Fish from the temple wall at Sravanbelgola

The Honeymoon Trail

Part 1: Kannya Kumari

In Kerala we found ourselves doing the same things as (rich) Indian honeymooners. In fact, although we travelled around quite a bit, we saw several couples repeatedly and met others who were doing all the things we were but in a different order.

Our honeymoon trail began with a trip down to Kannya Kumari or Cape Comorin, the land's end of India, where three oceans meet. From the coast we took a short boat ride out to a tiny island on which so many shrines have been built that we could barely see the rock. The largest of these is very modern looking and dedicated to the idea of religious tolerance. It is decorated with symbols of the religions of India and is very simple and clean inside. Underneath this is a small, dark, steamy basement room lit with a peculiar green light in which people go to meditate before they bathe in the confluence of the three oceans. From the seaward side of the island we could just about pick out the currents of water moving in different directions. From the opposite side of the island we could see the coast line which is completely built up. During our visit they were adding to the urban sprawl effect by building a massive new statue of an ancient Indian poet. My favourite shrine was the one which held the footstep of the goddess Parvati. This is a raised natural formation in the rock that really does look exactly like the negative impression of a footprint. According to legend this imprint was made by Parvati as she meditated for several hundred years while waiting for Siva to come down from the Himalayas to claim her in marriage. To succeed Siva had to make the journey from the northernmost part of India to the southernmost tip between sundown and sunrise, a difficult task.

The land's end was most fascinating in that it highlighted some of the cultural differences between Indians and Westerners. It's true that symbolically the outermost points of a country or the meeting of three waterways can be a centre of interest. What seemed stranger to our eyes is that many Indians believe Kannya Kumari to be beautiful and romantic, even one of the most beautiful places in the whole of India, whereas to us it was mostly concrete. Not only was there hardly anything natural left there, but the idea of experiencing it from a dark basement room was foreign to us and I couldn't help feeling that if I was going to meditate at all I would be doing it in the fresh air in front of the sea. It's as if the Indians had a conceptual or spiritual experience of the place, whereas I was looking for a visual or physical one.

The Honeymoon Trail continued...

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