A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee
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It was 2017 year end and I was deputed to Trivandrum on a corporate tour. To celebrate the New Year, we, a group of seven colleagues, planned to visit the temple town of Kanyakumari which is located just at a distance of 100 kilometers from Trivandrum. What could have been a better place to grace the New Year? Kerala Tourism ‘Force’ minivans are exclusively available for day tours to Kanyakumari. We booked one of them and started early morning as we had plans to visit couple of more places enroute.
Road trip from Trivandrum to Kanyakumari
We took our first roadside break at Neyyattinkara for breakfast. Idly, Sambhar, Medu Vada and Masala Dosa were the only options. Additionally, we drenched our thirst with Rasam to beat out the winter heat and started afresh.
Breakfast break at Neyyattinkara
The next planned break was at Nagercoil for brunch at a veg family restaurant. Though hardly located at a distance of 20 kilometers from Padmanabhapuram, it took us significant time at the state border to complete the verification formalities. So, we preferred a non-stop drive to Kanyakumari from there.
Brunch at Nagercoil
Drive to Kanyakumari from Nagercoil
We reached the holy temple complex by 12 noon. It was such a wondrous experience to see the confluence of Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean from the southernmost tip of our Indian mainland. We could easily differentiate the three significant water bodies by their difference in colours.
Confluence of Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean at Kanyakumari
Bay of Bengal waters were slightly greyish; Arabian Sea waves were turquois while a deep indigo tinge could be distinguishingly seen at the horizon, seemingly the grand Indian Ocean. Dipping ourselves at the waters of Kanyakumari sea beach, we prepared to offer Puja to the deity.
Kanyakumari sea beach
Goddess Durga is worshipped in her non-virginal form here – signifying the exclusive purity of the place. Lots of restrictions are levied for the visitors like no one is allowed to carry any personal belongings such as water bottle, wallet, camera, mobile etc inside; all the ladies in trousers are required to wrap a white dhoti around their waist (available on rent at the temple complex); male devotees have to replace all attires and enter bare bodied with just a holy white dhoti draped around, any kind of photography is strictly prohibited in and around the temple premises and so on.
Glimpse of Vivekananda Rock from Kanyakumari
Pretty near the shore, stands the historical Vivekananda Rock where Swamiji had attained his enlightenment. On the other hand, common legends say that it was on this rock Goddess Kanyakumari had performed austerity. A memorial had been built on the rock with an underground meditation hall. Launches run to and fro from the jetty adjoining the temple complex.
We toasted at Maadhini International hotel’s bistro and then proceeded to the ferry for Vivekananda Rock. There was a long queue at the jetty and it took us almost an hour’s wait to finally board the launch.
Toast at Maadini International
Jetty for boarding launch for Vivekananda Rock from Kanyakumari
Waiting in a long queue to board the launch
Boarding the launch to Vivekananda Rock
Oh! It was such an incomparable journey. A considerable portion of the rock was destroyed during the Tsunami disaster; however, the conservation works were in progress and a new jetty has been constructed recently.
Memorable launch ride to Vivekananda Rock from Kanyakumari
New jetty at the memorial after Tsunami destroyed the old one
Divine moments spent at the Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Walking up the final flight of stairs to the Memorial Hall
Vivekananda Rock Memorial Hall
Way to underground meditation hall
Spending an hour at the mediation hall, we started back our journey to the mainland. The sea was quite rough and it took us close to half an hour to reach the mainland.
View of the open sea from Vivekananda Rock
One of the most eye irritating sights was a huge statue of some Tamil poet just adjacent to the Vivekananda Rock, built in recent past. No idea what was the rationale behind erection of such a massive statue of a locally famous poet just beside a historical site of international importance. No offence meant, as a secular visitor, it was creating more of a pessimistic imprint than honour for that gentleman – it seemed as though the whole idea of erecting that statue was to demean the significance of the majestic Vivekananda Rock.
Tamil poet’s statue beside Vivekananda Rock
Walking along the seashore, we also visited the Gandhi Memorial which houses the urn containing Mahatma’s funeral ashes. Right at the spot, Gandhiji’s ashes were kept on display for public homage before the final immersion. The construction had been so made that the first rays of 2nd October’s sun fall on the urn every year. After the Tsunami, a monument had been recently erected near the southern end of the seashore as a commemoration of those who lost their lives in the 2004 maritime disaster. It was such a magnificent feeling to experience the year’s last sunset from the southernmost tip of our country.
Thanumalayan Temple in Suchindram
Gopura of Suchindram Temple
Way back we stopped at Thanumalayan Temple in Suchindram, just 7 kilometers short of Nagercoil. It was another excellence of South Indian architectural elegance. However the uniqueness of the temple lied with the concept of its primary deity – the temple is one of its type in India which is dedicated to three chief divinities of Hindu mythology (Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma), but represented by only one amalgamated figurine. It’s called Sthanumalayan (where Sthanu depicts Lord Shiva, Maal depicts Lord Vishnu and Ayan depicts Lord Brahma).
Enjoying a round of hot drinks from the temple side tea stalls, we closed our day’s itinerary. Eyes opened after an unperturbed nap way back home.