Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Trip to Kanyakumari

[Lengthy article with lot of pictures. If you just want to see the pictures, use the following links: Nagaraj Temple, Padmanabhapuram Palace, Thiruparrapu Water Falls, Mathur Hanging Bridge, Kanyakumari Temple & Beach Evening View, Sunrise at Kanyakumari, Gandhi Memorial, Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Vattakottai Fort, Government Museum and Kanyakumari and Nagercoil Town.]

We started from Hyderabad to Chennai on Charminar Express on 25th June, 2008. Though it was supposed to reach chennai at 8:15 AM, due to derailment of some other train near Warangal, we were stranded in Warangal station the whole night and we finally reached Chennai Central at 4:30 PM on 26th. We just managed to run to Chennai Egmore and take our next train Kanyakumari Express that left Egmore at 5:25 PM.
We reached Nagercoil station around 7:00 AM on 27th. We reached our hotel and we started our siteseeing activity around 10:30 AM. Actually, we could have stayed at Kanyakumari (KK) itself. Nagercoil is about 20 KM from KK and about 30-40 minutes journey on bus. Frequent bus services are available from Nagercoil to KK.

Nagaraj Temple:
Entrance of the temple

We first visited the Nagaraj Temple in Nagercoil which was at a walkable distance from our hotel. In fact, the town Nagercoil derived its name from this temple. Nagar Kovil (temple of Nagaraj) became Nagercoil. The temple has lot of images and idols of snakes. The main deity is five-headed serpent God. The entrance of the temple is designed in the Chinese architecture of Buddha Vihara. The idols that you see outside the temple just after the entrance are very colorful and beautiful. There is a small pond outside the main temple that has serpent idols around it.

Entrance to the main temple
Pond outside the main temple

About the date of construction of the temple, wiki says: It is difficult indeed to ascertain the exact age of the temple. There is no authentic epigraph to aid this historian under the topic of Chronology. The Mountain Mahendragiri in the district of Kanyakumari is referred to as the abode of Nagas in the Ramayana of Valmiki. From this fact it can be presumed that the origin of Naga influence in the area goes back to legendary times.

Click here to see rest of the Nagaraj Temple Photos

On 27th, we wanted to see all the places that are in and around Nagercoil and dedicate 28th to places in KK. As you can see in the map on the side, we travelled towards north west from Nagercoil, to see Padamanabhapuram Palace, Thiruparrapu Water Falls and Mathur Hanging Bridge. We took a bus from Nagercoil to a place called Thuckalay and from there Padmanabhapuram Palace is very close.

Padmanabhapuram Palace:

Padmanabhapuram was the old capital of state of Travancore which was later shifted to Thiruvananthapuram in 1795 by Rama Varma. Before the capital was shifted, the ruling used to be done from this palace which lost its glory once the capital was shifted. It is located about 20 km from Nagercoil and 60 km from Thiruvananthapuram, at the foot of Veli Hills, which form part of Western Ghats and the river Valli flows near by. It is in fact a palace complex containing 14 palaces spread over an area of 6.5 acers.

More information about the palace from here: The palace complex is inside an old granite fortress around four kilometers long. The palace was constructed around 1601 A.D by Iravipillai Iravivarma Kulasekhara Perumal who ruled Travancore between 1592 A.D. and 1609 A.D. In the late 18th century, the capital of Travancore was shifted from here to Trivandrum, and the place lost its former glory. However, the palace complex continue to be the best examples of traditional Kerala architecture, and some portions of the sprawling complex are also the hall mark of traditional Kerala style building art.

In the construction of the place, wood, latorite, burnt bricks, granite and lime were used widely. You find artistically carved engravings used as ceilings in many parts of the palace and is enriched by murals of 17th and 18th century. A special combination of charcoal from burnt coconutshells, lime, white part of eggs and various vegetable exacts were used for the shining black floors.

Mantrasala is the place where the king used to meet his subordinates for administration. There is a bed that was made using 64 kinds of medicinal wood. Navaratri mandap inside the palace is a big temple like hall where the king used to perform Devi puja during Durgasthami. On the southwest cornor of the palace, there is a museum where many stone inscriptions, wooden and stone sculptures, weapons of the royal family are on display.

Click here to see rest of the Padmanabhapuram Palace pictures

From the palace, we reached the Thiruparrapu water falls which was located about 10 km from the palace.

Thiruparrapu Water Falls:

This place is about 70 km from KK and 10 km from Thiruvattar. There is a small water fall near the entrace. River Kodayar makes its descent here. As we walk inside, we find an ancient Shiva temple on to our right. There is a small bridge that is constructed on that water. There is a boating facility also available. We didn't find any interesting things to see except the waterfall since the temple was closed by the time we reached. The water fall is not a very big one. The greenery around the waterfall and the view from the bridge is good.

But we were not disappointed when we saw three elephants being brought to near the water. They looked like well-trained elephants. In fact, the mahot has put one stick on one leg of an elephant which means that it is not supposed to move that leg until he comes back and takes that out. The elephant patiently stood there moving all its other legs except this one till he came back.

Click here to see rest of the Thiruparappu Water Falls pictures

From the water falls, our next destination was Mathur bridge

Mathur Hanging Bridge:

It is located about 3 km from Thiruvattar and 60 km from KK. It is built over the Pahrali River (also called Parazhiyar) and is one of the longest and highest aqueducts in South Asia. It carries water of the Pattanamkal canal for irrigation over the Pahrali river, from one hill to another, for a distance of close to one km. We can walk on the bridge and see the water trough and the surroundings. It is about 375 meters long, 35 meters high. There is a vast stretch of greenary that can be seen from the middle of the bridge on either side. We can also see the Western Ghats in the background with Pahrali river flowing.

Click here for rest of the pictures of Mathur Hanging Bridge

It was already 5:00 PM by the time we finished all these and we decided to go to KK for sunset. But unfortunately sunset can only be seen between October 15 to March 15 though sunrise can be seen round the year. We still decided to go to KK in the evening.

Kanyakumari Beach - Evening View:

We spent about 30 minutes in the KK beach. It was little crowded. The water was fierce with powerful tides. We took few snaps and left for the day.

Click here for rest of the pictures of the beach
Sunrise at Kanyakumari Beach:

On 28th morning we started very early at Nagercoil and reached KK by 5:30 AM by taking bus. The sunrise time was 6:00 AM. Not too many people were there at the beach though we expected lot of crowd. The sunrise view was spectacular and once the sun started rising within a span of 1-2 minutes the full blown bright sun embarked into the sky. The change in the colors of the horizon during the entire process was marvellous.

Click here for rest of the sunrise pictures

We then went to the Kanyakumari temple which is located very close to the sunrise point.

Kanyakumari Temple:

This temple which is situation on the seashore, is dedicated to the virgin Goddess Devi Kanyakumari. The Devi stands as a charming young girl in Her penance, with a rosary in her right hand. A sparking nose jewel sheds lustrous radiance. The image, made of blue stone, is believed to have been installed by sage Parasurama.

The story of Kanyakumari which I found in one of the local tourist guides ( Kanyakumari: A Tourist Guide, V. Meena, Hari Kumar Arts) is as follows: Kanyakumari and its surroundings are believed to be part of the land which was created by Parasurama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Folktales and mythological stories speak volumes about Kanyakumari.

Banasura, the king of demons, propitiated Brahma. When Banasura asked for a boon of immortality, Brahma expressed his inability to grant such a boon, but gave an option to choose his own manner of death. The asura wished that if at all he had to die, let his death be at the hands of a virgin. Brahma agreed. Armed with this boon, Banasura started harassing the devas and torturing the saints and rishis, causing them endless misery. Unable to bear this agony, the devas, rishis and saints appealed to Mother Earth who in turn sought the help of her consort Lord Vishnu who is the Protector of the Universe. On the Lord's command, the devas propitiated Prasakshi who alone is capable of destroying Banasura. The devas performed a yagna which was so powerful that the Goddess was much pleased. She promised to annihilate Banasura. As ordained, Parasakthi in Her reincarnation came down to earth as a virgin. It is a very common mythological fact that whichever reincarnation she took, she would do penance to rejoin Her husband Lord Shiva through marriage.

Hence Kumari did penance so that she would be married to Shiva. Shiva, pleased and happy expressed His willingness to marry her. This was made known to Kumari. Narada who undertook this task arranged a proper time for the marriage before dawn and insisted that the auspicious time should not be missed. Elobarate arrangements were made at Kumari's place to celebrate the marriage.

The Lord was staying at Suchindrum. The bridegroom's party started from there well in advance with pomp and pageantry. Meanwhile Narada was prompted by the devas to do something to stop the marriage, because once the marriage is over, Kumari could not be a virgin and Banasura could not be killed. Narada hit upon a plan, and assumed the form of a cock and waited at a place called Vazhukkamparai. When the marriage party reached there on its way to Kanyakumari, Narada crowed aloud. Shiva's party on hearing this thought that it was dawn and the auspicious hour has passed. The wedding party decided to return to Suchindrum, greatly disappointed.

As the bridegroom's party didn't turn up, the disappointed bride vowed to remain a virgin. All the items collected for the marriage turned into sand and pebbles resembling rice. The multi colored sand found abundantly on the sea shore at Kanyakumari is attributed to this incident.

Banasura heard about the beauty of Kumari and wanted to marry her. She blunty declined his proposal. The demon decided to win her by force. A fierce battle ensued and in the end the Goddess used Her Chakrayuda and slained Banasura.

We then visited Gandhi Memorial that is also located on the beach.

Gandhi Memorial Mandapam:

It is built in memorial to Mahatma Gandhiji who has visited Kanyakumari in 1925 and 1937. It is constructed at a place on the seashore where his ashes were kept on 12th February 1949. His ashes were recently immersed on his 60th death anniversary. The Mandapam is built in Orissa style of architecture and designed in such a way that on his birthday, 2nd October, the rays of the sun, through a hole on the roof, falls exactly on the place where the urn was kept. Many photographs of Gandhiji were put for display.

Click here to see rest of the Gandhi Memorial pictures

We then visited Vivekananda Rock Memorial.

Vivekananda Rock Memorial:

Vivekananda Rock Memorial is erected on a rock situated some 200 meters off shore. There are ferry services available to and fro from the beach. In the year 1892, Swamy Vivekananda came down to Kanyakumari and sat in meditation on one of the twin rocks before he set out abroad as India's leading religious crusader. He swam to this rock and meditated about the past, present and future of India. Inaugurated in 1970, the memorial is an Indian architecture masterpiece. The entire memorial mandapam is similar to that of Sri Ramakrishna Temple at Belur and the entrance is designed on the style of Ajanta and Ellora cave temples.

The rock on which the memorial stands, in puranic tradition, has been known as the 'Sripaada paarai', blessed by the holy feet of the Devi. On this rock there is a small projection resembling human foot which has been revered as Sripaadam. According to legends, it was on this rock that Goddess Kanyakumari did Her penance. This special significance and sanctity attached to this rock might have prompted Swamy Vivekananda, an ardent devotee of Kali, to venture across the sea for his long meditation.

In the main hall, there is a life-size bronze statue of Swamiji. Adjoining the main hall is the dhyana mandapam where devotees can sit and meditate in a serene atmosphere. Various book stalls are also located. There is also a sunrise calender and a sun dial.

Next to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, on another tiny island the grand statue of Saint Thiruvalluvar is erected. Some construction work was going on, so we were not allowed to go near the statue. Some information about the statue from here:The statue has a height of 95 feet (29 m) and stands upon a 38 foot (11.5 m) pedestal that represents the 38 chapters of "virtue" in the Thirukkural. The statue standing on the pedestal represents "wealth" and "pleasure", signifying that wealth and love be earned and enjoyed on the foundation of solid virtue. The combined height of the statue and pedestal is 133 feet (40.5 m), denoting the 133 chapters in the Thirukkural. It has a total weight of 7000 tons.

Click here to see the rest of Vivekananda Rock Memorial pictures

We again reached the Kanyakumari main land through ferry. We then travelled 6 km from there and reached Vattakottai fort.

Vattakottai Fort:

Vattakottai fort, also known as the circular fort. It was built in the 18th century as a coastal defence-fortification and barracks in the erstwhile Travancore kingdom. It was constructed under the supervision of Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, an ex-Dutch naval officer of the VOC, who became commander of the Travancore army.

Today most of the fort is empty except for the cirucular wall surrounding. As we enter the fort we see a big pond of water. On two of its sides, we find small open rooms with their ceiling supported by a number of pillars. As we go walk inside, we find steps to go up on each of the diagonals. The fort offers a nice view of the sea especially as we stand at the back of the fort. We can also see the black sand beach from the fort. The view of the Western Ghats is also scenic. The greenery inside the fort is well maintained.

Click here to see rest of the Vattakottai Fort pictures

We then returned to KK beach and concluded our site seeing by visiting a Government museum that is situation right on the beach.

Government Museum:

The museum had various stone sculptures and inscriptions that belonged to 9th and 10th centuries. The museum also has a gallery where different kinds of soil samples, geographical information about Kanyakumari, the coins of the Travancore kingdom, some painting of the Raja Ravi Varma were put for display.

Click here to see rest of the Government Museum pictures

We then hit our way back by taking the Kanyakumari express at Nagercoil to reach Chennai on 29th. And we reached Hyderabad on 30th morning.

View of Kanyakumari and Nagercoil
Click here to see rest of the Kanyakumari and Nagarcoil Town pictures

Places which we could not see but definitely worth going are: Suchindram Thanumalayan temple, Udayagiri Fort, St. Xavier's Church, Marunthuvazh Malai. Other temples and tourist places which are little far from the town are: Chitharal Jain Monuments, Peer Mohammed Dargah, Swamithope pathi, Thirunadhikkara Cave Temple, Thiruppathisaram, Thirucharanathumalai, Sri Adikesavaperumal Temple, Mondaicaud Bhagavathi Temple, Pancha pathi, Kumara coil, Sivalayams, Olakaruvi, Pechiparai Reservoir, Kalikesam, Sothavilai Beach, Vattaparai Falls, Mukkadal, Muttom.


DoN said...

Great work... Helluva info.

Anuj said...

nice shots satya :)


Vivek said...

Amazing stuff satya... Nice approach to promote tourism in India :-)

Anonymous said...

It's vintage South India - temples, ocean and elephants :). I didn't know you were into photography so much. Hope you had fun.


manjunath said...

nice blog

Balu said...

awesome narration and account... though I had a similar mammoth Tamil Nadu trip last year never really found time to pen .. but yeah have taken loads of pics :-)

Great blog going... must be in your final stages of your PhD.. good luck man !

Satya said...

Hey Balu,

Thanks for the comment. Great pics of Tamilnadu temples.


krysty said...

kanyakumari is fantastic place to visit.
kanyakumari tours

snigdha G said...
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indhu M said...
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Hai Baji said...
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Hai Baji said...
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Swathi said...

KanyaKumari is one of the beautiful places in India.In your post you have mentioned some of the beautiful places to visit in KanyaKumari.It is very awesome.Thank you for sharing the information. Bus Ticket Booking

Omkar said...

The blog is really good and interesting . It shares a lot of information about the paces you visited which will surely help others those who wish to travel the same places . Travelling different places through car rental services or taxi services is easy.

Ashwin said...

Wonderful blog!! thanks for posting your lovely experience in your blog. Its really awesome to read this blog. It helps the people who are planning their trips to those places. Book your bus tickets in advance in KPN Travels.

Ghumakkar Masti Holidays said...

Thanks for sharing the great information. It is well written!! A really useful read, thanks for posting.

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farheen s said...
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farheen s said...

Kanyakumari can be a fantasy goal for any one. Trivandrum is a magnificent city in each way. We were remaining in Poonkulam on a little slope towards Kovalam shoreline.
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Rithish said...

Nice post about your trip to Kanyakumari. Thanks for this post, really nice place to reach during weekend. Kanyaumari is the place where three oceans meet known as Triveni sangam. Everyone will visit this place to see Triveni Sangam and sunrise, sunset point. Planning to travel Kanyakumari, book bus tickets in Parveen Travels.

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