A Visit To Kanyakumari
I have several travel memories etched in my mind but the one that has left the deepest impression on me is our family trip to the southern tip of the Indian peninsula; Kanyakumari. We took this trip in March 2013, nearly five years back over a period of 3 days. My sprightly twelve-year-old was just seven at that time and she made it a very memorable trip with her innocent chatter and never-ending antics.
My wife straight away warned the two of us that it would have to be a budget trip. She made it very clear to us that we could not expect any fancy hotels or restaurants and she would decide where we stayed and ate. Both my daughter and I have a penchant for luxury hotels and restaurants and love to travel everywhere by car and eat the best food. But I knew money was of the essence to us at that moment and agreed humbly to the rules laid down by my wife.
The last time I had visited Kanyakumari was nearly 40 years back when I was a kid of twelve. I was really thrilled by the forthcoming trip. A week before the journey, my wife told us that she had booked tickets by a train that left Kochi at 11.30 PM and arrived at Kanyakumari at around 7.00 AM in the morning.
Immediately the two of us burst out, "Oh no, why can't we take a flight?"
"Well guys," said my wife "I warned you this is going to be a budget trip, and Jai, you know as well as I do that we cannot afford to go gallivanting around the country at the moment throwing money at will. And anyway you guys ought to know that there is no airport in Kanyakumari and the nearest airport is at Thiruvananthapuram which is 90 kilometers away."
I nodded my head and smiled but it was not so easy to convince my daughter. She was somewhat mollified when we told her we would be seeing a wonderful sunrise at Kanyakumari and we could have loads of fun at the Vivekananda rock. Well to make a long story short, we boarded the train on the scheduled day and finally reached the modest TTDC hotel where my wife had booked a comfortable A/C room.
We unpacked as soon as we arrived and all of us got ready for the day ahead. My wife sent me to have a word with the manager of the hotel to inquire about the best time to visit the various attractions of Kanyakumari. He was very informative and told me that the motorboat service to the Vivekananda rock was available at regular intervals from 10 AM to 4 PM.
He also told me that the best time to visit the Kumari Amman temple would be the evening when there wouldn't be too much of a crowd. And to my great disappointment, he added that it would not be possible to visit the majestic Thiruvalluvar statue. This was because some repairs were underway and it was out of bounds at the moment. This was a blow to me as I was really keen on visiting the statue. For those who are not aware; Thiruvalluvar is the great Tamil poet who penned the epic Thirukkural, a set of 1332 poetic verses about the essence of life.
After having breakfast we took an auto-rickshaw to the place where the tickets for the motorboat service to Vivekananda rock were being sold. There was a long queue but we eventually got our tickets. Our turn to board the motor boat came after a wait of half an hour. We were first told to wear orange colored life jackets. My little one's eyes were twinkling with pleasure and I could see that she was thrilled at wearing this orange contraption around her shoulders. I did not know if she really understood what it was for.
Well, the boat started its journey. Unfortunately, we could not get corner seats. But anyway I managed to capture an image through the window. Here it is. You can see the Vivekananda rock at a distance.
In a matter of 6 or 7 minutes, we arrived at Vivekananda rock. The place was breathtaking in its magnificence. We visited the Dhyana mandapam, the meditation hall and the other structures in the memorial. There was an air of sanctity in every place we visited. There is a myth that Swami Vivekananda used to wake up in the morning at 5.30 AM and swim to this rock to meditate. But this has been proved to be nothing more than a rumor. Here are some more images.
In the image above you can see Thiruvalluvar's statue at a distance. It was under repairs. Even from this distance and in this state the statue was majestic to look at. It was more than 100 feet tall. When I was living in Chennai I used to travel quite often by local buses. And in every bus I climbed into, I always used to find a Kural (a poetic verse) from the Thirukkural put up on a small board just above the windshields. It used to make very interesting reading for people.
There is a myth about the Thirukkural too. It seems after Thiruvalluvar had penned down the 1332 Kurals he presented it to the King in a tablet. And out of dislike for the great poet, the king ordered that the tablets be thrown into the water tank of the royal temple. But it is believed that so great was the truth and essence behind the poetic verses that the tablets came floating up from the depths to the surface of the tank on a blooming lotus at the center. And this made the king realize his folly and apologize.
Of course, this is obviously a myth but I just mention it to bring out the extent to which Thirukkural is respected in Tamil Nadu. Here are some more images.
Finally, after spending around one hour at the place we returned by the motorboat. In the evening we visited the Kumari Amman temple and had a great darshan. I only have one image of the temple and that too from a distance. You can see the gopuram.
And the next morning we woke up and went to watch the famed Kanyakumari sunrise. Here an incident occurred which I will never forget for the rest of my life. There is a particular place in Kanyakumari which is supposed to be ideal for watching the sunrise. We made a beeline to this point and found that it was already crowded with people armed with mobile phones to click images of the sunrise to proudly show their friends.
As we were just getting ready to join the bandwagon, my wife suddenly pulled my arm and said, "Jai, look at that man." I looked in the direction of my wife's pointing finger and saw a man clothed in rags squatting on the floor right in the middle of the crowd and mumbling something inaudible. He had a small empty cloth spread in front of him and in that crowd of around 70 people, there was not a single soul who was paying any attention to him.
We went near him and realized that the man was probably mentally unsound. My wife told me, "Wait here Jai, I will be back in a minute" and left. She came back after some 10 minutes with a small packet of biscuits and she handed it over to the man. Her reason for not giving the man money, she told me, was that the man would probably be tempted to spend it on beedies. This is India folks! We enjoy watching a breathtaking sunrise when a fellow human being is suffering at our feet without a morsel of food.
This put a bad taste into our mouths. But anyways we clicked some images of the sunrise. Here they are.
After this incident, we went back, had breakfast and visited the lighthouse. We were not allowed to climb up to the top floor. Here are some images of the lighthouse.
While returning we visited the back side of our hotel by chance and had a very pleasant surprise. Here are two images of what we found.
The images are blurred but those are peacocks you are seeing. There were so many of them on that lawn in the backside of where we were staying and they looked so tame. It was breathtaking to see them running around here and there. My daughter was simply thrilled.
We paid one more visit to the Kumari Amman temple on the morning of the next day. We were in two minds whether to visit Nagercoil which was 60 kilometers away. The Padmanabhapuram palace in Nagercoil is very famous. But we were a bit tired by then and gave up the idea. We went back to the hotel, rested till the evening and that night we caught the train back home. This trip was one of the most memorable and enjoyable trips I have ever had. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and so did my family.