Journey Two / Chapter 16

Tamil Nadu

October 2016

The Southernmost of all Indian states - exotic and historical state of the Tamils - that's Tamil Nadu. We continued our travels on Konkan Railway to the southermost tip of India - Kanyakumari and Cape Comorin, and then ended Indian journey in Madurai, known as Athens of the East.

Tamil Nadu is the homeland of one of humanity’s living classical civilisations, stretching back uninterrupted for two millennia and very much alive today in the Tamils' language, dance, poetry and Hindu religion. But this deep-South state, with its age-old trading vocation, is as dynamic as it is immersed in tradition.

We came to this ancient state while following the last part of the Konkan Railway, which starts in Mumbai and follows western coast of India all the way to its southernmost tip - the city of Kanyakumari. While extremely popular tourist destination for locals from all of south India, it is very rare to see tourists from rest of the world. People stand for hours in line for a ferry that takes them to 2 local attractions - 2 small islands just off the coast that host statue of arguably the greatest Tamil poet, philosopher, and saint Thiruvalluvar; and Vivekananda Rock, an impressive memorial. Just few kilometres east, after passing long forgotten playgrounds and promenades, we finally reach Cape Comorin - the actual southernmost point of peninsular India.

After our last beautiful scenic train ride we reach our ultimate destination in India - the city of Madurai, known as Athens of the East. As one of the oldest cities in India, promoting dravidian vedic culture for millenia it is rightfully known so. But among all the other temples and palaces, one stands out - the Shree Meenakshi Sudareshwara Temple. The colourful abode of the triple-breasted warrior goddess Meenakshi (‘fish-eyed’ – an epithet for perfect eyes in classical Tamil poetry) is generally considered to be the peak of South Indian temple architecture, as vital to this region's aesthetic heritage as the Taj Mahal to North India.