Sunrise in Kanyakumari

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Sunrise in Kanyakumari

Excerpted from a travelog  published in a paper. 

As a travel photographer I had become accustomed to being the first one to arrive at any landmark at any place I visited. I would have taken the best shots with the early morning sun much  before the first tourists began to troop in. But when I stepped out of my hotel in Kanyakumari  at six in the morning, I was shocked to find a sea of humanity already there at the beach. Groggy-eyed I tried to look for a vantage position to photograph the rising sun. But every nook and cranny was taken and every tourist was  smugly poised with his camera.

Nowhere else in India is the fervour for the  sunrise so great or as spectacular as in Kanyakumari making for every traveler’s essential travel photograph. Here in India’s southernmost tip you can witness  both the sunset and sunrise on the same beach (between October and March.)

The confluence of the three water bodies here- the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal, and the Arabian sea -lends not only aesthetic but also a great spiritual dimension to the town.  Due to this unique geographical phenomenon, on a full moon evenings you can  witness the sunset and the moonrise at different ends of the same horizon.

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Bollywood poses on the beach at Kanyakumari

The sunrise and sunset beauty of Kanyakumari has not gone unnoticed by the tourism industry. Almost all hotels are crowded  around the beach. Every tourist wants a window opening into the ocean. The most expensive hotels face the ocean and have the best views. The rooms with view of the sunrise  have a higher tariff plan.

Kanyakumari has more cosmopolitan visitors than other Tamil Nadu towns.  This is evident in the signboards around Kanyakumari. For the first time since my travels across Tamil Nadu, I come across shops signs in  Hindi. This was also the only place where I found a North Indian restaurant and its passable fare of butter chicken and tandoori roti.

If you travel like me starting your journey from Chennai and down the length of the coromandel coast passing Mahaballpuram , Kumbakonam, Madurai and Thanjavur along the way , you will realize that Kanyakumari has nothing of heritage and culture to boast off in comparison.

There is ofcoure the Vivekananda Rock memorial on an islet just off the shore but it was built only in 1970. Legend  has it that Swami Vivekananda meditated here for three days. For this purpose there is a spot of meditation called the Dhayana mandapa and if one has the inclination one can meditate in the peace here.  There is also a tall statue of Vivekananda at the spot.  However the most impressive if recent addition to the Kanyakumari horizon is the 133feet gigantic statue of Thiruvalluvar a Tamil poet revered as a saint.  The statue was commissioned by the DMK leader M. Karunanidhi and made by well know South Indian sculptor V. Ganapati Sthapati . The statue was installed in 2000. Every feet of this 133 feet statue corresponds to the 133 chapters of  Tamil epic  Thirukkural.

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Boys throw stones into the oceans at Kanyakumari

A ferry leaves from the shore to the islet everyday from 7 am till 4 pm and one can visit both the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and the Thiruvalluvar statue.  One can climb upto the feet of the statue and get a sense of the statue’s true immensity. From this height you are also rewarded with great view of the oceans and beyond. On the islet there is another hall that belongs to the Holy Foot.  Legend has it that Goddess Kumari stood on one leg here to perform penance. There is a foot-shaped carving on the rock to show for it.

The peace of Kanyakumari also attracted Mahatama Gandhi who came here thrice in his lifetime. There is a memorial to him here built at a spot where the sun’s first rays fall.  The memorial housed Gandhi’s ashes and is designed in a manner that on Gandhi’s birthday – October 2nd– the sun’s rays fall directly on the spot where his ashes were once kept.

Kanyakumari’s shore is overrun by all sorts of stalls selling anything from hair-clips to astrological charms. The beach front remains crowded throughout the day but gets particularly crowded during early morning and evenings. Its advisable to reach the beach a bit early in the afternoon on a full moon day when you can see the moon rising and the sun setting at the same time.

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Young ascetic at sundown in Kanyakumari

Tourists cannot get enough of photographing themselves at the beach.  The local photographers urge their clients to pose in elaborate Bollywood poses on  the beach. Kanyakumari not only marks the end of the Indian Peninsula but it also culminates the Indian trip for  most tourists.  They are therefore in a  relaxed and boisterous spirit and are more than ready to oblige.

How to get here:

The nearest airport is  in Kerela in Thiruvananthapuram . It is barely 87 kilometers away but it can take more than two hours to reach since the road is not so good and the traffic and slow you down.

One can also take the bus or car journey from Chennai visiting other towns like Madurai and  Thanjuvar on the way.

Where to stay: 

There is a wide range of  hotels, cottages, restaurants, service apartments, resorts and guest house available ranging from budget to high end at Kanyakumari.  You can find some Kanyakumari Hotels  at this site.

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