When you visit a place what is that one thing that you look out for, the most?
The experience that makes that particular place unique.
Sure you want to have a good time and follow your own way of travel. Those, who are all into leisure, for example, are always looking for a place to relax, which makes them hungry for beaches, when traveling around places like South India.
When I came to Kanyakumari, I was expecting the same. Though I am not claiming that I travel for leisure and that I was expecting fancy beaches. But the picture I had crafted in my head was of a place, much tranquil, surrounded by sea, leaving almost no trace back to India’s much confused and muddled mainland. After all, this is where India concludes and finds itself gracefully surrounded by the mighty and the endless Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal – from almost all directions.
But when you’re in Kanyakumari you don’t feel that tranquillity in its air. Nor do you get to experience the deafening seashores as you perhaps expect from this place. But one thing that you find here, in abundance, are all those short (and periodic) glimpses of the sea, every time you manage to peak through its never-ending, choked markets and multi-story guesthouses, staged right next to the seashore.
And when, at times, you somehow end up on a beach, you find it perfectly intertwined with confusion and excitement of thousands of tourists that pour here every day, almost trying to diminish the ruling authority of the sea.
Around you are several artists holding a conch, lovingly in their hands, and gently stroking it with their painting brush; while other vendors try to lure you with the colourful sand or (supposedly) fake tiger claws.
You also don’t find yourself good transport to Kanyakumari – oh yea, there is an impressive rally of busses that keep running to and from Kanyakumari, you guessed that right, but the tiniest distance they cover in the long hours under the angry sun is something that I would not count. Road transport on these routes are boring, lengthy – leaving your mind confused and irritated before your even savour your senses with all the things you didn’t expect from Kanyakumari.
Trains connectivity looked little poor too. I wanted a ticket to Rameshwarm and there was no train for the day, found one that leaves almost 40 hours from now. Hey, that’s almost the same figure that trains here run late for. No pun intended. But don’t worry, you’d eventually find a way to Kanyakumari, though that’s a different thing that it might just leave you too ‘physically unfit’ to scrape your feet in the heat, but you will survive.
Some people come here to experience its history, whereas other come to experience its two priceless moments, both that have to do with the sun – the dusk and the dawn. And I was here for both. In fact, much more than that.
Kanyakumari has a deep rooted history. From thousands of years old Devi Kanyakumari Temple to the much recent Vivekananda Memorial – this is where legends and myths merge into one. As suns sets, leaving the sky into a complete darkness, except for a few twinkling dots, the temple also starts glittering with diamonds. And it glitters so perfectly that according to locals, ships often find themselves veering off from the course, assuming it to be a reflection from the lighthouse.I found Vivekananda Memorial was the only reason why you want to be in Kanyakumari, and that reason, in itself, is significantly enough. As you walk about the memorial, you feel the energy that Vivekananda must have felt at the time he meditated on the rock.
The rock is surrounded by the ocean. On one side you see nothing but the gigantic ocean, looking deep into the never ending blueness – as if there exists a different world that we can never experience doing our time on land. On its exact opposite you find the fading hills, almost bidding a farewell to us, or perhaps welcoming us, in their own way.
No wonder, Kanyakumari is one of those rare places that invites us for a secular Sabbath despite its much muddled, confusing atmosphere.
A meditation hall also stands inside the premises of Vivkananda Memorial, at the exact spot where Vivekananda meditated. Though that’s a different thing that ongoing tourists sometimes make it just too tough for you to find some peace during the perfect visiting hours of a wee day.
Where today you pay 34 Rupees and enjoy a 10 minute ferry ride to the rock, it is believed that Swami Vivekananda swam across the sea to the rock for deep meditation and enlightenment, during which he perceived the realities and potentialities of great Indian thought and culture. This is when he decided to cross the oceans and go to the West to participate in the World Parliament of Religions, before becoming a great teacher, of all times, for his own countrymen and for the rest of the world.
[Also Read: Hampi: A journey to the unknown]
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