Going to Kanyakumari was a long-standing dream. Probably since the time I first heard the term Kashmir to Kanyakumari for India. I lived in Kashmir as a child. And Kanyakumari was always very far off for a long time. It was that thrill of visiting the tip of India. To be able to see the sunrise and sunset at the same time, to be able to see the sun going down and moon coming up on a full moon night. And of course, visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial.
It was only when I started living in Bangalore it seemed feasible. But for some reason, it always remained elusive. I planned a trip many times, but it remained jinxed for many years. This month when we planned a South Kerala trip with a clear intent to do Kanyakumari, it still tried to play hard. A hurricane in the Indian Ocean brought in incessant rains in Trivandrum, where we based ourselves. Everyone said we would not be able to visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial there. I was inclined to believe that jinx was still on. And coming so far has not helped. But against popular advice decided to go and see whatever is possible. And hope that rain god will take a break and allow us to visit the famous rock.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Kanyakumari
On our way, we stopped at Padmanabhapura Palace that I would write separately about. We also stopped at Suchindram temple, a few kilometers before Kanyakumari. This temple is unique because here the chief deity is a combination of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva – all represented in one idol. The temple is also associated with the legend of Kanyakumari. It is said that Devi was waiting for Shiva on the rock in the sea dressed as a bride. And there was a deadline for them to be married that day itself. Shiva went away for some work and before he could reach the rock, he was at this temple. Narada played a prank and made it appear as if the day has passed. So the Devi remained unmarried forever. And came to be known as Kanyakumari.
She is still worshiped as a maiden waiting for Shiva dressed in bridal finery. It’s a typical Chola-style temple with long corridors with carved pillars on both sides and painted ceilings. There were giant ornate chariots outside the temple that were getting soaked in the rain like the devotees.
We reached Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu and ran to the boat jetty only to be told boating is not happening due to weather conditions. I stood at the shore and admired the giant rocks. One with two temples on it and the other with a giant statue of Thiruvalluvar on it. They appeared too close for any danger in going to them. But then I think it was the traveler in me speaking and not the rationalist and certainly not the specialist. I clicked whatever pictures I could with an umbrella in one hand and camera in another. And proceeded to see the temple of Kanyakumari, but as luck would have it – that was also closed.
It was close to lunchtime so we thought of having lunch at Saravana Bhavan and hope that boating will start before we leave. Sunset was out of the question, but visiting the rocks would have offered some redemption. Just then our guide came running and said that magical word – Boating has started, please go there as soon as possible and we all ran. Bought the ticket, boarded the boat and within 10 minutes stepped foot on the very rock where the foot mark of Kanyakumari is worshiped in one temple and the meditating visit of Swami Vivekananda is celebrated on the other. The temples are small but beautiful.
Landscape view, Compass & Sundial
It is the view from this rock that is worth taking the trouble to go there. When you look at the landmass you see the skyline of the city against the backdrop of hills and clouds from the sea. And when you look at the ocean, you try and find the two seas and one ocean meeting and merging here. A compass on the rock surface tells the directions and you know where to look for Triveni. There is a sundial etched on another part of rock and can be seen from the top storey of Vivekananda temple – due to rain, could not spend much time here but it said something about Uttarayan calculation.
Below Vivekananda temple is a meditation hall – a dark room with only an Om visual and Om sound. You can sit and meditate here in silence. And probably feel what Swami Vivekananda would have felt sitting and meditating for 3 days continuously at the same place. Although it is said that Swami Vivekananda swam to this rock, so he must have been alone on this rock when he meditated. Now the rock is full of all kind of people – travelers, tourists, devotees, and staff. A bookstore outside sells the books by the Vivekananda Kendra. But for incessant rains, I was tempted to pick up many books. I now have to hunt for a book that talks about India’s contribution to the world culture.
After soaking in literally and figuratively we came back to land, had our food and proceeded to see other things like the small stone structures on the rocky beach, with waves that go very high when they strike the rocks.
Sunrise & Sunset
Despite all the myths, legends, and history associated with this place, it is sheer nature that stands out at Kanyakumari. It is one of the two places on earth where you can see both sunrise and sunset. When those waves hit the rocks – it is like a desperate lover’s passion on display. When you see the oceans merging, it is like witnessing the infinity with your own eyes. It is the closest you can get to standing at the end of the land.
Video of Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Watch this short video clip I captured during our visit to Vivekananda Rock Memorial, Kanyakumari
It is an experience to stand on the edge and feel the earth at your back, water in front and sky all over.
Recommend you to read following Places to visit in Tamil Nadu.