Enjoy some intense silence, says Soma Basu
When reading up on Kumarakoil, I am tempted to visit this ancient Murugan temple on a green hillock surrounded by green fields and a lake. And I set out. I am on the mountain road that winds its way through small villages, I turn right 15 km down on Nagercoil-Thiruvananthapuram main road, and in less than 30 minutes from Nagercoil, I reach the Kumarakoil village. A narrow, dusty, potholed road — dotted with paddy fields though — brings me right in front of the temple. A distressing truth unfolds. No green hill to climb. Just a cluster of houses fill up the area.
Garbage is dumped on one side of the temple and on the other, a few small shops sell puja articles. I think of cancelling the RLT and retreating.
But having come all the way, I trudge ahead. I look up at the 250 feet high hillock and the temple appears a speck of white.
The heat burns me, and the 80-odd steps leave me breathless.
Finally, the green cover
Finally, at the temple entrance I am elated. I look below and see paddy fields, coconut groves and banana plantations... undulating green cover. The silence inside the temple is intense. The cool interiors refresh me. A grey-haired priest, guessing I am a first-timer and an unlikely pilgrim, offers help.
He enlightens me about the temple’s history and mythology. Near Padmanabhapuram, the erstwhile capital of Travancore, this temple is on the slopes of the legendary Veli Malai (legend has it that Lord Murugan married Valli here). The place is also known as Manamalai or Kalyanamala. The Travancore kings had set aside large areas of land and paddy fields to support the temple.
By the temple are Kanjipuras, where ascetics and pilgrims were once served food. These structures are dilapidated now, but on special days, pilgrims are still offered prasadam.
Gauging my disinterest in the temple history, the priest arranges for a boat ride in the lake, which is the temple tank. A happy finale I thought as I hopped into the small boat.
Somewhere in the middle of the tank, few people are taking a dip.
As I leave them behind to the twittering of the birds perched on tree tops on the other end of the lake, I realise, it is Kumarakoil’s history and surroundings that makes it an interesting place. How to get there: Kumarakoil is 34 km from Kanyakumari, 15 km North West of Nagercoil and three km from Thuckalay. It is also close to the old Padmanabhapuram palace.