Tag Archives: Kanyakumari

Enchanting South India – A route to rediscovery

“To traverse beyond the limitations of my mind, I travel to look upon the journey within myself.” With these thoughts, I set off on an adventure of a lifetime. A voyage to the mysterious beauties that unravel the most amazing parts of my country. A travelogue to capture the ‘Incredible India’ down South.

My visit to Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Kerala had begun. I had heard from my friends, people didn’t speak anything else but their local languages out there. That made me equally foreign to these lands as anyone else who came from any other country.  To me, this was a challenge, and a trip that would be monumental after I had completed it. With solitude on my side I had decided to explore over 17 superb locations in 15 days. Most importantly, I was going to discover the beautiful culture South India had to offer and document each and every location as a journal on my blog. With a Vernian, inspiration l had to ensure this journey went  down in my books as the best one!

It all started with Chennai. From my helpful twitter friends to the conductors and everyone else warmly responding to my requests, helping me out wherever I went in little or broken English they spoke in. Yet always willfully extending their support without any intent but to help me out. With a sultry atmosphere, one I hadn’t anticipated, I started my journey by heading off to the Marina Beach. The warm, humid air in Chennai bore resemblance to the weather that I was used to during the summers in Mumbai. But, in winter, this humidity came to me as a surprise particularly when it was about 20-22 degrees centigrade back home… Nonetheless my objective was to start off with a beautiful array of sunrise shots to tell a story of this marvel in Chennai! The experience of going to Marina beach, travelling amongst the locals in the train was something I could relate to. Very similar to our Mumbai Locals… Gave me content in the fact that our cities, despite the cultural difference, had a lot in common.

The Marina Beach, Chennai

The Marina Beach, Chennai

Rest of Tamil Nadu was a quest for my spiritual journey across the fortresses and temples of the most majestic kinds in the country! From a  mysterious yet wonderful experience in Kancheepuram, to  satisfying and peaceful tryst with Lord Shiva in Thrichy, every temple had a story of its own. The most appealing temple was of course Thanjavur, unique in its own way and its rustic feel gave a  nice ambience to the story it had to showcase. Different from all the other temples in the state, it had a charm in its own. Ruled by various dynasties from the Cholas to the Nayakas and the Marathas, it gave a completely versatile feel to itself. The grandeur it had was read between the brightness it shone despite the sun setting down upon its face.  Abode to one of the biggest Nandi Statues, the  Brihadeeswara Temple was  an enchanting destination.

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Birhadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur

Then there was Rameshwaram. The same island where existed the famous temple of Lord Rama, the mighty king from Ramayana. This was the same location where an army of millions of apes (vanar-sena) built a bridge made out of floating stones engraved with Lord Rama’s name itself. This bridge built to take the army across the borders of India to the Golden empire of Lanka and wage an epic battle of great proportions upon the demons of this kingdom.

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Inside Rameshwaram Temple

Something you can’t forget in Hindu mythology. A battle that spoke to us of the triumph of good over evil! A battle that till today is considered as a conquest of moral right over plain wrong. It was quite  an experience, one that I would never forget.

While Tamil Nadu has its own share of spirituality I also enjoyed the beauty, nature and wildlife at the most amazing waterfalls ever… I sat in a small canoe or sort of a paddle boat to take the streams of Hogennakalu Waterfalls. A noteworthy place with  perennially flowing streams of waterfalls. Off the border of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, one can easily reach this place from Salem by bus and literally take a boat towards the Karnataka border on the disputed Cauvery river. With an aquarium and a crocodile rehabilitation center to its attraction, this place certainly is thronged by children, youngsters and elders alike.

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Hogennakal Waterfalls

Finally Tamil Nadu ended with a short visit to the mystical land of Kanyakumari, popularly known for Triveni Sangam, meeting point of the three oceans that surround the peninsular region of our Incredible India. One that envisages the true feeling of being in touch with the spiritual side of yourself. Known for The Swami Vivekananda memorial rock . A place where the great leader attained enlightenment of sort and  found bliss within himself. Visiting the most beautiful temples in our country to being  overwhelmed by a sense of spirituality my journey across the state of Tamil Nadu truly gave me an understanding of oneness to myself.

Tamil Nadu certainly took a lot of my time and energy due to constant traveling in state transport buses in this rugged sojourn of mine. Whereas, my stay in Pondicherry was one of great relaxation and unwind. A visit that made me realize how time stood still and made me feel like a recluse of sorts in a land of the unknown.

Pondicherry Beach

Pondicherry Beach

Highlight of Pondicherry was tasting delicious food of various cultures dished out at the most amazing restaurants in town. From Chettinad food at the Apache Restaurant to french delicacies at the Le Café, Pondicherry was all about living life with the luxury similar to the tastes of most of the Europeans around. Spending three magical days exploring various parts of Pondicherry on a rented motorbike, places like the French Colony, the museum, Auroville and a lot of shopping streets across various parts of the town gave me the feeling of belongingness to that place. Sipping beer at the beach restaurant at night, listening to the roaring waves in a calm that gave most frenzied thoughts a form of tranquil made me realize what we miss in our caught-in-a-rut kind of a life.

Chettinad Food at Apache

Chettinad Food at Apache

Lastly, being in Kerala, God’s own country was like being in heaven itself. A boat ride in the backwaters of Kerala got me close to nature and  made me believe in what their lifestyle stood for… Very quiet, peaceful and serene… The melodious sound of birds chirping in the background and a real feeling of standstill, told me a lot about how people  loved and lived life in this paradise.

Kerala Backwaters

Kerala Backwaters

One of the most memorable trips within Kerala would be my infamous boat ride from Kottayam to Alaphuzza. It’s listed as one of the recommended things to do by Lonely Planet Magazine. From the start it was memorable especially after gorging on the sumptuous Malabari Parota with Kadala Curry.

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

Malabari Parota & Kadala Curry

What a way to start off a journey across the Venice of Kerala. Going to Venice has always been my dream… Until I get there, I have to make do with this one! A notable thing we did on our way back was to stop by at the very famous RBLOCK Island. We ate some  good food and had local coconut palm beer, also known as Toddy… This Island was manmade by over 5000 villagers led by Mr. Baker. This was done in order to get more land to cultivate Paddy… A fantastic place for you to take  a pitstop and eat some  delicious food.

Lastly, I couldn’t ask for anything better than finishing my trip with a visit to Fort Kochi, a place that will be etched in my memories for its diversity and remarkable beauty, especially with its blend of cultures and religions. The Jew Street and the Paradesi Jewish Synagogue… gave me a mesmerizing  feel of being in a place of some rarity. You will  find a very different setting out here and experience a different feeling while walking on this street. The Paradesi Synagogue is the oldest synagogue in the Commonwealth of Nations. Then there are the Chinese Fishing Nets, with magnificent fixed installations for an unusual form of fishing makes for  great photographs.

Chinese Fishing Nets

Chinese Fishing Nets

The end of my expedition. Travelling around, wandering like a nomad for 15 days. A feeling of bittersweet, told me that my journey was over, just like the setting sun when I left Fort Kochi. Indeed at the end of that 15th day I felt like Phileas Fogg, whose surmounting adventure had successfully come to a fulfilling end. One that I will cherish forever until I come back to soak it in yet again…

P.S This is my writing sample to Glimpse‘s ‘Correspondent Program for Fall 2011‘, Also the shortened version of it is my submission to WorldNomads Travel Writing Scholarship for 2011 which can be read here

© Copyright 2011 Srinivas Kulkarni. All rights reserved

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The Kanyakumari Sunrise…

I had thought of making a Sunrise collage quite a while back when I started #SriniOnTour… Different stages of the Sun Rising and depicting it’s beautiful layers upon us uncanny humans… After missing out the Marina beach breaking of Sunrise because of the confusion between Park and Park Town station… I thought I would get some great pictures at Pondicherry beach… had been waking up early on most of the days to ensure that I get great pictures and am finally able to make a Sunrise album… I guess it wasn’t to be… As they say, everything happens for a reason… Now I know the reason… The sunrise collage had to be in this most blissful and eternal place of all… Farthest down south and the most beautiful place I’ve seen so far…

 

So I woke up early at 5:30 AM, quickly showered and made sure I got to the Sunrise point at 6:00 AM… Thankfully I got a hotel room not quite far from the Sunrise point.. As expected, everyone in Kanyakumari (mostly tourists, fishermen, malbari swamis) was wide awake and ready to witness the grandeur… After Rameshwaram I had certainly anticipated this one… So I had to make sure that I go to a spot where I get great snaps… So I decided to walk all the way to the bridge near the Muttom fishing Vilalge…

 

 

Muttom Village

Muttom Village

There is a huge bridge of rocks, (I overheard someone saying it’s the bridge that helped Lord Rama get across to Lanka… hahaha.. what imagination some people have) Anyways, it’s  a beautiful sight that I must say… and if you walk down the bridge with the breeze in your face, it’s nothing but eternal bliss that you ‘face.’ So after reaching the bridge midway, I decided to sit down on one of those rocks and patiently wait for the Sun to rise…

 

 

The Rocky Bridge...

The Rocky Bridge...

 

There were clouds and my hopes were diminishing.. Hopes of seeing the sun in it’s orangey best… Well, I was crossing my fingers and hoping that I get some really nice pictures… Slowly I saw the rays of light break through the cloud… Fishermen going into the sea across the horizon, the rays really blissful and the Sun raring to go and break out of those clouds… All I did was cross my fingers and hope in my heart that the Sun does breakthrough those cloudy shackles…

 

 

Breaking Through...

Breaking Through...

 

Slowly, yet steadily, Surya Bhagwan (Lord Sun) answered my prayers and made sure he showed up for one of the best collages thatI’ve been able to shoot so far 🙂 It was an experience that was totally worth it…

 

 

Lord Surya Answered my prayer...

Lord Surya Answered my prayer...

After that was done with… I decided to head off to the Vivekananda Memorial Rock, the first ferry that takes you there starts at 8:00 AM and tickets go up for sale at 7:45 AM… The state-owned Poompuhar Shipping Corporation runs ferry services between the town and the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue, situated on rocky islets off the coast.

 

 

Ferry to the Rocks...

Ferry to the Rocks...

 

There is a huge queue that starts gathering around 7:00 AM and I was at the back of it of course… But thankfully, the queue is fast moving and you have to just wait till 8:30 to get there… Getting there is an experience in itself… Wearing Life Jackets just for the heck of it of course, cos none of them were really worth wearing, some broken chords, some tattered jackets… but at the end of it all it’s just a formality so to speak.. Though when the time comes, I’m sure they would help you to a certain extent, but I don’t think its a big ordeal…

 

One of the rocks called Sri Padhaparai is said to bear the footprints of the virgin goddess. Swami Vivekananda is said to have meditated on this rock for three days. Also on this rock, there is a Dhyana mandapam, an area for meditation. Ferry services are available to reach the memorial. (Wikipedia)

 

 

Vivekananda Memorial Rock

Vivekananda Memorial Rock

 

Once you are done with the Vivekananda Rock, you get into another ferry, which will take you to the Thiruvalluvar Statue… the gigantic 133 feet (40.5 m) tall statue of Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar (Completed on January 1, 2000 by the legandary Dr. V. Ganapati Sthapati, Chennai) is one of the biggest statues in Asia. (Wikipedia) Witnessing this is truly an experience that you should not miss… Truly blissful 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Thiruvalluvar Statue

Thiruvalluvar Statue

 

Thiruvalluvar's Foot

Thiruvalluvar's Foot

All in all these two hours in the midst of the ocean really make you wonder… think about what you are really doing in life… Not just about the spiritual existence of your body mind and soul, but also the real question of what you want to do in life… One thing you must do… is get to the top most section at the feet of the statue… From there you can really look out to the horizon.. Look out to the horizon and ask yourself the question… What are you? Who are you?  Why are you here?? How should you go about life… Truly a philosophy of existence is something you will see, with clairvoyance of sorts that you won’t be able to witness elsewhere…

 

 

A distant view...

A distant view...

 

Inside Out...

Inside Out...

Utterly Blissful

Utterly Blissful

This certainly has been a mesmerizing experience for me… Do let me know what you think of this?? Have you ever felt this way??

 

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Reaching Kanyakumari…

So the next day I woke up at 5:00 AM, to go to the temple to witness the early morning procession… I quickly left towards the temple, but before that I had to check out the sea shore, which I hadn’t checked out the earlier night. Surprisingly when I started walking towards the temple… it didn’t even feel like 5:00 AM,  it was just like I was there the night before… People buzzing with chants, talking to each other, some groups of old ladies chanting mantras and singing their kirtanas… Rickshaw drivers waiting outside the temple, for people who are moving out… For them it was a routine… And why wouldn’t it be? This happens everyday out there…

 

Anyways I headed to the bus stop, not surprisingly, the rickshaw driver who was going to drop me today didn’t answer his calls, so I didn’t waste anymore time and decided to head off to the bus stand in another auto…

 

So here I’m at the bus stand and the only bus that goes to Kanyakumari is right there… And boy, was it a bus or what… A SETC ordinary bus, which was going to fill up loads of luggage of all the people going to Kanyakumari and it didn’t even have a luggage compartment at the back… The only one that was available was on the side.. Which mean’t my 20 KG something backpack would have to be crammed beneath the bottom of my seat.. Thankfully the guy sitting next to me didn’t mind and I was sorted…

 

After a gruelling long journey of 9 hours, mostly sleeping, some reading the book Tokyo Cancelled and some tweeting and facebooking, it was really amazing to reach Kanyakumari… Well, enroute Kanyakumari, you would find a lot of Windmills most of them by Suzlon power… a stock in which I used to invest once upon a time and then it fell.. 😦 Going by the looks of it, these windmills were there for a reason…

 

 

Approaching Kanyakumari

Approaching Kanyakumari

 

 

 

Suzlon Windmills near Kanyakumari

Suzlon Windmills near Kanyakumari

 

 

Anyways as soon as you get off at Kanyakumari… it doesn’t feel anything like the  Kanyakumari you have imagined… the bliss, the enchantment and the convulsion of the tri-sea… The whole picture that you have about it, vanishes in seconds… It’s become a hub for all commercial dwellers… Most of the restaurants where I was staying are run by north indians, marwaris etc.. serving Punjabi food, heck I even ate at a place called ‘Punjabi Dhaba’ just near Hotel Sea View… enroute the sunrise point.

 

Now, speaking of the hotel that I stayed in… the biggest challenge out here arrives… Securing a hotel room because I’m single.. No I didn’t mean my marital status or relationship status on Facebook… I was alone.. 1 guy!! Yes, travelling like a nomad wanderer for 10 days, I hadn’t shaved and definitely looked like a terrorist with loads of weapons in my backpack 😛 Well anyways, seemingly as imagined, just like Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari also has a directive from the cops/govt. not to give accommodation to ‘single guys.’

 

So yes, it had to do with the high sensitivity around the area with the Sri Lanka issue… I was also told stories by some in Rameshwaram that there have been cases of guys who had come alone… and committed suicide in Lord Rama’s sharan… to get eternal bliss… What the hell… I just looked at myself in the mirror… Heck I certainly look like both of these potential cases… Damn, first thing I’m gonna do is get a shave… 🙂

 

Anyways, after loooking around for half an hour, carrying the heavy backpack on my back and shelling out a few extra bucks, I got myself a room.. decent enough, but not certainly for the price I paid Rs. 1200… woah… there goes my budget and I’m already two days behind now.. Most probably, will have to skip Kodaikanal…

 

So I settled down and decided to go out in the evening and get some nice shots of the beach to calm my mind especially after the rough ride that I had been through, esp with the constant honking of the bus driver as I was sitting a couple of seats right behind the driver…

 

First shot of Kanyakumari...

First shot of Kanyakumari...

 

 

 

Peace of Mind

Peace of Mind

 

 

 

I need a house like that...

I need a house like that...

 

 

So, I visited the Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam and if you go the top section, you can get really great views of the ocean that sets you apart from all the madness of the world… An enchanting bliss with the breeze blowing in my face, made my irritation vanish in seconds… I was feeling much lighter and much better now… Certainly a Kanyakumari that I had imagined and hoped to look forward to early in the morning the next day… especially the Vivekananda Memorial Rock… I heard it is blissful 🙂

 

 

 

Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam

Mahatma Gandhi Mandapam

 

 

 

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