by Giulia Smith | November 3, 2015 1:45 pm
March to May : Although these months are bit warm but suitable for sunbath and beach activities. You will get less crowd this time and could enjoy leisure time.
October to February : Could be the best season to visit Kanyakumari. These months offer a very pleasant weather and you will experience a very high tourist season. This time period is perfect for sightseeing, outings and many other tourist activities.The famous Cape festival is also celebrated in October, making it really a great time to visit Kanyakumari.
June to September : Monsoons are quite heavy rainy but rain lovers can really explore multiple beach activities and scenic beauty of Kanyakumari.
A Trip Story to South India From Giulia Smith’s Blog (thetraveltrail.com)
From Mumbai, I flew direct to Chennai and made my way down Tamil Nadu’s east coast, stopping in the well-travelled tourist spots of Madurai and Pondicherry (Pondy). Each stop along the way came after some often testing conditions on one of the blue and yellow, orange or mint green-coloured state-operated TNSTC ‘express’ buses. Giulia tells her experience in Kanyakumari and also presenting the most famous places to visit in kanyakumari.
– Reaching Chennai to #Kanyakumari (Via Tirunelveli)
Chennai, the starting point of this trip around coastal South India, was every inch the modern Indian mega-city; hot, crowded, bustling, ingenious and over-populated. The cliché about cities never sleeping is an understatement when talking about Chennai. The place is an insomniac. Further south, iconic Madurai and its multi-coloured ancient temples were spiritual and auspicious, and cosmopolitan Pondy was surprisingly relaxed.
Although international cities and heavily-visited tourist honeypots have a lot to offer travellers, and Tamil Nadu boasts an almost never-ending list of both, what really inspires me to travel is to dig deeper and experience the authentic local culture, trade and people of a country. It’s what infected me with the travel bug years ago, the reason for my two gap years, my sponsored trip to India and Sri Lanka during my master’s degree and the main inspiration reason for my trips abroad as a whole.
Hot and sticky though the bus trips were, the highly immersive scenery of rural Tamil Nadu was on full show. Rice paddies, coconut groves and rows of sugarcane fused into the sleepy temple town-encrusted landscape and drove home to me that what I had read, watched and heard about this part of India was 100% true – this is one of the most visually and culturally rich areas on earth.
– Train Journey from Tirunelveli to Kanyakumari
After the 106-rupee night train ride south from Tirunelveli, I arrived in Kanyakumari just after 4am, two hours before sunrise.
It was the middle of July and the town sat tranquilly as the milky moonlight began to give way to the very first light of the new day. In truth, the reason that I had planned my arrival in Kanyakumari this early in the morning was in the hope of witnessing a legendary natural phenomenon.
I’d read somewhere that at certain times of year, the planets align so that it is possible to see the sun rise and the moon set – and vice versa at the end of the day – over the meeting point of three oceans at the same time. Luck deserted me this time but the sight of the crescent moon disappearing over the ocean towards Sri Lanka was more than enough to compensate as I walked from the TNSTC bus stand along Kovalam Road to my base at Hotel Samudra, on Sannathi Street.
I was due to stay in Kanyakumari for two days before heading along the coast to Kerala, and one of the town’s great conveniences is that you can easily get around the whole town on foot. Beach Road, the town centre’s main thoroughfare, bends in a literal right angle as you head towards the fabled ‘end of India’. As walks go, this one is quite surreal when you realise that, once you reach the sea, the very westernmost of the Cocos Islands, themselves thousands of miles away, are the only land left in the ocean between Kanyakumari and the South Pole.
With the temperature already approaching the high twenties, armed with three bottles of water and two spare t-shirts in my backpack to change into and combat the humidity – something which has become second nature after my time in India, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia – I headed out to explore just after 10am.
I started the day with the standard fare of many travellers in this part of the word; a dosa and some tender coconut water – surprisingly from an orange-shelled coconut, rather than the standard green ones found all over the rest of the region. As usual in India, great food came cheap as I handed 30 rupees to the street vendor in exchange for my breakfast.
When you first look out to sea from just about anywhere in Kanyakumari, one very impressive feature dominates the skyline, with another equally fascinating sight right next to it.
Daily, between 8am and 6pm and from the harbour wall on the right-hand side of Vavaturai Beach (one of the best beaches in kanyakumari), the Rock Line Ferry goes across to two tiny islands which are home to Kanyakumari’s two most famous attractions. The ferry was unsurprisingly busy and I paid my 20 rupee ferry fare after an elderly Japanese couple, but before a group of gap-year students from Switzerland, driving home to me just how globally famous the two sites, which we were all about to experience while hardly being to speak a mutual language, actually are.
Standing at 133 feet tall, the colossal Thiruvallavar Statue is a monument in to the Tamil poet and philosopher of the same name. The height of the statue’s pedestal is symbolic. At 38 feet high, it represents the number chapters in Tiruvallavar’s epic poem collection, the Tirrukural. I like to think of it as South India’s answer to China’s gigantic lotus-throned Spring Buddha statue in Lushan, or Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue near Sugar Loaf Mountain in Brazil. The adjacent Vivekananda memorial, is where a famous guru named Swami Vivekananda would come to meditate as well as where he finally realised nirvana.
Back on land later that afternoon, I walked around the grounds of the Gandhi Mandapam. A pale pink, blue, lemon and cream-coloured memorial hall with a unique architectural style. Along with elements of Hindu, Catholic and Islamic styles, the main building is themed on an Odishan sun temple and this is also where Gandhi’s ashes were kept. It was then that I found one of the things I had come to Kanyakumari specifically for. Just down from Gandhi’s memorial hall is an inconspicuous collection of smooth rocks known as Thiruveni Sanganam. Taking its name from a Sanskrit term meaning ‘three rivers, this the famous and precise geographical point where the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal all meet, their waters fusing together at the V-shaped ‘end of India.’
Day one was all about exploring and getting my bearings, but I had a very specific plan in mind for day two.If the meeting point of three oceans in Kanyakumari is geographically unique, then the sight of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma appearing together in #Thanumayalan Temple, in the small town of Suchindram just up the road, is cosmically unique. Fourteen kilometres northwest along the Salem-Kochi-Kanyakumari Highway towards Nagercoil, it is the only temple in India where the trinity of supreme Hindu gods can be seen together.
– Day 2
The train ride to Suchindram took just under fifteen minutes and the view from outside the grounds seemed like a dreamscape, with white stone Dravidian gopurams, or temple towers, framed a central pond and there was a gnarled tree in the sand surrounded by small god statues covered in yellow turmeric powder.
Whenever I visit a site of religious importance anywhere in the world, I hate drawing attention to myself. At Thanumayalan, visitors of all nationalities and faiths are permitted to purchase sacred items of food as ritual offerings to the temple deities. Instead, I chose to stand back, get a good view and absorb the rich spiritual scene taking place in front of my eyes.
The ritual offerings ranged in price, with the basic selection of a coconut, a banana and a lotus flower on an orange plastic dish costing 5 rupees, to rice flour and a sweet rice pudding, called payasam, both at 10 rupees. Indian temple visits are always sensory and incredibly immersive affairs and what has always remained with me from the few temples I’ve visited on the subcontinent is the sheer eruption of colour and fragrance from the offerings.
As far as I could see, it was also possible for visitors to pay to perform their own ritual, called an Abhisheka, which I later found out was specifically used to honour Shiva. Again, I stood back with senses focussed and absorbed the scene as a doti-clad, middle-aged Indian man was guided by guru-esque looking holy men with their faces flecked with multi-coloured paint powder.
The small crowd gathered around a cylindrical idol to Shiva, called a lingam which symbolises universal energy. The holy men then began chanting what I assumed to be mantras, as the man poured offerings of honey, milk, ghee, coconut milk, sugar, rosewater and a couple of others, which I didn’t recognise, onto the lingam. “Namaskar” and Namaskaram”, came the words of gratitude and farewell from the gurus as they pressed their hands together, closed their eyes and bowed at the man.
I remember thinking that the concept of being able to ‘buy your own ritual’ was the act of the temple devotees selling their faith and culture in the name of spectacle. Being told later on the second night by one of the Sri Lankan waiters in the dining room of my hotel, that all proceeds go towards the upkeep of the temple facilities and the welfare of the residing priests and holy men, dispelled all of that.
As I made my way back along Kovalam Road to the TNSTC bus stop next morning, leaving behind the meeting points of three oceans and three gods, clouds had begun to gather in the sky. It was monsoon season after all and I had been extremely lucky so far in not getting caught in any of the infamous South Indian wet season downpours. Trivandrum, capital of Kerala, was my next stop as the bus set off towards what Gandhi once called India’s Land of Green Magic.
Did you know? North India too has a lot of unexplored places that most of us are missing.
Tirthan Valley : One of the best unexplored destination of North India
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