Kanyakumari,the southernmost region of our country, is so uniquely located on the map; it gives a surreal experience to the visitors. The country dips its feet at the union of three mighty oceans – The Arabian Sea in the west, the Indian Ocean at the south and the Bay of Bengal on the east. The sangam of the three oceans and end of an erstwhile land of the country India appears to reflect the journey beyond this material life. As if from here there’s no where else to go. The Lord beckons from the unlimited sea spread whichever way you look. No wonder Swami Vivekananda derived divine inspiration in Kanyakumari.
Triveni & Shreepad Shila
There are two legends about Kanyakumari. One is that, in the ancient times Raja Bharat (after whose name, our country was called Bharat) had nine children, eight sons and one daughter whom he named ‘Kumari’. Raja Bharat divided India into nine parts for each of his children. Kumari received the southern part of the country; hence the place is Kanya kumari. The second legend is that there was an Asura named ‘Banasur’ who achieved the boon of immortality from Lord Shiva, through penance. When his atrocities increased Mahamaya/Shakti descended on earth as Kanyakumari, to kill Banasur, as the boon did not say that he could not be killed by a Kanya Kumari (Virgin girl). It is said that Kanyakumari did penance on the sea shore to get the hand of Lord Shiva for marriage.
The places of tourist interest inand around Kanyakumari are-
Vivekananda Rock memorial – After completing all the pilgrimages in the country, Swami Vivekananda came to Kanyakumari. Swimming to a rock (Shreepad shila) in the sea, he sat there in meditation for three –four days. Swamiji derived divine inspiration at this place and then went on to conquer the world in the World Parliament of Religion in Chicago. The magnificent memorial was built on this rock later and maintained by the Govt. of India in memory of Swami Vivekananda. Boat Jetties ferry tourists to the Vivekananda Rock. On this same rock is the temple with the footprints of Kanyakumari. Do not forget to see the lighted memorial at night. It’s a beautiful sight.
Thiruvalluvar Statue- The eye-catching 133 feet high stone statue of famous Tamil poet Thiruvalluvar stands adjacent to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. The boats carrying tourists back from the Vivekananda Memorial also drop at the site of the Thiruvalluvar Statue
Kanyakumari Temple – Parashuram is said to have built the temple of Kanyakumari on the sea coast, which was religiously maintained and renovated by the all the kings who ruled the region. The temple is an ancient stone structure with the beautiful statue of the deity Kanyakumari. The shining diamond nose ring of the deity makes it more beautiful. This temple attracts a lot of visitors, hence there’s always a long queue.
Vivekandapuram – Vivekanandapuram was the concept of Eknathji Ranade, a devout follower of Swami Vivekananda. Eknathji Ranade’s mission was to spread the message of Swami Vivekananda. Vivekanandapuram is a complex complete with guest houses of every range, a canteen, book store, handicraft emporium, exhibition halls (pictorial exhibition on Swami Vivekananda & Eknathji Ranade), and an architecturally beautiful Maha Ganpati Temple. Besides, there is ‘Gramodaya Darshan’, which showcases some very interesting examples of eco friendly architecture and water harvesting methods. A small garden has been built at the place of Samadhi of Eknathji Ranade, with an elegant statue of Swami Vivekananda overlooking it. Just a walking distance away is the sea-beach with a full view of the Vivekananda Rock. This beach is unique for its colorful sand. When the water thrown by the waves on the beach/sand recedes, it leaves behind a trail of beautiful sunrays or fire like patterns on the sand. Every time the waves come, it leaves behind a painting of orange, yellow, red, brown and black sand on the beach. This beach also offers an amazing setting for watching the sun rise from the sea.
Sea Beach, Vivekanadapuram Gramodaya Darshan, Vivekanandapuram
Vivekanadapuram has a very calm and quite Ashram like atmosphere, with lots of forested area and many birds like peacocks roaming around freely. You will certainly feel like staying there for a few days. There is very high demand for the rooms here because of this serene environment. Rooms are booked well in advance.
Gandhi Mandapam – The Gandhi Mandapam built in memory of the Father of Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, is also an architecturally nice structure. The ashes of Mahatma Gandhi were kept at this place for public homage, before immersion.
Gandhi Mandapam Suchindram Temple
Suchindram Temple – Located 13 km north-west of Kanyakumari, this seven storey temple showcases the typical southern style of temple architecture. It’s an ancient temple, built in the 17th-18th century, dedicated to Lord Shiva. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva waited here for Parvati/Kanyakumari to complete Her Penance. The temple is so named because it is said that Indra, the king of Gods, was purified at this place.( ‘Suchi’ meaning pure in Sanskrit).
Circular fort – This 18th century seaside fort is 7 km. from Kanyakumari. It was built as a coastal defense fortification and barracks in the Travancore kingdom. Spread over an area of 3 and half acres, the fort stands overlooking the sea. An interesting place near the fort is a beach of black sand.
Padmanabhapuram Palace – 15 km from Nagercoil, this 1601AD built palace is located at the foot of Veli hills. The palace is inside an old granite fortress. This was the ancient capital of the Travancore kings. Padmanabhapuram palace is famous for its wooden carvings, 17th century murals, colored mica windows, secret underground passages, museum etc.
Hanging Bridge Padmanabhpuram Palace
Mathoor Hanging Bridge – The Mathur hanging bridge in Thottippalan, 70 km. from Kanyakumari is the tallest (115 ft.) and longest (1 km) Trough Bridge in Asia.
Keeriparai & Kodhayar – Keeriparai & Kodhayar are very beautiful natural habitats, ideal for trekking. These places have a wide range of flora & fauna and wildlife like bison and elephants. A paradise for nature lovers!
Maruthuvazmalai – This is an artistically shaped hill said to have many medicinal plants. According to fables, when Hanuman was carrying the mountain with sanjeevani, on his shoulder, a small part of it fell here.
Besides the above main tourist sites there are some other spots too like – the Courtallam Falls, Olakaruni Falls, Udaiyagiri fort, Tsunami memorial, Our Lady of Ransom Church and Nagaraja Temple.
Kanyakumari is certainly worth a visit for its unique natural and spiritual experience. It is like touching the feet of not only our motherland India, but standing on the eternal sea is like a spiritual meeting with the eternity! The end of land, depicting our life on earth, and a glimpse of the life beyond, that of the eternal soul!