“Seems like some kind of natural air-conditioning in here!”, exclaimed my sister. It indeed felt cool inside. Surely, it’s got something to do with the way this place was constructed ages ago.
We were at Padmanabhapuram Palace, located about 30 Km. away from Kanyakumari at a place, known as Thuckalay. Built in the 16th century, this palace is situated in the state of Tamil Nadu, however, it remains under the administration of the Government of Kerala. The wooden palace, in its typical Kerala architectural style, is a masterpiece that left us completely spellbound. Once again, all thanks to fellow blogger Sugan for having recommended this place.
The unusualness of the palace is what charmed us the most. It was very different from all the palaces I have seen so far. It lacked the glam and glitter that one would expect of a palace but was majestic in its simplicity and intricacies. Some highlights from the palace are, elaborately detailed rosewood and teak wood carvings, exquisitely carved wooden columns, huge earthen urns, jackfruit tree columns, multi-colored windowpanes of various patterns, spacious hallways, ornately carved wooden ceilings, and so on.
There were different artistic representations of the Lotus flower, the favourite flower of the royalty (and also ofLord Padmanabhaswamy). The floors of the palace wore a unique look. It was glossy, smooth and of shining black colour. This is apparently the result of a unique combination of egg shells, lime, coconut, charcoal, river sand, and jaggery that was used in the raw material.
Padmanabhapuram was the capital city of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore, the rulers of which were dedicated to Lord Padmanabhaswamy (another name of Lord Vishnu) and considered themselves to be servants of the Lord.
The Covid protocols were very strict here. We had to buy gloves from the shops outside, which were selling only woolen gloves. That was no fun on a hot and sultry afternoon, with a temperature of nearly 30 degree centigrade. The palace was crowded with tourists, but all were locals. We stood out in how we looked and the clothes we wore, leading to us being mobbed by a gang of local people. The gang of 20-25 people followed us everywhere and wanted pictures with us every now and then. They meant no harm and we did indulge them initially but after a point their intrusion managed to irritate us enough and more.
Here’s a visual tour of some sections of the palace.
It was Christmas time of the special year of 2020 when a whimsical decision took us to Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of the Indian mainland. We were all set to explore the coastal part of Karnataka but landed in Tamil Nadu instead. This was my third visit to Kanyakumari – first time as a 9-year old with my father, second time with a friend 8 years ago, and this time with my sisters. I had never thought I would be visiting Kanyakumari again, but it happened.
Kanyakumari, known as Cape Comorin during British rule in India, is an ancient city that finds mention in accounts of Marco Polo and Ptolemy. It is the meeting point of Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal, and Indian Ocean.
Kanyakumari for me has been synonymous with two things – first, the tranquility at Vivekananda Memorial Rock; second, the deep ocean waters that sometimes appeared blue, sometimes green, and sometimes a combination of both. Oh yes, I mustn’t forget the amazing sunrises and sunsets. However, there’s much more to Kanyakumari, which I discovered this time. And, the credit goes to fellow blogger Sugan, for all the recommendation and guidance.
Built in 18th century during the reign of Travancore kingdom, Vattakottai is a coastal fort. Vattakottai fort, which translates as circular fort is a protected site, maintained by Archeological Survey of India (ASI). Built for coastal defense, the fort is constructed of granite blocks. The walls are carved with motifs of fish, that is said to be characteristic of the Pandya Kingdom.
The most alluring aspect of Vattakottai Fort is its perfect scenic location, with the sea on one side and the hills of western ghats on the other. This coupled with the black sands of the sea beach overlooking the fort makes it extremely attractive. A part of the fort extends into the sea and that reminded me of Diu Fort, which I had visited 2 years back. The latter however is much bigger and is much more fascinating.
Bhagavathy Amman Temple
Kanyakumari derives its name from Goddess Kanya Kumari. The virgin goddess, also known as Kumari Amman is believed to be an incarnation of Goddess Durga. Bhagavathy Amman Temple, dedicated to the Devi, is a 3000-year-old temple that finds mention in the epics of Ramanyana and Mahabharata.
Intrigued, after having read about the interesting myths and legends of the Devi in a book – from her love for Lord Shiva to the marriage that did not happen, her nose ring that had confused sailors leading to shipwrecks – I had always wanted to visit the temple. (You can read the legend in detail here ).
The glittering diamond nose ring is the most fascinating aspect of the idol. The sparkle of this nose ring had been mistaken as a lighthouse causing ships to crash on the rocky coast. As a result, the door facing east has been permanently shut and is opened only on special occasions.
Temple of Mayi Amma
It’s a very tiny nondescript temple on the beach, hardly noticeable unless you know about it. We happened to chance upon it. Again, I had read about Mayi Amma in a book. She was a saint, who would literally walk on the surface of the ocean waters and meditate on a rock for hours together completely oblivious to the hot sun. Her disciples constituted a pack of dogs. She hardly ever spoke to anyone but was revered by the locals. The temple has a couple of her black and white photographs. She is said to have taken samadhi in 1993.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue
Situated around 500 meters away from the shore, Vivekananda Rock Memorial is a mammoth rock where Swami Vivekananda had meditated and attained enlightenment. This rock memorial constitutes the main attraction at Kanyakumari. People all over the world visit Kanyakumari mainly to see Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Vivekananda Mandapam and Sripada Mandapam are the two main structures at the memorial. The latter is said to be a place where Goddess Kanya Kumari had meditated for Lord Shiva. This is ratified by the presence of a foot mark on the rock, which supposedly belongs to the Devi. Consequently, the rock where the memorial stands is known as Sripada Parai (Sripada means Devi’s feet in Sanskrit and Parai means rock in Tamil).
Thiruvalluvar Statue or Valluvar Statue is located on another rock just a little away from Vivekananda Rock Memorial. It is the 41-metre-tall stone statue of Tamil poet and philosopher, Valluvar. Entry to this statue was closed at that time and hence we could not go up to the statue. However, the view from Vivekananda Rock Memorial was good enough.
Besides these places, we also visited Padmanabhapuram Palace located 30 Km. away from Kanyakumari. I have written about that in my next post.
Do visit my previous post on Manapad beach, which is another place we visited during our Kanyakumari Trip.
Kanyakumari, I will be back again! So what if I have already visited you three times! There are places that I couldn’t cover this time and so I must go again.
The evening sky broke into an intense assortment of red, pink, orange, and yellow as we watched the mellowed sun gradually recede into the glittering waters below. Standing on that elevated sandy ground, we silently observed the vermilion tinted waves compete with each other as they playfully rushed towards the shore. It was an incredible sight and we wanted to take it all in, keenly aware that it wasn’t going to last very long.
Just behind us, on that sand dune, stood a beautiful Church, the white colour of which glowed with the setting sun. A few meters from the Church was a wooden Holy Cross standing tall on an elevated platform.
We were at Manapad Beach. It was Christmas Day and I couldn’t have thought of being at a better place! And, this beautiful experience happened only because someone made it possible for us. I have always considered myself immensely fortunate when it comes to people I get connected with in my life. Some of these wonderful people are fellow bloggers I have met through WordPress and I have mentioned this umpteen times.
This post is dedicated to Sugan, who blogs at The Buffalo Rider. Do visit his blog and I can promise you that you will not be disappointed.
On Christmas Day of 2020, I landed at Kanyakumari. Quite an impromptu trip and I hadn’t had the time to plan it well. I had visited Kanyakumari twice before, once many years ago as a little child with my father and another time a few years back with friends. However, the only thing that I recall about Kanyakumari is Vivekananda Rock and that’s not surprising at all.
It was during a random conversation on Instagram that Sugan had mentioned that he belonged to Kanyakumari offering to make recommendations if I ever decided to visit again. As promised, Sugan created an itinerary for me when I informed him about my plans. Usually that’s what people do. That’s what I would have done if someone was visiting Shillong or Bangalore. However, Sugan went a step ahead. He gave his precious time to us spending an entire afternoon and evening with us taking us around in his SUV, which he fondly calls ‘Buffalo’.
Just a few hours after we reached, Sugan picked us up from our hotel. After a quick lunch at a nearby restaurant, he took us to Vattakotai Fort. I will write in detail about this place in a separate post. Thereafter, we started for Manapad Village. Manapad is a coastal village with a dominant fisherman population and is located in Tuticorin, about 75 Km. away from Kanyakumari . The drive from Kanyakumari to Manapad is exquisitely beautiful, which was a compelling reason for Sugan to recommend this place to us.
Little Details from the Village
As we arrived at the village, the first thing we noticed was the steeples and spires of various churches nestled between the brick-red roofs of the whitewashed houses. The Gothic-styled churches stood out, intriguing us sufficiently. I got to know later that these were St. James Church and Holy Spirit Church – two of the three churches in Manapad. Thinking that we would visit them later, we headed towards the beach. The Holy Cross Church is located on an elaborate sand dune on the beach. It being Christmas there were a lot of people at the Church. We climbed the sand dune and spent the entire evening watching the sunset. Consequently, time ran out and we missed visiting the two Gothic styled churches we had seen earlier.
An interesting aspect of this beach is that water is separated by stretches of sand in some places creating clear blue lagoons. Another thing that drew our attention was a well in the beach which provides fresh water to the villagers who fetch drinking water from this well.
I wish I could spend at least a day in the tempting clean sand and blue waters of Manapad. I had no idea that such a quaint little village with a mesmerizing beach existed in Tuticorin and one that is easily accessible from so many places in South India. The fact that Manapad is relatively unknown to the usual touristy crowd only adds to its charm. Such offbeat places can only be experienced when you are lucky enough to have a local connection.
I definitely owe my Christmas, 2020 to Sugan. Your hospitality inspired me. You taught me how giving your valuable time to people visiting your hometown can completely elevate their experience of that place. I ought to do more when people I know visit my hometown.
Here’s an interesting story I read about the Holy Cross at the beach.
In 1540 a Portuguese ship was caught in a dreadful storm. It was at the risk of sinking with its sails splitting and mast snapping. The captain entrusted the safety of the vessel to Christ and vowed to construct a Cross from the splintered mast if they escaped alive and have it installed wherever they land safely. After drifting for several days, the ship washed up on the shores of Manapad. The captain kept his vow and planted a Cross atop the sand dune.
Furthermore, when the cross was in the form of a log, cut off from the broken mast, a villager had cleaned his foot removing filth by rubbing on the log. Soon, his foot swelled up and he felt immense pain. That night the villager had a vision that the ailment was due to his defiling the log. In order to get cured he was asked to wipe the muck off the log, smear the log with oil, and then apply the same oil to his foot. The villager did as he was told and was cured.
It was somewhere towards the end of February. Covid-19 had already arrived in India and by then three cases were reported, all of which were from South India. Oblivious about the implications, we set out on a trip to the temple towns of Rameshwaram and Madurai. Dhanushkodi, which automatically is associated with Rameshwaram, was on our list too. This trip was for my parents.
The thought of having gallivanted all those places with my parents as Covid-19 lurked around the region gives me the chills today. Especially so, for my septuagenarian father with ailments like high BP, hypertension, heart disorders, chronic pulmonary disorders, and so on. My parents have always loved to travel. During his heydays, my father had taken us on quite a few family trips. That is highly commendable given his limited means with all the responsibilities he had at that time. All that was hardly enough to satiate his wanderlust. Now, they have the means but not the health – ironies of life. It’s my turn now and I try my best to travel with them at least once a year.
I was eight, when my father had taken us on a South India trip. We visited many places, including Madurai but Rameswaram hadn’t happened. My parents would always rue about it. Hence, taking them to Rameshwaram had been on my mind. The timing of our visit happened to be the weekend of Maha-Shivaratri. This was completely unintentional, something we realized after the flight and hotel reservations were done. Rameshwaram was expected to be overcrowded during that weekend. Nevertheless, we decided to go ahead. Not for once did the thought of Covid-19 bother us even though the existing cases weren’t very far away.
When traveling with parents, everything needs to be planned to a T. At the same time, we need to be flexible as plans may have to be changed on the fly. It’s a lot different than how I otherwise experience a place. Consequently, the trip was more curated than I would have otherwise liked. I sure do have to visit Rameshwaram once again.
Here’s a brief of the places we visited at Rameshwaram.
The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and has one of the 12 Jyotirlingas in India. Mythologically, Rameshwaram and this temple is associated with the epic Ramayana. The sanctum has two Shiva Lingas – Ramalingam is made of sand, believed to have been built by Lord Rama and Vishwalingam, believed to have been brought by Hanuman from Kailash.
Architecturally, the unique aspect of this temple is its three strikingly long corridors. The first and innermost corridor is around the sanctum sanctorum. The second corridor has 108 Shiva Lingas and a statue of Ganapati. The third and outermost corridor is adorned by 1212 brightly coloured pillars set on an elevated platform and is said to be the longest pillared corridor in the world. The temple also has 22 holy tanks. One is supposed to take a ritualistic bath with water from each of the tanks before visiting Ramalingam. We didn’t do that though.
The temple has four entry ways, in all the four directions – North, South, East, and West. Two Gopurams stand tall at the East and West gate. The North gate of the temple was just a little walk away from our hotel. We visited the temple twice. My mother accompanied us once. My father was content with seeing the temple from the outside afraid of being unable to manage himself in the crowd. Though the crowd was much lesser than we had anticipated.
Other than the colourful corridors, something else caught my attention inside the temple. It was a powerful message from Swami Vivekananda, who had visited this temple is 1897. The message is prominently displayed at the main entrance of the temple. Below is an excerpt, you can read the entire message here.
"It is in love that religion exists and not in ceremony, in the pure and sincere love in the heart. Unless a man is pure in body and mind, his coming into a temple and worshiping Shiva is useless. The prayers of those that are pure in mind and body will be answered by Shiva, and those that are impure and yet try to teach religion to others will fail in the end. External worship is only a symbol of internal worship; but internal worship and purity are the real things. Without them, external worship would be of no avail." ~ Swami Vivekananda
Agni Tirtham is a beach located on the eastern side of Ramanathaswamy Temple. The norm is to dip in the waters of Agni Tirtham, followed by the ritualistic bath in the 22 holy tanks inside the temple, and then offer prayers to the deity. We did not quite intend to dip in the crowded Agni Tirtham and just paid a visit late in the evening. Consequently, I don’t have any pictures of Agni Tirtham.
Rama Tirtham and Lakshmana Tirtham
Rama Tirtham and Lakshmana Tirtham are water tanks with temples associated to each. These are water tanks where apparently Lord Rama and his brother Lakshmana had bathed.
Panchmukhi Hanuman Mandir & Floating Stones
A huge black stone statue of Lord Hanuman with five faces welcomed us in this temple. Our interest in this temple was because we were told it displays floating rocks. Rocks that are believed to be of the kind that were apparently used to build the Ram Setu towards Lanka. The rocks were quite a letdown as they were way smaller than we had visualized. I didn’t click any pictures here.
Gandhamadhana Parvatham Temple
This is a small temple situated atop a little hillock. We loved the quietude in this temple. The cool breeze and the view from the temple made it even better. It is believed that Lord Hanuman took off from here towards Lanka to fight the demon King Ravana and his army.
We traveled to Rameswaram by road from Madurai and hence drove over Pamban Bridge or Annai Indira Gandhi Road Bridge. This bridge on Palk Strait connecting Rameswaram with mainland, is India’s first sea bridge. A little more than 2 Km., crossing it was a scenic experience. A rail bridge runs parallel to the Pamban Bridge, which has a functional double leaf bascule section midway to allow ships through. We had plans of coming back and spending time on the Pamban Bridge and rail bridge but that didn’t materialize.
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Memorial
This is a museum dedicated to former President of India, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, that showcases his life and work. It is a memorial built at his burial site and displays selected photos, paintings and miniature models of missiles and other artifacts. Dr. Kalam had passed away in Shillong on July 27, 2015. Seeing the name of our hometown didn’t fail to delight us though.
“Aap ko toh tourist guide hona chaiye!” (You should rather be a tourist guide!), my sister joked with Praveen, the auto driver we met a few moments ago. Acting on Praveen’s advice was the best thing we did that afternoon.
It was the month of April, last year. We had arrived at Mangalore around noon after visiting Bekal Fort in Kerala. Our train to Bangalore wasn’t until 9 PM. We had the entire afternoon and evening in Mangalore without any specific plans. Mangalore being a coastal city we knew we would be spending the afternoon at a beach. We had some financial limitations and wanted to restrain our expenses for the day. The waiter at the insignificant roadside eatery, where we had a delicious lunch of Pomfret fish curry and rice, recommended we go to Panambur Beach. We were, however, interested in Surathkal Beach as it was recommended by a friend but on enquiry got to know it was a little away from the city. Tad hesitantly, we settled for Panambur as it was accessible by bus and hence would cost less.
We landed at Panambur only to realize this was not the place where we would like to spend the rest of the day. It was crazily crowded even with the blazing Sun in the hot coastal afternoon. The sand was burning, and the place looked like a fair – joyrides for children, camel and horse rides, hawkers selling ice-creams, and what not. We immediately decided to spend whatever money it takes and go to Surathkal Beach instead. Walking through the heated sand out of the beach was an ordeal in itself and then there were no autos waiting by the roadside.
After a while Praveen arrived and was ready to take us to Surathkal for an amount that seemed a little high but at that moment we were in no mood to haggle. Wasting no time, we hopped in. Praveen started his auto and just took a turn towards our destination when I poured out my frustration about Panambur beach. I also told him that we have a train from Mangalore at night and would need to go back. Praveen recommended we go to Tannirbhavi beach instead as it would be easier to go back to the city from there.
Tannirbhavi turned out to be just like our kind of a place. The beach wasn’t much crowded and lacked the hustle and bustle of Panambur. The eateries and a few joyrides were restricted to just one small section of the beach a little away from the sea. The sand was clean, pristine and much cooler. The best part was the tall pine trees all along the beach that not only made it scenic but also provided refuge from the hot afternoon sun.
Set on the shores of the mighty Arabian Sea, Tannirbhavi beach was just perfect for nature lovers like us – peaceful, serene, and tranquil. It may not appeal much to those who love beach activities as it had none. We spent the rest of the afternoon wading knee deep into the water, walking leisurely on the sparkling sand through the length of the beach, listening to the waves lazily crashing on the beach, observing the golden coloured crabs hurriedly make their way and disappear into the sand, watching the playful sea birds flying around in definite patterns, and when the Sun felt hot resting under the shades of Pine.
As the afternoon was slowly giving way to evening, a cluster of clouds came along floating into the sky and the setting Sun played hide and seek with us. The result was, we did not have the perfect sunset but that didn’t matter instead we watched a young man practicing his surfing skills in the tides.
Praveen had mentioned a certain tree park nearby which he said was a must visit. He also told us about a temple in Mangalore. We were so lost in quietude at the scenic beach that we totally forgot about the tree park and remembered only when we were leaving the beach. We decided to give it a miss. On the other side of the beach runs Phalguni River, where one can take a ferry ride and cross over to Mangalore City. It’s the cheapest way to go to the city from the beach – something we wouldn’t have known had it not been for Praveen.
On reaching the other side of the river we visited the temple that Praveen had mentioned before heading to the Railway Station. The temple was beautiful and it was a good way to end our day at Mangalore.
Isn’t it fascinating to meet random people like Praveen while travelling! To me, they are God-send. Praveen was an auto driver, who went out of his way to help and guide random strangers in his city. It wasn’t a part of his duty. Rather he could have misguided and taken advantage of us in the lure of making some quick buck from ill-informed tourists. Instead he gave us a glimpse of Mangalore in the 20 minutes that we spent with him and invited us personally to come again for a longer period. He even created an itinerary for us to spend the rest of the day in the best possible way. Such delightful rendezvous add so much colour to travel memories.
Ever since, our memories of Mangalore is associated with Praveen and we can never forget the beautiful afternoon at Tannirbhavi Beach. I will go back to Mangalore as I haven’t explored the city at all and whenever I do so, I will reach out for Praveen.
Ever heard anybody go on a weekend leisure trip from Bangalore to Kozhikode? At least I never did. If you’re someone like me, ‘God’s Own Country’, Kerala, means a Munnar, a Kovalam, a Varkala, an Alleppey, and the like. Kozhikode doesn’t feature in that list.
[Note: Kozhikode is correctly spelt as Kōḻikōḍ and pronounced as ‘Ko-yi-kode’.]
Biryani: Before I left for Kozhikode, a Malayali friend had told me that I was going to the food capital of Kerala and that it was her favourite food destination in the whole world. She gave me a list of must-try food items. Being the non-foodie that I am, I didn’t pay much attention to it. My ‘nature-person’ was more interested in the beach and the sea.
It was not until I tasted the biryani at Paragon (a famous restaurant) that I understood what she had meant. I had never tasted such delicious biryani in my whole life. The biryani in this part of the country may look pale but the mix of subtle spices, the aroma, and the rich taste is beyond comparison. Thereafter it was biryani for breakfast, biryani for lunch, and biryani for dinner for the rest of of our stay. My friends tried the flaky Malabar Parotta too.
Biryani (PC: Tripadvisor)
Karingali – The red coloured drinking water
Besides biryani, something else caught my interest. The red-coloured lukewarm water they served at the restaurant, locally known as Karingali. I had never seen something like that before. The colour is derived from the organic herbs mixed with the water.
Besides Paragon, we also tried the food at Rahmath Hotel and Adaminde Chayakkada.
Milk Sharbat: Just opposite to Paragon, is the famous Nannari Sharbat stall. The famous sharbat stall looked like a make-shift tent. There is no signage and it was overflowing with people. The shop sells Plain Sharbat, Soda Sharbat, Masala Sharbat, and Milk Sharbat. The roots of Sarsaparilla, locally known as Nannari is used to prepare the drink. We tried the Milk Sharbat, which is prepared by mixing half a cup of Nannari syrup with two cups of chilled milk. The huge rush of people at the stall was a tell-tale sign of its popularity. Two of my fellow travel friends pushed their way through the crowd to get the drink for us. They thought the unique manner in which the drink was prepared was something worth watching and we had missed it.
The Nannari Sharbat stall
The famous banana chips shop, next to the sharbat stall
Halwa: A walk through SM Street and we stopped at a halwa shop. SM or Sweet Meat street is apparently named after the famous halwa of Kozhikode. Full with the biryani and sharbat, we just satiated our eyes with the colourful halwa that decked up the shop.
Colourful halwa at SM Street
A lane in SM Street
The Place We Stayed…
We stayed at a lovely and cozy Airbnb cottage just beside the sea and behind a fishing village. The place is called Shellhouse and we couldn’t ignore the warm and cozy feeling it exuded. Located away from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet very close to the city, it was just perfect. The late night leisure walk in the empty streets of the neighbourhood, chattering endlessly about everything under the sun is something I shall fondly remember.
The Temple We Visited…
Though none of us are overtly religious, we had to visit the Tali Shiva Temple after it was recommended by someone. Built in the 14th century, it is the oldest temple in Kozhikode. It’s an orthodox temple and they have a strict dress code. Women need to be traditionally dressed and men need to be clad in a mundu dhoti (A traditional South Indian garment that is wrapped around the waist, usually in shades of white).
Two of my fellow travel friends bought the mundu dhoti from SM Street just for the purpose of the temple. I was in my capris and did not have anything traditional with me. As I had no intention of buying something just for entry to the temple, I decided to wrap a stole around my waist. That partially covered my pants. I was quite sure that I would be stopped at the entrance and was all set to go back. Surprisingly that didn’t happen. I entered the temple, paid my obeisance to Lord Shiva and marveled at the unique wooden architecture, the amazing murals, and roof carvings. Photography is prohibited inside the temple and hence we couldn’t click any pictures.
The Beaches We Visited…
Kozhikode Beach: We first went to Kozhikode beach and it was a time around afternoon when the Sun was right over our heads. It was so hot that we decided to sit at a quaint little café and watch the waves till the sun moved towards west. After several rounds of mocktails, lemon teas, cold coffees and what not, we took a walk towards the far end of the beach where we could see a rocky promenade. The beach was crowded but the rocky area wasn’t. An interesting thing we saw at this beach was the remnants of the ancient port of Calicut.
Beypore Beach: We had planned to watch sunset at this beach. After whiling away a lot of time at Kozhikode Beach, we were really late to reach Beypore Beach. The sun was at it’s last stage of sliding down into the water when we reached there.
We also had plans of going to Kappad, or Kappakadavu beach because of its associated historical significance – it is said that in the year 1498, Vasco da Gama had landed here. We gave it a miss however, considering the hot weather and preferring to spend a little more time at our cute little cottage before bidding goodbye to Kozihikode.