Most tourist destinations, temples, churches and other places of
interest feature just one or two major things, which become the main
cause for people to visit that particular location. Some other places,
however, go far beyond being a mere vacation spot - a place to enjoy
Such is Kanyakumari, a beautiful, quaint district in South India.
Presenting several tourist destinations, places of worship, national
monuments and much more; this locale is far more than just a
vacationer's destination. This is indeed a place to remember; a
veritable spiritual experience, to appreciate and cherish for a long
time to come.
Kanyakumari at Dusk - Photo Print
This month on Dolls Of India, we bring you a detailed feature on this
beautiful locale called Kanyakumari, also throwing light on every
aspect that makes this region more than worthy of its exalted place in
the map of the world.
Kanyakumari - The District
Kanyakumari district is located in the southernmost tip of Tamil Nadu.
Also popularly known as Cape Comorin; the district borders with
Tirunelveli, the Gulf of Mannar, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and
the Thiruvananthapuram district in Kerala.
Densely populated and urbanized, this city comes a close second to the
metropolis of Chennai. This is also the richest district in terms of
income, literacy and education.
Kanyakumari features a varied topography, with seas on three sides and
mountains bordering the north. Including a multi-religious population
comprising Hindus, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains,
this region features a variety of art, cultures, traditions and
schools of philosophical thought.
It also has a colorful history, with many great rulers and dynasties
taking over its rule, such as the Pandyans, the Cheras, the Cholas,
the Ays and the Nayaks. Besides, this district also proudly associates
itself with great sages and seers such as Agastya, Vyasa,
Tolkaappiyar, Avvaiyyaar and, most importantly, Thiruvalluvar.
The present-day Kanyakumari was part of the old Ay kingdom during the
ancient Sangam period. After the decline of this kingdom, the region
became Venad, with its capital, Padmanabhapuram, located in Nagercoil.
Invaded several times for its wealth, the region was in anarchy before
Marthanda Varma's rule from 1729 AD. He then brought order to it, by
annexing nearby kingdoms and putting an end to the feudal lords. He
also established the state of Travancore, which brought the
much-needed stability to the region.
Kanyakumari flourished under Marthanda Varma's able rule. Later, the
Maharajas of Travancore built forts at Aramboly, in order to prevent
invasion. Then, during the time of the British Rule, this area became
part of the reestablished Travancore Cochin state.
- The home to peoples coming from many religious beliefs and
cultures, this district celebrates a variety of festivals. The
Mandaikadu festival, celebrated in March over a ten-day period,
used to be one of the major fetes.
- Today, the 9-day Navaratri Pooja is celebrated in a big way in
and around Nagerkoil. Devotees leave the Sushintharam temple in
Nagercoil and undertake a yatra (spiritual journey) all the way to
Thiruvananthapuram. The Lord Muruga from the Kumarakoil temple
also accompanies his mother, Devi Parvati, throughout this yatra.
This ancient tradition has been maintained since the year 1840.
- Kootalmoodu is yet another major 10-day festival. Here, devotees
run to 12 Shiva temples situated around the district. The
ceremony, called Shivalaya Ottam, starts one day before
Shivaratri. It ends in grand fireworks, starting in the night and
going on till early morning the next day.
- Besides these, festivals including the Ayya Vaikunda Avataram,
Deepavali and Christmas are also celebrated with great enthusiasm
by people of all communities.
Rivers and Forests
The major and minor rivers in Kanyakumari include Thamirabarani (also
known as Kuzhithuriar), Valliar, the Pazhayar and the Pahrali River.
The lush forests in the district are about 75 million years old. There
are 14 types of forests, ranging from tropical wet evergreen to
tropical thorn forests. They are presently maintained through the
Kanyakumari Forest Division. The most important timbers include teak,
rosewood, vengai and aini. Besides, this is the only district in Tamil
Nadu where medicinal herbs, rubber and clove plantations are
maintained within the forest reserve area.
Presumably, the region has a vast and diverse fauna as well. Here, one
can find at least 25 types of mammals and about 60 species of birds,
several species of fishes, amphibians and reptiles.
Places of Interest
Kanyakumari boasts of several tourist destinations; the most important
of which are as follows:
- The Padmanabhapuram Palace
- Chothavilai Beach
- Vattakottai Fort
- St. Xavier's Church
- Bawa Kassim Valiyullah Masjid, Elankadai
- Suchindram Temple
- The Panchappathi, five primary sacred places of Ayyavazhi
- Thiruvithamcode Arappally or Thomaiyar Kovil
- Udayagiri Fort
- Mathoor Hanging Trough, near Thiruvattar
- The Chitharal Jain Monuments
- Thiruparrapu Falls
We will bring you more details about each of these places in a later
section of this article.
This district was one of the worst affected during the tsunami that
ravaged several countries in South and South East Asia on 26 December,
2004. A tsunami memorial has been erected in order to commemorate the
loss of several hundreds of lives during this unfortunate tragedy.
Kanyakumari - The Goddess
Devi Kanyakumari is the Goddess Shree Bhagavathi, in the form of an
adolescent girl. She is also known as Shree Baala Bhadra, Shree Baala,
Kanya Devi and Devi Kumari. Her temple is located in Cape Kanyakumari.
It is believed that Sage Parashurama consecrated her temple.
Considered to be very powerful, this temple pulls in scores of
devotees seeking the Devi's grace.
Kanyakumari Temple - Laminated Picture
The worship of Devi Kanyakumari dates back to the Ramayana,
Mahabharata and the Puranas. She has been mentioned in all of the
above, plus the Sangam works and the Upanishads as well.
On the advice of his Guru Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami
Vivekananda came here to seek her blessings in December 1892.
Incidentally, she is the Goddess of Sanyasa or celibacy. Swami
Brahmananda and Swami Nirmalananda, two other disciples of
Paramahamsa, also worshipped the Goddess. In fact, the latter even
brought young girls from many parts of Kerala to worship the
Bhagavathi. These seven girls later became the members of the first
batch of Nuns of the Sarada Ashram.
Legend of Kanyakumari
According to mythology, there was once an asura (demon) called Bana,
who ruled this land. He undertook penance to please Lord Brahma. When
the latter appeared before him, he sought the boon that he would be
killed only at the hands of an adolescent virgin girl.
Having gotten the boon, he was sure that he would not die. He became
arrogant and wreaked havoc on the world. He even went to Indraloka to
dethrone Indra, the King of the Gods and then banished all the rest of
the Devas too. The Devas then went to Goddess Parvati, requesting her
to destroy the asura, and thus restore balance to the world. The
Bhagavathi manifested herself in the southern tip of Aryavartha, in
order to kill Bana.
Parvati - Temple Mural Poster
The adolescent Bhagavathi was immensely devoted towards Lord Shiva.
The latter, pleased with her bhakti, decided that he would marry her.
All the arrangements were underway for their marriage. Lord Shiva then
started a journey from Suchindram for the marriage.
At that time, Sage Narada recalled that Bana could be killed only by a
virgin girl. He decided that he would have to stop the Devi from
getting married. The marriage muhurtham (auspicious time) was set at
Brahma Muhurtham, that is, in the wee hours of the morning. Narada
made the sound of a cock, thus sending the wrong information that the
sun had already risen and that the Brahma Muhurtham had passed.
Disappointed that the set muhurtham had passed, Shiva and his
entourage returned back to Suchindram.
In the meantime, the poor young girl waited for her Lord to come and
wed her. When he did not come, she assumed that he had rejected her.
Grief-stricken and seething in pain, she destroyed everything she set
her eyes on. When she finally regained her composure, she decided that
she would remain a celibate for life. She then became a Sanyasin and
devoted her life for penance.
Ages later, Banasura, not realizing who she actually was, tried to
approach the Devi. Infuriated to be disturbed during penance,
Bhagavathi took the form of the terrible Bhadrakali and effortlessly
killed Bana. Moments before breathing his last, Bana realized his
folly and sought forgiveness from the Devi. Bhagavathi calmed down,
blessed him and maintained her presence in this place, Kanyakumari.
The Goddess, who is believed to be Lord Krishna's sister, is
worshipped by women to get a good husband. Krishna's mother's brother,
the evil Kamsa, killed all his sister's children immediately after
their birth. The child just before Krishna's birth was a girl. Kamsa
lifted the child and threw her against the wall. The aura of Devi
Katyayani arose from this infant and warned Kamsa, that he would most
definitely die at the hands of Krishna. Sure enough, Kamsa met his end
at the hands of his own nephew, Krishna.
The Devi is shown as a charming young girl, standing on a pedestal,
holding a rosary in her right hand. There is an image of a lion in her
pedestal, thus establishing her as a form of Durga. She is adorned
with a sparkling nose ring, which sheds lustrous radiance. It is
believed that this nose ring is so bright that it can be seen from
afar in the night. According to legend, an ancient mariner once
mistook the brilliance of the glinting nose ring to be a light house.
He followed the light, only to be wrecked upon the rocks of
Kanyakumari. In order to prevent further tragedy, the eastern door of
the temple remains shut and is opened only on five special occasions
throughout the year.
Kanyakumari - Laminated Board Picture
Attractions inside the Temple
- A four-pillar hall in the temple is famous because each of those
pillars gives the sound of the Veena (stringed instrument), a
Mridanga (percussion instrument), Venu (flute) and Jalataranga
- Other attractions within the temple include the Pathala Ganga
Teertham and the Kalabhairava Shrine. Kalabhairava is the
ferocious form of Shiva, who destroyed everything after the death
of his beloved Sati. The name of Kalabhairava in this temple is
"Nimish" and Shakti is addressed as "Sarvani" here. There are
additional shrines dedicated to Vijayasundari and Balasundari, who
are friends and playmates of Devi Kanyakumari.
- The Navaratri Mandapam is yet another specialty of this temple.
Here, devotees converge on a stage to display their musical and
artistic abilities in order to please the Goddess.
- One can find a Sri Pada Paara, a rock in the shape of the
footprint of the Devi. This is now famous as the Vivekananda Rock,
where Swami Vivekananda got enlightenment.
Devi Kanyakumari is worshipped in the Keralite way. For the purpose of
rituals, the Goddess is imagined as Balambika (Child Goddess). She is
also considered as Devi Katyayani, one of the Nava Durgas.
Incidentally, this temple is one of the Shakti Peethas. It is believed
that the spine area of Goddess Sati (or Dakshayani) had fallen here.
Devi Sati had jumped into the sacrificial fire when her arrogant
father refused to acknowledge or respect her husband, Lord Shiva.
A furious Shiva picked up her lifeless body and took it back to his
abode. Here, Vishnu cut up the body of Sati into several pieces, using
his Sudarshana Chakra (Discus). While being severed thus, each piece
of the Devi's body fell in a different place on Earth, thus forming
the 51 powerful Shakti Peethas.
Shiva with Sati's Corpse on His Shoulders
New red sarees and ghee wick lamps are offered by devotees to the
Goddess. Many recite the Lalita Sahasranamam while circumambulating
This place is considered extremely sacred, as it is the confluence of
the three seas. It is therefore believed to be the ideal place to
perform a Pitru Tarpanam (ritual to appease ancestors) and take a holy
Important festivals include the Chaitry Poornima Festival (on the full
moon day in May); the 9-day Navaratri Festival; the 10-day Vaisakha
Festival in May-June; and the Kalabham Festival, where the Devi is
smeared in sandal paste on the last Friday of the Karkidaka Month in
The temple is open for darshan from 6.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. and 4.00
p.m. to 8.00 p.m every day.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial
The Vivekananda Rock Memorial, which was built in 1970, in honor of
Swami Vivekananda, is yet another popular tourist destination in
Vavathurai, Kanyakumari. It is believed that the Swami attained
enlightenment on this very rock, where the Goddess Kumari too had
performed severe austerities. A vast meditation hall known as Dhyana
Mandapam has been built here, for visitors to sit and meditate in its
Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari -
How the Memorial Came to Be
In January 1962, on the occasion of the Swami's birth centenary, some
people got together to form the Kanyakumari Committee. Their aim was
to build a memorial on the rock and also a pedestrian bridge leading
to it. At almost the same time, the Ramakrishna Mission also planned
on building the memorial.
Sadly, this was not acceptable to the Catholic fisherman community
living there. They put up a huge Cross on the rock - this was big
enough to be visible from the shore. This led to communal tension,
with the Hindus claiming that the rock was a place of worship for
them. A judicial probe followed and the Government eventually declared
unequivocally that the rock was the Vivekananda Rock and that the
Cross had to be removed from there. The Cross was secretly removed
that night - this created further trouble and the Rock was declared a
Finally, the Government intervened again. This time, it declared that
only a tablet could be placed on the Rock, stating that it was the
Vivekananda Rock and that no memorial could be built on it.
The Role of Eknath Ranade
Eknath Ranade was then made the Organizing Secretary of the
Vivekananda Rock Memorial Committee. At that time, people were still
against constructing the memorial, as they averred that it would mar
the natural beauty of the Rock.
then decided to camp in Delhi and collect signatures to support the
construction of the memorial. He collected 323 signatures of the
Members of Parliament and presented it before Jawaharlal Nehru, the
then Prime Minister of India. This cleared the way for the
construction of the Rock Memorial.
The political hurdles finally gone; Ranade started planning the
construction of the Memorial. The next obstacle was to find the
necessary finance for the huge project. Ranade was sure that this
would go on to become a National Monument and so, he invited every
Indian to contribute to its construction. He travelled through the
length and breadth of India and requested State Governments to pitch
in their mite for the project. Finally, the bulk of the contributions
came from the general public. Ranade launched one-rupee folders
throughout India. This money was used to go ahead with the work on the
The Vivekananda Rock Memorial was constructed in 1970, just six years
after the work had commenced on building it.
The Living Memorial
The establishment of the Living Memorial or the Vivekananda Kendra,
alongside the stone structure of the Rock Memorial, was suggested in
1964. It was officially founded in early January 1972 and coincided
with the 108th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda.
Swami Vivekananda - Framed Picture
A saffron flag with "Om" inscribed on it was unfurled on the Rock
Memorial, to mark the start of a spiritually oriented mission. This
tradition was continued by young men and women, whose goal was to
spread the message of the Swami across India and the world.
The large Vivekananda Mandapam comprises the following sections:
- Dhyana Mandapam - the Meditation Hall with six adjacent rooms
- Sabha Mandapam - the Assembly Hall including the Pralima
Mandapam (which has the statue), two rooms, a corridor and an open
prakaram or outer courtyard
- Mukha Mandapam
- Front Entrance Steps with two rooms and a corridor below the
This square hall comprises the following sections:
- Garbha Graham
- Inner Prakaram
- Outer Prakaram
- Outer Platform
Both of the above-mentioned Mandapams are designed in a way that the
vision of Vivekananda in the statue would be seen directed towards the
Shripadam. The Sri Padaparai Mandapam is a shrine erected at the spot
where the footprint of the Virgin Goddess Kumari is seen on the Rock.
The Thiruvalluvar Statue, also referred to as the Valluvar Statue, is
a stone sculpture of the Tamil poet and philosopher; also the author
of the Thirukkural. Sculpted by Dr. V.Ganapathi Sthapati, it stands
133 feet tall, including the height of the pedestal. The sculpture
itself is 95 feet high and weighs 7000 tons.
Thiruvalluvar Statue, Kanyakumari -
The 38-foot pedestal represents the 38 chapters of Virtue, the first
of the three books of the Thirukkural text. The statue represents the
second and third books, namely, Wealth and Love. Thus, the entire
design indicates that one can earn wealth and love based on just pure
The right hand of the statue has three fingers pointing up. This
signifies thee cantos of the text, namely, Aram, Porul and Inbam
(again, Virtue, Wealth and Love). The statue's head stands 200 feet
above sea level. Juxtaposed beside the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, this
statue is built in conformation with traditional Indian architecture.
The statue project was initially conceived by M.Karunanidhi in
December 1975. In April 1979, Morarji Desai, the then Prime Minister,
laid the foundation stone for the construction of the structure, in
the presence of the then Chief Minister, M.G.Ramachandran.
However, the actual sculpting work began a decade later, in 1990. The
tiny island adjacent to the Rock Memorial was decided to be the ideal
location for the statue. Sthapati was chosen to oversee the project.
Stone, being far more durable than metal, was deemed to be the ideal
material for building the statue. The project stalled again, but then
got back on track in 1997. Finally, at the cost of US$1 million, the
project employed 150 workers, who toiled for almost 16 hours each day
to complete the structure.
The statue has a slight bend around the waist in keeping with
traditional architecture of the time. However, the issue was tackled
in time, thanks to advance planning and clever implementation of
ideas. A full-length wooden prototype was created before construction.
This led to the identification of an energy line, known as Vastu.
There is currently an empty cavity, which runs through the center of
the statue, from top to bottom.
Thiruvalluvar Papier Mache Statue
The work was divided amongst three workshops, in Kanyakumari,
Ambasamudram and Sholinganallur. Interestingly, the 19-foot-high face,
with the nose, eyes, ears, mouth, forehead and so on, were hand-carved
using individual stones.
Finally, the statue was installed on its pedestal on October 19, 1999
and was unveiled on the millennium day of January 01, 2000. More than
50,000 people gathered to witness the mega event and people took to
the streets to rally for what the Chief Minister called the "beacon of
light to guide human life for all time to come".
Though this impressive structure was severely lashed by the tsunami in
December 2004, it stood unaffected and triumphant above all of
nature's fury. Incidentally, it is also designed to withstand
earthquakes of great magnitude, occurring within 100 kilometers.
In order to prevent the statue from erosion, it is regularly treated
with chemicals once in every four years. the salty deposits in every
joint are removed and replaced with new cement. Paper pulp is then
applied to the statue in order for it to completely absorb the salty
The Thiruvalluvar Statue can be accessed by ferry - these services are
available from the mainland. The ferry service to the Vivekananda Rock
Memorial stops for a while at this statue as well. There is the
possibility of a connecting bridge to be built in the near future,
connecting the Rock Memorial and the statue.
The Gandhi Mandapam is a memorial to Mahatma Gandhiji, who had visited
Kanyakumari in 1925 and 1937. It is located near the Kumari Amman
Temple, where a portion of his ashes were kept for public darshan,
just before they were immersed in the sea on February 12, 1948.
Completed in 1956, it is 79 feet high, to mark the age of the Mahatma.
Built in Orissa-style architecture, it is designed in such a way that,
on his birthday (October 2nd) every year, the rays of the sun fall
exactly in the place that the urn was kept. The structure has a hole
in the roof - the sun's rays enter the mandapam through this hole and
fall on the exact location.
While there are a great many memorial structures all over the country,
to honor the life and times of various leaders, the Gandhi Mandapam is
unique, as it harnesses the energy of the Sun to honor the Father of
The Trisagara Sangamam or the Triveni Sangamam as it is commonly
referred to, is one more thing that makes Kanyakumari a unique
location. Beaches are always a wonderful sight to behold. However, the
Kanyakumari beach deserves special mention, because this offers you a
one-of-its-kind view of the three seas meeting together.
Assuming that you are standing looking at the beach, the Arabian Sea
is at your right, the Bay of Bengal comes from your left and the
Indian Ocean is right in front. This is why this location is named
Triveni Sangam (the confluence of the Three Seas).
At this location, the waves of all the three mighty oceans mix with
each other and fall apart. One can actually distinguish the three seas
by their difference in color, with the naked eye. This characteristic
makes the Triveni Sangam a sacred place - several people take a dip in
these waters, seeking to wash off their sins in the sacred waters.
Other Major Attractions of Kanyakumari
1. Kanyakumari Beach
Major attractions in the Kanyakumari beach are the sunrise and the
sunset. You can view these standing anywhere at all on the beach.
However, the sunrise point, the sunset point and the view from the
tower gives you the best experience of these phenomena.
2. Vattakottai Fort
Sunrise at Kanyakumari - Photo Print
The Vattakottai Fort is a circular fort, located about 6km to the
northeast of Kanyakumari town, in Agateeswaram Taluk. Built in the
18th century, this was the last one constructed by the Travancore
rulers. A clear view of the sea is available from the raised parade
ground atop the fort.
3. Padmanabhapuram Palace
This is located in the Padmanabhapuram village in Kanyakumari. Rated
among the top ten palaces in the world, this was once the capital of
the Travancore rulers. Spread over 6 acres of land and situated at the
foot of Veli Hills, this is mostly a wooden structure, built in Kerala
style. Today, this beautiful palace is being maintained by the
Archeological Department of Kerala.
4. Mathoor Hanging Bridge
The Mathoor Hanging Bridge, also called the Hanging Trough or
Aqueduct, is situated in Aruvikkarai village in Kanyakumari district.
Considered to be the longest and tallest aqueduct in Asia, this 1km
bridge was constructed in 1966 and spans across the River Parazhiyar
(Pahrali). This structure also comprises a children's park, view tower
and other facilities.
5. Sri Sthanumalayan Temple
The Sri Sthanumalayan Temple, also known as Arulmigu Thanumaliya
Perumal Temple, is the only one of its kind where the Trinity is
worshipped in the same sanctum sanctorum. The singular lingam here
represents the Trinity. This ancient temple is located in Suchindram,
which is about 11km away from Kanyakumari.
6. St. Xavier Church
Built by St. Francis Xavier in the 1600s, this is yet another major
tourist destination in Kanyakumari. Renovated several times in all
these years, there is now also a grotto for St. Mary and a minor
shrine for St. Ignatius at the same premises.
7. Thiruparrapu Falls
Another popular tourist destination in Kanyakumari, these falls merge
into the River Kothai from a height of about 15 meters. The rocky
riverbed of the Thiruparrapu Waterfalls is about 300 meters long.
These waterfalls continue to delight visitors for almost seven months
in a year. This place also includes a shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva,
plus various entertainment activities for visitors and children.
8. Kamarajar Manimandapam
This is a tribute to honor Sri Kamarajar, a freedom fighter and
veteran political leader of Tamil Nadu. The President of the Indian
National Congress before Independence, he played a pivotal role in
shaping the politics of India; particularly of Tamil Nadu. This
structure is located close to Gandhi Mandapam; on the same site where
his ashes were kept for public display before they were immersed in
9. Thirunanthikarai Cave Temple
Situated in Thiruparrapu Panchayat of the Kanyakumari district, this
is a popular pilgrim destination. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, it is
considered as the fourth temple of Shivalyam. It is built in Kerala
style and there is also a shrine of Vishnu, facing Shiva. This cave
temple is believed to be built between the 7th and 8th centuries, by
10. Pechiparai Reservoir
One of the major tourist attractions of Kanyakumari, this reservoir
was built during the rule of Maharaja Sri Moolam Thirunal, across the
River Kodayar. It is about 425 meters long and has a catchment area of
over 200 sq km. The dense forests surrounding this reservoir are a
natural habitat for diverse wildlife. There is a camp shed on one side
of the Reservoir.
11. Government Museum
Located on Beach Road, this Museum was established in 1991. It
includes a vast collection of exhibits, related to archaeology,
numismatics, anthropology, botany, zoology, artifacts, crafts and much
12. Wax Museum
The Wax Museum in Kanyakumari is located in the city of Baywatch.
Boasting of a good collection of life-like figures of many famous
figures related to Indian history as well as the world's history, it
bears close resemblance to the Madame Tussauds Museum in London.
13. Chitharal Jain Monuments
The Chitharal Jain Monuments, also known as Chitharal Malai Kovil
(literally, "Temple on the Hill") and Chitharal Cave Temple, can be
found near Chitharal village in Kanyakumari district. The Chitharal
Hills are locally called the Chokkanthoongi Hills. Here, one can find
two monuments. The earlier one features rock-cut structures of beads
with inscriptions and drip-ledges. A natural cavern formed by
overhanging rock features bas-relief sculptures of Jain Tirthankaras -
these were carved later on. The central sanctum has a carving of
Mahavira, with a Chhatratrayi Chaitya, a three-tiered parasol. All
major niches have flying figures of the Vidydharas and each of these
figures has an inscription of the name and place of the donor in
Vatteluthu Tamil script. Today, these monuments are protected and
maintained by the Thrissur Circle of Archeological Survey of India.
Kanyakumari features much more in terms of sightseeing, shopping and
spirituality. In case you intend to visit this region, do plan a long
enough stay to experience all that this unique destination has to