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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Kanyakumari

Kanniyakumari (or Kanyakumari) 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, necessitated perhaps by the Englishman's inability to pronounce local names.


India is probably one of those privileged lands which have high mountains on one side and oceans and sea
Vivekanand Rock
shores on the others. India is also one of those rare countries that have their shores shared between three great seas - The Bay of Bengal, the Arabian Sea, and the Indian Ocean. And the confluence of these three seas can be witnessed in 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. The fame of Kanyakumari attracts prominent people from across the world, including names such as Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi. Its not by coincidence that there are memorials named after these two figures. 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', probably a British spoilt version of 'Kumari', meaning virgin. The town is so small that an enthusiastic tourist may actually walk across the town. For less walking enthusiasts, buses are available and the fares are very low. The auto rickshaws fares are also very reasonable. In short, traveling in and around Kanyakumari is not expensive.

Get There

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 three 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.
  • Alternatively reach Kochi, Kozhikode (Calicut), Bangalore, Bombay, New Delhi, Kolkata and then by train.


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 longest train route in India, Kanyakumari to Jammu.


By bus

Buses are frequently available from Thiruvananthapuram,the closest major transport hub. Long distance buses are available from Chennai (Madras), Coimbatore, Madurai,Bangalore etc.

Get Around

Most people travel around Kanniyakumari using a hired vehicle. Auto-rickshaws (tuk tuks) are available, along with buses. Buses are about Rs15 from the station to the point, and Rs 7.5 from the bus station to the point.
If your train comes into Nagercoil, there are busses to Kanyakumari from right outside Nagercoil junction station starting at 5:20am (ish) and meant to be on the half hour every hour. Although you just have to keep asking.

See In Kanyakumari

If you can escape from the crowds, you can visit Vivekanandapuram (the only peaceful area in Kanyakumari)
Vivekanad Rock Memorial at Night
maintained by the Ramakrishna Mission. It has its own lodging and boarding arrangements. If you'd like to see the sunset or sunrise, it is recommended that you see it from the beach at Vivekanandapuram. The other popular places are the Kanyakumari Devi temple, Vivekananda Rock, and the Thiruvalluvar Statue. It is not recommended that you visit Kanyakumari in December-January; the crowds are at its peak during these months.
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 Prasad (sweet offerings made to the Gods). All men are supposed to enter the temple with bare torsos as it deemed to be a mark of respect to the Devi. You should be careful about the touts in the temple.
  • 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 are Rs 30 for a ride. Normally you will find a lot of people waiting in the queue during holiday season, so there's a legitimate way of by passing the queue by paying Rs 150 , they take you directly inside the ferry, no waiting. 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 the footprint of Goddess Kumari who stood on this rock on one leg and performed the Tapasya (penance). 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 the Swamiji and the "probable" dates when Swamiji attained Samadhi on the rock. Here you can see both sunrise and sunset and it is one of the main tourist attractions here. Golden Hues of the Horizon are very impressive with a silhouette of the Rock Memorial. Timings: 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. You should enter main gate to the jetty for ferry before 4 pm, after that entry is denied. Nobody is allowed there after sunset, so if you were planning an evening visit hurry up and leave well before sunset so as to watch it from the beach. The last ferry leaves the island around the sunset time with all the remaining visitors as well as the staff.
  • Vivekanandapuram is the headquarters of the Vivekananda Kendra and the centre spreads over an area of 100 acres. There is a well stocked library within the premises. It is well connected. Buses are also regularly available from Vivekanandapuram to Kanyakumari. One can enjoy absolutely breathtaking views of sunrise from the beaches of Vivekanandapuram. It has its own boarding & lodging facilities, a post office and a bank on its premises.
  • 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! 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 a 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. Gandhi 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. 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, Gandhi's birthday, every year through a small hole on the roof.
  • Our Lady of Ransom Church - Located on the shoreline of the Bay of Bengal, the 100-year-old Church of Our Lady of Ransom is dedicated to Mother Mary. The Church, which is one of the most beautiful churchs in India, looks beautiful against the backdrop of the beautiful blue sky.
The Church of Our Lady of Ransom was built in the Gothic style of architecture with a strong Portuguese influence. The church is slightly off-white in appearance and has three massive towering spires and stained glass windowpanes contributing to its overall grandeur. Another attraction of the church is the Central Tower. It is 153 feet high and is crowned with a cross of pure gold. (Interesting to note that the dimesnsions of the church structures are based on the count of beads in the rosary!
There are a few things about the church that make the visitors gasp with awe as they enter. The church boasts a beautiful statue of Mother Mary clad in a saree. Surprisingly, as compared with the grand and ornate exteriors, the visitors are quite taken aback by the simplicity of its interiors. There is just a tiny cross that adorns the altar. There are no church benches and the masses are held inside the church in normal days and outside on the clean sands during carnivals and occassions. The prayers are held in Tamil considering the parish here mainly comprises the local fishing folks. However, English masses are being conducted lately. Be on the lookout for the 10-day carnival festival during the second week of December every year. It is vibrant and colourful with the fishing hamlets of other nearby places and people of other religions celebrate together.
  • Padmanabhapuram Palace is the erstwhile palatial residence of the rulers of Travancore. It is made entirely of wood. It lies an hours drive away from Kanyakumari on the border between Tamil Nadu and Kerala state. It is actually maintained by the Kerala government. There is an entrance ticket of Rs. 25 for Indians and Rs 200 for foreigners. It will take approximately an hour to one-and-half hours to see this palace. Ticket Timings: 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm.

  • 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 for the public to pay homage before immersion into the sea.
  • Baywatch is a water theme amusement park at Sunset Point and is home to India's first wax museum.
  • Tsunami Monument is a momument recognizing the tragic events of the 2004 tsunami that claimed the lives of many Kanyakumari denizens. It is near the south shore. The monument is made of uniquely coloured items such as a wave, a flame, and human hands, together.
  • See the sunrise/sunset the actual geographic south point of India is a few kilometers to the West of Kanyakumari's point and the big Thiruvalluvar Statue. It has a nice stone boat shed, a big Virgin Mary statue, some rocks, and if you walk down onto the sand and rocks, best of all no other people! If you are getting a bus from Nagercoil station, the first bus of the day should just get you there in time. Ask to get off at the Virgin Mary statue, buses go both ways all day so you'll easily be able to resume your trip.

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