Kanyakumari – the southern tip of India.
If you’ve travelled through parts of India, and you save a trip to Kanyakumari for the end, it’s a pretty ideal way, to sum up, your travels through the country. Located at the southernmost tip of the country, Kanyakumari is a sheer delight to visit.
And yes, it has way more to it than just being the tip of the country. There is so much to this quaint south Indian city that is so very unique, and in more ways than just being the southernmost tip of India.
With oodles of history, geographical significance, mythological references, culture, folklore, art, and architecture, Kanyakumari is beyond your average touristy city in India; and best experienced it with an open heart, and an open mind.
Kanyakumari is also home to one of Gandhi Mandapam most important memorials.
After Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948 in New Delhi, were his remains cremated and sent to different parts of India.
One of these places was here in Kanyakumari where a portion of his ashes was put on display before being ritually deposited in the sea. After the ashes were removed, a memorial mandapam (a pillared structure used for public ritual) was built on the site where his ashes once had rested.
The Memorial was built to very specific dimensions just to honour Gandhi. The central spire of the pink facade stands exactly 79 feet high in honour of Gandhi’s age at his death. The most remarkable feature, however, is an opening in the ceiling of the building which is position in such a way that each October 2nd, the anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday, the sunlight that comes through it falls on the exact spot where his ashes sat.
Kanyakumari is also the start/ending station on the longest train trip in India, the 4,273km/2,655 miles and 80 hrs 15 min (~3.5 days) long Vivek Ekspress from Kanyakumari to Dibrugarh in the far northeast on India in the state of Assam.
History tells us that.
Kanyakumari occupied a very special place in erstwhile India. As a city that came under the rule of many different rulers over the centuries, it also earned greatly from varying influences of religion, architecture, art, and culture.
You’ll get to see glimpses of this in the city today. Mythology played a really important role in the way the city developed, and I, for one, was amazed at how it shaped this city. The name, for one; so the name ‘Kanyakumari’ was born out of a mythological story where an Indian Goddess by the name of Kanya Devi was to wed the Indian God of destruction, Shiva.
The marriage never happened, and the girl remained an unmarried virgin goddess, who then came to be widely worshipped by young girls looking to get married! Indian mythology is filled with interesting stories. And Kanyakumari thus went on to become a place of pilgrimage for the devout.
Extremely south – and soothing!
While Kanyakumari is technically the most southern part of India is that not 100% correct.
Kanyakumari is only the most southern part of India on the mainland, the most southern point in India is Indira Point on the Great Nicobar Island in the Andaman Sea.
The most northern point in India is Siachen Glacier near Indira Col, with TurkTuk in Nubra Valley in Ladakh being the northernmost inhabited place of India.
The distance between the southernmost point in India: Kanyakumari and Indira Col the northernmost point in India is 3065km/1905 miles in a straight line.
The southern states of India are remarkably different from other parts of the country, and the state of Tamil Nadu reigns supreme in its uniqueness.
Kanyakumari sits at the southern tip of the state of Tamil Nadu and is one of the most colourful Indian cities you’ll encounter. And apart from the accolades this city earns through its history, culture, architecture, arts, and geography, it has another feather in its cap – its located at the confluence of three oceans – Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal – how cool is that!
Now imagine being able to witness sunsets over not one, but three main ocean bodies. Of course, you’d never be able to tell which is which, but well, it’s an experience nonetheless!
So what’s all the fuss about in Kanyakumari?
Well, for one, it’s a haven for travellers like me who get lost in architectural wakefulness. There isn’t an overwhelming lot to see here, which is what I loved about Kanyakumari. The city gives you enough time to soak in its varied offerings in a calm, unhurried manner.
As a prominent centre for pilgrims, Kanyakumari is home to a couple of temples that attract devotees from all over the country. The Bhagavathi Amman Temple or the Kumari Amman Temple is pretty popular since it’s dedicated to the goddess Kanya Kumari. Over 3000 years old, the temple sits on the shore of the Laccadive Sea. Another fun fact – the temple finds a mention in the Hindu Holy Scriptures that were written eons ago!
Another temple of outstanding architectural brilliance is about 13 kilometres from Kanyakumari, but worth checking out. The Thanumalayan Temple (it goes by a few other names too) is dedicated to the trilogy of Hindu Gods – Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver, and Shiva, the destroyer. And what’s more; the temple houses a 22-foot tall statue of the Hindu monkey God, Hanuman, carved out of a single piece of rock!
Meditation on a rock – the story of Vivekananda
Kanyakumari had the privilege of helping an Indian sage attain enlightenment. A highly revered philosopher by the name of Swami Vivekananda is believed to have swum out to a rock, considered the very last piece of rock in India, where he meditated for three days; the mediation came to be known as the ‘Kanyakumari resolve of 1892’ when he decided to dedicate his life to the welfare of the lesser fortunate.
This rock is now Kanyakumari’s biggest attraction! Now known as the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, the rock has a meditation centre that lets you soak in the peaceful surroundings. A ferry service shuttles visitors back and forth between the jetty and the memorial; set aside a couple of hours if you’d like to spend some time meditating here – highly worth it!
And on the way back from the rock memorial, stop by at the Thiruvalluvar Statue. The statue is of Tamil Nadu’s greatest poet, philosopher, and saint, Thiruvalluvar, and stands at an astounding 133 feet tall, corresponding to the 133 chapters he wrote in a famous epic named Thirukkural. You’ll get sweet views of the city from the statue…pretty neat!
Wash away your sins at Triveni Sangam!
This was a pretty cool experience; you’ll hear a lot of hype about the place where the three oceans meet. Known as the Triveni Sangam, it translates to the meeting place of three oceans, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal.
Not just that, it’s an auspicious place for Hindus who jump into the sea here to wash away their sins! A pretty straightforward way of doing that, I’d say. A lot of people say you can see the different colours of each ocean, but I think you’d need a trained eye to tell the difference. I, for one, couldn’t tell; perhaps a long, hard gaze at the waters there would mix up the colours.
Of sunsets, and sunrises.
This one is one every traveller’s to-do list in Kanyakumari, and for a good reason. The sunrises and sunsets you’ll get to witness here are unlike anywhere else in the country. A great spot to catch the sunset is by the Bhagavathi Amman Temple; it does get pretty crowded here, but it’s worth it.
If you’d like, take a few steps forward into the water, find yourself a rock, sit on it (or stand!) and witness the sunset. And don’t forget your camera! Sunrises from Kanyakumari Beach are stunning; seeing the sunrise behind the tall statue and the rock memorial is a lasting memory you’ll have of this city and one of the best sunrises you’ll witness perhaps! The months of November through to February are perfect for brilliant sunrises and sunsets, thanks to clear skies.
Around town Kanyakumari.
There’s quite a bit to experience. About 37 km from Kanyakumari, the Padmanabhapuram Palace sits on the Vele Hills and is not your usual Indian palace if you’ve seen what Indian palaces are like.
This one is all wooden, with a granite fortress running around it. It served as the seat of power of the Travancore Kingdom between the 16th and 18th centuries. A visit here gives you a glimpse into the more austere kingdoms of the region.
Check out the Vattakotai Fort, also known as the Circular Fort, not too far from Kanyakumari. As the very last coastal fort of the Travancore Kingdom, this impressive structure complete with weapon rooms and watchtowers is worth stopping by. And apart from the fort itself, you can treat yourself to gorgeous views of the sea and the Western Ghats Hills on either side of the fort!
A bit of a long drive (about 48 kilometres) from Kanyakumari brings you to the scenic Mathur Village; the village is home to the Mathur Hanging Bridge, sitting amid lush greenery. Covering about 1 kilometre, the bridge stands at a height of 115 feet and has 28 solid pillars supporting it. In the vicinity, very close to the bridge, is the Thirparappu Waterfalls; check this out while you’re in the area.
Kanyakumari was also hit by the devastating 2004 Tsunami and around 800 people lost their lives here, there´s a Tsunami Memorial Park built close to where the wave hit Kanyakumari on 26th December 2004.
How To Get To Kanyakumari.
Is by train, car, or bus. Kanyakumari is very well connected to the bigger southern cities. The city is a major railway junction, and all of south India has trains connected to Kanyakumari. If you’re travelling from anywhere within Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, or Andhra Pradesh, you’re well covered. If you want to fly in, the closest airport is in Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.
It’s about 90 kilometres away, and you could safely cover the distance by bus or cab. Buses ply between different parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu to Kanyakumari. If you happen to be in Chennai, it’s a 12-hour bus journey.
And when it comes to travelling within the city, auto-rickshaws are your best friend! While taxis are popular, and most hotels will convince you to hire a cab for the day or the duration of your stay (which in all honesty is pretty convenient), if you find yourself on a budget, auto rickshaws are convenient.
But yeah, if you plan on exploring the outskirts of the city, then you’re better off hiring a cab fro your travels.
On my travels through India, my trip to Kanyakumari was beyond all expectations. And to say that I’ve been to the southernmost tip of the country to the confluence of three of the world’s oceans gives me a strange sense of achievement!
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