47. To Further South

@Nagercoil, Tamil Nadu, India.

Nagercoil, a former part of the kingdom of Travancore and now the twelfth largest city in Tamil Nadu, located close to the tip of the Indian peninsula, is a place which one has to visit for sure if having a journey to Kanyakumari; as they are so connected and close to each other; this muncipality being the administrative headquarters of Kanyakumari District. Nagercoil has been part of the Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms, this town became more important during the reign of Marthanda Varma, the king of Travancore whose capital was Padmanabhapuram, just about twenty kilometres from Nagercoil; even as the capital was later shifted to Thiruvananthapuram which is about sixty five kilometres from Nagercoil, it was still an important town second only to its capital city. Even as Travancore was like a vassal state to the British, it was still among one the best in terms of administration; with Nagercoil being an important city of the kingdom, it developed further and it was not halted by the interference of the European powers or the transfer of power from the British East India company to the British crown itself; thanks to its location and the importance it gained in the map of Travancore; even after independence, it has continued as itself; even as Kanyakumari became more popular due to its beautiful views of sunset and sunrise along with other attractions.

St. Francis Xavier’s Church, in the Kottar locality of Nagercoil is a beautiful church built in a crucifix form; not that big a structure even with an extension on the frontside, but importance due to its historic significance related to the visit of St. Francis Xavier and his friendly relations with the king of Venad at that time. The church is currently painted yellow with the roof red in colour, along with a tower; but the church bell is located in the front, at the top of the church itself. The influence of European missionaries have been pretty high and it did help Nagercoil in achieving a high rate of literacy, thanks to the foundation of several educational institutions, as it can be seen from most of those schools and colleges in the town which are named after these missionaries. The London Missionary Society (LMS) and the Church Missionary Society (CMS) have also done valuable services to the society along with the Salvation Army; the medical field also improved considerably, with support from the Travancore administration which was always concerned about the welfare of the people even from the first king itself; not to forget the time when the kingdom was just small divisions of land ruled by weak rulers.

Padmanabhapuram Palace and Udayagiri Fort are not to be considered seprate from Nagercoil, as they were all part of the same kingdom; but that would be a story of Kerala History Twist, as mentioned before in on the of the recent posts, not that far behind in time. Getting back to worship, there is also the C.S.I Home Church which is an old structure with its front going up as clock tower and in the end forming a small dome structure as well as a tower. It is a small worship place of peace and serenity and a few more kilometres from there, we can see another C.S.I church, this time on the other side of the road, with beautiful mountains on the background as if the church is part of the natural beauty, forming a situation of paradox between the religion and nature; as people of the earlier ages did worship nature, that wouldn’t come as a surprise; but with the religions being more organized, people have the opportunity to think otherwise and the option to prove it. The name of the church was written in Tamil which made it impossible to identify it other than the abbrevation C.S.I which was the only thing written in English at a place which looked more abandoned than anything else.

There was the Krishnancoil temple located within the suburbs of Nagercoil; to reach there was difficult considering the fact that there was a bridge which allowed only one-way traffic at a time and there was the need to wait for the traffic to one side to finish before getting onto the bridge; there was so much of traffic. The pond adjacent to the temple is a beautiful thing with a mandapam kind of structure in the middle, surrounded by water; there was not much of water around there when I looked, but it was still enough to keep people away from walking all the way to it. There was the same architectural beauty of the temple in that mandapam on the centre of the water body. The temple’s name was written only in Tamil while the name of the book stall on one side of the temple was written in English and Tamil, which makes people wonder which one is more important. The temple was of the usual South Indian style which one see in Tamil Nadu; the surroundings were not that clean but the temple was worth the trouble taken to reach there. There were tourists from outside India who were trying to take the best picture of the temple, but I took more photos for myself in lesser time showing that the more you take, higher is the chance of getting a better photo among the ones you have; this has been proven by me throughout m last few journeys.

Thiruvithamcode Arappally or St. Mary’s Orthodox Church is a church which is located not too far away from Nagercoil; the last of the seven and half churches established by Apostle St. Thomas. It is supposed to be built by St. Thomas and is believed to be the oldest standing church structure in India. It is a small structure made of stone in the front, with extensions towards the back which seemed as if they were new additions. There is also the St. Thomas Heritage Centre which works mostly as a museum which displays the old church related items and other historical details even as it is not really open all the time, may be due to the less number of visitors. There is also a two-storeyed church being built on the way to town from the church and it seemed to be dedicated to Velankanni Matha as the picture was seen; thus it was proven to be Roman Catholic. There was also a church of Salvation Army, with a nursery and primary school attached to it; another church was there and both of the churches of Salvations Army looked almost the same. When passing through Thucklay, there is another church, built in a beautiful manner, even if not that big, it had all the features of a monastery church even if there wasn’t any monk anywhere near it. There was a C.S.I church and a Roman Catholic church dedicated to St. Antony, both on the side of the road, contributing to the church count.

There is another church on the way from Nagercoil to Trivandrum, where there is a water fountain which is believed to have quenched Devasahayam Pillai’s thirst; someone who was executed by the king and is believed to be martyred and the Tamil Nadu branch of the Catholic Bishops’ Council in India has already recommended him for the process of beatification to the Vatican; there is a small new church with a statue of St. Michael on its top, built right next to an even smaller church which seemed to be ready for demolition or may be it is in a bad state and will be renovated. There was nobody outside there to ask any questions about the place though. There was a church on the top of a hill as recongnized from the cross on the top of the building which was visible from a long distance; but the taxi driver knew not much about it, or may be I just understood him wrong as he spoke too much Tamil. There was Christ the King Church which was white from the frontside and was dark on all the other sides as if it was not just one structure; adding to the number of white coloured churches I saw in Tamil Nadu. Nagaraja Temple was a significant part of the trip and just as the name suggests, there are many images of snakes on the structure and for a change, it didn’t look like the other temples of the area from the entrance itself; it had more Keralite character; may be it was more of the old Travancore style; as the temple gives its name to the city, its significance is clearly visible.

Diving out —>

TeNy