A popular tourist place in India, the town and the district, Kanyakumari District, in which it is located, is a place of great natural beauty - from the blue seas of Kanyakumari town to the blue hills of the Western Ghats in the interior.
According to another local myth, Lord Hanuman dropped a piece of earth as he was carrying a mountain with his life-saving herb, Mrita Sanjivani from the Himalayas to Lanka (Sri Lanka) during the Rama-Ravana war. This chunk of earth is called Marunthuvazh Malai, which is literally translated to "hills where medicine is found".This is said to be the reason for the abundance of unique native medicinal plants in the area. Marunthuvazh Malai is located near Swamithope about 7 km from Kanyakumari town on the Kanyakumari-Nagercoil highway.
The sage Agasthya, who was himself an expert in medicinal herbs, is believed to have lived around this site in ancient days. The reason why, some believe, so many medicinal herbs are to be found on these hills near Kanyakumari. There is even a village by the name Agastheeswaram close to the town, named after the sage. Today, there is a small Ashram on the middle of the Maruthuvazh Malai hill, which tourists visit (after a short trek from the base of the hill), both to visit the Ashram and also to take a glimpse of the sea near Kanyakumari a few kilometres away, and the greenery below.
Kanyakumari has been a great centre for art and religion for centuries. It was also an area of great trade and commerce. It was ruled by the Cholas, the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Nayaks. The architectural beauty of the temples in the area are the works of these rulers. Later Kanyakumari became part of the Venad kingdom with its capital at Padmanabhapuram. The king of Venad, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, established Travancore by extending his domain further north up to Azhva, during his reign from 1729 to 1758. By this, the present Kanyakumari District came to be known as Southern Travancore. In 1741, Maharaja Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch East India Company at the famous Battle of Colachel.
Kanyakumari was under the rule of the Kings of Travancore under the overall suzerainty of the British until 1947, when India became independent. Travancore joined the independent Indian Union in 1947. The reign of the Travancore royals came to an end.
In 1949, Kanyakumari became part of the reconstituted Travancore-Cochin State. Around this time, a popular agitation for the amalgamation of Kanyakumari District with Tamil Nadu by the Tamil-speaking majority of the district intensified, under the leadership of Kavimani Desigavinayagam Pillai Eventually, in 1956, Kanyakumari was integrated with Tamil Nadu (then known as Madras State) as per the language-based reorganisation of States.
Christianity arrived in South India around AD 52 through St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Christ. However, European missionaries, who arrived in the 16th century, propagated Christianity in the area. St. Francis Xavier (April 7, 1506 – December 2, 1552) was the pioneer in preaching Christianity in the present day Kanyakumari district. Islam is believed to have entered the southern part of India through Kanyakumari during the early part of the eighth century AD through traders and missionaries who came through sea-routes. Islam, Christianity and Jainism have also contributed to the architectural wealth and literary heritage of the region.
Kanniyakumari is located at . It has an average elevation of 0 metres (0 feet). It lies at the meeting point of the three bodies of water: the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. It is situated at 8° 4′ 41″ N, 77° 32′ 28″ E, and is the terminating point of the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats. On the north and the east, it is bounded by Tirunelveli District, while on the west and northwest it is bounded by Kerala state.
Kanyakumari is the southernmost town of the Indian mainland. The land mass in and around the town are hilly and uneven, with many commercial buildings and hotels at the upper crest of the land mass with the sea visible below. The old areas of the town, where the natives live, are on the lower side. Many of the natives are into fishing activity and other maritime professions.
Tourism is one of the main activities of the town ; and many locals are employed in shell-craft and other tourism-related businesses.
Beginning the early part of the 1970s, tourism has been an important activity in the town. Today, it is one small town in South India where one can see different languages of India spoken at different street corners, among the tourists and traders. Of late, Tourism is increasingly being promoted in the district also, apart from the town, with several beautiful natural landscapes, historic and religious places found around the district.
With tourism also picking up in neighbouring Kerala, the future prospects for the growth of tourism looks bright both in Kanyakumari town and the district.
Though there are several places of tourist-interest in the town and district, Kanyakumari is especially popular in India for its spectacular and unique sunrise and sunset. The confluence of three ocean bodies - the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea - makes the sunrise and sunset even more special. On balmy, full-moon evenings, (locally called Chitra Pournami) one can also see the moon-rise and sunset at the same time - on either side of the horizon.
The Kumari Amman or the Kanyakumari Temple, located on the shore, is a Shakti Peetha dedicated to a manifestation of Parvati, the virgin goddess who did penance to obtain Lord Shiva's hand in marriage. The temple and the adjoining ghat, situated overlooking the shore, attract tourists from all over the world. The sparkling diamond nose-ring of the deity is said to be visible even from the sea.
On two rocky islets just off the shore, southeast of the Kumari Amman temple, are the Vivekanda Rock Memorial, built in 1970, and the gigantic 133 feet statue of Tamil saint-poet Thiruvalluvar, one of the biggest statues in Asia. One of the rocks called Sri Padhaparai is said to bear the footprints of the virgin goddess. Swami Vivekananda is said to have seated on this rock in deep meditation. Also on this rock, there is a Dhyana mandapam, an area for meditation. Ferry services are available to reach the memorial.
The Gandhi Memorial has been built on the spot where the urn containing the Mahatma's ashes was kept for public viewing before immersion. Resembling central Indian Hindu temples in form, the memorial was designed in such a way that on Mahatma Gandhi's birthday, October 2, the first rays of the sun fall on the exact place where his ashes were kept.
The state-owned Poompuhar Shipping Corporation runs ferry services between the town and the Vivekanda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar statue, situated on rocky islets off the coast.
Kanyakumari is directly connected by rail with almost all metropolitan cities in India.
The following are some of the many popular tourist attractions around Kanyakumari -
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