I made a memorable trip to Kanyakumari, the southern most tip of India over the weekend. It’s approximately a 2 and a half hr drive from Trivandrum.
On the subject of driving and travel, our roads are pathetic to say the least. If you have amiable company, you will probably enjoy the drive. However if you are alone, you could be at your wits end. The roads in Trivandrum have all gone for a toss what with the Japan Water Project. The whole city is being dug up and there does not seem to be any signs of them being repaired in the near future. Well I don’t want to go into that now. The point is that the roads are bad and we end up spending a lot of time on the roads. I was talking to someone from America lately and was really surprised to hear that a distance of 180 Kilometers could be covered in 2 hrs. Here we could probably cover the distance in 4 hrs at the earliest. We definitely need to do something about our roads and infrastructure in general. (Is anyone listening??)
We stayed at the Vivekananda Ashram. We all felt that this was a very good decision. They have a beach from where you see the sunrise. We woke up at 5 and at 5.30 made our way to the Sunrise beach. It was a cloudy day. So we did not see the sun coming out slowly from the horizon. But we saw the golden light which sort of lined the clouds and then the sun came out in a blaze of glory. It was heavenly and divine. All the pilgrims held their palms together and prayed. The way to the private beach is covered lush greenery. Everything is neat and well maintained. They have a peacock sanctuary where the peacocks roam around freely. We spotted quite a few and they were quite near us. We also saw a bunch of white birds. I have no idea what they were. They either belong to the duck family or the crane family. Anyway they were perched high upon the trees and made a magnificent sight. All the birds seemed to be at peace with themselves and the rest of the world. Just like everything else in the ashram. A Mandap and Samadhi have been erected for Eknath Ranade, the founder of the ashram.
The ashram is very quiet and we did not know there were so many people there until we went to the canteen. The only hustle and bustle we saw in the entire place was here. The food is standard and tasty veg. And very reasonable…Idlis and tea for 6 would only come to a little more than Rs 100.
Cottages come for Rs. 2000 plus taxes and Double AC rooms for Rs 600 plus taxes. You can ask for additional bedding and they will bring you an extra mattress. Rs 100 is charged for an additional mattress. The toilets are also quite clean. Still cheaper accommodation is also provided.
The rest of Kanyakumari could be described as a quaint little coastal town. Not much development happening out there. We took the ferry and went to the Vivekananda Rock. This is where the Swami meditated for 3 days apparently on the 25th, 26th and 27th of December in the late 19th century. It was here that he was inspired to go to the West.
The boat trip was also memorable. 140 people can get on the boat at a given time. It is a mad rush. The authorities insisted that everyone wore the life jacket which was good. But I must say that wearing the life jackets was a task and torture in itself. They were so dirty that I hate to even think of them. I wish the shipping company just dunks them in some soapy water for a few days.
The rock is very clean and neat. I noticed that whenever I walked on the white painted strips it was so much cooler. It’s very windy and powerful. I remember reading that when the Tsunami struck Kanyakumari people on the rock were saved. They have a meditation room, a store selling books and articles and a temple dedicated to Kanyakumari who is actually Parvathi, the consort of Shiva. You can also see the huge statue of the Tamil poet Tirukural from anywhere on the beach. It is massive to say the least. In the far distance I could see some windmills.
On the beach you can buy conches and things like mirrors decorated with shells…etc. A good place to have non vegetarian fare would be the Sangam hotel where you can have everything from chicken noodles to pepper chicken. A satisfying meal for six would cost you about Rs. 700. This hotel also has a car park which is a great boon.
The trip was memorable for many reasons and I think staying in the ashram made all the difference. A pictorial gallery describing the life and times of Vivekananda is also a part of the ashram. Something very interesting happened when we visited the gallery. There was a very old gentleman at the counter. You have to pay a nominal amount (Rs 15 I think) to visit the gallery. Anyways he must have been in his eighties and like everything else in the ashram seemed to be at peace with himself. He appeared to be speaking in Bengali and one of the members in our group asked him whether he was indeed a Bengali. He answered “An Indian speaking Bengali.”
Update: I just thought that I should add the address and phone number incase any of you wish to go there. Well the Phone number is 04652 246250 and the address is Lodge Vivekanaanda, Vivekaanaanda Kendra, Vivekaanandapuram, Kanyakumari- 629702