1000 m / 1Km, is a distance which one can walk in about 15 to 20 minutes, even if going at a real slow pace. This very same thought must have prompted the better halves of my friend and mine, to venture into this short walk along with kids, the eldermost one aged just 10.
Little did we knew that, even this short distance could be so taxing, when one considers the slopeness of the surface, inclines which amount to an angle of more than 60. We were in Aruvippuram, a place with a historical significance, a place which came into more prominence with the visit of the most popular President India has ever got - Dr. A P J on Jan 2013, a place which saw history being written when the great Sree Narayana Guru, against the convention, did the idol laying ceremony of Lord Siva, a practice which only the upper caste people only was supposed to do in those black era, marred by the feudal caste system. Over the years the caste system went into oblivion even though traces of it reappear during certain occasions (read vote bank politics, matrimony, job reservation).
A temple is present on the very same location in the backdrop of Neyyar river from where Sree Narayana Gurudevan got the idol of Lord Shiva, which he later consecrated on the banks of the river itself.
The place from where the idol was got is specially marked and is called as “Shankarankuzhi”. All amenities are provided here for the scores of tourists / pilgrims who visit here, which includes a neatly maintained guest house too on the banks of the river. The guest house is christened “Sree Sankaram”
It was our first visit to this place which is around 20 kms from Thiruvananthapuram. After visiting the temple, one of the vendors nearby told that there is a small rock and a cave, nearby where Gurudevan used to meditate. When the kids heard the word cave, they were excited, for they had read about caves in many of the stories, but never seen one in real. We too decided to check it out as it is nearby.
So the families, each with two kids slowly began to tread upwards through the step. The initial set of steps were climbed up with great aplomb. But soon there was an exponential decay in energy levels among the parent folk and the distance between kids and their parents were increasing.
Each curve on the pathway generated some enthu, since we expected to see the end point after it. But to our disappointment, curves kept coming and going. Eventhough there were a handful of visitors at the temple, we did not see any one of them here.
Did we make a mistake in choosing to trek upwards?
We had better options to stay on the plains, ie to enjoy a dip in the Neyyar river or simply sit on the banks of the river enjoying the cool breeze. After about 30 minutes, we realized that the end is nowhere in sight, the kids were still all charged up, the gents little bit more tired and less said about the ladies the better.
We soon realized that at this point thinking about making a return also is not a wise decision coz we came so far and even the return leg can be taxing. The good point is that we were engulfed by a dense set of vegetation.
Our body started to remind us about the presence of certain new muscles in our thighs by way of ache, fatigue, or whatever way one can call it. We tried to take some rest and then started to vigorously move fast, but after around 10 steps the enthusiasm died down. Some negative thoughts were soon shared.
What if we get to see nothing at the top ??
The trail so far did not yield any panoramic view of the surroundings, thanks to the dense fauna on both sides, even the wind has not been kind to us, the sun at its fierce best.
Suddenly we got a feel of how sighting of an Oasis in a desert trail will feel like, when we heard the kids shouting that they have reached the top.
Now we just need to ensure that it is not a mirage, but an oasis. Either we got used to the entire sprain, ache and other ailments, or the impending destination must have erased all such thoughts from our cache memory, since we soon started walking briskly and found ourselves perched on a flat land.
There is a small monument there, yes you heard it right, a really small monument which appears to be basement of a building and in it the words engraved showed that it is a memorial.
If one does not appreciate the importance of this place then he/she is sure to be disappointed for there is nothing pleasing to the eye here.
We sat in one corner and was surprised to see an old lady selling lemon juice there. Wonder how she took all the paraphernalia and reached here. While we were sipping the much needed fuel, she told that cave is still around 200 metres ahead. But even a 360 degree span with our eyes, did not yield any path leading to the cave.
She cleared the air by stating that we have to climb downwards through a set of rocks, the sight of which produced a kind of sound from the ladies, which almost resembled “NO WAY !!”.
But the kids were not relenting and the menfolk to decided to take the plunge. Yes it was a plunge of sorts as we had to literally jump down to make our first move. Only the elder kids were tagged along as the younger ones could find it difficult to handle.
All of a sudden, there was an excitement as more such leaps through small gaps of rocks were necessitated to negotiate this final segment. What made it more interesting is the deep cliff on one side of the path. Kids too understood the magnitude of a wrong step and obeyed what we instructed. The need to exercise caution and the sense of responsibility simply blew all the fatigue away as we tread ahead with great care. See the kiddies taking a break after climbing down the rocks behind them
The anatomy of this rock seems to be like; we initially climbed up a hill on top of which there are huge rock formations. On the other side of the hill inside the rock is the cave. So now we are treading through the rocks to reach the other side of the hill. The path was so narrow.
See the steep cliff on one side and rocks on other side
The boulders were looking royal and imposing. More and more challenging pathways appeared and we were literally crawling down after sitting on the rock to get down. Watch my son wondering whether he did came through that way.
Some pranks were directed for some photos and this kept our moods in high spirits.
Finally there was a real narrow pathway between the rock followed by a real steep downward slope.
One couldn’t jump or slide all the way down ever if we pass through the pathway. There was a small rock in between where we should keep our leg for balancing. From this intermediate position we could get into the entrance of the cave.
I managed to somehow get down to this point by certain awkward movements. I could see the narrow passage of the cave. Only a slim person can get inside, which translates to "I could enjoy the cave only from here".
Watch one person who managed to get inside through this gap
The kids were lifted and passed over to me one by one, so that they could also get a glimpse of how a cave looked in real.
A million dollar question soon propped up from the kids.
Why Gurudevan has to take all the pains and come to this spot for the meditation?
They were a little bit satisfied with the answer that, only in place away from the normal human population could one meditate peacefully without any disturbance.
It will take them a wee bit more life exposure and experience to understand what Gurudevan did and an even greater knowledge for their parents to correctly answer the question which could help them make understand the power of meditation, something which empowers one with the power of understanding innerself, the power which enables one to think radically, to ask questions against the bad virtues of the society, selfless dedication to make a positive impact on the lives of fellow human beings, and above all to make the world a better place to live in with equal importance to all its inhabitants.
Our return to the top point was equally exhilarating, but climbing up a rock seems much easier than climbing down, for the steepness sometimes sends flutters to our confidence.
When we joined our better halves and shared the experience two emotions got mixed up horrified and thrilled. By this time all the fatigue were blown away as it became slightly windy. Soon a set of family photo shoots took place. The shades provided by tree was good for us but was not good for photography.
A little later we were climbing down the really long 1 kilometre stretch, but now with an even more exciting prospect of a dip in the Neyyar river.
No sooner did we reach the bottom, our dresses went flying across and the natural massage offered by the flowing stream was made full use of to service our worked out muscle groups. Wonder how such a dip in the fresh stream could work wonders on our mind and on our body. We did stay on the river for more than one hour.
Even though we didn’t have any solid food intake after we reached this place some 5 hours ago we were not feeling hungry at all. But since our little kids soon became restless, we bid goodbye to this place and hurried off to nearby town – Neyyattinkara to fill our tummies.
This place is not a hill station, the climate is not cool, the landscape is not breathtaking, there are no winding roads, exotic resorts, or anything associated with a tourist place, but here lies history, a tribute to a great human being who single handedly tried to fight the extremely bad systems (read caste system) prevalent in the society. A visit to this place should be made only after reading about its history and the person who created history, otherwise it will be a blind faith, which most people do now a days just to make their life or living condition better.
Some interesting clicks taken during the trip
A fully bloomed mango tree
A beautiful spider
The gushing stream glistened by the sunlight
Some pranks (dangerous) being enacted by some local kids
The full text of Dr. A P J Abdul Kalam’s speech at Aruvipuram on Jan 2013 is available here http://www.sivagirimutt.org/news.php?&p=&f=5