The origin of name – Kanyakumari (also spelt as Kanniyakumari) district is bounded by Tirunelveli district in the north and northeast, by Kerala state in the northwest and confluence of Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean in the west and south. The coastline is almost regular except for some points of land projecting into the sea at Cape Comorin. Kanyakumari is the district headquarters of the district of the same name.
At the southern most land tip of India, where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet, lies Kannyakumari, an important pilgrim centre. Kannyakumari is famous for its beach and the spectacular sunrises and sunsets, especially on full moon days. Kanyakumari is also famous for its vast green stretches of paddy fields, rich forests, coconut groves and mineral sands.
Kannyakumari has been named after the Goddess Kannyakumari Amman who is the popular deity of the area. Legend has it that the Goddess Parvati in one of her incarnations as Devi Kanniya did penance on one of the rocks of this land’s end to obtain the hand of Lord Shiva.
Kanniyakumari district, once known as “The Granary of Travancore” lies at the southwestern part of Indian peninsula. It was in Travancore for a long time and then merged with Tamil Nadu in 1956 under the State Linguistic Reorganisation Act.
At the southernmost tip of India, where the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal meet, lies Kanyakumari, an important pilgrimage site. The Kumari Amman temple, here, is dedicated to Parvati as Devi – Kanya – the virgin goddess who did penance to obtain the hand of Lord Shiva.
Two rocks reach out of the ocean, south-east of the Kumari Amman temple. One of these is Sri Padaparai, where the footprints of the virgin goddess are to be seen. On this rock, Swami Vivekananda is said to have sat in deep meditation; and here stands the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, built in 1970.
Kanyakumari is the southern most district of Tamil Nadu. The district lies between 77o 15′ and 77o 36′ of the eastern longitudes and 8o 03′ and 8o 35′ of the northern Latitudes. The District is bound by Tirunelveli District on the North and the east. The South Eastern boundary is the Gulf of Mannar. On the South and the South West, the boundaries are the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. On the West and North West it is bound by Kerala.
Pilgrim Attractions of Kanyakumari
Temple Of Goddess Bhagavati
Few temples in India are more picturesquely located than that of Goddess Bhagavati in Kannyakumari. It stands near where three oceans meet: the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. In its early form the temple seems to have been built by the first Pandyas. The Nayaks expanded it later. There are three Prakaras. The image of the Goddess in the sanctum is marvellous in its serenity and beneficence. She carries a necklace in Her right hand. The eastern gate, facing the Bay of Bengal is opened only five times a year.
Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial
On the evening of December 25, 1892, Swami Vivekananda who had come to Kannyakumari on pilgrimage swam to the rock and spent the whole night there in deep meditation. He then resolved to decide himself to the service of the Motherland and to spread the message of Vedanta. Next year he attended the Parliament of Religions in Chicago, an event of seminal importance in the modern history of Hinduism. To commemorate his visit to the rock a superb memorial has been erected. It attracts thousands of visitors.
The Temple at Suchindram
Tradition connects the Kannyakumari temple with that in Suchindram (13-km from Kanyakumari). This is a fine, large fane, with a beautiful tank. It is one of the few temples in the country where the Trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Isvara, are worshipped. The Linga, named “Sthanumalaya”, is in three parts; the top represents Lord Shiva, the middle Lord Vishnu, and the base Lord Brahma. “Sthanu” is a name of Shiva, “Mal” of Vishnu, and “Ayan” of Brahma.
Kumari Amman Temple
Picturesquely situated overlooking the shore, this temple and the nearby ghat attract pilgrims from all over India to worship and to bathe. According to legend, Devi did penance here to secure Shiva’s hand in marriage. When she was unsuccessful, she vowed to remain a virgin (kanya). The temple is open daily from 4.30 to 11.45 am and from 5.30 to 8.30 pm, but non-Hindus are not allowed into the inner sanctum. Men must remove their shirts, and everyone their shoes on entering the temple.
Nagaraja Temple at Nagercoil
19-km from Kannyakumari is Nagercoil, which contains the celebrated Nagaraja temple. The sanctum is a simple thatched shed, with mud walls. It enshrines the King of Serpents. Tradition states that a King of Kalakkad was cured of leprosy when he performed penance in the temple. He then rebuilt it in the Kerala style. He might have been Bhuthalavira Sri Vira Udaya Marthandavarma, who ruled Venad, with Kalakkad as his capital, from 1516 to 1535. It is believed that snakebite is not fatal within a kilometre of the temple. The fane has some Jain sculptures.
The temple of Swami Nelliappar and Sri Kanthimathi Ambal in Tirunelveli (83-km from Kanyakumari) dates back at least to the seventh century. Sambandar has sung it, and Ninrasir Neumaran, the Pandya, is said to have commissioned the making of musical pillars in a Mandapa in this temple. Originally, there were two temples side by side, dedicated to Lord Nelliappar and Goddess Kanthimathi. A Mandapa, the ?chain? Mandapa, built in 1647, linked them. The oldest inscription belongs to the middle of the tenth century.
Sankaranainarkoil has three shrines dedicated to Lord Sankaralinga, to Goddess Gomathi Amman and, between these two, to Lord Sankaranarayana, a combination of Shiva and Vishnu. The temple was built in the eleventh century and was expanded later. The Gopura is of nine storeys and is 38m high. The temple is famous for the miracles the Goddess performs in curing illness.
Subramanya Temple in Tiruchendur
The temple of Lord Subramanya in Tiruchendur, also in the same district, is one of the “Arupadai Veedus”, or specially sanctified residences, of the Lord. It is situated by the sea. Traditionally, it commemorates the Lord’s victory over Surapadma, a demon. The Gopura, of nine storeys, is 42m high and was constructed in the 17th century. It was renovated in 1983.
Kumarakovil is at the foot of the Velimalai hills in Kalkulam Taluk (also spelt as Taluka), about 34-km from Kannyakumari. The Lord Muruga Temple is built on the hillock about 200 feet height in a lush green field of Paddy, Plantain and Coconut trees. The temple is noted for architectural beauty. The side of the Lord also enshrines goddess Valli, the spouse of Lord Subramanya in the temple. In the right side of the temple there is one big lake, suitable for boating.