End: Journey To The Tip Of India
Dhruva explores his way around Kanyakumari
us go then you and I, Where the ocean is spread out against
the sky Two insignificant specks into the horizon Through
the endless waters of time....” (with apologies to T S Eliot)
on the rocks lashed by waves, staring at the never ending
deep blue expanse all around, a strange sense of tranquillity
suffused me. Mesmerised by the sweeping vista of the Indian
Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea from the rocky outcrop
behind Vivekanand Rock Memorial, away from the milling tourists,
realisation dawned, Man is but a mere insignificant
speck in the universe.
not surprising that Swami Vivekanand was inspired to start
a mission to spread the message of Hinduism while meditating
on this rock. During his travels across India after the death
of his guru Sri Ramakrishna Paramhans, in 1892, Swami Vivekananda
had swam out to this huge half submerged rock 500 meters from
the shore to meditate. Vivekanand Rock Memorial, a synthesis
of distinctive styles of temple architecture across the country,
was erected on this rock in 1970 and is today a ten-minute
ferry ride from Kanyakumari.
The memorial is one of the major tourist attraction of the
small sleepy town of Kanyakumari. Nestling between vast green
stretches of paddy fields and coconut groves, Kanyakumari
is not only the southernmost point of India and the confluence
of Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean but
also an important Hindu pilgrimage centre.
Kanyakumari derives its name from from Goddess Kanyakumari
Amman, the presiding deity of the area. Legend has it that
the Goddess Parvati, in one of her incarnations as Devi Kanya,
did penance on one of the rocks of this lands end to
obtain the hand of Lord Shiva. Kumari Amman or the Kanyakumari
Temple, dedicated to this Devi, is picturesquely located overlooking
the shore and attracts tourists from all over the world. The
diamond nose-ring of the deity is famous for its sparkling
splendour and is said to be visible even from the sea. Men
are required to remove their shirts prior to entering the
Referred to as the Alexandria of the East, Kanyakumari was
a well known commercial and trading centre besides being a
centre for art and culture. Islam, Christianity and Jainism
have greatly contributed to the architectural wealth and literary
heritage of this place which flourished under the rule of
the Cholas, the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Nayaks.
The Portuguese Church with its beautiful archaic structure
is a major monument of Christian influence. The massive towering
spires and stained glass window panes contribute to the overall
grandeur of the Church. As you enter the church the simplicity
of the interiors, a sharp contrast to the ornate Gothic exteriors
is the first thing, which strike you. There are no pews and
the congregation sits on the sandy floor of white powdery
sand. A tiny cross adorns the altar. A walk down to the fishing
jetty behind the church is quite interesting especially if
the boats have just come in with their catch. Fresh fish at
really dirt cheap prices with a large turtle going for just
Rs 500 is incentive enough to walk down to the jetty.
Besides fishing, tourism is the main-stay of Kanyakumari,
famous for its unique beach with multicoloured sand and the
spectacular sunrises and sunsets, especially on full moon
days. On a full moon night, also termed as Chaita Purnima
(in April), the setting sun and the rising moon glow simultaneously
on the horizon.
Kanyakumari is perhaps the only place in India where observing
these two daily phenomenons of nature is raised to the level
of a ritual. Kanyakumari wakes up regularly at 5.30 am to
a cacophony of alarm clocks and wake up calls.
Tourists, pilgrims and locals flock like migratory birds to
either Sunrise Point or the terrace of their hotels by 6 am
waiting for the majestic sight of daybreak to unfold. The
image of the night-sky gradually transforming into various
hues of pastel colours with the silhouette of fishing boats
in the foreground as the sun rises above the horizon of the
Bay of Bengal remains etched in memory for a long time.
Sunsets are equally spectacular and the beach lining the Arabian
Sea, a tiny strip of multicoloured sand, is crowded with people
waiting for the grand finale of the day. Watching the sunset
is the only activity one can indulge in on this beach which
is rocky and dangerous for swimming. The sea is fairly rough
and the waves pounding against the rocks, subsiding and gathering
again for another onslaught keeps you engaged till the huge
red orb in the sky goes down in a blaze of glory. The lighthouse
is also worth a visit for the panoramic view.
is a wonderful destination for a laid back holiday.
nearest airport is at Trivandrum, 80 kms away, with
regular flights to Bangalore, Mumbai, Cochin, Delhi,
Goa, and Madras.
Rail: Kanyakumari is connected to Trivandrum,
Delhi, and Mumbai by broad-gauge railway network.
Road: It is connected by road to Nagarcoil 19
kms, Trivandrum 86 kms and Tirunelvelli 91 kms with
frequent and regular bus service. Bus service to other
major tourist destinations in Kerala and Tamil Nadu
This small and picturesque circular fort
on the seashore 6 kms from Kanyakumari is an idyllic
picnic spot. The isolated beach lined with coconut groves
and dense vegetation is sure to seduce you for a dip
in the clear blue virgin waters. The fort, according
to some historians, was constructed in the 18th century
during the reign of Marthanda Varman (1729 -1758) while
others claim that it was built by the Dutch. Only the
ramparts and a few broken down structures have withstood
the ravages of time.
The ancient and majestic Padmanabhapuram
Palace, an epitome of Kerala architecture, is housed
in a small idyllic town set against a backdrop of hills,
32 kms from Kanyakumari, on the road to Thiruvananthapuram.
A pleasant 15-minute walk through paddy fields from
Thakkaly gets you to the Palace, which unlike the imposing
Mahals of northern India, is made of granite and teakwood
displaying a perfect combination of clean lines and
gentle angles, sloping tiled roofs of various interconnecting
buildings, broken by triangular projecting gables enclosing
delicately carved screens. The whole ensemble, most
of which dates from the 17th or 18th century with some
parts dating back to the 14th century, is excellently
maintained by the Archeological Survey of India and
a guided tour through the maze of 108 rooms leaves one
speechless at the artistic expression and sheer opulence.
Even the ceilings have intricately carved floral patterns!
And the Palace has a dining hall, which seated 2000
Brahmins at one time! The Palace was the seat and capital
of the rulers of Travancore, a princely state, for over
400 years, which included a good part of present day
Kerala and parts of western Tamil Nadu.
Even from a distance the 134 feet tall
gopuram or the tower of the Suchindram temple with the
sky as a backdrop is an awe-inspiring sight. Suchindram
Temple, dedicated to Sri Stanamalaya or the Trimurti
(Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva) venerated in one form,
is counted as one of the foremost shrines in southern
India. The ancient temple with parts dating back to
9th century and the construction of which extended over
a period of 600 years is the mainstay of the sleepy
village of Suchindram located 12 kms from Kanyakumari.
Home to a profusion of art, culture and architecture
with the Pandyas, Cholas and the Pallavas leaving their
inscriptions in Pali, Sanskrit and Tamil, the temple
is a wonder. Besides exquisitely carved sculptures of
Shiva, Parvati, Ganesha and Subramanya, the temple boasts
of musical pillars, which emit a chime when struck and
an 18 feet tall idol of Hanuman. The temple complex
is open from 3 am to 1 pm and 4 pm to 8 pm.