Probably nothing divides the travelling fraternity as much as sunrises and sunsets. The former perhaps comes symbolising the possibilities and newness, the latter a harbinger of the end. It is, however, the sunset’s that always had me in the team loyally.
If it wasn’t for the overnight journey to Kanyakumari that inadvertently had me up and about at dawn, I might have never divided the affection. Through the dark and sleepy lanes, the silence of the hour amplifying the sound of crashing waves, I had placed myself on the top level of the spiral viewing tower. As I waited for the sun to cast myriad hues on the three seas below — Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea, and the sky above, it chose to test my patience.
Yet, the moment it all turned amber, the sun coming out to cast that spell, the moon in the opposite direction still not ready to bid adieu, allegiance had taken a hit. I had seen the mornings and nights that sun brings in the hills, lands, deserts and seas. Nothing was ever this beautiful and majestic. The peacocks and their other feathered companions gracing the gardens thereafter added to the memory.
Of wind and water
The might of the three seas was, however, more pronounced at the two rock islands off the mainland. A small ferry ride, accompanied by a few turbulent but harmless instances, took me to the most popular landmark — Vivekananda Rock Memorial.
The legend has it that an avatar of Goddess Parvati — Kanya Devi, was to marry Lord Shiva. The destroyer among the holy trinity failed to show up. The locals believe that the small stones on the shores are indeed the rice and cereals that were meant to be a part of the wedding feast. The furious virgin goddess then destroyed everything in sight and slaughtered demons. She later performed penance on the same rock where Vivekananda spent three days meditating and the memorial stands.
If the sheer charm of the place somehow miraculously fails to blow you away, the strong cool winds carrying sea in them do. The feet find comfort from the hot stone floor and a sense of calm prevails in the two mandapams. The Vivekananda Manadapam houses a bronze statue of the philosopher such that the Sripada Mandapam, the shrine erected where the footprints of the goddess are seen on the rock, is in direct vision.
If the tides permit, a quick stop at the neighbouring rock to marvel at the gigantic statue of Tamil poet and philosopher — Thiruvalluvar, is also a must. A climb to the feet from inside the base of the statue gives a great view of the surroundings.
The virgin goddess
The 3,000-year-old Kumari Amman Temple, also called Arulmigu Bhagavathy Amman Temple, is surrounded by market lanes selling colourful cottons, jewellery, spices, and more. The goddess is worshipped as protector here, after she killed the demon king Banasura. That is believed to be the reason behind sage Narad tricking Lord Shiva and the marriage procession to return as Banasura could only be killed by a virgin girl.
The beautiful black stone idol of the goddess in the inner sanctum is highlighted by a sparkling bejewelled nose ring. It is, however, the snan or bathing ritual followed by elaborate makeup procedure that wows.
The fares at the shore
Come dusk and the beaches transform into big night markets, making the whole city one big shopping extravaganza. It also brings alive the once popular Alexandria of the East. For, Kanyakumari, apart from being a famous centre for commerce and trade, was hailed as a place for art, culture and pilgrimage.
Though the majority of the shops now are a riot of colours and full of cheap China-made products, on many others you find the treasures coming out of the waters. From tuneful conch shells to wall hangings, mirrors, jewellery, and more, made of tiny shells and stones, the place is perfect for an engaging evening stroll. The small eateries along the way and in between, selling piping hot fritters, fresh juices, local snacks and delectable chana vadas keep you energised and happy.
Around 10km away from Kanyakumari, Suchindram boasts of one of the most unique temples in the country. Its majestic white entrance is visible from far. It is dedicated to three different deities (Lord Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma), albeit represented in one idol — Sthanumalayan Kovil. The beautiful corridors full of pillars, musical ones too, are the main attraction, along with the gigantic Hanuman idol. Suchindram, along with Kanyakumari, formed a part of Travancore kingdom.
If you happen to plan your outward journey from Kanyakumari by train from the quaint little station of Nagercoil Town, reminiscent of Malgudi Days with the hills, green pastures, cattle and handful of passengers waiting at the lone platform, keep an eye out for Muppandal Wind Farm. One of the largest onshore wind farms in the world, and India’s biggest source of wind energy, its huge wind mills stand over the trees around.
First Published: Apr 15, 2019 14:19 IST