hrs. Thanks to the Uber cab driver, who after 20 minutes from the booking time told us that he won’t be able to pick us up and we ended up missing the train by 2 minutes 😦

We walked towards the Kerala State Transport Corporation Bus Station to check if there were any buses available to Kanyakumari or Nagercoil. After waiting for 30 minutes, the first bus to Nagercoil was ready on the platform and we grabbed two seats. The distance between Trivandrum and Nagercoil is 75 kms and was covered in 2.5 hours. Luckily we got a bus to Kanyakumari immediately after reaching Nagercoil. The distance of 15 kms was covered in 40 minutes and here we are in the ‘Land of the Virgin Goddess – Kanyaka Parameswari’. But we couldn’t see the sunrise this time 😦

Kanyakumari or Cape Comorin, is said to be the southern most tip of the Indian peninsula – better known for it’s dazzling sunrise and sunset.  A small town yet significant historically and spiritually, Kanyakumari attracts a lot of tourists all through out the year. The streets are narrow and the roads are packed with hotels, restaurants and souvenir shops. We rushed to a nearby restaurant to have some breakfast. The breakfast though is South Indian was tasteless, hopeless but too costly!

We started walking towards the ticket counter of the Poompuhar Shipping Corporation which issues the ferry tickets to reach the famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial and ‘Shri Thiruvalluvar Statue’. The counters open only by 08.00 hrs and tourists will be sent in batches to accommodate them in the ferries available here. We were in the first lot to board the ferry as we were among the first few to get the tickets and each ticket costs Rs. 34 (to and fro). The sea was rough with it’s waves crashing against the rocks and the sun was already blazing high in the sky. Soon the engines of the ferry roared and it started sailing towards the hill on which once the Great Indian Sage ‘Swami Vivekananda’ meditated!

Vivekananda Rock Memorial – This Memorial was built on one of the two rocks which were located at the meeting of two seas (the Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea) and a might ocean (the Indian Ocean). Legend has it that the philosopher dived into shark-infested waters to reach the rock where he meditated. The memorial built at the spot has two structures: the Vivekananda Mandapam and the Sripada Mandapam. The Vivekananda Mandapam hosts a bronze statue of the philosopher made by renowned sculptor Sitaram S. Arte and it is said that at this very point Swami Vivekananda meditated. There are book stalls adjoined to this meditation hall and all books published by the Rama Krishna Mission are available here.

Just opposite to this Mandapam there is another mandapam called the Sripada Mandapam. The legend is that Goddess Parvati in one of her incarnations as Kanya did Tapasya here to obtain the hand of Lord Shiva in marriage. One can see a natural projection similar in the form of a human foot and a little brownish in complexion and traditionally this is being revered as the ‘Shri Padam’.

The other major attraction of Kanyakumari is the massive stone figure of famed Sangam poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar, which stands atop a rocky islet about 500 metres off the coast, and near to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. This Thiruvalluvar’s statue has been made 133 feet tall to match the 133 chapters of his most famous work Tirukkural, a collection of 1330 couplets on social conduct, ethics and love. Waves break and froth at the base of the rocks but never touch the statue, which looks invulnerable and sacrosanct on a three-tiered pedestal flanked by ten elephants. The statue’s most striking feature is its unusual posture – slightly bent at the waist like the carvings of dancers on the temple walls.

It is said that Dr V Ganapati Sthapati, who designed the statue, incorporated elements of vaastu shastra in its construction. When the statue’s location was questioned, he declared that his creation could withstand the mightiest of earthquakes. That claim was indeed tested when the Thiruvalluvar statue survived the destructive Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. A true tribute to the great poet and India’s greatest ‘science of architecture – the Vaastu Shastra’. After taking a few snaps of these beautiful architectural marvels and buying some books, we returned back to the mainland and walked towards the 3000 year old temple of Devi Kanyakumari after whose name this small town was named!

The temple is situated near Kanyakumari beach, and is dedicated to Goddess Devi Kanyakumari. The temple is not huge one unlike the other temples which we come across in Tamil Nadu. Though there is a entrance in the East, we are allowed to enter through the northern gate and the eastern gate remains closed and is opened only on some festivals, when the deity is taken out for a ceremonial bath. According to the Hindu Mythology, Goddess Parvati in order to kill the demon king Banasura took the incarnation of a virgin girl and hence the name Devi Kanyaka. The idol faces the East and it is believed that her nose ring is set with rubies that shone so bright that they could be seen from a great distance at night. And in the past, many ships out at sea, mistook the brightness as the light emitting from the lighthouse and hit against the perilous rocks and in order to avoid this the eastern side gate of the Kumari Amman Temple is kept closed. Interesting huh! 🙂 🙂

(Part-II follows)….

In the Airport Island – Agatti ;-)

18.01.2017:

Relieved of the stress and strain of the journey after a good sleep, I woke up to walk around the island to join my people who are out there to explore more of Agatti. Walking through Agatti Island, I get through the narrow, paver-blocked streets, small schools, large mosques and of course the beautiful beaches. Almost all the produce consumed on these islands is flown in from Kerala. Coconuts are plentiful, but almost all other veggies are flown in, just like the tourists for whom they are brought. The beach is full of activity with women bringing their children for a play and youngsters playing beach football. Time flowed gently, as if the rest of the world didn’t exist.

I couldn’t find Imran or aunty anywhere in my quest along the beach and so I sat at one of the shacks munching a samosa. I couldn’t see much of tourists here and as I read somewhere before coming to these islands, Lakshadweep follows a low-impact model of tourism which was calibrated not just to the local ecology but also to human life upon the islands. 99% of the population follows Islam and their social relations are still conservative.  People either work for the government or go for fishing and this suffice their needs. I felt so like an outsider crashing a family reunion as I could see that I am the only tourist among them standing like an odd man out 😦

No main lander can buy land here and the shipments of food and fuel that wend their way to these islands are heavily subsidized. To my surprise, I came to know from Jaleel that the entire power supply to the islanders is based on diesel generators! Powder white sand cocooned by calm, azure waters, postcard scenery, no hordes of tourists, sleepy fishing villages nestled among the coconut trees – Lakshadweep is one of India’s best kept secrets!! My eyes ain’t getting enough even after spending so much time along the coasts, beaches and in the lagoons. It’s such a pure bliss! 🙂 🙂

Not able to find any one of my gang, I returned back to our room and started watching TV when our people came and took me for dinner. The dinner was simple; we ordered a couple of dosas while Imran had Malabar Parota which is a local delicacy. We cycled back to our room to grab some more sleep as I have to fly back to Cochin the next day!

19.01.2017:

We were up at 04.30 hrs to witness the sunrise in this beautiful island. We started walking towards the eastern jetty from where we can get a good glimpse of the rising sun. By the time we reached the jetty, a cargo vessel is offloading it’s cargo and few islanders getting their fishing equipment ready for an early morning catch! Slowly the sun was above the horizon and it was such a mesmerizing sight with the orange colored sun in the background and the dancing dolphins in the blue waters in the foreground! The experience is beyond description!

Just near the shore, we could see wide varieties of brightly colored fishes hovering around the shallow waters. Turtles were swimming lazily along looking for food or sunbathing at the surface while the islanders were trying their luck at catching the other edible fishes for their meal! I asked Jaleel how would a standard meal at home like and the answer came instantly as “Tuna fish curry” 🙂 The secluded beaches with swaying palm trees, the unending rhythmic dance of waves playfully teasing the silken sands, the sun and clouds creating magical light shows in the skies, transports us to a transcendent state where there is only bliss and ecstasy.

Though I wanted to try my hand at fishing, I was not able to do so as no one was ready to lend their fishing rod to me 😦  If not this time, might be the next time 😉 We returned back around 07.00 hrs as I have to leave to the airport early! For people like me who are looking for an amazing exotic travel experience in a budget and a destination brimming with natural beauty, untouched by human activities and far away from crow, Lakshadweep is the right spot! 🙂 🙂

Hope you all would also be visiting these beautiful islands so soon 🙂

Fire fighting in Thinnakara

18.01.2016:

While we were enjoying the coconuts and the coconut jaggery that was prepared fresh by Fathima aunty, an old man with a serious look on his face rushed towards us. He is Mohommed, husband of Fathima aunty. From his serious looks, I thought he might not have liked us being there taking off their privacy and enjoying his wife’s sweet dish, but I was wrong! It was more serious. Unfortunately, the fire which he made to dispose off some waste started spreading into a larger area behind his home and the old man and his son were not able to control it!

When we went to inspect the scene, we saw that the fire was spreading too fast and it was only these two who were fighting with it. Soon we too were into action – Imran, Jaleel, Uncle and I started fetching buckets of water from a groundwater source beside the home and splashing the water all through the patch of the land that was on fire. As it was almost summer in this part of India with very less rainfall and almost all the bushes and leaves are fully dried, the fire is spreading at a much faster rate! Aunty and Fathima aunty too joined us in fighting the fire.

How much ever hard we were trying, we were not able to curb it and Fathima shouted hard for help and soon the staff at the resorts rushed to the spot with buckets of water and were into action. A struggle of around 30 minutes, two burns onto the sole of my right feet, torn flip-flops of Imran, cramps on to everyone’s hands – our sacrifices seemed to satisfy the Fire God and finally we were able to put off the fire 🙂 🙂 . We relaxed for some more time sipping fresh coconut water and exchanging few words with Fathima’s family before we bid them a bye!

We explored a bit more of Thinnakara before we started moving towards another set of uninhabited islands – Parali 1 and Parali 2 which are famous for sea turtles. Locals often say that these islands should be visited on a full moon night as thousands of turtles come to the island to lay eggs. Probably they might come on other nights too. But perhaps the beauty of these creatures along with the beauty of the full-moon and the lagoon around the island might be surreal. Once we get a feel of any one of the islands in the Lakshadweep Archipelago, it would be the same with the other islands too.

We started back to Agatti by 14.00 hrs and tried our hands again at fishing and this time too we didn’t get a single fish 😦 . I retired to sleep after a refreshing shower and a hearty meal. Though aunty tried a lot to wake me up from my sleep in the evening, I didn’t and she gave up. Jaleel, Imran, Aunty and Uncle went to have a walk along the beach before I woke up! Lemme sleep for some more time 🙂 🙂