Kanyakumari in the province of Tamil Nadu is the southmost tip of India and the meeting point of the three bodies of water that surround the subcontinent – the Arabian Sea to the west, the Indian Ocean to the south, and the Bay of Bengal to the east.
This important location is home to a variety of attractions that are irresistible to masses of tourists and pilgrims.
There is the Hindu temple to Devi Kanyakumari, a virginal goddess who singlehandedly defeated the demons and secured freedom for the world. No small feat.
There is a giant statue to the Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar who two thousand years ago wrote a long poem with instructions on every aspect of life that is apparently still fundamentally relevant.
There is a memorial housing some of Ghandi’s ashes that can only be called pink Smurfland on mild acid.
And let’s not forget the museum and separate memorial housing the ashes of Swami Vivekananda, a turn of the last century social activist whose foundation runs a bunch of idealistic and practical institutions in the service of Mother India, from an ashram to an agricultural school.
All around this is a tourist and pilgrim circus of hotels and guesthouses for every budget, restaurants, sari shops, elaborate and pointless decorations made from shells, roasted nut and cotton candy sellers, fake pearl strands, and garishly colourful stands devoted to plastic combs. Even horsy rides, enjoyed equally by adults and by children.
All the pilgrims and most of the tourists are Indian, which is kind of neat to see, although it means generally more garbage everywhere. I don’t know why people think it’s ok to get ice cream in boxes for the whole family, bring them back to the bench on the beach where mom dad daughter two sons grandma and auntee are sitting, remove ice-cream, throw boxes and wrappers at their feet and then sit there like that for an hour with the garbage spoiling the view of the sea. Mysterious!
Marc and I dipped our toes in the water but didn’t dare swim, since the land all around is encrusted with hotels and slum like living conditions for the workers of those hotels, and the water is frothed by frequent ferries and fishing boats. The nearby ashram was all booked up, so we spent four days soaking up the craziness while waiting for the next available train seat up the east coast.
More pictures from Kanyakumari can be seen in the Tip of India photo set on Flickr.