Kanyakumari is a town in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, India. It is located at te southernmost tip of India. It is an important pilgrim centre, renowned for its exotic sunrise and sunset over the horizon and also a popular tourist place. One of the unique features of Kanyakumari is the multi-coloured sand found on its beach. It is the meeting point of three oceans- the Bay of Bengal, The Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
Kanyakumari was once known as the ‘Alexandria of the East’. A hub of art, culture, civilization and pilgrimage for years, it is famous for commerce and trade. Kanyakumari was formerly ruled by the Cholas, the Cheras, and the Pandyas, all great rulers of south India. The credit for the architectural beauty of the temples found in Kanyakumari goes to these rulers. Kanyakumari was given the name ‘Cape Comorin’ by the British, as it was easier for them to pronounce.
Kanyakumari is named after Goddess Kumari Amman or Kanya Devi. According to a legend, Kanya Devi, an avatar of Goddess Parvati, was supposed to marry Lord Shiva. However, he did not turn up at the auspicious time and the wedding never took place. The Goddess remained a Kumai (unmarried), hence giving the place its name. In fact, the rice and the cereals, which were to be used for the marriage remained uncooked and turned into stones as time went by. Some believe that the small stones on the shore today, which look like rice are indeed grains from the wedding that never happened.
Kanyakumari has been associated with great men like Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi, in whose names memorials have been erected.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Off the coast, in a rocky island, lies a magnificent monument, a memorial dedicated to Swami Vivekananada, the great Indian spiritual leader. Built in 1970, it marks the place where Swami Vivekanada medicated and attained enlightenment on the rock, and henceforth became a reformer and philosopher. It has a meditation hall called Dhyan Mandapam. The memorial has two structures in its grounds- Vivekananada Mandapam and Sripada Madapam on adjacent rocks. The smaller rock knowns as ‘Sripada Parai’ has been revered as a sacred place even from very ancient times. Legend says that Goddess Kanya Kumari medicated on this rock and there is actually a projection on the rock similar in form of a human foot believed to be the Sripadam or the feet of Goddess.
Adjacent to the Vivekananada memorial, stands a 1323 feet granite statue of well know Tamil poet, named Thiruvalluvar.
The Gandhi Memorial
It has been built on the spot, where the urn containing the ashes of Gandhiji, was kept for public viewing before immersion in Kanyakumari. The memorial was designed so that on Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, the first rays of the Sun fall on the exact place, where his ashes were kept.