There is a saying in India ‘from Kashmir to Kanyakumari’, which means from the Northern end of India to the Southern end. I always wanted to travel from one end to the other but never happened. So I decided first to finish travelling my state Kerala, aka ‘God’s Own Country’. There are 14 districts in Kerala and each one has its own history and culture. I’ve covered about 10 of them. Even each district has their own slang. If you think you understand Malayalam…you won’t even get the slightest hint what people are saying once you start to move from one end to the other. Now I am going to write about the North and South end Districts which have entirely different cultural-societal backgrounds, Kasargod and Trivandrum. My trip started from the Northern District Kasargod. Most of our decisions happens at midnight and this time me and my husband decided to take our parents with us and that’s why we started late than usual. After packing and car washing we started our journey at 2 PM and we had to cover 309 Kilometres.
If you have a big happy family with way too many cousins, that is one way to save money while travelling. Rang the door bell of a cousin about teatime (money saving tip no:1 – always find family or friend’s place for food and stay). Kidding, try not to bother anyone when you are on a trip. We did disturb most of our cousins though. Its obvious when you are travelling with your parents (Especially Indians I guess). They like to visit and spend time with relatives than moving around and exploring. So we ended up spending the night at another cousin’s at Kannur (nearby district of Kasargod). They welcomed us with open hearts and sleepy eyes at 12 AM.
Next day morning when we were discussing our travel plans, they also got excited and wished to join us.We were more than okay, its great to have the natives with you when you go exploring places. Our main area of attraction was the Bekal fort at Kasargod, but the famous Parassinikkadavu temple was on our way to the fort and we decided to pay a visit there too.
The deity of this temple is called ‘Muthappan’, said to be human with supernatural powers. The worshipping methods are unique and surprising here. Means they are not following the age old Hindu traditions. Fish and Toddy are the offerings given to Muthappan. There are no payasam (a dessert) or other nedyams (edible offerings of Hindu Gods) are offered. In Hindu temples the building where the idol of a deity is placed is called a ‘sreekovil’ but here it is called the ‘madappura’ meaning kitchen or old house.
Every cast, religion and nationality can enter the temple. Devotees were flowing in when we reached there. what I found interesting was the statues of two dogs on either side of the temple. It is said that they were the companions/bodyguards of Muthappan. This temple is surrounded by way too many dogs..but none bothered or scared the devotees. Another beautiful view is the Valapattanam river, which flows on the front side. There are boat services to and fro. When we came out from the temple it started raining. So we hurried to our next and the main destination, Bekal.
Bekal fort is the largest fort in Kerala spreading over 40 acres of land with a charismatic view of the Arabian sea. It was built during the ‘Perumal age’. Saw the ups and downs, reigning and ending of various great Kingdoms over the years. Fort only used as a weaponry mansion. Mostly to avoid the naval attacks. Bekal even served Tipu Sultan in his expedition to conquer Malabar. You can find many holes on the walls fit for guns, which throws light into the Western influences. The Portuguese, Dutch, French and the English had their run here. Now as a tourist destination it serves us well too. We walked through the Laterite stone pavements, went to the watch tower. As it was June, the Arabian sea was in her angry state (At Bekal she is like Hulk, always angry ;-D). Strong waves were hitting the fort wall. There is a tunnel opening on the south side of the fort and a deep well with stairs near the entrance.
Many movies, songs, albums are taken at Bekal fort. The most famous one is the ‘uyire’ song from the movie ‘Bombay’. If you like walking and don’t mind getting drenched in waves you will definitely love the walkway. We spent more than 3 hrs there, doing nothing thinking about the old era and the magic hands who made these elegant and captivating fort. You kind of get stuck to that place. There.. one of my dream destination got ticked on my check list.
Now to the other end, to the land of Sree Padmanabha, Trivandrum.
I’ve heard people saying Kanyakumari as one of the most romantic places in India. I had an excursion to Trivandrum and Kanyakumari when I was in school. But then I was too busy chit chatting with my friends that I can not say I found it romantic. Like I said earlier going to Trivandrum was a sudden decision. We called up some of our cousins and three of them got on our vehicle with us and drove around 340 km to our destination. We started in the morning from Palakkad but by the time we reached Kochi the rush hour had started. Cyclists moved faster than us (urrghh!!!). The roads were not in good condition till Kollam. We had lunch from The Sree Ayyapa Punjabi food and Andhra meal (vegetarian) from Kollam, a tiny restaurant with only 10-12 chairs but excellent North Indian food. Its a bit difficult to find but if you end up finding it you definitely gonna love the rotis and curry (Sree Ayyappa is not a posh restaurant, imagine it as a 35 year old building). The delicious lunch made us slow, we were literally ant walking towards our vehicle. Even our driving was slow. Some drivers looked at us in Wonder thinking ‘you are on a SUV and driving at 80 km/h !!!’.
We had rented a house at Sreekaryam (Trivandrum) and reached there by 4 PM. After refreshing ourselves, we went to the famous Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple. This temple caught the world’s eye recently when the news of the temple fortune got revealed. Cameras are not allowed inside, so can’t show you how enormous is this place and the art work done here. Just a few notions about the temple.
Sree Padmanabhaswami Temple
The main attraction of the temple is the idol of the Lord vishnu in his ‘Ananthashayi’ ( lying on the snake Lord Anantha) and the ‘Gopuram’ built in the 16th century. This temple’s history is unknown as it is mentioned in many of the age old Puranas. The idol can be seen through 3 different doors. It is 20 feet long and made up of 12008 saligramam. The first door shows you the face, the second abdomen and the third show the legs. It is said that the actual idol was made up of gold but when the Muslim Emporers attacked the Hindus and their temples, this idol was hidden using the saligramam. The Travancore Maharajas submitted everything to Lord Padmanabha including their kingdom and ruled as the Lord’s Dasa (employ). Everyday the Maharaja comes to offer his prayer and while returning he removes the dust from his legs before going out. They believe everything including the sand inside the temple belongs to the Lord and they are not taking anything from him or that temple.
Temple rituals are pretty sacred and tight so you have to be very careful while entering inside. Only the traditional wear are allowed (means sarees, skirts- blouses and dhoties). We were lucky to witness some special rituals that eve as it was the Lord’s birth star day. Padmanabhaswami came out from sreekovil, 4 poojaris (priests) carried him in a ‘manchal’ that seemed really heavy (those were small idols). They took three rounds around the sreekovil, each with different pace, different music. I still don’t know what those rituals meant, there was none to answer my questions. Our eyes and minds were filled with these sights for sure. The ‘gopuram’ is 7 storied. Different stories from epics, puranas etc..are carved on stones on each level beautifully.
There are many other famous temples around the Padmanabha temple. ‘Kuthira malika’ a palace is just a minute walk away from here. We couldn’t enter inside because by the time we reached it was closed. All day driving and more than 2 hours of amazement of this temple made us sleepy and after a quick dinner we tucked in our blankets soon.
On the next day break we had breakfast from Indian coffee house and started for Kanyakumari. Padmanabhapuram Palace and Suchidram Shiva temple were yet to be covered, but all those were on our way to Kanyakumari. Padmanabha Puram palace got ticked on our way to and Shiva temple on our way back. This palace, temple, and Kanyakumari now belongs to the Tamilnadu State. Words can’t explain the classy, exquisite Palace. There are the ‘Raja sabha’ room where the king and his ministers discussed about ( I guess) almost everything, Ladies grand make up room with two giant mirrors on either side of the hall, Two long halls for sadya, (lunch) which accomodate about 1000 people on each hall. There are portraits of each Rajas and some of the most important events during their reign are painted there. The most famous King was Marthanda Varma. The art work done on each ceilings and the way the palace built is really dazzling. It was real hot outside but we were going through naturally air conditioned rooms.
After getting out we ran to our vehicle. The climate was getting hotter minute by minute. We had our lunch on our way to Kanyakumari (we all are vegetarians. Its easy to find a veg restaurant in Tamilnadu and at Trivandrum, it was difficult to find one on the Northern side of Kerala). Reached at the mesmerising Kanyakumari around 4 PM hoping to spend some time there and watch the sunset. We did spend sometime but the Sun wasn’t ready to come out from the clouds and we missed the sunset.
There is a bhagavathi amman temple near the beach, where the adi parashakthi of Hindu Puranas is in her virgin form to kill the asura (demon) named Bana. This place might have got the name from that goddess (kanya-virgin, kumari-girl/lady). A famous story revolves around her nose pin is that it was a big diamond and once it showed way to a lost ship to shore. There are many stories and folklore about this place. Vivekananda rock is another attraction there. A temple is there too where devi kanyakumari’s foot prints are seen. Vivekananda used to meditate in that rock. Believe it or not it really calms your mind once you reach there. But don’t mind me saying there were a lot of selfies, group clicks and shouting. Guess nobody cares how/when to keep calm and when to shout. It only takes 5 min boat ride to reach the rock and right next to it there is a giant statue of Thiruvallur, the famous Tamil poet.
Next attraction at Kanyakumari is the triveni sangamam, where the three oceans meet (The Arabian sea, Indian ocean and the Bay of Bengal). It considered holy to take a dip at sangam. Some places lose its beauty when it is crowded (in my opinion) I felt the same at Kanyakumari too. But the Sun rise, Sun set are breath taking. If you find a calm and quiet place then you are lucky. Romantic or not, that place also got ticked on my list…tada
On our way back from Kanyakumari we paid a visit to the Suchindram temple. The deity of the temple is sthanumalayan (shiva-vishnu-brahma together). But the main attraction is the idol of Hanuman which is 18 foot long. The ‘alankara mandapam’ has four large pillars and are called musical pillars with each pillar producing different musical sounds.
A lot of places like the zoo, the planetarium, Napier Museum, Sree chithra art gallery, beaches like Kovalam, shangumugham, Veli etc..are in and around the Trivandrum city. We had to get back home soon that’s why couldn’t cover all the sights. We did spend some time at the zoo though. The latest addition at zoo is anaconda. Different bird species , other wild animals its all the same like you see in a typical animal enclosure.
There…another travel expedition come to an end. Waiting for the next…