Kanyakumari is at the southernmost tip of India and off its
shores meet three seas; the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the
Bay of Bengal. It derives its name from the virgin Goddess
Kanyakumari whose temple is situated here on its shore.
Kanyakumari is a railway terminus and can be reached from any
part of the country by rail via Trivandrum or Thirunelveli. There
are buses from all cities in Tamilnadu and some places in Kerala
state. The nearest airport is in Trivandrum about 86 Km away.
The main entrance to the temple is through the northern gate
though the deity is facing east. The eastern entrance is kept
closed except on special occasions when the deity is taken out
for ceremonial bath.
Three corridors surround the sanctum. The outer corridor has
no special shrines, but after a walk round it the devotees cross
the 'Navarathiri mandapam' and a pathway leads to the
second corridor encircling the shrine. There stands the flag mast
or 'Kodisthambam'. From here you can have a clear view of
the Goddess. A move further forward will take you in front of the
The Goddess stands with rosary in one hand as if in prayer. It
is believed that Parasurama installed the Idol made of blue
stone. After worshipping the Goddess, the devotees walk around
the inner corridor where the shrines of Vinayagar and
Thiagasundary can be seen.
Many aeons ago Banasura, the demon king, harassed the Devas
and imprisoned them. Unable to bear his atrocities the Devas
sought the help of Lord Vishnu, the protector of the Universe. He
advised them to pray to Goddess Parasakthi who alone could banish
him. So the Devas started a 'yagna' to propitiate the
Goddess who appeared and promised to destroy Banasura. It was
pre-ordained that only a virgin could kill Banasura, so she
arrived here as a Kumari (virgin) and started a penance to attain
the special powers before setting off to kill Banasura. Lord
Shiva (Lord of Suchindram temple about 11 km away) saw this
beautiful virgin and wanted her as his wife. He let the Devas
know this and wanted them to make arrangements for the wedding.
The Devas, having known that only Kumari could kill Banasura, did
not want the marriage to go ahead. So they sought the help of
Naradha, the celestial roving trouble-shooter, to stop this
Arrangements for the marriage were made and an auspicious time
was fixed as midnight of a certain day. On the appointed day the
Lord left Suchindram and travelled with his entourage to where
the bride was residing. As he was approaching the abode of this
virgin incarnation, Naradha played his trick. He turned himself
into a cock and crowed, signifying the approach of dawn. On
hearing this, the Lord thought that he had missed the auspicious
time and returned to his abode.
The Goddess Kanyakumari was waiting eagerly for the arrival of
the groom. When the groom did not turn up at all she was
disappointed and in a rage cursed all the articles, ornaments and
the food that had been prepared for the wedding. They turned into
sand and seashells that had scattered along the seashore. That is
why you see an abundance of coloured sand and seashells of every
shape and form along the sea front in this town.
Banasura heard about the beauty of the virgin Goddess and came
to request her hand in marriage. When the Goddess refused, the
demon king tried to take her by force. As he drew his sword the
Goddess killed him with her 'Chakrayutham'.
The Devas were thus restored to their kingdoms and the
relieved Devas requested her to remain there protecting them
Main Festivals and Opening Times
The main festivals are held in the Tamil month of Vaikasi
(May/June) and the Navarathri festival in September/October.
The temple is open to the public from 4.30 AM to 11.45 AM and
5.30 PM to 8.45 PM. Male worshippers are required to remove their
shirts before entering the temple.
A small rocky hill called the Vivekananda hill rises from the
sea. It is on this hill that Swami Vivekananda had meditated
before his tour of the West where he made his famous speech on
Hindu philosophy. There is a boat service to reach this hill
where a memorial to Swami Vivekaknanda had been built. Another
feature of this place is that one can witness from the same spot
the spectacle of the setting Sun and the rising Moon almost
simultaneously on full-moon evening. This spectacle is visible
only between October 15 to March 15 but the Sun rise can be seen
throughout the year if the sky is clear.
There is also a memorial to Mahathma Gandhi on the seashore
commemorating the immersion of his ashes at this spot. Each year
on October 2nd (Gandhi's birth date) at noon the Sun's
rays fall exactly on the spot where the urn of his ashes was kept
for public dharshan (viewing).
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