Finally it was Friday again – which meant a day free of growling yoga classes, Satsung, meditation and Pancha Karma treatments.
The ashram had organized a trip to Kanyakumani, a town 2 hours south of the ashram, which is said to be the southern most tip of India where 3 oceans meet. So to say that I was joyful to be out of the ashram for a day is the understatement of the week. Getting onto the bus at 6AM to go see and do something different was such a delight. Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate Ashram life. Quite the contrary! However being up at 5AM every day to chant songs about deities and then sit still for an hour on the cold concrete gets old quickly.
Our first stop was at the Padmanabhapuram Palace, located in a small village called Padmanabhapuram 65 kilometers from Trivandrum. This was the summer palace built by an old king of Kerala in typical ancient Kerala architecture.
The palace walls are adorned with ancient murals that date back to the 17th century. The ancient relics include a royal seat made out of elephant tusk with Chinese engravings, an ornate musical bow in mahogany, colored windows, beautifully painted and carved rosewood ceilings, secret lookout points for the palaces royal woman and a clock tower which houses a 300 year old clock, which still keeps time. It made me want to be a princess back in the day and I kept imagining running through the old halls and secret pathways within the palace grounds.
From there we headed to the Suchindram Temple. The temple from the outside is a wonder and I’ll let the photos speak for it, however the inner sanctuaries of the temple were a lot to take in. Essentially the temple has a bustling market happening inside, with every person trying to sell you an offering to offer to the deities/ statues inside. It made me feel incredibly uncomfortable and I was happy to be out of the ‘sacred’ place. I am learning aspects of Hinduism that I had not comprehended and as open as I am trying to be, the idea of idealizing a deity doesn’t sit well with me.
Our final stop was Kanyakumari where we caught a ferry out to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial on the rock called Sri Padhaparai. The ferry in itself was an adventure. We queued up to board the boat, and just before we were about to board, we were instructed to pick up an emergency lifejacket from a massive pile on the dock (‘just in case the boat sank’).
The memorial was a temple built in honour Swami Vivekananda who is said to have meditated on this rock for three days in the early 70s. It was said that he gained enlightenment after the 3 days and was sent home with a clear message that he was meant to move to Chicago to go spread the word. I had a big laugh at how similar this was sounding to another religion I know, and I seriously doubted the validity of his message – Chicago is such an arbitrary place to be sent to. The temple was pretty impressive to behold, especially due to the difficulty encountered building it on solid rock.
The other rocky islets was home to the 133 feet (41 m) tall statue of Tamil saint/poet Thiruvalluvar, one of the biggest statues in Asia, completed in 2000. It really is a sight to be seen.
All in all, it was a wonderful day out and about.
Moment of the day: one of my new Asian friends from Hong Kong was asked not to take photos in the temple. “No problem, I take photo with my mind” and with that she squinted her eyes and said “click” – you have to love Asian tourists!!