At the southernmost threshold of India lies Kanyakumari. Known for its indescribably beautiful sunsets (and sunrises), this city is also legendary because it has been mentioned in both of India's most famous epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the Ramayana is an Indian epic in which Ram, a divine king, saves Sita, a divine queen, from Ravana (Ravana is an evil demon). Unlike the Ramayana, I have not read the Mahabharata, so I am not as familiar with it, but according to what I have heard and read, the story is about the Kukrukshetra War, the defeat of demons by Krishna, and contains the Bhagavad Gita, a religious and philosophical work it its own right.
During our stay in Kanyakumari, the annual Dashara festival was being held. Dashara is a Hindu festival which, coincidentally, celebrates the defeat of Ravana by Rama. In essence, the festival commemorates the victory of good over evil. Because it is such a big celebration, we were able to witness a huge parade on the day we were there. However, this also caused problems with our intended plans (for example, the ferry to the Vivekanandhar Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue was very crowded and closed much earlier than we anticipated). We still got to see these places from a distance, and it was probably worth it in order to experience the festival! The parade is better described with photos, so I will say no more (Photos below).
Dashara Festival; the priest adorns the idol with flowers...we even got the experience of throwing flowers onto the float!
A man plays the traditional Shehnai as a part of the festival
What a celebration! Smriti said that it was a crucial for us to experience the crowds to get the "full, Indian experience"
Vivekanandhar Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue in the near distance...Thiruvalluvar is the "eternal poet" of the state of Tamil Nadu
Before heading to the Gandhi Memorial, we visited the Devi Kanyakumari Temple. We found a guy to show us around, and I am glad we did because he took us to the roof of the temple, where we got a great view of Kanyakumari, Thiruvalluvar Statue, and the ocean. At this particular temple, men have to take their shirt off before entering, so Tom had to take his shirt off as a sign of respect. Goddess Kanya Kumari is worshipped, and is believed to remove the rigidity of our minds. Pictures below.
Panorama from atop the Devi Kanyakumari Temple...what a great view! Pictures were not allowed inside, but they were on the rooftop...
Selfie after being blessed inside the Devi Kanyakumari Temple.
Outside the temple, Smriti and Emilie got their fortunes read by a man and his parrot! Emilie definitely seems to have a good life cut out for her. We also visited a Gandhi memorial, which honored Ganhiji's service and commitment to peacefully freeing India from the British (see "Gandhi" in 'Useful Links'). His ashes were contained in Kanyakumari for a time, before being thrown into the ocean. A plaque at the memorial building read:
"I am writing this at the cape, in front of the sea, where three waters meet and furnish a sight unequaled in the world, for this is no port of call for vessels. Like the goddess, the waters around are virgin"- MK Gandhi
I also learned from Smriti that people here are not buried, and everyone's ashes are thrown into the ocean when they pass away, which I think is very interesting! Pictures below.
Emilie gets her fortune read!
Where Gandhi's ashes were before they were spread into the ocean
Atop the Gandhi memorial
After a while at the Gandhi memorial, we headed to "Sunset Point", aptly named because it offers one of the best places to view the sun setting in the entire world. It was honestly was of those scenes which is hard to describe, so if you are looking for an excuse to come to India, say it is because you need to experience the sunset at Kanyakumari. I saw clouds coming up from below the horizon, which was a bizarre, but beautiful sight. There was no full moon the night we were there, but when there is, one can witness the moon rising and sun setting in tandem. Photos below.
Sunset Point, Kanyakumari, India.
After spending an hour at Sunset Point, we headed to dinner and I ordered some delicious lemon-pepper fish, and then ice cream for dessert (of course). We headed to our rooms afterwards to get some rest before heading to Bangalore the next day. To say in the least, it was a blast to room with Tanzeela and Emilie, they are such great people and friends!
To recuperate after many days of traveling, our meeting time was not until noon the next day. The three of us took advantage of the late meeting time, and relaxed in the hotel and ate breakfast until meeting later. Because of the ongoing Dashara festival, the only visit we made before heading to the Nagercoil train station was the southernmost point in India, where all three seas meet. Here, the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Bay of Bengal all meet and converge at the point of India's border. It was very cool to see, and the water was immaculate! Photos below.
Colorful boats pattern the seashore and compliment the colorful buildings
Marking the southernmost tip of India with the convergence of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Bay of Bengal
Fearing we would hit traffic because of the festival, we headed for the train station about 4 hours before our departure time. We ended up arriving there in 30 minutes, so we had over 3 hours to wait! Not wasting a moment, I enjoyed exploring the train station and taking some photos. The name "Nagercoil" comes from Nagaraja Temple, which worships the serpent king. The city is surrounded by the Western Ghats, which made for a very scenic backdrop for the train ride out of Tamil Nadu (For more information on the state of Tamil Nadu, see "Tamil Nadu" under 'Useful Links'). Now all that's left is for me to touch the northernmost tip of India...I guess I will have to make another trip to this beautiful country someday! Photos below.
Nagercoil Train Station, India.
Sleeper trains in India are divided up into A/C and non-A/C and then by tier...we stayed in second and third tier A/C trains, which made me feel like I was in some sort of adventure movie!
On the journey of a lifetime (photo credit to Smriti Chhabra)
The fun and learning did not end here, however! Our last stop was the large metropolis of Bengaluru, the capitol of Karnataka. I hope you will join me in my final leg of the journey, Bangalore (Days 7 and 8, Travel Week). After the last travel week blog is posted, I will resume my weekly accounts of life in Manipal.
Thank you for reading.
P.S.- The answer to the last quiz question, "What disease is India famous for its efforts to eradicate?" is Polio! Before the late 1970s, Polio was a grave epidemic in India...with the launch of Pulse Polio, and the efforts from the Indian government, WHO (World Health Organization), and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), India was declared polio-free in 2014, following 3 years of no cases. The only two countries left with wild polio cases are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Smallpox was the most popular answer, and though eradicated from India as well, is technically eradicated from the Earth, despite the samples in top-secret labs in the U.S. and Russia. Smallpox eradication was another great public health achievement, though polio elimination is what makes India famous in terms of public health.