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! 🙂 🙂