Kanyakumari, sometimes referred to as Cape Comorin, is the most southern spot of India, and where three seas meet – the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. It is also a place where, weather permitting, you can watch both the sunrise and sunset over the ocean. We visited this famous location as a part of our recent trip through southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala, shown in this post. This article shows a bit of Kanyakumari.
This is a major tourist center, with about 2 million visitors per year, almost all of whom are from India. It is said that on the street you can hear all the major Indian languages being spoken. The town itself is small, with a population of about 20,000.
One major attraction is bathing in the ocean here. It is said to have the same benefit as bathing in the Ganges, and so is a great attraction for Hindus. Other attractions include:
- The ancient Kanyakumari Temple, located on the shore, dedicated to a manifestation of Parvati, the virgin goddess who did penance to obtain Lord Shiva’s hand in marriage.
- The Vivekananda Rock Memorial, built in 1970.
- The 133 feet (40.5 m) tall statue of Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar (Completed on January 1, 2000).
- The Gandhi Memorial, built on the spot where the urn containing the Mahatma’s ashes was kept for public viewing before immersion into the ocean here.
We arrived by overnight train from Trichy. Kanyakumari is the end of the line for the train. This day, it stopped before the end and we had to walk to the train station.
Looking back at the station.
Many rickshaws are waiting. We took one to our hotel.
Carol had found the Manickam Tourist Home in a guide book and made reservations here. We booked for two nights, anticipating being worn out from not sleeping on the sleeper train. We were OK, though, and could have just had one day here, and see all there was to see.
The rooms face the ocean and have ACs (if you pay extra).
You can see the ocean from the rooms. If the sky had been clear we also could have seen sunrises and sunsets. But, alas, no such luck on this visit.
We walked out from the hotel. Hotels for the many visitors line the street.
As we near the ocean, the hotels give way to shops for the tourists.
On the way to the ocean is the Kanyakumari Temple.
According to Hindu legend, Kanya Devi, an avatar of Parvati, was to marry Siva, but as he failed to show up on his wedding day, the rice and other grains meant for the wedding feast remained uncooked and remain unused thereafter. As the legend goes, the uncooked grains turned into stones as time went by. Some believe that the small stones which look like rice on the shore today, are indeed grains of the wedding that was never solemnized. Kanya Devi is now considered a virgin goddess who blesses pilgrims and tourists who flock the town.
We were able to enter the temple to view the Goddess Kanyikumari, even though it is another temple for “Hindus only.” It probably didn’t hurt that we agreed to pay a couple hundred rupees to a man who offered to guide us inside. Richard and all the men were required to remove their shirts. No photos were allowed, of course.
After we pass by the temple, it opens up to the ocean.
Off shore are the two small islands with their shrines to Vivekananda and Thiruvalluvar.
Several ferries ply the waters to and from these two islands, carrying the many tourists who want to see these shrines up close.
The temple is to our right. (The red and white striped walls, in Tamil Nadu at least, mean that this is a temple.) The pink building straight ahead is the Gandhi memorial.
On the way to the beach is a Ganesh Temple (Vinayaga, or Vinakaya, is another of Ganesh’s names).
We see the Ganesh murti being offered the camphor light.
There are many vendors selling sea shells. This is a major industry here, fueled by all the tourists who visit and buy mementos of their visit.
You can even get your shells engraved.
As we get closer to the ocean the crowd thickens. If you look closely you can see by the different styles of wearing the saree that people are here from all over India.
Near the ocean is a small pillared hall.
On all sides of the hall there are small groups, and priests offering poojas for those about to enter these holy waters.
Here are two women taking pooja.
And two men.
After the pooja, they stream down the stairs.
And into the ocean’s water.
Here they bathe themselves in the waters, considered to be very holy, with the same benefits as bathing in the Ganges.
Some carry packets on their heads, given to them during the pooja, I think.
Many people, men and women, partake of the waters.
I even got in!
And took my holy bath. (This is one of the best photos of my bald spot.)
Carol took the holy waters too, the next day.
Then we headed to the Gandhi memorial.
On the way, we saw several vendors selling necklaces.
Below are fishermen, repairing their nets.
They still use this ancient type boat, made from logs. Others I have seen were merely tied together with ropes. These look like they might be nailed together. Imagine taking one of these boats through the surf and out to fish?
Below is a lingam made from sand. People find many ways to express their spirituality here. One thing I notice again and again is small shrines, made from whatever is available, for personal use.
Here is Dakshinamurti, with his four disciples.
We are getting closer to the Gandhi memorial. It is built with a North-Indian look.
Protecting the oceans against excess water.
A covered walkway, shade for shoppers.
Here is the Gandhi Memorial. It is built on the spot where the urn containing the Mahatma’s ashes was kept for public viewing before immersion in the nearby ocean waters. Resembling central Indian Hindu temples in form, the memorial was designed in such a way that on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, 2 October, the rays of the sun fall on the exact place where his ashes were kept.
A woman reading a timeline of Gandhi’s life.
Featured in the memorial are hand-driven spinning machines that make thread out of raw cotton.
Here is the place where Gandhi’s ashes were kept.
Carol and I look up to the ceiling,
Where we see a hole that illuminates this memorial at the right time of the year, on 2 October, his birthday.
Here are Gandhi’s words about Kanyakumari.
We stand by his picture. I notice that he has a halo, like Christian saints are shown with.
Temple detail, a bell shape that goes through the walls.
A family sitting by the bell, the boy peeking out from behind his father.
Looking down onto the spinning machines. They are the only things that occupy a big central chamber of the memorial.
Carol and Richard. There was an Indian man showing us around the memorial. He made sure to take photos at key spots, and of Carol and me.
Looking out at an interesting confluence of shapes and forms.
They are a part of this structure on the ocean side of the memorial.
People use this memorial as a place where they can sit quietly.
Looking to the north of the memorial. The building to the left is yet another memorial, this time to a politician,Karnarajar, who was three times the Chief Minister of the new country of India.
Looking south to the two islands. The temple is the the upper left, vendor shops in the foreground, the ocean front where people bathe in the middle right.
This walkway has good shade for the comfort of the shoppers. Maybe they will stay longer and buy more.
The next day we wanted to go to the two islands. We followed the signs to the Boat Jetty.
We paid for our tickets. Rs 20 each.
Then walked down this covered walkway to the ferries.
A ferry was waiting for us. We had to put on a life jacket before we boarded.
The ferry was filled with orange-vested passengers. Most seem to be Indian. We see only a few Westerners and other non-Indian tourists here.
We get to the first island, disembark from the ferry and put our life vests in a pile.
To get inside the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, we have to get additional tickets. Otherwise we do not go further, and have to get right back onto the ferry.
The line to get back onto the ferry is a long one. At least shade is provided.
We get our tickets and head up the stairs.
We see Thiruvalluvar in the distance.
There is the city behind us.
There are two components of the Vivekananda Memorial. One part is this pillared hall.
It looks like an ancient Hindu structure.
The other part is this pink-roofed stone building. It is not in a local style.
We enter through these giant doors. Photos are not permitted inside. You will have to go look for yourself.
The main Memorial building from another angle.
Behind the city are the Western Ghats, the local mountains, which extend into Kerala. You can see one big building under construction, another hotel I am sure.
All kinds of people come to the memorial. A Moslem girl is here, in a white head covering. She must be from some other part of India, since Moslem women we see in Tiruvannamalai wear all-black outer clothing.
We get back on the ferry.
And put life vests on.
The boat rocks back and forth by the landing. They help Carol out so she will not fall into the water.
Here is the Thiruvalluvar statue. It is 133 feet (40.5 m) tall. I don’t know if this includes the base.
Here is a plaque that tells something about the statue, and Saint Thiruvalluvar.
He was born in 33 BC in Tamil Nadu. His works have been translated into 88 languages. He delivered a code of conduct, universal to all men, and is considered to be a Tamil saint.
One the walls is inscribed with many verses from his writing, in Tamil and English.
One feature we liked is the ability to climb stairs up into the giant statue.
We can look back at the shoreline, where people continue to bathe in these sacred waters.
Many people bless the feet of Thiruvalluvar. Carol does too.
Looking up at Thiruvalluvar.
Here is another view of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial.
Here is Carol in the famous by Marilyn Monroe pose. Carol, Like Marilyn, is standing in an updraft.
Thiruvalluvar from the ferry.
We get back to the ferry dock.
then heads off to continue their tour of Kanyakumari.
We will stay one more night, and on the next day go to the fabulous Padmanabhapuram Palace, a large 17th century palace of the Travancore kings, made almost entirely of wood – the only one of its kind in India.