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)….

Amazing journey through the Jarawa land..

Day 6:

Don’t ask me where we were going.. Coz, I too don’t know our destination 😀 . What all I know was that we need to start early (around 5 am) from Port Blair; it’s going to be a long drive and the roads might not be that good; and my aunt as well as Kiron aunt is also going to join us on this drive 🙂 .

We will be going in a Chevrolet Tavera as the group grew big 😉 . Uncle and Shivangi’s father bid a bye to us when we started our journey from the School lane. Padmaja, Swati, Mounica and I occupied the rear seats while the front was occupied by Sahil and Shivangi, middle by both my aunts and Harsha. After few minutes the destination was revealed. It’s Baratang which is 100 kms away from Port Blair.

Our first halt is Jirkatang, almost 40 kms from Port Blair. Here, we encountered a forest check post as well as a long queue of vehicles, the ones who arrived earlier than us. There are 8 convoys throughout the day (first one at 6.30 am and last one at 2.30 pm) from this check post and we were late by few minutes to catch up the earlier one. We don’t have any other choice rather than to wait!

jarawa025_article_columnAs we got down and looking around the surroundings, something drew my attention.. A board of instructions, mainly about the things which we should not do during the journey on this stretch. I couldn’t understand for a moment what I was looking at and it was then I understood that we are entering a buffer zone, the zone of Jarawas. This stretch is of around 50 kms.

andaman-trunk-road-notice

Jarawas, considered one of the most isolated people on earth, they are a hunter-gatherer tribe that has lived in the dense forests of Andaman Islands completely cut off from the outside world for thousands of years. Today, approximately 400 members of the nomadic Jarawa tribe live in groups of 40-50 people in chaddhas – as they call their homes. They hunt pig and turtle and fish with bow and arrows in the coral-fringed reefs for crabs and fish. They also gather fruits, wild roots, tubers and honey.

Soon, the gates were up and we were as excited as we could see some members of the most primitive tribal group on this earth. A forest official led our convoy through this reserve forest and there was another one at the rear end. The instructions were clear that this is a no-overtake zone and we should not halt anywhere. We were watching our surroundings keenly so that we won’t miss a chance of getting a glimpse of the Jarawas. For the first few minutes, we couldn’t see any of them except few watch-over sheds kind of things. They were simple, just 4 poles and a top which is covered with straw and dry leaves. We learnt from our driver that they sometimes sit there and watch the movements on the road.

Another few minutes passed away and there they were. A child and a mother, dark skinned, red-eyed, curly haired, the child has some sort of paste or mud applied onto his face, the mother covering her lower part with some red color strings, might be roots of some trees, I donno.. But that was one stunning moment for us. How one could be so primitive while the universe is running behind super-computers and probing living chances on some other planets?? It was a billion dollar question for me….

The other end of this Jarawa forest reserve is the Middle Strait. We have to take a vehicle ferry from here to Baratang which is like 15 mins ride.

P.S – We strictly adhered to the rules here and hence didn’t click any photographs through out the Jarawa belt. We just don’t want to create any inconvenience to those most beautiful lives on this earth. It sometimes makes me feel sad when I hear the news about the atrocities the Jarawas face from the civilized people who just care nothing but their fun factor 😦