Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Kanyakumari – Devi Kanyakumari, the land of three oceans

Just before sunrise
Kanyakumari - the southern tip of main land India (not the southern tip of Indian Union) - is the point where three oceans meet - 'Bay of Bengal' on the east, 'Indian ocean' on the south and 'Arabian Sea' on the west. I reached Kanyakumari around 2.30 in the night; after having some snacks from a nearby store I walked towards the railway station for spending rest of the night. Around 5.30 in the morning I left the station and walked towards the Sangamam, joining hundreds of other people to watch the sunrise (at 6.10am)...

History of Kanyakumari (aka Cape Comorin)

People waiting to watch the sunrise

Kanyakumari is generally divided into 'Nanjil Nadu and Idai Nadu'. Nanjinadu was ruled by Pandyans till 10th century; then it came under Cheras. During the fall of Cholas, Cheras further extended their kingdom. Probably, Veera Kerala Verma started the annexation; by 1115 AD their rule was firmly established. For next four centuries Venad kings ruled the southern tip.

However, in 1532 AD Venad lost the battle of Tamiraparani to Vijayanagar. Later in 1609 AD Kanyakumari fell into the hands of Viswanatha Nayak of Madurai Nayak dynasty. I am not clear about what happened from this point to the takeover of these places by Travancore kingdom. From 1947 to 1956 Kanyakumari was under the personal rule of Travancore Maharaja. Linguistic State Reorganization policy (1956) gave this district to present day Tamilnadu state.

Sun rise at Kanyakumari
Sun rising at Kanyakumari

By 6.00 in the morning, eastern shores were filled by people. All eyes are set on the eastern horizon. People are taking baths, watching eastern sky, taking photos etc. Slowly sun appeared in the screen and started his assent towards the sky from the eastern end of Bay of Bengal. A big round of applause followed after his first appearance in the sky. The illuminated orange round ball of sun radiating soft light on that cool morning was indeed an interesting sight.

I moved close to the ocean on the other side to stand and capture the southernmost point of mainland India. Suddenly an unexpected wave of salty water drenched me.

On the western side of this point stand 'Mahatma Gandhi Memorial', 'Kamarajar Manimandapam' and 'Observation Tower'. From the top of observation tower (5 INR entrance fee) we can have a better look of shore and ocean surrounding it. There is no beach in this area. Here, some private facilities (pay and use) are available for bathing and other primary necessities.

Kanyakumari temple at the end of the road
Kanyakumari Temple (aka Kanyakumari Bagavathiamman Temple)

Kanyakumari temple is located close to the shores. According to mythology goddess Devi took a vow to be a virgin ('Kanya') forever. I went to the temple and joined the queue. Here too people can join special queue by paying 25 INR. Bags (except hand bags), camera, sandals etc are not allowed inside.

Devi's Feet and Vivekananda Rock memorial

My next destination was Vivekananda Rock located some meters away from the mainland. Boats are available to reach here. Wandering Monk Museum and Government museum are located close to the temple. To my astonishment there was a very long queue in front of the jetty. If I joined that queue there is no way I could reach the rock memorial before noon. Here also a special queue is available, but will cost you 150 INR (for normal queue charge is 30 INR). Interestingly some people are trying to join this long queue from the middle only to hear the angry words from other people.

Oceans at Kanyakumari

I bought the ticket and occupied the first row in the boat. After wearing safety jackets waited eagerly for the boat to take off. Slowly we moved towards the memorial, Tiruvalluvar statue stand some meters away on another rock (they are not allowing people to Tiruvalluvar rock), and breathed there shortly.

For visiting the memorial we have buy one more ticket (please note that sandals are not allowed after a certain point). On the top, a temple around the leg marks of Devi Kanyakumari stands on one side. Another temple where the black coloured full size statue of Vivekananda stands on the other side. Photography is not allowed inside.

Exit from Vivekananda statue will lead us to a meditation room. This is a dimly lit rectangular room painted in black colour with an 'ohm' written in Sanskrit is placed on other end of the wall. A number of chairs and mats are available in the inside. Here you can sit and meditate in the presence of omkar sound coming from speaker.

A view from the boat
From Vivekananda rock you can see the wind fans of Koodankulam nuclear power station and its building in the end.

I took the return boat and reached mainland

Vattakottai (aka Circular Fort) at Anjugramam

This 18th century fort was built by Captain De Lannoy, former naval officer of Dutch East India Company, and the later commander of Travancore Army under king Marthanda Varma. A part of this fort is in sea.

Public bus transportation facilities are not always available to Anjugramam. If you are going with your own vehicle, fine, otherwise adjust your journey according to the local bus time table. I waited here for some time to get a bus to 'Anjugramam'. Finally, I started walking towards the bus stand - the Kanyakumari light house is one the way (unfortunately it was closed).

Koodankulam Nuclear power plant from Vattakottai
After waiting for some time in local bus stand I got a bus to Anjugramam. Fort is located 1-2 kms (tarred road, walkable distance) away from the bus route.

There is a 10 INR maintenance charge for Vattakottai. Nothing left to see here other than the big outer walls and good views of sea from the parts of fort extended to sea. From here on one side you can see Kanyakumari shores and on other side you can see Koodankulam nuclear power plant. A long array of wind fans standing all the way to the power plant is starting close to this place.

I had to wait around half an hour to get return bus.


Kanyakumari shores from Vattakottai
I got down at Kanyakumari; after having some snacks took another bus to Nagercoil - the district head quarters of Kanyakumari. The famous Suchindrum and Nagaraja temples are very close to Nagercoil town. In the earlier days this town and its surroundings were known as Nanjinadu.

The famous battle field of Kulachal war, fought between Travancore under Marthanda Varma and Dutch East India Company under Admiral Eustachius De Lannoy, is located just 20 km away from Nagarcoil town.

The main attractions in this area are Padmanabhapuram Palace and Udayagiri Fort, Mathur Aqueduct, Thiruparapu Falls etc. Don’t forget to enjoy the sceneries on both sides of the road when travelling from Anjugramam to Kanyakumari and Kanyakumari to Nagercoil. Here you can see beginning of one of the wonders of India - the Western Ghats.

Martin Luther King and Kanyakumari

Before finishing this article on Kanyakumari, let me share you a portion of Martin Luther King's sermon 'God is able', where he described the moments he spent on this beautiful ‘cape’ in the second month of 1959.
"In India Mrs King and I spent a lovely weekend in the State of Karala, the southern most point of that vast continent. While there we visited the beautiful beach on Cape Comorin, which is called "Land's End," because this is actually where the land of India comes to an end. Nothing stretches before you except the broad expanse of rolling waters. This beautiful spot is a point at which meet three great bodies of water, The Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. Seated on a huge rock that slightly protrudes into the ocean, we were enthralled by the vastness of the ocean and its terrifying immensities.
As the waves unfolded in almost rhythmic succession, and crashed against the base of the rock in which we were seated, an oceanic music brought sweetness to the ear. To the west we saw the magnificent sun, a great cosmic ball of fire, as it appeared to sink into the very ocean itself. Just as it was almost lost from sight, Mrs King touched me and said, "Look, Martin, Isn't that beautiful!" I looked around and saw the moon, another ball of scintillating beauty. As the sun appeared to be sinking into the ocean, the moon appeared to be rising from the ocean. When the sun finally passed completely beyond sight, darkness engulfed the earth, but in the east the radiant light of the rising moon shone supreme.
To my wife I said, "This is an analogy of what often happens in life." We have experiences when the light of day vanishes, leaving us in some dark and desolate midnight - moments when our highest hopes are turned into shambles of despair or when we are the victims of some tragic injustice and some terrible exploitation. During such moments our spirits are almost overcome by gloom and despair, and we feel that there is no light anywhere. But ever and again, we look toward the east and discover that there is another light which shines even in the darkness, and "the spear of frustration" is transformed "into a shaft of light."
This would be an unbearable world were God to have only a single light, but we may be consoled that God has two lights: a light to guide us in the brightness of the day when hopes are fulfilled and circumstances are favorable, and a light that guides us in the darkness of the midnight when we are thwarted and the slumbering giants of gloom and hopelessness rise in our souls. And so we know that God is able to give us the interior resources to face the darkness as well as the light.
Let this affirmation be our ringing cry. It will give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low hovering clouds and our nights become even darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a great benign Power in the universe whose name is God, and God is able to make a way out of no way, and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. This is our hope for becoming better people. This is our mandate for seeking to make a better world. Amen!"


1. Archaeological Survey of India
2. Wikipedia
3. The Hindu

Western Ghats at South

Devi's Feet at the rock

Me @ Kanyakumari

Vivekananda Memmorial

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