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Tourist Places To Visit In Kanyakumari
The splendid temples and monuments in Kanyakumari speak volumes of the craftsmanship of the ancient Cholas, Cheras, the Nayaks and the Pandyas who ruled over these regions. Further contributions were made through the mosques and churches that were built by the sea faring traders who entered India through the southern sea port and St. Thomas the Apostle, who build a number of churches in Southern India.
According to legends, when Shiva the bridegroom could not turn up for his wedding with Kanya Devi, an incarnation of Parvathi ,the woebegone bride cast away the grains of rice and cereals meant for the wedding and vowed to remain a young virgin girl or Kanya Kumari, the female force of Shakthi or divine energy! Even today locals say that the colourful sands of the beach look like the grains of rice and cereals scattered on the day of the legendary divine wedding, that was not to be.
Here are some of the most coveted tourist places to visit in Kanyakumari.
St. Mary’s Orthodox Church said to have been consecrated by St. Thomas the Apostle in 63 AD, is one of the oldest churches in the world. The cute little Church which has been renovated often, still retains the stone carvings and pillars from the original. The stone work on the walls which have been carved with a multi pronged chisel show the artistic skills of the ancient people. Check out the cross said to have been engraved by St. Thomas. The church also known as Arakovil or Half Church is one among the seven and a half churches built by St. Thomas, the other seven being in Kerala. The Church has been declared an International St. Thomas Pilgrim Centre.
Locally known as Thomayar Kovil, St. Mary’s Orthodox Church is located in Thiruvithamcode on the Kanyakumari-Trivandrum Highway, about 40 km from Kanyakumari.
Vattakottai or Circular Fort was built by the Venad Kings of Travancore in the 18th century, during the reign of King Marthanda Varma and was later revamped into a defence fortress by Captain Eustachius De Lannoy of the Dutch East India Company, primarily as a coastal defence against naval attacks.
The Fortress, built out of huge blocks of granite sits in the most impressive location-with the sea on one side and the Western Ghats on the other. There are watch towers, storage rooms for armoury, a huge pond and a green lawn on the parade ground in front that gives such an enchanting view of the sea. Check out the black sands of the beach close by! Vattakottai is a must-see in your visit to Kanyakumari. It’s a visual treat not only for history buffs but also for people who love nature, especially the sea.
The Fortress which is under the protection of the India Archaeological Department, is about 7 km from Kanyakumari on the Agastheeswaram Taluk. You can take a bus from Kanyakumari to Vattakottai.
Padmanabhapuram or Kalkulam Palace was built in 1601 AD by Venad King Iravi Varma Kulashekara Perumal and later rebuilt by the King of Travancore Marthanda Varma in 1750. The Palace stands at the foothills of Veli Hills of the lush Western Ghats. Built in the traditional style of Kerala,the sprawling palace is inside a granite fortress that is about 4 km long.
The Palace has a collection of artefacts including 17 th mural century paintings, Chinese Jars gifted by the Chinese merchants,a musical bow and a medicinal wooden bed. The Palace, which is maintained by the Archaeological Department of the Government of Kerala, is located at Thuckalay, about 37 km from Kanyakumari. The Palace is open from 9.00am-5.00pm on all days, except Mondays.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Vivekananda Rock Memorial built in memory of Swami Vivekananda, is set in such a picturesque setting that you’d want to linger on in the place for a longer time. The Memorial consists of a Mandapam which has a life sized idol of Swami Vivekananda and a meditation hall where one can sit in quiet contemplation. Facing the Mandapam is another mandapam called Sri Padaparai with a rock in the sanctum, which has the raised impression of a footprint, which according to legends was made by Goddess Kanyakumari.
The only way you can reach the Memorial is by ferry from the mainland. During peak tourist seasons, the wait for the ferry is quite long. From the Memorial you get a spectacular view of the confluence of the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea. Tourist hours are from 8.00am-4.00pm.
The temple to Kanyakumari or Bagawathi Amman is one among the 108 Shakthi peethas and was built around 3000 years ago, with the idol of Kanya Kumari installed by Sage Parasurama.
The sanctum is lit only with oil lamps in the midst of which we find the idol of Kanya Kumari standing upright, with a glittering diamond pin encrusted with rubies, on her nose. According to legends, the sparkle from her nose pin was so bright that the ships sailing at night thought it was the signal from the Light House and ended up getting ship wrecked. It is said that the eastern gateway to the temple was shut to prevent such happenings and is opened only on special occasions. People enter the temple through the northern gate. The temple is open from 4.30am-12.30pm and from 4.00pm-8.00pm.
Chitharal Jain Monuments
The Chitharal Jain Monuments which are described as Jaina bas reliefs and Bhagawathi Temple, are situated on a hillock, with about 500 steps leading up to it. There is a monument with inscriptions on it, said to have been built around the 9th century AD. There is also a natural cave with bas reliefs of the Tirthankaras. Climb up a few more steps to the vimana on top of the hillock.
Round about the 13th century, the cave temple was converted into a temple for the Hindu goddess Bhagawathi. The region is known as Thirucharathupalli or the abode of the Digambara sect of Jain Monks. Chithiral Jain Monuments are about 47 km from Kanyakumari.
At the southern tip of India, Kanyakumari does have its inimitable natural marvels, the most beautiful beaches and viewpoints that give the perfect spectacular sights of the sunrise and sunset. You would never fail to spot Kanyakumari’s beaches for many of the focal tourist points are located by the beaches.
Some of Kanyakumari’s most beautiful beaches include the Paraikal, Sothavilai, Thengapattinam, Vattakottai, Sanguthurai and Kanyakumari beaches. The Paraikal beach (42km from Kanyakumari) in Colachel is breathtaking! Check out the 17 ft Victory Pillar on the beach, built by King Marthanda Varma as a symbol of victory against the Dutch.
The Thengapattinam beach (35km from Nagarkoil) is lusciously picturesque with coconut palms and paddy fields, made fertile by the river Thamirabharani that converges with the Arabian Sea through a system of canals right here, another tourist attraction for you! Sanguthurai Beach (near Nagarkoil) is yet another amazing work of nature. The palm fringed coastline and the shimmering golden waters at sunset are marvellous to watch!
The Thiruvalluvar Statue is placed in a small island about 400 m from the coastline. The statue of one of the greatest Tamil Poets was erected by the then Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Mr. M. Karunanidhi. The whole artwork is a massive structure standing about 133 ft tall. The top of the statue is about 200 ft above sea level. The architecture is a symbolic representation of Thiruvalluvar’s works, with the pedestal representing his verses on virtue and the statue itself symbolising his verses on love and wealth!
You can reach the island by ferry from the mainland that combines a trip to Vivekananda Rock Memorial and the Thiruvalluvar Statue.
Thovalai Murugan Temple
Thovalai Murugan Temple is a small, yet beautiful temple located on a rounded hillock. There are some steps that will have to be climbed up to visit the temple. From the top, the lush plains below with the backdrop of the Western Ghats present striking images, ideal for a photo shoot.
Pilgrims visit the temple for the annual Soora Samharam and Malar Muzhukku (Flower Festival) Vizha festivals. Incidentally, Thovalai is renowned for its flower bazaar, especially the jasmines that are sent to domestic markets and are exported to other countries. Thovalai is about 21 km from Kanyakumari.
The Government Museum is a must-see on your visit to Kanyakumari. There are ancient sculptures of Gods, Kings and poets, ancient coins, wood carvings, botanical and zoological specimens and musical instruments, a temple chariot made of whale bones from Manavalakurichi, objects used by tribal people and a Travancore Gallery with memorabilia of the Travancore rulers.
The Government Museum is located on the Beach Road, about 1.2 km from the Kanyakumari Railway Station. The Museum is open from 9.30am-5.00pm and is closed on Fridays and second Saturdays.