Fed up of the bustle of the city and tired of keeping pace with the life of a professional, the long unwinding roads beckoned my tired soul. If I could, I would leave everything in the yonder and hum John Denver's 'Country Roads….take me home…to the place...where I belong". And I did just that - I packed my overnight lug bag, filled up the tank of my bike and set of to Kanyakumari, known as the Cape Comorin on an early Saturday morning (7.30 a.m).
I wonder what the significance of this place is? I mean, why did Mahatma Gandhi wanted his ashes to be immersed here? Why did Swami Vivekananda travel all the way down to here, swim across the tumultuous sea to a rock away from the main land, do 3 days of meditation and had the "Vision of one India"? Later he wrote:
"At Cape Camorin sitting in Mother Kumari's temple, sitting on the last bit of Indian rock - I hit upon a plan: We are so many sanyasis wandering about, and teaching the people metaphysics-it is all madness. Did not our Gurudeva used to say, `An empty stomach is no good for religion?' We as a nation have lost our individuality and that is the cause of all mischief in India. We have to raise the masses."
I don't wish to dwell into the 'other' details of this land. After all, this is suppose to be a travel blog! So, here I go -
Kanyakumari is nearly 90 kms away from Thiruvananthapuram, which is the nearest city to this peninsular tip of India. It took me almost 3 and odd hours to reach there and that includes stops at road side tea shops and at places where nature beckoned me to open the shutters of my camera.
It was blazing hot when I reached Kanyakumari and I went straight to one of the Govt. guest houses where I had booked a room. There are other private owned accommodations of varying rates available there. The independent cottage that I walked into was more than I could have ever bargained for and that too at a modest rate of R.s 450 per night. The break fast at the canteen was decent. It was just something about being tucked away far from the reaches of civilization – ecstatic; soul stirring…the adjectives could go on. It seemed as though I had never felt so relaxed and peaceful since out of my mother's womb; I could hear every bone and joints in my body letting a sigh of relief.
A good four hours sleep and I woke up to feel as though I was born again – so fresh, so rejuvenated… I got dressed up, put the recharged cells in my camera and went out to explore the land which is the confluence point of three seas – the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the great Indian Ocean. Another interesting thing to observe is that the horizon over the seas here is a stage for both the sun rise and the sun set, a rare site in this whole wide world.
After loitering around at the beach side my feet took me to the Gandhi Mandapa. Mahatma Gandhi's ashes were brought to this place to be immersed in the sea confluence and homage was paid by millions to his ashes at this spot back in 1948. An interesting fact about Gandhi Mandapa is that the sunlight through a slit at the roof falls on the Peeta (the spot where his ashes were kept in a pot) on the 2nd of October of every year, the day the Mahatma was born. The view of the sea and the surrounding from the balcony of Gandhi Madapa was simply breath taking as it is built very close to the sea.
But the major attraction of Kanyakumari is not the Gandhi Madapa but the Vivekananda Rock memorial which is about 400 mts into the sea from the shore. There are ferry services connecting the island to the mainland but I had to wait till the next morning to get there as the ferry services stops by 5 in the evening.
The Kanya Devi temple is adjacent to the Gandhi Mandapa. The temple is dedicated to the virgin goddess Kanyakumari. What interested me was the mythology behind it - Kanya Devi, an incarnation of Goddess Parvati, was to get married to Lord Shiva at this place. The marriage never solomnised as the Lord never turned up and thus Kanya Devi remained a virgin and later on was hailed as a goddess by the population. Note that 'Kanya' refers to virgin and 'Devi' refers goddess.
The evening was spent ambling across the market place, watching the shop keepers selling artifacts – sea shells, conches – gifts from the sea bed.
And here is a tip-off for those who cannot keep their hands away from their purse when on such outings – brush up your bargaining skills because these vendors are there to sell and make profit, though marginal I should say.
There are enough places out there to satisfy your gastronomical urges – I recommend the local flavored seafood over the namesake continental dishes. I have always believed in this simple saying – 'When in Rome, do as the Romans do', or maybe, eat what a Roman would eat!
Vivekananda Rock Memorial:
The ferry service to the Vivekananda Rock starts at 7 in the morning and I arrived at the boat jetty by around half past 8. The ride in the crowded boat across the rocking sea is an experience of a lifetime. It is believed that in the year 1892, the spiritual reformer, Swami Vivekananda swam across the sea and meditated on this rocky island for three days. Vivekananda Mandapa and Sripada Mandapa face each other in mighty glory. The smaller rock called Sripada Parai (Sripada Mandapa) is revered as a sacred spot where Goddess Kanyakumari did meditation. The rock has an impression of a human footprint, which is revered to be that of Goddess Kanyakumari.
The Vivekananda Mandapa houses a colossal statue of the Swami who stands on a high raised pedestal with folded arms and overlooking the three seas. It is rare that you find this aura of majestic elegance and spiritual complacence in a structure but which is true to the very essence of Swami Vivekananda who is none other than the one who said, "Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached". Looking at the statue, one could see what the Swami meant when he said he had the "Vision of one India".
On another rock in the sea, not too far away from the Vivekananda Rock stands the Tiruvalluvar statue that stands 133 feet high and is a stone monument. It was completed in 2000 and is built in memory of the great Tamil poet and saint Tiruvalluvar, who taught the quintessential words of wisdom through his philosophical work 'Thirukkural', a treatise in Tamil on the Indian way of life. The ferry service to the Vivekananda Rock also takes you to this sculpture of modern times that stands amid the blue waves and leaves a lasting impression in your mind.
Bidding adieu to that sea kissing land was not that easy. More so, to a land which reaches out to your soul, touches every chord in you, without realizing, you are caught in the magic of the land which mesmerizes you and works its magic so much so that you run out of adjectives to talk about the land. The last glimpse of the setting sun had me kick starting my bike back to life and with John Denver still on my mind, I started my journey back only to return to the hectic, buzzling days ahead.
Nearest railway station: Kanyakumari Railway Station
Nearest airport: Trivandrum (90 km)
Accommodation: Anything from cheap lodges to luxury hotels that would charge you a few thousand INRs.
For more details about the place, please visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanyakumari