On arrival at Kanyakumari we took full rest for the day. After the hectic journey, this was overdue. Our plan is to spend a few days here. So, we could afford the luxury of visiting sights at leisure. Next morning we pay our visit to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial where there stands a temple and beside it there is Dhyana Mandapam with provision for joining meditation session by anyone willing to do so. Surrounded by seas it is a unique temple of exquisite craftsmanship. At a stone-throwing distance, the imposing rock statue of Thiruvalluvar, an ancient Tamil poet and philosopher who lived sometime between the 2nd century BC and 5th century AD towers over the watery expanses on a small island.
The two islands are southernmost landmark of the Indian subcontinent where, remarkably, two seas -the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea and an ocean -the Indian Ocean meet pronouncing their different identities through colours of waters. This is exciting enough for young people like my sons and daughters. Even some elderly people are found awe-struck by the sight of this amazing confluence.
However, to visit the temple one has to be immeasurably patient, particularly during a summer vacation. Never in my life have I stood in a queue so long. In Karnataka too we had to wait for hours in a queue to enter a temple but this was unimaginable. At the time of my first visit here in 1996, there was no such heavy rush and I could see everything at ease but this time, there was pushing and shoving from behind so that one could not take one's time to see things. This time I could not even see the impression of a foot of the Kanyakumari deity on the rock inside the temple. I was not sad at all. The first impression is the best impression.
The soaring temperature of the day caused further inconvenience for visitors. On alighting from the launch that ferries visitors from the main land to the island of the rock memorial, visitors have to deposit their shoes at the basement where there is a sound arrangement for taking care of those. But the problem now is the sunshine which turns the walkway on rock slabs like a frying pan. Those who have not taken off their socks find it somewhat tolerable but who have to negotiate the rocky precinct barefooted are unlikely to enjoy the walk or climb.
Yes the selfie-hunters now invade any nook and cranny, particularly where it is most daring. Here taking snaps inside the temple is restricted and even on the edge, no one is allowed the daredevilry of selfie. Outside of the temple, however, it is a sight to behold. In the distant horizon the limit of the eyesight melts into watery obscurity. But it is the three colours of waters the two seas and an ocean maintain at some distance that really interest most visitors there.
Not many visitors, though, care for the hallowed rock on the island. It is exactly here that Swami Vivekananda, the Chicago-famed Bangalee sanyasi, received his enlightenment. He travelled across the length and breadth of the undivided India before setting his foot on this rock. Once he spotted the southernmost tip of India, he exulted to the point that he swam the shark-infested sea to reach the rock. On reaching there he immersed himself in deep meditation before receiving enlightenment. To consecrate this spiritual event, the temple was built. There is, however, another temple of Goddess Durga nearby on the mainland. Kanyakumari is but another name of Durga.
Sure enough, the skyline of Kanyakumari's sea front has other structures too. There is a huge cross of a church that can be seen from a long distance. But the unique locations of the rock memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue are incomparable. Like the Statue of Liberty, they also have become the symbol of the city hosting them. When the sun starts setting in the western seas, the change of colours turns the temple into an unearthly abode where some spirit creates an invisible bridge between land and water well beyond the boundary of human comprehension.