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Kanniyakumari

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Tiruvalluvar monument in Kanniyakumari

Kanniyakumari is a town on the southern most tip of the main land of India, in the state of Tamil Nadu. It is also known as Cape Comorin.

Understand

India is probably one of those privileged lands which have high mountains on one side and oceans and sea shores on the others. India is also one of those rare countries that have their shores shared between not one, not two, but three great seas - The Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. And there is probably only one place in the whole world where one can witness the 'confluence' of three great seas; and that place is Kanyakumari. This unique geographical phenomenon has made this little town in the southern most tip of mainland India one of the significant destinations in any religious or pleasure trips that one seeks to undertake in this country. where the fame of Kanyakumari has in the past attracted great saints like Swami Vivekananda and Mahatma Gandhi. There is beauty in every part of this little town and one has to be there to witness it. Moreover, Kanyakumari is one of the few places in the world where one can witness both the sunset and sunrise at the same beach due to the geography.

The oldest and the most ancient landmark in this town is the temple of Goddess Kumari who prayed to Lord Shiva to be accepted as wife by him. The name of this place has taken after the name of the Goddess. During the British Raj, it was also known as 'Cape Comorin', is probably a British spoilt version of 'Kumari', which mean virgin. The town is so small that an enthusiastic tourist may actually walk the entire length and breadth of the town and not shed a drop of sweat. Anyway, buses are available and the fares are rock bottom. The auto rickshaws fares are also very reasonable. In short, travelling in and around Kanyakumari is not expensive.

Get in

By air

  • Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) of neighbouring state Kerala, is the nearest international airport, with direct flights from the Middle East, Singapore, Maldives and Sri Lanka. And is served by Air-India, among others. From there it takes about two hours by train or bus or taxi. The taxi charges are pretty cheap, about Rs 9-10 per km, and should be around Rs 1000 (US$22 Approx), for a trip to Kanyakumari from the Thiruvananthapuram International Airport.
  • Alternatively, if you cannot reach Thiruvananthapuram directly from your place, you can reach Chennai (Madras) the state capital and then take either train or bus to reach Kanyakumari. Note that travelling to Kanyakumari is a bit tiresome via road, especially for Westerners, as the travel time is about 14-15 hours and the climate is pretty hot (30-35 degrees during summer and 25-30 degrees during winter) through out the year. Insist on a II tier air-conditioned coach as this is pretty cheap, about Rs 1200 (US$27). A local flight travel to Thiruvananthapuram is also a viable option, but the ticket prices are slightly higher, ranging from Rs. 1500 and can go up to anywhere around Rs. 5000. In India, the faster you book/plan your travel, the more you save on tickets.

By train

Very well connected and serviced by rail to all major cities in India like Chennai, Trivandrum , Kochi, Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, Kolkata, Coimbatore etc. And from here starts second longest train route in the world, Kanyakumari to Jammu.

By bus

The long distance bus are available from Chennai (Madras), Coimbatore, Madurai etc.

Get around

See

The temple of Goddess Kumari is rather small by South Indian standards, but comes with the usual ingredients of Pujaris (Hindu Priests), Poojas, Kumkums, and Prasads (sweet offerings made to Gods). The street to the temple is lined on both sides by Shops where one can buy little curios, essential stuffs, food items etc. All men are supposed to enter the temple with bare torsos as it deemed to be a mark of respect to the Devi. Note that this culture is followed in many temples and sacred places throughout India.

The major attraction for any tourist at Kumari is the Vivekananda Rock Memorial, and the Thiruvalluvar Statue.

  • Vivekananda Rock is about a hundred meters from the shore and a regular ferry service exists between the mainland jetty and the rock. The tickets is 20/- for a ride. The Rock has two Mandaps (halls); one belonging to Swami Vivekananda and the other belonging to a Holy Foot. The Holy Foot is a foot shaped carving found on the rock and is believed to be a foot print of Goddess Kumari who stood on this rock on one leg and performed the Tapasya (meditation). The Rock memorial has a tall statue of Swami Vivekananda whose photographs are not allowed to be taken from inside the hall. Below the statue was mentioned the year of death of Swamiji and the "probable" dates when Swamiji attained Samadhi on the rock. Here you can see both sunrise and sunset and is one of the main tourist attraction here. Golden Hues of the Horizon are very impressive with the Rock Memorial silhouetted.
  • Thiruvalluvar Statue is dedicated to arguably the greatest Tamil poet, philosopher and saint – Thiruvalluvar. The rock supports a huge statue of the saint carved out of many rocks that were then joined together. It was inaugurated fairly recently. The statue is about 133 feet long which corresponds to 133 chapters in the greatest epic written by the saint – Thirukkural. Tourists can climb up to the feet of the statue. The view from this point is quite breathtaking! One can enter into the base of the statue and can see the entire Thirukkural and its translation in English inscribed on the walls. It is a very entertaining and enlightening piece of work and inspires one to lead a very principled and moral life. It is a must read for anyone who visits this place and it is advisable to spend at least half an hour specially dedicated for this exercise. Such is the beauty of Kanyakumari that lot of people find themselves attracted to it. Mahatma Gandhi too could not resist its charm and there is a place here dedicated to him called Gandhi Mandapam. This is the place, as told by locals, where one could witness the 'Sangam' (confluence) of the three oceans! Gandhiji arrived here and succumbed to the beauty of the place as described in his beautiful words inscribed below his portrait in the Mandapam. After he died, his ashes were brought to this place and kept before they were discharged into the sea. The Gandhi Mantapa is engineered in such a way that, at the place where the ashes were kept, stands a small stone which is said to receive the Sun’s rays only on the 2nd of October, Gandhiji's birthdate, every year through a small hole on the roof.
  • Kamarajar Mani Mantapa Monument was raised and dedicated to a freedom fighter and Former Chief minister of Tamil Nadu, President of Indian National Congress, Mr Kamarajar. He's also popularly known as Black Gandhi among the masses. Like the Gandhi Mantapa, this place is where Kamarajar's ashes were kept here for public to pay homage before immersion into the sea.
  • Baywatch is a water theme amusement park at the sunset point, and home to India's first wax museum.

Do

Vivekananda Rock memorial has a special meditation room which is absolutely quiet. One could meditate there. People also wet their feet on the shores of the ocean before entering the temple as the waters considered sacred. Bathing is banned in many part of the beach(though you may find some people bathing) due to a number of tourists dying each year due to the powerful ocean waves. For bathing in the sea, consider Vattakotta (Meaning: Round fort) beach, situated about 6 Km from Kanyakumari. Naked bathing or bathing with bikinis are a taboo not only in Kanyakumari but also in nearly all beaches in India. Beaches in Goa and Pondicherry, are a bit different, as a majority of people visiting there are foreigners.

Buy

Tourists can buy a lot of interesting items ranging from, straw hats, conches, sea shells, cheap electronics etc., There are some small shops where one can get a customized conch with name or quotes inscribed. These items can serve as a memorable item of your trip. Electronics available at Kanyakumari are dead cheap but, since all of them are imported from china, the quality of them are always sub-par. It's always good to avoid the electronics shops and the associated hagglers. Hair bands and clips made of coconut shells are worth the money and you may have to ask one for to the shop keeper if one is not available at the display. Star fish shells (for decorating your indoors), sea shells of various sizes, kaleidoscopes, colourful sand packets(not artificially colored), collected from different parts of the beach, used specially for decorating your indoor showcases, are also available. The cost of majority of these commodities range from Rs 20 (0.5 US$) to Rs 50 (1.1 US$), and never cross a 100.

Eat

Meals available at Kanyakumari are of the classic South-Indian type without rotis (Pan cake made from wheat), though the North-Indian style meals are available in some Rajastani/Punjabi style restaurants. A one time meal usually cost around 25 Rs (0.5 US$). For the tourists who travel from Northern part of India, avoid eating rotis from these North-Indian style restaurants as their taste is, many a time not up to the mark and you may not like it. Many a times, travellers from north prefer eating self-made rotis which they cook on open places in and around Kanyakumari. Apart from the classical food, there is nothing special to taste in this tourist spot.

Drink

Kanyakumari, as any beach has a lot of tender coconut shops selling tender coconuts for a paltry Rs. 10. (US$ 0.2). The orange variety of tender coconut, which is available in plenty, priced the same is worth trying as it's many a times more tastier than the green coloured one. Avoid bringing alcohol to the beach as the place is a pilgrim centre and it's considered a taboo to booze. Though there are a lot of fresh juice stalls, avoid taking them as the stalls are seldom clean and the contaminated ice they add to the juice is a source of many water-borne diseases including Hepatitis, Typhoid and others. Prefer bottled drinks or tender coconut. Note that bottled drinks are always priced higher (about Rs 2 to Rs 5 higher) than the MRP in these areas. Of bottled drinks, Thumbs Up (Cola flavored)and Limca (Lime flavored), both branded by The Coca-cola company are worth to taste as they are tailored specially for the Indians.

Sleep

There are numerous hotels, residencies etc. in and around Kanyakumari and therefore, staying over is not be a problem. But there are agents, touts and brokers in every nook and corner looking for unsuspecting tourists. Eschew buying or booking rooms from them, as many a time you end up paying a lot more than the actual price. Vivekananda Kendra can be a good option for people looking for a decent, yet cheap accommodation, but it's around 3 kms from Kanyakumari. Prefer hotels near the beach especially if you want to watch the sunrise right out of your bed! Note that, you should quote this preference when booking the room or else, you'll always be given a room without a window opening out to the sea. Moreover many a times, these rooms are in great demand and you'll find yourself shelling a extra 400 - 500 Rs (~10 US$)for such a room. Hotel Sea View, Hotel Sangam and a couple of other hotels offer such rooms and the rent is about Rs. 1100 (~ 25 US$) for 12 hrs. Note that many rooms are priced for 12 hrs and not per day especially during the peak season.

Astonishing it may be, but there are no ATMs in the town except for one belonging to the State Bank of India. It should be noted that, SBI ATM's do not accept Debit Cards issued in other countries for withdrawal of money in Indian Rupees. So it's always advisable to have plenty of cash in hand at all time. ICICI bank ATM is located at least 18Kms away in the town of Nagercoil, the bus fare to which is a measly Rs.8 (0.2 US$). You can draw money in Rupees from your International Visa Debit card only from here as Citibank, HSBC and other multi-national banks do not offer ATM service in both Kanyakumari and Nagercoil.

Other places of interest

  • Swamithoppe - The religious head quarters of Ayyavazhi and the most important pilgrim center of Ayyavazhis.
  • Suchindram - A noted pilgrim center in the south, hosting the famous Sthanumalaya temple.
  • Vattakottai Fort - Meaning Circular fort, this place was built by the King of Travancore, as a coastal defence-fortification. It's about 7 kms from Kanyakumari.



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