Temples of Kanyakumari

Kanniyakumari is mentioned by Ptolemy, in his work on ancient India, as a centre of pearl fishery.  Kanniyakumari, also known as Cape Comorin, is at the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Goddess Kanniyakumari is the presiding deity of Sri Kumariamman temple here, overlooking the shore.  She also lends Her name to this town and district.  According to legend, Sri Bhagavathy Amman or to legend, Sri Bhagavathy Amman or Devi Kanya Kumari, as She is called, the atypical Hindu nun, holding a rosary meditating on the Supreme.  The worship of the Goddess dates back to the Vedic times, as She finds mention in the Narayana Upanishad of the Yajur Veda.  The place and the deity find mention in "Periplus of the Erytheraean Sea,"  Which is said to have been authored in 70-80 CE.

According to the sthala purana, Goddess Parasakthi or Parvati was reborn as a Kumari (Virgin), to fulfil the wish of the devas who urged Her to eliminate Banasura, an asura.  In the mean while, the marriage between dawn.  However, as it was pre-ordained that only a virgin could kill Banasura, Narada forestalled the wedding b crowing like a cock.  Lord Shiva then went back to His abode in Suchindram (12km away), thinking that it was dawn and that He had missed the auspicious time.  The Goddess waited and waited and, at length, in a fit of rage cursed that the food, ornaments and other wedding paraphernalia be turned into sand and seashells.  The colored sand and seashells, all along the seafront, are said to be the accursed items.  Banasura, hearing about the Virgin Goddess' beauty, then sought Her hand.  On her refusal, he tried to take her by force.  The Goddess then killed him.  She also acceded to the devas' request to remain there protecting them forever.  Indeed, the Virgin Goddess stands guard, at the tip of the peninsula, as our country's protector.

The temple is located in a narrow lane, and the gopuram like the temple is of modest size.  The sanctum of the resplendent Goddess is also small.  She wears a brilliant diamond nose stud.  So bright is the light emanating from it that the door facing the sea is kept closed to prevent ships coming closer to this rocky shore.

Vivekanandapuram is the headquarters of the Vivekananda Kendra, which runs the Vivekananda Rock Memorial here.  Spread over 100 acres, it is a spiritual retreat, with board and loading facilities Visitors can also see the sunrise at dawn at the coast, a bit of which is in front of Vivekanandapuram.  At a distance, on a rock, stands the majestic Rock Memorial and on a nearby rock, the giant statue of Saint Tiruvalluvar.

Vivekananda Rock Memorial is built on an offshore rock where the Wandering Mystic, Swami Vivekananda, swam to meditate.  Close to the Vivekananda is another rock called Sripada Parai, where, it is said, the Swami was blessed by the touch of Goddess Kanniyakumari's feet.  In fact,it is said that Sri Kumariamman temple was originally situated here, but as it became an islet, the shrine was shifted to its present location, on the mainland.  There are regular ferry services to this memorial, and the Tiruvalluvar Memorial next to it.  Both the rocks command a magnificent view of India's land's end.  Several state governments, industrialists and philanthorpists had actively helped in building the memorial, but if there was one individual who carried the entire project on his shoulders, it was Sri Eknath Ranade (1914-82), whose dream turned reality with its inauguration in 1970.  Sri Ranade's samadhi is a place of veneration in Vivekanandapuram.

Tiruvallur Memorial is in the form of a colossal statue of saint Tiruvalluvar, the author of the Tirukkural, who lived about 2,000 years ago.  The kural is a compilation of 1,330 couplets on all aspects of human life.  The pedestal is 11.5m (38 feet) tall and the state itself nearly 29m (95 feet) high.  The pedestal and the statue put together rise to a height of slightly over 40m (133 feet).  The three-tier pedestal is surrounded by an Alankara Mandapam, which is surrounded by 10 sculpted elephants, signifying the ten different directions.  The 38-foot pedestal stands for the 38 chapters of the Tirukkural, and the statue's 95 feet represents the sub-chapters.

How to get there:  Buses ply from all over the state to Kanniyakumari.  And more buses are available from Nagercoil, the district headquarters, 16km away.  The town is also connected with Delhi, Howrah, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram by express trains.  Passenger trains run on the Kanniyakumari-Nagercoil-Thiruvananthapuram route at regular intervals.  Thiruvananthapuram, the capital of neighboring Kerala, 86km from here, is the nearest airport.  Accommodation:  Plenty in the town, and in Vivekanandapuram, which is just 2km from the heart of the town.  Buses stop in front of Vivekanandapuram.

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