Saturday, February 12, 2011

Trip to the Cape Comorin - now known as Kanyakumari

Padmanabhapuram Palace is a little bit of Kerala well into Tamil Nadu but as it is of such historical significance to Kerala as the site of the ancient capital of Travancore Tamil Nadu allow Kerala Tourism to oversee the site. It is believed to be the largest wooden palace complex in Asia and is thought to have been built around the turn of the sixteenth century right in the centre of a Fort whose walls we could still see in the village surrounding the palace. High off the ground there were steps up the buildings and steep nearly ladder like stairs to the first floor. Here we saw the council chamber or Mantrasala. There were fabulous carvings everywhere lots of lotus blossoms, horses, snakes, dragons and so on reminded us a little of Indonesian Bali carvings, although the guide referred to Chinese influence. The architecture had Thai reminders for me with the high roofs and pointed gable windows.

Padmanabhapuran Palace Council Chamber

We saw ladies bedchambers and the Queen Mothers bed. Royal ladies could not go out in public and there were screened balconies that enabled them to watch life go by, a favourite spectacle horse racing was enjoyed using this vantage point and there was another specially designed viewing area so they could watch the professional dancers perform without being seen themselves.

We could have stayed a lot longer but our target today was the very southern tip of India and we still had several kilometers to go. Our lunch stop was by way of total contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Indian Coffee Shop in Trivandrum the day before. This time we stopped at a glitzy modern hotel. Lots of glass, chrome and marble floors, nearly deserted but with a lovely cool restaurant overlooking a very inviting empty blue swimming pool. No blooming swimmers with me though!

We took a ferry to two 'islands' right at the tip of Southern India where three seas meet, the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal. We piled on what looked like a leaky rust bucket, but we were all given life jackets, so that was alright! The first island has a memorial to Swami Vivekananda - he meditated on this rock before spreading his message abroad. The memorial reflects architectural styles drawn from all over India. There is seperate low meditation chamber focused on a glowing Om symbol which I have to say we didn't spot but we did see protestation in front of a piece of rock in the shape of a foot surrounded by flowers and offerings.

The next little island has a huge statue which some describe as India's Statue of Liberty. This is actually in memory of Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar and it took more than 5,000 sculptors to build in 2000. The 133 chapters of his work Thirukural are inscribed around the walls both in Hindu and English. The height of the memorial is exactly 133 feet, reflecting the number of chapters.

Final stop is back on the tip of the mainland to the Gandhi memorial which encloses the spot where Mahatma Gandhi's ashes rested before being scattered. It is meant to resemble an Orissan Temple with Hindu, Christian and Muslim twists. It is bright pink. It is designed so that the sun strikes the very spot on his birthday in October. We did have to wonder what the man himself would have thought about it all! But it was very striking and stood out on the waterfront.

We drive home knackeroonied. A quick pit stop for a welcome cuppa char then the rains came, monsoon like rains which luckily had stopped by the time we got home. We had forgotten our torch and there were no lights on anywhere - the lecky was down again. I fumbled in the kitchen for beer and candles while Keith went to find the torch. Another great day.


Philippa said...

The Orissan Temple must have been the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty's castle at Disneyland!!! lol x

axx said...

Ooooh hadn't thought of that!