Monday, 17 October 2016

A Journey to the Southernmost parts of Tamil Nadu – Nagercoil, Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi

13th October 2016 0330 HRS: A date marked as very important & “must attend meeting” in my organiser. But, I had a shock when I found an empty KSRTC bus stand @ 0330 hrs - Thampanoor, Thiruvanathapuram (Trivandrum). I was told by a passer-by that I might be lucky enough to catch the train at 0345 hrs. My heart was racing – I dashed to the ticket counter located at the railway station opposite KSRTC bus stand. I was promptly informed that the Trivandrum-Nagercoil train had just chugged out of the platform no.1. I cursed myself and the general public for allowing the harthal/bandh to cripple Kerala daya after day!
My Father told me not to worry. We discussed and agreed to take turns to drive up to Kaliyakkavilai. Kaliyakkavilai is a panchayat town in Kanniyakumari district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, close to the Tamil Nadu-Kerala border. It lies on Coimbatore-Kochi-Trivandrum-Kanyakumari National highway 47.   

We started our journey by 0415 hrs and I took the wheel and we reached Kaliyakkavilai by 0500hrs
0500 HRS: I sighed relief when I saw the Nagercoil bus at Kaliyakkavilai SETC stand. I might have thanked the people, drivers and conductors behind SETC, a million times for keeping the service active. I was happy as the driver pressed the ignition key and brought the bus to life.
Padmanabhapuram Palace
We soon crossed Thakkalai. I remembered the earlier trip to Thakkalai and the famous Padmanabhapuram Palace. I had visited this place along with my brother when my aunt was working in the Kerala Archaeology Department.

0600 HRS: The route to Nagercoil is dotted by mountains and coconut farms. I reached Nagercoil by 0600 hrs and started looking out for the famous “end to end bus” to Tirunelveli. I located the bus and boarded the same without waiting for tea/snacks as I was in a hurry to reach the destination.

I was greeted by the sight of several hundreds of Wind mills while crossing Muppandal
Muppandal is a small village on the southern tip of India in Kanyakumari District, in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is located in a hilly region where wind from the Arabian Sea gusts through mountain passes. There is a legend that Avvaiyar had arranged for a marriage, to which she invited the sovereigns of the Chera, Chola and Pandya kingdoms. The kings erected pandals (mandapams) in the respective places allotted to them and this eventually led to the place being called Muppandal (meaning 'three pandals').

This area is located in between Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari Highway (NH), You can also catch a glimpse of Jayamatha Engineering College in Muppandal. The Muppandal village has benefited from the building of the nearby Muppandal wind farm, a renewable energy source, which supplies the villagers with electricity for work. This is the Second largest onshore wind farm in the world. The village had been selected as the showcase for India's $2 billion clean energy program which provides foreign companies with tax breaks for establishing fields of wind turbines in the area. Huge power-producing windmills tower over the palm trees. The village has attracted wind energy producing companies creating thousands of new jobs, dramatically raising the incomes of villagers.  The suitability of Muppandal as a site for wind farms stems from its geographical location as it has access to the seasonal monsoon winds.
Wind energy generation capacity of Muppandal and surrounding areas is estimated to be around 1500 MW, which is about 20% of that of India.

0730HRS @ Tirunelveli – I was woken up as the bus entered Tirunelveli. I could see the sweet stalls decked with the famous Tirunelveli Halwa. Before entering the next bus for Thoothukudi, I vowed to purchase a small packet of this world famous halwa on my way back.  
About Tirunelveli Halwa : Ask any person who hails from Tirunelveli about the must visit spots and iruttu kadai will definitely be mentioned. The shop is named iruttu kadai because of the lack of lighting. The shop is owned by Rajputs who migrated from to Tamil Nadu 5 generations back.  The first owner cooked the sweet by himself during the day and sold it in the evening. It was poorly lit those days and hence the name “dark shop”. Well this is the place that sells one of the best halwa in the world. Packets of halwa purchased from here by locals are shipped to various parts of the world.  
About Tirunelveli: Tirunelveli also known as Nellai is a city in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu. It is the administrative headquarters of the Tirunelveli District. It is the sixth-largest municipal corporation in the state (after Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruchirappalli, Salem). Tirunelveli is located 700 km (430 mi) southwest of the state capital, Chennai and 58 km (36 mi) away from Thoothukudi.
Tirunelveli - has lush green farms, largest wind farms. Also the famous end to end bus 

The city is located on the west bank of the Thamirabarani River; its twin city Palayamkottai is on the east bank. Tirunelveli is believed to be an ancient settlement; it has been ruled at different times by the Early Pandyas, the Medieval and Later Cholas, the later Pandyas, the Malabar and Tirunelveli sultanates, the Vijayanagar Empire, the Madurai Nayaks, Chanda Sahib, the Carnatic kingdom and the British. The Polygar War, involving Palaiyakkarars led by Veerapandiya Kattabomman and forces of the British East India Company, was waged on the city's outskirts from 1797 to 1801. Tirunelveli has a number of historical monuments, the Nellaiappar Temple being the most prominent.
Industries in Tirunelveli include administrative services, agricultural trading, tourism, banking, agricultural machinery and educational services. The city is an educational hub of southern Tamil Nadu, with institutions such as Tirunelveli Medical College, the Veterinary College and Research Institution, Tirunelveli Law College and the Government College of Engineering.

0830 HRS – I started from Tiunelveli by a bus and reached Thoothukudi before 10:00 hrs: This was my 3rd trip to Thoothukudi. Thoothikudi has a harsh climate.  

About Tuticorin, also known as Thoothukudi : Thoothukudi is a port city and a Municipal Corporation and an industrial city in Thoothukudi district of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. The city lies in the Coromandel Coast off Bay of Bengal. Thoothukudi is the headquarters of Thoothukudi District. It is located about 590 kilometres (367 miles) south of Chennai and 190 kilometres (118 miles) northeast of Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum). According to Confederation of Indian Industry, Thoothukudi has the second highest Human Development Index in Tamil Nadu next to Chennai.

Tuticorin City serves as the headquarters of Tamilnad Mercantile Bank Limited. Major educational establishments in the city include Thoothukudi Government Medical College, Fisheries College and Research Institute, Marine Training Academy, V.O.C. Arts & Science College, Government Polytechnic College, and Anna University Tuticorin Campus.
Tuticorin Port is one of the Fastest growing Major Ports in India. Tuticorin is an "Emerging Energy and Industrial hub of South India". Thoothukudi is known as "Pearl City" due to the pearl fishing carried out in the town. It is a commercial seaport which serves the inland cities of Southern India and is one of the sea gateways of Tamil Nadu. It is also one of the major seaports in India with a history dating back to the 6th century AD. The city is administered by a Thoothukudi Municipal Corporation covering an area of 90.663 km2 (35.005 sq mi) and had a population of 237,830 in 2011. The urban agglomeration had a population of 410,760 as of 2011.[2]
Tuticorin Thermal Power Station & Tuticorin Port

The majority of the people of the city are employed in salt pans, sea-borne trading, fishing, and tourism. A major attraction in the city is Our Lady of Snows Basilica, a 16th-century site. The 21 islands between Thoothukudi and Rameswaram shores in the Gulf of Mannar are noted as the first Marine Biosphere Reserve of India, and have around 36,000 species of flora and fauna. This protected area is called Gulf of Mannar Marine National Park. Our Lady of Snows Basilica festival is celebrated annually during August. This and the Shiva temple festivals, e.g., Adi Amavasai, Sasti, and Chittirai chariot festivals – are the major festivals of the area. Roadways are the major mode of transport to Thoothukudi, while the city also has rail, air, and sea transport.

I had a good meeting at Thoothukudi and started my journey back by about 1300 HRS. I did purchase Tirunelveli Halwa which was relished by my friends and family. A journey that began on a sour note turned very sweet! 


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