Way back in the summer of 1994, we had planned a trip to Kanyakumari, our mother had a long time wish to visit Kanyakumari on a full moon day, dates were checked, train tickets booked and we were all set until 15 days to go for the trip when this writer, followed by the sibling and our father, all had chicken pox, instead of chilling at a hotel in Kanyakumari, we were recuperating at home ! Board exams, college education took priority in the next few years. In January 2000, we finally visited Kanyakumari. We stayed in a hotel that had a lovely view of the land’s end. Cut to 2019, on this trip with the entire family, such memories from 19 years ago, flooded us as we reached Kanyakumari and checked into Sparsa Resort.
After a blissful stay amidst nature at Indien Hermitage, staying at Sparsa Resort felt like we were back to reality. The resort is one of the good ones in Kanyakumari, if you imagine zooming out, you will find yourself at the tip of the land, the resort is right at the edge of the beach though most rooms don’t face the beach.
Our first plan for the day was to make a visit to Vivekananda Rock and then cross over to Kerala and visit the Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram. Checking into our rooms, we freshened up quickly and then headed to the jetty to take a boat ride to Vivekananda Rock.
Stories from geology
We all know that Vivekananda Rock in Kanyakumari is named after Swami Vivekananda who meditated on the rock located out in the sea, disconnected from main land India, a memorial for Swami Vivekananda has been built here. On another rock beside it is the statue of Thiruvalluvar, the ancient Tamil philosopher-poet. This image of the two rocks and the monuments is well known:
What most of us don’t know is that these rocks were part of the land mass millions of years ago called Gondwanaland and these two rocks together with the plates underneath are called the “Gondwana Junction” believed to be the point from where Australia, India and Antarctica split 160 million years ago ! The Gondwana Junction travelled along with the Indian land mass and these two rocks above the surface tell us stories about the geological happenings much much before humans were even considered a possibility !
The Tamil Sangam literature speaks about Kumari Kandam, a huge land mass that extended beyond Kanya Kumari, which is believed to have been submerged under the sea after the First Sangam Era. Geologists call that land mass Lemuria, we do not know the facts of the submerged land but there is some geological research going on which probably might point towards the idea that Kumari Kandam may not be mythical after all.
To reach Vivekananda Rock, one will have to take a short boat ride. The feeling that you are leaving India land mass and heading into the open sea is a little scary, especially when there is high tide and the boat rocks a bit !
Being a popular tourist spot, Vivekananda Rock is usually crowded. On a hot summer afternoon, it is even more difficult to enjoy the beauty of the place, on that day, the sun was shining right over our heads and the strong ocean winds will tire you out. Yet, one cannot but marvel at the vast expanse of the open sea. From this point all the way to Antarctica, there is not even a tiny land mass to set foot on, a distance of over 9000 kms !
Imagine, about 160 million years ago, we could have simply walked across to Antarctica !
When you turn to the other end of the Vivekananda Rock, you can see the tip of our beloved country.
There is a meditation hall inside the Vivekananda Memorial, one can spend some silent moments in the dimly lit hall and focus on the innerself.
The Thiruvalluvar Statue is another interesting place to visit. On the day we visited, since it was high tide time, boats did not ply to the statue. The 133 feet statue of Thiruvalluvar represents the 133 chapters of the Thirukkural, the most revered book of Tamil from Sangam Era to this day, a history of over 2300 years !
It was 1 PM when we returned from Vivekananda Rock, the heat had drained us and we immediately headed for lunch at Hotel Saravana, near the boat jetty. Stepping into the AC dining hall was a relief and the meal was beyond delicious. We went to our hotel room to get some rest before heading to Thiruvananthapuram.
A miraculous experience at Ananthapadmanabha Swamy Temple !
As soon as we reached our hotel for a break, this writer had a migraine attack, the noon heat over the open sea at Vivekananda Rock seemed to have done the trick, the headache was quite bad. An hour’s rest and a hot shower did not help, still, we started our journey to Thiruvananthapuram around 3 PM as we did not want to waste time. The migraine became severe, the road between Kanya Kumari and Thiruvananthapuram bumpy and full of traffic. The 3 hour journey became a nightmare as this writer started feeling nauseatic and had to stop every few kilometres to throw up ! By the time we reached Thiruvananthapuram, it was more than 6.30 PM, this writer was in no state to go into the temple, leaving the spouse to take care of the sick writer, the rest of the family went ahead for a darsanam of Lord Ananthapadmanabha Swamy, the richest God in the world.
Feeling dejected that after travelling 1000 kms from home, we missed our chance to visit the famous temple and exhausted from the migraine, this writer took a nap in the car. 20 minutes later, when the eyes opened, miraculously, the migraine had disappeared ! The writer woke up feeling absolutely refreshed !
It was almost 7.15 PM and with no chance of having a darsanam as the temple usually closes by 7.30 PM, we decided to just walk towards the temple and get some fresh air. As soon as we reached the temple entrance, we found the sibling hurrying towards us and telling us that there was no crowd inside the temple and if the writer was feeling alright, we could still try our luck to get a glimpse of the Lord.
With just 10 minutes to go, we rushed towards the temple, the sibling lending his dhoti, Ananthapadmanabha Swamy temple has a very strict dress code. The dhoti was tied over the jeans but the security was very strict and asked us to change into a dhoti properly. With no time to keep the jeans in a cloak room, we simply dumped it on the steps leading to the temple, requesting the police officer there to take care of our jeans, he smilingly obliged !
We ran into the temple, we had only a few minutes before the temple would close for the day. Call it a miracle or what you will, there was no entry ticket, no queue, we were simply directed towards the Sanctum Sanctorum, where Lord Ananthapadmanabha Swamy reclines in his Yoga Nidra pose. The Garbha Gruha was totally dark except the for the lamps lit near the idol and what a stunning idol it is ! The sheer size, the eerie darkness and the proximity at which you can see the idol will actually leave you frightened ! One cannot get a full view of the idol is one single view, there are 3 different doors to see the Thirumukham (face), the Thiruvudal (body) and the Thirupaadam (feet).
Just as we completed our blissful darsanam, the Garbha Gruha doors were closed for the day. We were still in a daze wondering how things went from sick with migraine to an unbelievable darsanam within 15 minutes ! Was it Divine intervention or did things happen to fall in place? Whatever it was, we were left in a dizzy state of euphoria, the gigantic idol of Lord Ananthapadmanabha Swamy not leaving our eyes and mind !
Though the main shrine was closed, we could still walk around the temple, marvelling at the architecture and the beautiful cultural setting inside the temple. Even the Police officers deputed inside the temple wear a dhoti with no shirt, ever imagined a police officer in a dhoti with a pistol hanging from a belt worn over the dhoti? In front of Lord Ananthapadmanabha, everybody has to fall in line and follow the traditions.
As the temple closed and devotees were sparse, we had all the time to take a moment and soak in the serenity and wonder at the magnificence of the temple. As we stepped out, the first thing we noticed was that the jeans we left behind was there at the exact spot ! Then, we stepped out into the cool breeze and sat down with the rest of the family next to the temple tank, spending some blissful moments and sharing our experiences inside the temple. Truly, Sri Ananthapadmanabha Temple, one of the 108 Divya Desams, the richest temple in the world, is awe inspiring !
This is the only picture we could click but the images recorded in our minds are far more beautiful than any picture one could take. As in every temple, no photography is allowed beyond the entrance.
Done with our temple visit, it was dinner time and we headed to Swaad Restaurant, just a short walk from the temple. The food was perfect, especially the Kulukki Sarbath drink and the coffee. We couldn’t have asked for a better way to wind up our trip to Thiruvananthapuram.
It was 9 PM by the time we started our journey back to Kanya Kumari, thankfully, the traffic had eased up a bit and we reached our hotel just before midnight. Our experience at Sri Ananthapadmanabha Swamy temple will probably be on the top of our list of most unforgettable experiences of our lives !
- Vivekananda Rock is open from 8 AM to 4 PM. The ferry charges are Rs.20/- per person and includes the ride to both Vivekananda Rock and Thiruvalluvar Statue. If the tide is high, ferry services may be suspended.
- During holiday season, there may be long queues. On normal days, one can set aside 1-2 hours for a visit to Vivekananda Rock.
- Thiruvananthapuram is 90 kms from Kanyakumari, one can find several buses plying between the two places. If you have your own vehicle or hire a cab, you can also visit the Padmanabhapuram Palace and Suchindram temple. We gave both these places a miss because we had already been there during our earlier visits.
- Sri Ananthapadmanabha Swamy temple is open from 3.30 AM to 12 noon and 5 PM to 7.30 PM. There is a special darsanam ticket for Rs.250/- per person.
- The dress code is quite strict, only dhoti and uttariyam is allowed for men. Even little boys will have to wear a dhoti. For women it is either Sari or a Salwar Kameez with a dhoti tied around the waist. Girls can wear skirts or wrap a dhoti over their dress. One can buy dhotis from the stalls outside the temple.
- If you are visiting the temple from Kanyakumari, keep one full day aside.
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