I am person with a lot of preconceived notions. For all that traveling that I do, you’d expect I would have an open mind. But the truth is I have my opinions on everything and stick to it until the truth hits me in the face. Why I am saying this is because I always thought Tamilnadu is not a state worth exploring, just as with Rajasthan. Of course both the states have been an eye-opener and maybe all that traveling has opened up my mind after all. I swear I won’t dismiss any place without giving it a chance.
That being said, I was on a weeklong trip exploring the southern tip of India last week. I went with family which meant no crazy treks or something like that but plain old summer vacation kind of travel. I wasn’t too excited given my notions about Tamilnadu. The only thing enticing was the fact that I would’ve have traveled tip to tip if I set foot at Kanyakumari as well. Did no research and landed late evening in Trivandrum on Monday. The airport was just beside the sea and the warm sea breeze and the humidity hit me in the face. It felt good. Having spent the better years of my life along the seaside, the familiar weather was welcoming.
The crazy trip had started as we know it. I waited and waited and waited at the bus stand to find a bus to take me to Kanyakumari. It was already 9 PM and there was no sign of the only bus that goes from Ernakulam to Kanyakumari via Trivandrum. I found some comfort in knowing there were few Telugu families also waiting for the same bus. You can never be too far from them which is a good thing in most cases. A sleepy town that goes by the name Kanyakumari just by the seaside welcomed me at midnight.
The morning next day was a celestial affair. People were waiting in hordes to see the sun rise from the ocean. To me, more than the sunrise, the gathering was more interesting. I love it when people come together in unison and bow in front of the mighty force called nature. They all worshipped, chanted mantras, took dips in the sea water calling it holy and took a thousand photographs as the sun rose. I was doing the last one, took a thousand photographs and those were few of the best ones that I have shot so far.
After sunrise, the agenda was quite sketchy and I was so happy with the photos I took in the morning I just didn’t care where I landed next. Incidentally the next location was the spectacular Padmanabhapuram palace. At first glance, the palace looked more like a traditional house than a huge palace. Little did I know I was in for such a surprise. The palace was neither small nor nondescript. The traditional Kerala architecture was simple yet functional. Later that day was a date with rains. Got drenched to the core and loved it. Just that morning I was facing the heat of summer and beaches and from afternoon till night it was monsoon showers, clouds and mist. Strange are the days of travel.
Next stop was Madurai, temple town and not really my cup of tea. But, yet again I was in for another surprise. The Meenakshi Amman Temple was nothing short of a spectacle and the Thirumalai Nayakar Palace was a shining example of Italian architecture with the local flavor. The many pillars of Meenakshi temple and the huge hallways of the palace, both a photographer’s delight left me wanting for more.
But we had moved on to Kodaikanal by now. I had already planned what I wanted my family to see. Not the crowded hill station but pretty hamlets and isolated lakes in the vicinity of the mountains and forests around. That is what we did, visited two spectacular lakes and called it a day.
After temples, beaches and Mountains I was only too glad to be returning to the beaches, at Rameswaram and Dhanushkodi. I got scolded by the tour operator for making him wait for an hour, got scolded some more by my dad for making them all wait but then when we took off in the jeep to visit Dhanushkodi, all was forgotten by all and I was left spellbound. I thought I had evolved as a photographer. Believing in quality than quantity, not going trigger crazy was something I managed to achieve over the past year. But all that learning went to dust the moment we entered the realms of the ghost town. I went clicking here, there and everywhere. Words wouldn’t do justice and nor would photos.
After visiting Kutch earlier this year and Danushkodi now, I have developed a newfound love towards saline eco systems. Serene Bay of Bengal on one side and the wild Indian Ocean on the other, we were traveling on the strip of land between these two. We went till the far corner from where you can spot the erstwhile Ramasetu, the bridge built by Rama to Sri Lanka. I will have to dedicate an entire post to the awesomeness called Dhanushkodi, for now let’s return back to Rameswaram.
The beach here is shallow for quite a long distance from the shore. I saw local fishermen trying to catch fish in a different way. Then we headed to the temple just before it opened. Found the corridors almost empty and as expected I went trigger happy again. Had a spectacular darshan of the lord thus ending the week long exploration.
There could not have been a better way to sum up this trip than these words - Every ending is just a new beginning. I never thought Tamilnadu would interest me so much. The culture and history around Madurai was immense, the mountains and forests around Kodaikanal were pristine, the temples and their architecture were marvelous, the beaches and the ecology were remarkable. As I traveled I found out there was much more to be seen, like the Danish fort of Tranquebar or the erstwhile bungalows of Chettiars or the infinite lakes around Kodaikanal or the innumerable waterfalls around Courtallam or the history of graves around Vallinokkam or the many other places I haven’t heard of yet. As I crossed the Pamban Bridge one last time, I promised to myself, I will return back to this Enchanting Land!
I do keep my promises, I swear!