Saturday, January 28, 2012

where the Bay of Bengal meets the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea ...

Although this was not an official stop on our trip, Al made some changes to our itinerary a couple weeks back to allow us to experience the southern most tip of India. And we are very happy he did! Cape Comorin, or as it is called in India, Kanyakumari, is the spot at the tip of India where the Bay of Bengal meets the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. This spot has significant spiritual significance for Hindus and is dedicated to the goddess Devi Kenya.

After we got settled in our hotel overlooking the meeting of the three bodies of water, we joined the masses of Hindu pilgrims to visit a rocky Island a short ferry ride away which is dedicated to Swami Vivekanada. He apparently meditated on that spot in 1892 before becoming one of India’s most important religious crusaders.

The ferry ride of course was a sight to be seen. We lined up first inside a crowded hallway and then outside in the mid day sun. As we approached the rust bucket they call a ferry boat in these parts, we saw a pile of life jackets on the pavement and a sign requesting us to wear one at all times while on the boat. Any semblance of order in the line up, turned to complete chaos when there was a mad rush for the life jackets and a dash to the boat even before it was secured and ready for boarding. The added bonus was that most people were holding their life jackets with all belts dragging on the ground under everyone’s feet. Much tripping and yanking of jackets until we were all snuggly (like sardines to be exact) in our seats for the 10-minute journey.

As in all holy Hindu sites there is the added pleasantry of leaving your shoes behind before entering the temple, shrine or tomb. We are always reluctant to do so, knowing that there is no doubt we will be stepping on spit at the very least, and probably other bodily fluids at worst. But such is the custom and we must conform!

We visited the shrine and enjoyed the magnificent views before repeating the ferry experience to get us back to the mainland where even larger groups of pilgrims were visiting the temple or shopping in the many seashell and trinket stalls along the beach. After watching the sun set, Marc and I stopped at a street food stall and enjoyed a delicious onion dosa and deep fried banana with a local crowd before returning to our hotel.

At about 5:00 am next morning, the loudspeakers just outside the local Catholic Church started blaring a form of Indian sounding hymns (ending with amen so we knew it was church music!). We all found it strange that in a town holy to the Hindus and filled daily with multitudes of Hindu pilgrims, we were all forced to listen to the prayers of another religion — for about three hours. The positive side of it was that we were all up for sunrise, which was stunning. Everyone was either enjoying it from their balconies, the rooftops of their hotels or all along the shore.

We decided to walk back to the shore and share the sunrise with the pilgrims. Everyone had his or her phone in the air capturing the sun rising over the small Island shrine to Swami Vivekanada. A loud group sigh could be heard as the sun became whole and bright red just beside the shrine. It was a moment to remember.

I stopped just then to pinch myself. A reminder that I was standing on the Southern most tip of India, watching the sunrise. It is easy to forget, when you are in another town every other day or even every day, and you are so inundated with new sights, flavours and experiences, exactly where you are and how far you have come.

We have been traversing the highways and byways of India for eight weeks more or less. From this point on, we will be moving northward each day. There are two short legs of the organized India trip left and we have just booked our flight out of India to Singapore on February 24th. By that time we will officially have been “homeless” and “unplugged” for five months.

Although it has been a lifetime of experiences so far, it seems like just yesterday I was worrying about what to pack! Now I am worrying about what to get rid of (as I knew would happen!)

We waved goodbye to Cape Comorin shortly after sunrise, heading for Maduri and Trichy where Myan like temples covered in elaborate and colourful (Disney like) carvings awaited us.

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