Last week myself and 2 of my friends had this really interesting sequence of visits to a few amazing locations in the southern part of Kerala. Arranged by Travel Cart, our tour operators, these visits were spread evenly across 2 days. No rush, no confusion and exceptionally resourceful.
We visited the Padmanabhapuram Palace early in the morning on day one. Built around 1601, this palace still remains as one of the oldest, largest and well preserved palaces in India. We kept admiring the ancient building technology, the craftsmanship and the long lost material science incorporated here. We got to observe the awe-inspiring wood work, the engineering, stone work, carvings, mural paintings and the vast expanse and size of its numerous rooms. When you study this palace closely, something becomes clear. Inspite of the fact that the royalty processed immense might, wealth and resources there are obvious indicators to suggest that they lived an alert life; always fearing an eminent attack from enemies. The best revealing example is the fact that the corridors are all made small, so that enemies were not able to advance freely in great numbers. The staircases are too small and steep that only one person can barely pass through at a time. This retards the enemies’s approach giving the King and his family enough time to escape through a secret underground passage starting from the centre of this palace.
Lunch time. We had a sumptuous lunch and a few moments of rest at Anatya Resort.
Our next stop was Sucheendram Temple. This temple has a few remarkable sculptures and art. We were all impressed by the 4 large pillars each formed by a group of smaller pillars and the other 2 has 25 each. We were told that each of these smaller pillars produce a different musical note when tapped. Close access is denied for fear of vandalism. There is also a gigantic figure of Hanuman that is 18 feet high. Throughout the temple we could see and appreciate pillars with intricate carvings and elaborate sculptures.
We then travelled 11 kms. to Cape Comorin. While standing there and enjoying the ocean, it occurred to us that we were at the very southern tip of India facing the stunning reality that we were standing at the rare convergence of the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. From this aspect Cape Comorin is unique among the beaches on our planet. When you travel from the northern part of India and finally reach this sandy beach, it becomes an eye opener to Kerala’s rich and diverse landscape. The seemingly never ending Western Ghats, the tropical rain forests, resplendent rice paddies, the majestic rivers and back waters all seem to receive a fitting finish line here at this spectacular cape at the very tip of Southern India.
The Vivekanandha Rock Memorial is located here at Cape Comorin. It is dedicated to Swami Vivekanandha, one of the greatest spiritual philosophers of India. A large vessel ferries visitors to this rock island. We toured through the 2 main structures; the Sripada Mandapam and the Vivekanandha Mandapam. We were impressed by the meditation hall known as Dhyana Mandapam. This is an excellent place to relax and meditate.There is also the large statue of Swami Vivekanandha here. This rock is also the ultimate spot to view the sunrise and sunset, where the 3 seas merge. We took some great photographs here and also on the shores with numerous shopping outlets and seafood restaurants. This entire place is well lit at night.
Time to call it a splendid well spent day! We returned back to Anatya Resort for dinner and rest.
We woke up to a pleasant morning at Anatya. The air felt fresh and cool. All the 3 of us are into doing light yoga. After finishing some yoga poses, we had an excellent breakfast. The first visit of the second day was to Chithral Jain Temple. This ancient temple built in 9th century AD on top of a hill located in a small village, about 55 km. from Cape Comorin. We reached the foothills and it was such a pleasant cool morning. The entire place is well kept, and we started our light trek through wide steps cut out of rocks. There are places to rest if you get tired. Large trees can be seen on both sides to provide shade. When we reached the top of the hill, we could see and feel the enchanting beauty of Chithral.
Do take your camera. From the top you can get a panoramic view of the valley below with rivers, lakes, fields, and a horizon line afar adorned with a train of mist covered Western Ghats. There is a cave containing rock-cut sculptures of Thirthankaras and attendant deities carved inside and outside.
That was such a pleasant experience to start the day.
Next stop is Thiruvattar temple. This temple is older than the Padmanabha Swamy Temple at Thiruvanandhapuram. Padmanabha Swamy Temple is an exact replica of Thiruvattar Temple. The style and architecture are also quite similar. The idol of Sri. Perumal can be seen here in a reclining side posture. It is 22 feet in length, the largest among all the 108 Vishnu temples where Sri.Perumal is positioned in such posture. Besides, we could also see beautiful sculptors in stone and wood. This was truly an educational experience.
Time for lunch. We returned back to Anatya for a great lunch experience and a very brief rest.
Soon we were on our way to the Weaver’s Village. A community of weavers that produce world class hand loom materials. After some waiting we were able to meet master craftsman Padmanabhan Gopinathan who has been the architect of this entire communal effort. He was kind enough to share with us his life story with subdued pride and humility.
We were able to understand that through relentless hard work and a zest for learning, Gopinathan converted his early life’s challenges into productive opportunities.
From a 3 looms operation on a small piece of land and a shack built on that land, he raised his children and also carried out his weaving business. Eventually in 80 cents of land he installed 300 looms in a span of 6 years. Having grown with 8 sisters, he realised early in life that women’s empowerment would bring prosperity to their families and the entire community as a whole. With his help and support the ‘Mahila Samajams’(women’s self help groups) grew in popularity and expanded to more than 27 units in his village.
We were pleasantly surprised to learn that at one time he employed over 5000 women. It was obvious that he created an avenue for thousands of women to maintain their self esteem as well as the financial stability to support their families.
We could also learn that Gopinathan has been leading a selfless life both personally and professionally. He devoted the bulk of his time for the well being of the weaving community of his village for the past 5 decades. The hallmark of his campaign is empowering thousands of women through handloom weaving.
Towards the end of our meeting, he went inside and returned with a pile of papers. Among the numerous paper clippings about the village which he was kind enough to share with us, there appeared an extremely valuable document. In 2007, Gopinathan received ‘Padma Sree’ the revered all India award in recognition of his relentless dedication to the spread of handloom weaving. His products are held high in esteem all over India, and the quality is never compromised.
We had a complete tour of the village. We highly recommend a visit to weaver’s village.
That marked the end of 2 days of exciting and educational visits to some precious places. We really have to thank Travel Cart for making those two days both thrilling and effortless.
We enjoyed the sequence as well as the content. We highly recommend this tour package.