Driving down on Kashmir to Kanyakumari highway was always on my list. This January, we finally planned to hit the NH 44, the North-South Corridor of NHDP, which is the longest national highway in India, to reach Kanyakumari.
Kanya-kumari, which in Hindi means a young unmarried girl, is as fresh and mesmerizing as its name. After zipping across the length of the country, for the final lap of our journey, we drove through west Tamil Nadu, which took us approx 10 hours to reach our destination – the southernmost tip of India where the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea meet.
We had a two-day window to explore this beautiful destination and here’s how the experience panned out:
The Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial
On the day we arrived at Kanyakumari, we spent the evening exploring the most iconic tourist attraction of our destination – The Swami Vivekananda Rock. The memorial was built in 1970 in honour of Swami Vivekananda. Since we had booked a hotel exactly near the Rock Point, we had a nice view of the towering statue from the balcony of our hotel room. Still, witnessing it up close was a must and so we took a ferry ride to travel to the rock memorial.
Once at the Swami Vivekananda Rock, we didn’t feel like coming back. The magical atmosphere surely holds you back. The meditation hall, also known as Dhyana Mandapam, is a destination to experience divine bliss and one just doesn’t feel like stepping out of it. There is ample space outside also to sit, relax or meditate. We, along with the kids, sat there in silence to meditate and it was refreshing.
The rock is considered to be blessed and touched by Devi Kanyakumari and one can feel the positive vibes there. The rock and its surroundings are filled with a cleansing sense of warmth and silence. It is said that Swami Vivekananda meditated on this rock and attained enlightenment. The architecture of the memorial is modern yet conventional with a profile of Swami Vivekananda inscribed on it.
The Thiruvalluvar statue was an added attraction. I was not aware of it and learnt that the tall stone sculpture, that stands towering at 133 feet, is of Tamil poet and philosopher Tiruvalluvar, author of the Thirukkural.
Sunset and Sunrise
There is a fabled aura associated with the sunsets at Kanyakumari, so we stayed on for another hour to witness the marvel. I was hoping for an early sunset, to be able to head back to the hotel and catch on some much-needed rest but that wasn’t meant to be. Nonetheless, the breathtaking sight was worth the wait.
The sea surrounding Kanyakumari is a delight during sunrise and sunset. The beauty of the orange glow spreading over a confluence of waters of three distinct shades is a sight to behold and one that cannot be described in words. As I witness the sunset, I wanted time to freeze, so that I could take in the view long enough for it to stay etched in my memory forever.
The next morning, we, along with the kids, were up at 5.30 am to catch the sun rising beyond the horizon of the ocean and once again the splendid view made the effort worth our while. Even though we did not venture out this time, out hotel terrace offered the perfect setting to take in the spectacle of sun rays breaking over the mighty ocean.
Other places to visit in Kanyakumari:
The temple is dedicated to Goddess Kanyakumari, known as the virgin or kuwari incarnation of Goddess Parvati. It is associated with the legend that when Lord Shiva was unable to marry Devi, she remained virgin and unmarried throughout. Men are not allowed to enter the temple with their upper clothing, maybe it has got to do with helping one shed one’s inhibitions.
Kanyakumari Beach, The Triveni Sangam
My husband is from Allahabad, which is also called the Triveni Sangam of three rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, Saraswati, so this Triveni Sangam had nostalgic and curious value for him. Triveni Sangam of Kanyakumari is where the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea meet.
It is not exactly a typical beach one would associate with sunbathing, water sports or relaxation. It has a rocky shoreline and the sea is usually rough. The rocks are very slippery and one needs to take extra care while playing around.
Constructed near the Amman temple, this is the place where the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were kept for darshan before being immersed in the sea. The structure was completed in 1956 and is designed such that on October 2nd the sunrays fall exactly at the place where the urn was kept. Since we visited in January, we couldn’t witness this architectural marvel unfold. Though there isn’t much inside the memorial now except photographs depicting Mahatma Gandhi’s life journey, the view from the top is spectacular. You must visit this place just to take in the panoramic view if nothing else.
Another little-hidden spot in the same proximity is Vivekananda Temple. The guruji associated with Vivekananda Ashram gave us a detailed tour of the place, along with some interesting trivia and information about Vivekananda’s life. This quaint little place is a hidden gem that not many people know of. If you are looking to take in the beauty of Kanyakumari at your own pace, without the teeming crowds, this is the place to be.
The government handicraft store near the temple is a great place to pick up some regional craft items made from bamboo, wood and cane. Handmade soaps and coconut decorative pieces were the highlights of this store for me.
We are vegetarian, so Hotel Sarvana Bhawan became our go-to food joint. They serve piping hot sambar with dosa, vada, idli, and rice and top it up with some lip-smacking ice-cream and soul-satisfying filter coffee. It is a modest restaurant with a clean, peaceful ambience – something that minimalists would enjoy.
On the third day, we started back for Madurai, bidding goodbye to this enchanting tip on the Indian map. Kanyakumari may be known as Land’s End, but for me, it was a beginning of knowing the more spiritual and more natural tatwas of life.