It is not every day that you reach the end of ‘a world’, where the vast ocean stares back at you mocking your limitations yet demanding endless reverence.
At the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent in the state of Tamil Nadu lies Kanyakumari. From the point where the land meets the ocean, you can see the Laccadive Sea expand like an endless blue giant roaring and crashing against the rocky coastline of this mini town.
Up along the Western coast in the adjacent state of Kerela, is the capital city of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum in short Urban style). In this calm city lies the small beach town called Kovalam. Known for its crescent-shaped beach line and Ayurvedic treatment centers, Kovalam not only attracts the indigenous crowd but also draws people from outside India.
We are going to take a journey from Kovalam to Kanyakumari and beyond.
A 17-kilometer long crescent-shaped stretch, Kovalam beach divides into 3 prominent beaches—Lighthouse Beach (Kovalam), Hawah Beach and Samudra Beach.
Out of these, the Lighthouse beach (Kovalam) is more popular. The crowd of tourists peaks from November to February when the temperatures are favorable and the sun doesn’t feel burning hot for a beach.
There is a marketplace that runs along the beach line but doesn’t disturb its essence. Attractive jewelry, clothes, and artifacts will lure you into the shops, but don’t expect anything to be super cheap.
The sands of Kovalam are slightly black in color due to the presence of certain mineral oxides like ilmenite. Surely you won’t go there for Ph.D. Chemistry, so, run on the sand, rush to salty sea waters and feel the land underneath your feet descend gradually into the sea.
Witness the burning sun melt in the evening sky and sense the salty waters spume with agitation between your legs. We indulged in jumping against the waves only to be toppled by the stronger ones.
Before we could get rid of the salt water entering our mouths and coming out from our nostrils, another wave would surprise-hit us from behind. The sea bullied us multiple times, but oh did that ever deter us from smiling and laughing!
Not far away from the sea, lies the Vizhinjam Lighthouse that is adorably colored in bright red and white strips. The lighthouse is situated atop a hillock called Kurumkal, which is a 15-minute walk away from the beach.
They charge a small amount to enter the lighthouse—no cameras allowed until you reach the top.
Once you climb up the visibly precarious and scariest circular stairs that will elevate you considerably with every step, you will know why it’s worth risking an accidental glimpse through the ‘mundu’ (garment worn around the waist in Kerela) of the person ahead of you.
The top of the Vizhinjam lighthouse offers a spectacular view of the blue waters trying to merge with the green land that is covered by the dense vegetation of coconut and palm trees—looking below from a height of 118 feet, a strip of yellow dust seems to separate the two eternally.
On the other side of the lighthouse, the rough coastal line of Vizhinjam Beach plays with the sea in an endless strife against each other. The beach sees the fishermen going for their daily catch in old-style wooden boats.
Though this isn’t the right place to take a dip, you could tip a ride to the sea. Other attractions include Vizhinjam Marine Aquarium and a mosque that is clearly visible from the top of the Vizhinjam Lighthouse. This is the place to be if you are looking for ayurvedic treatment centers.
The colorful flying kites on the Kovalam beach (you can buy one or fly one), children running around and making sea castles, adults jumping to the receding waters, semi-clad swimmers braving the waves and the vast expanse of the Arabian sea made my day at Kovalam.
The orange tainted sun was retiring for the day and the silhouettes of people against the last light left me in retrospection.
How To Reach Kovalam
The nearest airport to Kovalam is Trivandrum International Airport, which is about 13.6 kilometers away. You can hire a taxi (charges- 400-500 Indian Rupees) or an autorickshaw (150-170 Indian Rupees).
Kovalam doesn’t have a station by the name. Nearest main railway station is Thiruvananthapuram Central. Nemen and Balabnramapuram are the local stations close by. Here is a list of trains to Trivandrum from main Indian cities.
Kovalam is well connected via road. From Trivandrum, you will easily get a bus to Kovalam from the East Fort bus stand.
Kanyakumari, the southern edge of the Indian mainland clearly contrasts the majestic Himalayas up in the North as the coastline abruptly descends into the deep sea. As you reach near the coast, the air feels heavy and a distinctive smell of seawater follows you wherever you go.
How To Reach Kanyakumari From Bangalore
The nearest airport to Kanyakumari is Trivandrum International Airport, which is 93 kilometers from the district and well connected to all major cities of India.
I started my journey from Bangalore to Trivandrum via KSRTC (Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation) bus. From Trivandrum, I boarded a train to Kanyakumari, which takes approximately 3 hours to complete its journey.
You could alternatively travel the whole journey via train—the Kanyakumari Express starts from Bangalore and reaches Kanyakumari after completing a 9-hour journey. Here are the schedule details of the Kanyakumari Express.
You could always board a bus from Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) to Kanyakumari, but there is a good reason you should opt for the train ride.
Here are 5 reasons Kanyakumari must be on your travel list.
1. Kanyakumari Marks The Endpoint Of The Indian Railways In South India
When you reach Kanyakumari station via train, there is no going ahead. The Southwestern railway line ends here. The thought of witnessing the dead end, knowing that this the last station and there is nowhere else to go on tracks is fascinating.
The places in Kanyakumari don’t lie very far from each other. Outside the station, you can easily catch autos. Your next stop is 5 minutes away, about 1.2 kilometers from the station.
2. Swami Vivekananda Was Here For Nirvana!
It is said that Swami Vivekananda, the legendary Indian Monk came all the way to Kanyakumari, stepped off the Indian mainland to reach a tiny rocky island little farther into the ocean and sat down there to meditate.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial is where the saint is said to have attained enlightenment in later years of 19th century.
Built in 1970, to offer reverence to the saint, Vivekananda Rock Memorial has an interesting story behind its construction. The rocks were an area of many conflicts between Hindus and Christians (local Catholic fishermen) who wanted to declare it as a St. Xavier’s rock while the former wanted it to be called as the Vivekanand rock.
After various hurdles along the path, when the conflict was resolved in favor of Vivekananda rock, the funds became an issue. For this, the common man was asked to contribute an amount—the minimum contribution that could be made was as less as 1 rupee.
Today, the people of that era can say with a pride that they have contributed towards its establishment.
A Splashing Ride To Vivekananda Rock Memorial
A ferry takes you from the shore of Vavathurai on the mainland to the memorial, which is about 500 meters away. At Kanyakumari station, board one of the autorikshas that will be waiting outside the station and ask them to drop you near the market.
The local people are friendly and will give you directions to the ferry ride. The charges are minimal, which is between 20-30 Indian rupees per person. The memorial is open from 8 in the morning till 4 in the evening.
Though reaching there is easy, the ferry ride itself is a bumpy one. Since we were sailing against the incoming waves, our boat was often riding high and low, splashing against the water. You will be made to wear safety jackets, so don’t fret—the ride gets over in 10-15 minutes.
3. Watch Sunrise Or Sunset At The Intersect Of 3 Seas
The ‘Sun God’ is welcomed on the beach of Kanyakumari with the sound of the conch (shankh) and prayers. Hundreds of people gather to witness the first rays of the morning sun—the celestial body looks heavenly as it appears to emerge out of the sea at the far flat end of the Earth.
I shouldn’t forget to mention that this point is where the Baby of Bengal, The Indian Ocean, and The Arabian Sea are geographically considered to meet. There is no line that separates them, not even on the map, however, there is something magical about watching the sunrise from this edge of the Indian mainland.
4. The Statue Of Thiruvalluvar, Writer Of The Famous Tamil Literature Tirukkural
Consider revisiting your history lessons because Thiruvalluvar might ring a familiar bell. The majestic 133-feet tall stone statue of the famous poet and philosopher from Tamil Nadu has a grand presence in the sea even when you look at it from the beach.
Adjacent to the Vivekananda rock memorial, the statue of Saint Thiruvalluvar overlooks the city. The statue has been constructed taking into consideration one of the best works of Valluvar, Tirukkural—the finest Tamil literature that was written 2000 years ago with an intent to guide people on good virtues, ethics, morality, knowledge, and wisdom.
The statue stands tall on a 38 feet high pedestal, which represents the 38 chapters of virtues of Tirukkural. The rest of the 95 feet, excluding the pedestal, denote the chapters in 2 sections of the book Porul (70 chapters) and Inbam (25 Chapters).
It took 500 sculptures around 9 years to build this huge stone sculpture.
5. Our Lady Of Ransom Church, Kanyakumari
I can’t describe the aura that came from this place. We reached the church in the evening when it was already dark. There was a prayer or mass going on and people had gathered in and around in large numbers.
Their hum and prayers in unison radiated an energy, which could be felt strongly. I didn’t want to go closer to the church to take a picture and disturb them. However, I didn’t feel like leaving the place either and wanted to sit and join the crowd.
The stunning architecture of this Catholic church with a height of 153 feet is distinctively visible from the beach as a white towering structure. The church is inspired by Roman architecture style and has a statue of Mother Mary wearing a sari placed at the center of the altar.
Returning To Trivandrum
On the way back, we missed our train but luckily got a local bus from Kanyakumari to Nagercoil from where we could catch a train to Trivandrum.
The trains that leave from Kanyakumari to Trivandrum don’t ply on all days. Refer the chart here.
The bus ride was amazing though. We drove through the shortest possible space a bus could pass through. It wobbled and jigged through the streets sans lights with people boarding and getting down near their small and brightly lit homes next to vast coconut and banana tree gardens that extended in the unfamiliar darkness.
Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple
We reached Trivandrum in the evening. While I still had time to board the bus back home, we visited the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple, the most popular temples in the land of Gods, Kerela.
The temple has a sanctum dedicated to Lord Vishnu, whose idol is present in Anantha Shayanam pose or the eternal yogic sleep on the Sheeshnag. The temple is known for the intricate beauty of its Dravidian style architecture. There is a strict dress code for both men and women, which is to wear a mundu before entering the temple.
The origin of the temple is unknown, some claim that it was established on the first day of Kali Yug. There are interesting stories associated with its origins. You can read more about the legend and history of the temple here.
My journey ended in the beautiful city of Trivandrum, but I so hope and wish to return to Kerela again.