Swamithoppe (alternate spelling Swamithope) is the name of a town that lies southeast of the City of Nagercoil, the capital of the District of Kanyakumari in the State of Tamil Nadu, at the extreme southern tip of India. Swamithope lies about half-way between the cities of Nagercoil and Kanniyakumari on the Nagercoil-Kanniyakumari road. It also lies 8 km (5 mi) north-west of Cape Comerin.
Swamithoppu is a synonym for this town, as used in the holy book, Akilathirattu Ammanai of the Ayyavazhi religion. Swamithoppu is the name earned by the village Tamarikulam being the origin of the Ayyavazhi religion in the mid-nineteenth century.
Swamithoppe is also the home for the Swamithope Pathi, the religious head-quarters of Ayyavazhi religion. Also this is one of the most important pilgrim centers of Ayyavazhi which attracts huge crowd from all over the country.
For people coming from Trivandrum, Madurai, Coimbatore or Chennai, convenient trains are available to reach Nagercoil. If one arrives at the Nagercoil railway station, taxis are available at the station to travel to Swamithope.
From Nagercoil, town buses are available (route numbers 34, 2, 1-D); alternatively, visitors can use auto or taxi as well. If someone is already staying in Kanyakumari, it is best travel to Swamithope by taxi or by Bus (about 10 km/6 mi).
Getting around Swamithoppe is easy. There are public transport buses, auto rickshaws and taxis available in plenty.
The temple preserves some articles believed to have been used by Ayya Vaikundar, including a rattan cane (perampu) and a pair of wooden sandals. The Palliyarai is surrounded by inner corridors.
There is a 16.7 m (55 ft) tall flag mast at a distance of 15 m (50 ft) from Palliyarai. And in north of flag mast there is an Unpanpurai. Here, they cook the food and distribute it to the devotees.
Muttirikkinaru - The historical well is situated some 300 meters (980 ft) from the main Pathi. This was the first well in this part of the sub-continent where all castes are allowed freely to use the water during mid-nineteenth century. It was considered sacred to bathe in and to drink the water from that well.
Paal Kinaru - The well situated in the extreme east of the main Pathi. It was from this well the water (the holy Patham) for ritual usage for the Pathi is fetched off.
Vatakku Vasal - in the north of the main Pathi, is the historical cite where Ayya Vaikundar carried out his six year penance. There is a bell tower above the spot where Vaikundar performed the Tavam.
Marunthuvazh Malai - A medicinal hill located 3 km (1.8 mi) north-east to Swamithoppe pathi which has a long traditional background. This site is also historically associated with the incarnational activities of Vaikundar. Ayyavazhis consider this hill sacred and treat it with high religious importance.
Mutta pathi - The place is located 2 km (1 mi) north-east to Kanyakumari. This is a Ayyavazhi holy site from the event that Ayya Vaikundar conducted the Thuvayal-Thavasu to train the devotees to be strict vegetarians, to eat only once a day (raw rice and green gram), to wash clothes three time a day and lead a holy life. The sea near this site is traditionally called the 'milk-ocean'. This is the sea where Lord Vaikundar plunged into to get the Vinchai.
Thamarakulam pathi - This is the birth place of Ari Gopalan (Hari Gopalan) who was also called Sahadevan by Ayya Vaikundar. Ari Gopalan was instrumented by Ayya to write Akilathirattu, the holy book Ayyavazhi. This place is located 3 km from Swamithoppe.
Ambala pathi - In this place, located 4 km west to Manakkudy, Ayya Vaikundar manifesting himself as Lord Siva, assumed the powers of Goddess Bhagavathi, Lord Karthikeya, Valli, Theivayanai and also Lord Brahma. Every year, car festivals are conducted and vahanas are used to carry Ayya Vaikundar around.
Poo pathi - This is the site where Ayya unifyied into himself Poomadanthai, who was the manifestation of the Bhoomadevi, the 'Earth Goddess'. It is located 4 km (2.5 mi) west to Ambala pathi.
There is a specific dress code that men have to follow. It is forbidden for gents to wear any shirt or baniyan (above the waist) when they enter the Pathi and they are expected to wear a thalaippagai (a towel on the head) while entering the temple. Though the preferred dress for men is white dhoti, if this is not available, a pair of trousers is acceptable. One should not go to the temple if he or she has taken any non-vegetarian food on that day.
On all days the temple is open for worship. The preferred procedure is to have a holy bath in the Muttiri kinaru (holy well), then have a worship. This is a must if one wants to come around the Palliarai (the sanctum sanctorium) of the Pathi. After having the holy bath, devotees chant the Maha manthra "Ayya Siva Siva Siva Siva Arahara Arahara" and worship first in the Vadakku Vasal (where Ayya did the penance for six years). Then people have the worship of the kodimaram (flag mast), then come around the outer corridor five times chanting the mahamanthra and then enter into the Pathi. If one wants to go and have a close dharshan of Ayya in front of the sanctum sanctorium, they should take permission from the Payyans who is giving Namam to the devotees.
The palli arai (the moolasthanam) will be closed for short durations when preparations are being made for special prayer sessions like Uga padippu or Uchchi padippu, depending on the time of the day. Otherwise the temple is open for dharshan from 6 AM to 8 PM.
While in the temple, devotees are either expected to observe silence or chant the Maha manthra "Ayya Siva Siva Siva Siva Arahara Arahara" and not to indulge in any conversations.
The temple is usually crowded during the three major festivals every year and the Tamil month Masi 20, the famous festival for Ayya's incarnational day (Ayya Vaikunda Avatharam). There is a reasonable number of devotees attending prayers every Sunday for Uchchi padippu (noon session), but the crowd is much bigger on the first Sunday of every Tamil month. However, there is prayer in the temple at least thrice a day, everyday.
If someone wants to take something to the temple while going for prayer, they can offer fresh fruits, fresh flowers (flowers of the day), coconuts or tender coconuts.
Ayya Vaikunda Avatharam - The incarnational day of Ayya Vaikundar from the sea at Tiruchendur. This is the most important festival of Ayyavazhi and on this day the celebrations in Swamithoppe is considered with high religious importance. Though it was celebrated with processions all over Tamil Nadu, its celebrations are in grand scale in the south. Two processions, one from Tiruchendur, connected with the incarnation of Vaikundar, and another from Thiruvananthapuram, noting the release of Vaikundar unifies at Nagercoil and proceed towards Swamithoppe, the geographical focus point of Ayyavazhi.
Note:-The ritual foods are offered in the Pathi and are restricted to ritual limits.
This being a small town contains only a few lodging facility, though traditional vegetarian South Indian food is available in small restaurants located near the temple.