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In and around Kanyakumari

Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Most hotels are close enough to the seashore and therefore, the view from your room window is fascinating. Approximately 200 metres into the sea are twin rocks and on one of these is this superbly built monument in memory of the famous Indian philosopher, Swami Vivekananda. Regular ferry services operate from the eastern side to the rock memorial and it takes less than ten minutes to reach this place.

Swami Vivekananda was a Hindu philosopher and a leading disciple of Swami Ramakarishna. He attempted to combine Indian spirituality with Western materialism and became the main force behind the Vedanta movement of the West. Swami Vivekananda sojourned on this rock for meditation before going abroad to launch his religious crusade. He is presumed to have been on this rock on 25th, 26th and 27th December 1892. There is a eight and half feet high and mounted on a four and half feet high pedestal bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda in his familiar "parivrajak" posture, installed inside here.

Adjoining the main hall is a "Dhyana Mantapam" where one can sit and meditate in absolute silence in a serene atmosphere. Facing the main mantapam is the "Sripaada Mantapam" which in the local Tamil lingo means "the rock blessed by the feet of the Goddess". The general belief is that Goddess Parvathi as Goddess Kanyakumari did part of her penance on this rock and this shrine is constructed around the footprint of the Goddess, which is cased in a glass enclosure. The Rock Memorial was built in 1970 and the architecture has been adapted from various styles from across Indian states and cultures.

Tunghabadra Dam

Thiruvalluvar Statue
Thiruvalluvar Statue
Thiruvalluvar Statue
By the side of the Rock Memorial, is another rock jutting out from the sea. On this, a massive statue of the famous Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar is under completion. Seeing this statue from the shore is fine, but as the ferry takes you closer to the rock, the statue stands tall and majestic.

Suchindrum Temple
For those who wish to regale in ancient temple architecture, musical pillars, legendary myths of Hindu traditions and culture, then 13 kilometres north west of Kanyakumari is a place called Suchindrum and famous for its shrines of deities. It's a very picturesque half-hour auto rickshaw ride through lush green paddy fields and coconut groves on either side of the road.

The temple with the backdrop of coconut trees makes up for a fascinating picture, with it's towering, 134 foot "Gopuram", an ever-present symbol of most South Indian temples.

Kumari Amman Temple
The temple is dedicated to virgin Goddess Parvathi who, in her incarnation as Goddess Devi Kanya did penance here. The temple signifies unity and sanctity and the belief is that the Goddess stands guard over the country as a protector against evil forces.

The statue of the Goddess inside the temple shrine is made from blue stone and believed to have been installed by the sage Parasurama. The statue is by itself very elegant, with the Goddess in a standing posture symbolizing her penance, a rosary in the right hand and a nose jewel that sheds radiant light. Men have to remove their shirts and vests to enter the temple.

Gandhi Memorial
In most parts of the country, one will always find a memorial to the Father of our nation, Mahatma Gandhi. Such is the reverence for this great man of peace. After his death, an urn containing his ashes was brought to Kanyakumari for immersion. The urn was kept at this spot for people to pay their last respects to this great human being. The Gandhi Memorial in Kanyakumari is built in Orissa style architecture and has a unique feature incorporated the construction. On October 2nd each year, (that's the day the Mahatma was born), the sun's rays fall at the very spot that the urn was kept.

Vivekananda Memorial
Vivekananda Memorial

How to get to Kanyakumari

The BackwatersStrongly recommended is a train journey either from Chennai or from Bangalore via Cochin. The latter is a real feast for any eye. The long train (21 coaches) passes through Kerala and if anyone knows something about Kerala, it is just coconut trees and coconut trees all the way through to Kanyakumari. Then of course, you have some fascinating backwater scenery thrown in for good measure. There are many buses too that ply to Kanyakumari but not so frequent. You'll probably have to change buses at Nagercoil, about 20 kilometres from Kanyakumari. But seriously, a bus journey however short the distance, is no comparison to the comfort and pleasure you'll derive out of a train journey through Kerala.

Where to stay and eat in Kanyakumari
  • If you ever imagined that lodging facilities at Kanyakumari would mean dingy, dirty, cobwebbed affairs, then you are probably referring to the wrong planet. Small town it maybe, but Kanyakumari has long woken up to it's tourism potential. Hotels, lodging houses are reasonably good and interestingly, many face the east giving you a beautiful view from the hotel room.
  • When you arrive at the railway station, you'll be accosted by dozens of auto rickshaw drivers who will each tell you that such and such hotel is the best. Take the chance and go across to the hotel, check out the rooms and once you have satisfied yourself, then check in.
  • None of the hotels have a pre-printed tariff card. They will quote the room tariff depending on what you look like - affluent or not. That's the way it is. Invariably, the rooms facing the sea and which gives you a strategic view will often cost more. It's still worth paying because it saves you the hassle to run out of your room early in the morning across town to view the sunrise. This way, you can see the sunrise from out of your window. Hence, avoid hotels or lodges that are at a distance from the seashore or those that do not have a good view.
  • If you are an Indian, food will never be a problem. Most eating-places serve South Indian or North Indian food. There are enough eateries probably within half a kilometer radius of your hotel. Foreigners may encounter some difficulties but then, bread, omelets, idlis (steamed rice cakes) are available in many places. Some places even serve reasonably good Chinese food such as fried rice, noodles, etc. That ought to be of help. And if the taste buds have already been tickled with Indian delicacies, then of course, there's no problem, is there?
For more information on Kanyakumari from Bangalore (with or without stopover in Kerala), please email info@koramangala.com

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