Sun & sand in Kanyakumari

A coastal retreat

Sun & sand in Kanyakumari

I watched intently as the bright orange sun dipped in the azure waters of the sea. One moment it was there, watching over the scores of us assembled at the View Tower to witness its beauty, and the very next moment it was gone, becoming one with the sea.

It was not for the first time that I was watching the sun set. But, witnessing the spectacle of the sun setting at Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of my country, made it all the more special. I looked around. The crowd that had gathered was slowly melting away. I continued to sit there, reliving the beauty I had just witnessed, enjoying my silent communion with the sea at a distance. The experience was truly humbling, to say the least.

Early next morning, it was time for another dazzling spectacle — the sunrise. I ran up the stairs of my hotel to witness the early morning show, thinking I’d be the only one there. But I was wrong. There were over 20 other early birds like me, readying their cameras. That was when it occurred to me — in my enthusiasm to catch the sunrise, I had forgotten my fully-charged camera back at my room. However, I didn’t want to risk going back to the room to bring my camera for the fear of missing THE moment. And, I’m glad for my thoughtfulness. For, the sun rose within the next few minutes, making my jaw drop. All I could hear was the furious clicking of cameras, while I captured the sudden burst of light with my eyes.

Over my breakfast of steaming hot idlis and sambhar, I tried to figure out which was more spectacular — the sunrise or the sunset? I couldn’t. I gave up. Such was the experience!
The quaint lit-

tle town of Kanyakumari is like any other coastal town with its salty smell of the sea and the lilting sound of waves. The town gets its name from the Kumari Amman Temple located here. Dedicated to Devi Kanya, Goddess Parvati in her virgin incarnation, the temple attracts scores of pilgrims from far and wide, especially during Maha Shivaratri. Legend has it that Goddess Parvati performed penance here to marry Lord Shiva, giving the town its present name.

Mulling over the little details I knew about the place, I lost track of time. I had another date with history to keep. So I quickly made my way to the queue to be ferried across to the Vivekananda Memorial, located around 500 metres from the shore. The wait was long, but I held on, for, the big rock on which the memorial stands is where Vivekananda is believed to have meditated way back in 1892, attained enlightenment, and became a reformer and philosopher.

Landing on the rock, I could sense the air of tranquillity around. Making my way to the Meditation Hall, I noticed how hundreds of people — pilgrims, tourists and locals — reverentially practised silence once near the Hall, as a mark of respect to Swami Vivekananda.  The mandapam here, built in 1970, in honour of Swami Vivekananda, is an architectural delight. Soaking myself in the calm and quiet of the atmosphere, I couldn’t believe I had not visited this place before.

The rock I was presently on, is considered a sacred place, too. According to mythology, this was the very rock on which Devi Kumari or Kumari Amman, the virgin goddess, performed austerity. The rock is also known as ‘Shripada Parai’, meaning the rock that has been blessed by the touch of the sacred feet of Devi Kumari. There’s also a human foot-like projection on the rock, believed to be that of Kumari Amman, that’s revered as Shripadam.

Legends and the rock’s illustrious past apart, it is such a pleasure to just choose a quiet corner and watch the waves lashing the rock. After a while, it was just the sun, the sea, and my thoughts. Nothing else mattered.

The next two days of my stay in Kanyakumari were spent exploring the narrow lanes of the town, and of course, admiring the wondrous 133-feet-high statue of the illustrious Tamil poet, Thiruvalluvar, located on a tiny island close-by. The guide book I referred to stated that the poet’s 133-chapter-work Thirukkural (a classic Tamil sangam literature) inspired the height of the statue! It was truly amazing. Craning my neck to see the statue in full, I realised my insignificance in this world,literally. Well, that’s life, I guess.
My next stop was the Gandhi Memorial, which almost looks like a temple. This is where the Mahatma’s ashes were stored until immersion! I could almost feel the presence of the great man.

And, of course, there’s also the Tamil Annai Park with its share of amusement rides that children really enjoy. So, Kanyakumari is not just for history buffs. It’s for you, me and everyone out there.

Taking the last ride back to my hotel, I realised the therapeutic effect the little town of Kanyakumari was having on me. Friendly folk, smiling shopkeepers, helpful and concerned locals... they added to the overall experience of the place.

Fact file

Getting there:  Thiruvananthapuram is the nearest airport, about 80 km away; Nagercoil is the nearest railhead; there are regular buses connecting Kanyakumari to the rest of South Indian cities.

Accommodation: The town offers a wide choice of sea-facing hotels to suit every budget.

Shopping: There’s plenty to choose from — home decor objects made of beads and sea shells to ornaments and coconut carvings.

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