Kanyakumari: An Enchanting Experience of Ocean, Architecture and Spiritual Awakening
The last point of the Indian Peninsula, Cape Comorin now popularly known as Kanyakumari, draws huge number of tourists from across the globe throughout the year. This place offers a captivating view of the confluence of the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. It also has a lot of religious and spiritual beliefs associated that make this place a popular pilgrimage site as well. The serene air over Kanyakumari purifies one’s soul and has the power to take you to the next level of edification and contemplation. It is extremely beautiful and one can expect a very fulfilling stay.
The first best thing that happened to me in Kanyakumari was my sea-facing hotel room. The balcony offered a mesmerising view of the sea and I was assured of a bewitching sunrise and sunset moments ahead. The historical Vivekananda Rock and the iconic Thiruvalluvar statue on the tricolour waters were clearly visible from the balcony.
Getting a bit fresh, I went to visit the infamous temple of Kanyakumari Amman, the virgin Goddess. Very long queues of pilgrims and devotees welcome you. This temple has a lot of religious significance for the believers. According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga reincarnated in the form of Goddess Kanyakumari to execute Banasur, who could not be killed by any male by Lord Brahma’s grace. When Banasur proceeded to invade ‘Devlok’ (the abode of the gods) after conquering ‘Trilok’ (Three worlds: Sky, Earth and Underworld), the gods became worried and on Lord Vishnu’s advice, Indra performed a ritual of oblation into the divine Fire(Agni). It is from this fire that Goddess Kanyakumari emerged.
It was divine prophecy that if the goddess gets married then Banasur could not be killed. Therefore, the gods were keen to conspire against the marriage of Lord Shiva with the Goddess. The marriage thus, never took place and according to mythology, the Goddess is still unmarried and hence the name Kanyakumari. The Goddess embraced the divine responsibility of protecting the gods and the devotees and is being worshipped here ever since.
Photography is strictly prohibited inside the temple compound and so, I am taking the opportunity to describe what is inside. The idol of the Goddess is beautiful, standing on a stone carved lotus. Devotees believe that the nose ring worn by the Goddess is given by Parshuram, one of the re-incarnations of Lord Vishnu. Various rituals are performed by the Brahmins of the temple throughout the day. During the day, Goddess Kanyakumari is dressed as a girl, while from the evening, she is dressed as a bride, every day.
There are four incredible musical pillars inside the main temple. When struck by hand, each emits instrumental sounds of Mridangam, Venu (Flute), Veena and Jal-Tarang respectively! Also, inside the temple compound is a religious well, known as Patal Ganga Tirtha.
Gents are allowed to enter the main temple with an upper naked body paired with either Dhoti or Pants. Married women should cover their heads while entering; however, there are no rules for girls. The temple complex offers some amazing views of sunrise and sunset. On every full moon, the setting sun and the rising moon can be seen at the same time, in a straight line especially in the month of April. Views are awesome from the lighthouse as well.
Within a short distance from the temple, there stands Gandhi Mandapam, a temple built in 1956 in the memory of Gandhi ji. The funeral ashes of Gandhi ji were drowned here too and this temple stands as a memoir beside the Triveni Sangam. The architecture of the temple is so wonderful that on every 2nd October at 12 noon, the sunrays falls on the face of the Gandhi statue. My trip was very sudden and ill planned, so I missed this awesome sight.
Spending the whole day exploring the spirit of Kanyakumari, I returned back to my hotel inhaling the aroma of spices from the adjacent spice market. As I stood at the balcony in front of my room, this is how beautiful Kanyakumari looked.
Next day, my destinations were the Vivekananda Rock, a restaurant serving local food and the local market. It was a cloudy morning and hence, unfortunately, I missed an outstanding sunrise view. Vivekananda Rock is one of the major tourist attractions of this place. Swami Vivekananda arrived at Kanyakumari in search of ultimate knowledge. He swam across the waters and sat to meditate in December, 1892. He attained enlightenment and henceforth, the previously Pitru and Matru Tirtha came to be widely known as the Vivekananda Rock.
In the memory of Swami Vivekananda, a temple is built on the Vivekananda Rock that houses an 8 feet bronze statue of Swamiji carved by L L Sonabhandekar and a meditation hall. The Vivekananda Temple showcases the beautiful architectural styles of the Cholas, Pandyas, Pallavas and Aryans.
On the opposite side of the Vivekananda Temple lies Shri Pada Mandapam, a temple devoted to Goddess Kanyakumari. Inside the temple, a rock bearing a single footprint is preserved within glass boundaries. Known as Shri Pada Parai, the footprint is believed to be of the Goddess. According to folklore, the Goddess meditated standing on one foot. The temple boasts of the architectural style of the Cholas. Devotees visiting the Kanyakumari Temple also visit Shri Pada Mandapam. Regular vessels are available to reach Vivekananda Rock, a mere 500 metres from the main land, except on Tuesdays.
The main land looks amazing from the Rock. After visiting the Vivekananda Temple, I walked to the Shri Pada Mandapam and sat there leaning my back against one of the pillars. The view of the ocean is amazing from here and time just flies by as you keep staring at the blues and the sails. Despite such a huge number of people around, I felt mysteriously peaceful from inside.
Absorbing all the goodness, I boarded the vessel to return. I walked through the local market by the shore to appease my appetite. I gorged into some South Indian delicacies. Food was good but with the distinct South Indian sour touch!
Exploring the markets and the streets by the shore, I decided to wet my feet at the Triveni Sangam, the place of confluence. It is a popular belief, that the water at the Triveni Sangam washes away all sins. With sharp boulders all around the small beach, you need to be a bit careful while you proceed towards the water but once you are there, it’s amazing! The market boasts of tons of aromatic spices and shell crafts. Carnatic devotional songs are being played and the microphones play their role well carrying the music from one end to the other. It seems like a huge fair is put up.
I walked back to my hotel in the evening with a lot of memories, moments and peace. For the first time, I felt so serene in the middle of such crowd. Kanyakumari is surely a place to amuse all tastes. If you are sea lover, it offers you the amazing blue and green waters of two seas and one ocean; if you are spiritual, it offers you one of the most sacred places of this region; if you are fond of architectures, it offers you some of the most astonishing architectural styles and sculptures; if you are a foodie, it offers you some delicious delicacies for your taste buds; and if you are a traveler, you are going to love it all.
And in this trip, I got a bonus as well. For the first time in my life I saw a grand procession carrying royal idols. I had visited Kanyakumari during the Navratri and I was unaware of this practise here. While I was walking on the streets in the afternoon, I saw a grand procession going on where some people were carrying an idol on a silver horse decorated with strings of flowers and lemons all over. The priests were chanting ‘mantras’ as the idol was being carried. People at the front were dressed in traditional attires, singing, dancing and drumming. Married women were dressed in traditional sarees covering their heads. On asking the locals, it was revealed that the idol is of Lord Kumaraswamy, who was being carried from Kumara Kovil to Thiruvananthapuram for the Navratri festival of the Royal Family. Goddess Munnoothinangai from Sucheendram is also carried in a palanquin in the same way. However, I could only be a witness to the procession of Lord Kumaraswamy and it was a one of a kind experience!
Have you ever got an unexpected bonus likewise in your trip? Do share in comments below.