Kanyakumari is the southernmost point of peninsular India and the meeting point of three oceans-the Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. Besides its importance as a Hindu pilgrim center, it is famous for its beautiful views of sunrise and sunset over the waters. The multicolored sand is a unique feature of the beach here.
Kanyakumari was once referred to as the Alexandria of the east. This place has been a great center for art, culture, civilization, and pilgrimage for years. It was also a famous center for commerce and trade. During the early part of the eighth century AD Islam entered the southern part of India through the sea route with traders and missionaries. Through St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Christ, Christianity arrived in this area in AD 52. Islam, Christianity and Jainism have greatly contributed to the architectural wealth and literary heritage of this place. Kanyakumari was also under the control of the Cholas, the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Nayaks who were great rulers of south India. The architectural beauty of the temples is the work of these rulers. During the British Raj, Kanyakumari was bestowed the dry title of Cape Comorin, necessitated perhaps by the Englishmen's inability to pronounce local names. Legend has it that Kanya Devi, an avatar of Goddess Parvati, was to wed Lord Shiva, the destroyer in the Hindu trinity. But he did not turn up at the auspicious time and the wedding never took place. The rice and cereals meant for the marriage remained uncooked. Even today, one can buy stones there that look exactly like rice and cereals. Local folks believe that they are the leftovers of the legendary marriage that could not be solemnized. As for the princess Kanya Devi, she became a virgin goddess blessing pilgrims and tourists alike.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Due to its proximity to the sea, Kanyakumari enjoys a pleasant climate and can be visited throughout the year. However, the best season to visit this place would be between October and March. During summers, the temperature can rise to a high of 34.8°C while it can dip to a low of 20.4°C during winters.
SITES TO VISIT
The Kumari Amman or the Kanyakumari Temple, located on the shore, is dedicated to a manifestation of Parvati, the virgin goddess who did penance to obtain Lord Shiva's hand in marriage. The temple and the adjoining ghat, picturesquely situated overlooking the shore, attract tourist from all over the world. The diamond nose-ring of the deity is famous for its sparkling splendor said to be visible even from the sea. Two rocks reach out of the ocean, southeast of the Kumari Amman temple. One of these is Sri Padaparai, where the footprints of the virgin goddess are said to be imprinted on this rock, Swami Vivekananda is said to have sat in deep meditation and here also stands the famous Vivekananda Rock Memorial built in 1970. There is a dhyana mandapam where one can sit in a serene atmosphere and meditate. Ferry services are available to reach the memorial. The striking Gandhi Memorial has been built on the spot where the urn containing the Mahatma's ashes was kept for public viewing before immersion. Resembling central Indian Hindu temples in form, the memorial was so designed that on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday (October 2), the first rays of the sun fall on the exact place where the ashes of the father of the nation were kept.
PLACES NEAR BY
Vattakottai (literally, circular fort) is an 18th-century fort overlooking the sea, located six km from Kanyakumari. The Udayagiri Fort (34 km), built by King Marthanda Varma (AD 1729-1758), has a foundry for casting guns. The king's trusted European general De Lennoy's grave is located within this fort. Situated 13 km from Kanyakumari, Suchindram bears the imprint of various kingdoms. The Thanumalayan temple here is a repository of art treasures belonging to those kingdoms. The temple is famous for its musical columns and its impressive six?m-tall statue of the monkey god, Hanuman. The main deity in the form of a shivling represents Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma, the trinity of the Hindu pantheon. Ancient inscriptions dating back to the ninth century are found in this place. The Nagaraja Temple at Nagarkoil (20 km) is a magnificent temple with Nagaraja as the main deity. There are also shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva and Vishnu. The entrance to this temple is reminiscent of the Chinese architecture of a Buddhist Vihar. Nagercoil is 19 kms from Kanyakumari on the way to Padmanabhapuram. Padmanabhapuram Palace (45 km) is a large mansion of the Travancore Kings. It is known for its fascinating natural splendor. Tiruchendur (85 km) is the site of a beautiful temple dedicated to Lord Subramanya. The temple located here on the shore of the Bay of Bengal is one of the six abodes of Lord Subramanya. The location of the temple draws a perennial stream of devotees. The temple overlooking the singing sea is an inspiring sight. The Courtallam Fall (137 km) is perched at a height of 167 m. Its water is believed to contain medicinal properties.
FAIRS & FESTIVALS
The Chaitra Purnima Festival (the April full-moon day, celebrated in the first week of May), Navratri (last week of October), and the Holy Annual Festival of the Roman Catholic Church (fourth week of December) are the notable festivals celebrated in Kanyakumari.
HOW TO REACH
The nearest airport is at Trivandrum (80 km). It is directly connected with Bangalore, Bombay, Cochin, Delhi, Goa, and Madras by regular flights. Kanyakumari is connected to Trivandrum, Delhi, and Bombay by broad-gauge railway network. Tirunelvelli (80 km) is the other nearest railway junction and can be reached by road via Nagarkoil (19 km). Kanyakumari is connected by road to Trivandrum (86 km), Nagarkoil (19 km), Tirunelvelli (91 km), Tiruchendur (89 km), Tuticorin (129 km), Rameshwaram (300 km), Courtallam (130 km), Madurai (242 km), Thekkady (358 km), Kodaikanal (362 km), Palani (370 km), Ootacamund (576 km), Cochin (309 km), and Coimbatore (478 km).