Going to Kanyakumari was a long-standing dream. Probably since the time I first heard the term Kashmir to Kanyakumari for India. I lived in Kashmir as a child but Kanyakumari was always a far-off place. I wanted to visit the southern tip of India where you can see the sunrise and sunset at the same time. And I wanted to see the Sun going down and Moon coming up on a full moon night. And of course, visit the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and all other Kanyakumari Tourist Places.
After planning it many times, I finally visited it from Goa on a South Kerala trip with a clear intent to do Kanyakumari. It still played hard. A hurricane in the Indian Ocean brought in incessant rains in Trivandrum where we were staying. Everyone advised against visiting the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. We decided to take a chance.
We reached the town and rushed to the boat jetty only to be told boating is not happening due to weather conditions. I stood at the shore and longingly looked at the giant rocks. One with two temples on it and the other with a giant statue of Thiruvalluvar on it. They appeared too close for any danger in going to them. That was the traveler in me speaking and not the rationalist and certainly not the specialist. I clicked whatever pictures I could with an umbrella in one hand and camera in another.
Just then our guide came running and said that magical word – Boating has started, please go there as soon as possible and we all ran.
Kanyakumari Tourist Places to explore
Located at the southern edge of mainland India, it has always been an important pilgrimage place as well as a popular tourist destination. This is despite the fact that its weather is hot & humid and rains make it unpredictable.
Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Swami Vivekananda Rock Memorial is a rock standing in the middle of the sea where the Indian Peninsula ends. It is the most popular tourist attraction. 10 minutes of the boat ride in the Indian Ocean and we stepped foot on the holy rock standing steady where the three oceans meet. This is where the foot mark of goddess Kanyakumari is worshiped in one temple and the visit of Swami Vivekananda is celebrated on the other. The temples are small but beautiful.
Sunrise & Sunset
Kanyakumari has a lot of myths, legends, and history associated with it. However, it is sheer nature that stands out. It is one of the two places on earth where you can see both sunrise and sunset. When the powerful waves hit the rocks – it is like a desperate lover’s passion on display. When you see the oceans merging, it is like witnessing the infinity right in front of your eyes. It is the closest you can get to standing at the end of the land.
It is the view from the Vivekananda rock that is worth taking the trouble to go there. When you look at the landmass you see the skyline of the city against the backdrop of hills and clouds from the sea. When you look at the ocean, you try and find the two seas and one ocean meeting and merging here.
At Kanyakumari, It is an experience to stand on the edge and feel the earth at your back, water in front and sky all over.
Sundial & Uttarayan calculation compass
A compass on the rock surface tells the directions and you know where to look for Triveni.
There is a Sundial etched on another part of rock and can be seen from the top-story of Vivekananda temple. Due to rain, we could not spend much time here but it said something about Uttarayan calculation.
Vivekananda Mandapam & Kendra
A temple in grey and red dedicated to Swami Vivekananda is called Vivekananda Mandapam. It was built in 1970 to commemorate the enlightenment of Swami Vivekananda here. He visited Kanyakumari in 1892 before his famous Chicago trip. The architecture of Vivekananda mandapam has elements from Ramakrishna Math in Belur. The entrance has a hint of Chola style and the windows have a Buddhist motif of chaityas. A saffron flag with Om on it flutters on top. Inside the Mandapam is a life-size bronze statue of Swami Vivekananda in his typical standing posture. You need to take a flight of steps to reach the temple.
Do you know the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was publicly funded by citizens of India?
Below Vivekananda temple is a meditation hall. A dark room with only an Om visual and Om sound. You can sit and meditate here in silence. I tried to sit and feel what Swami Vivekananda would have felt sitting and meditating for 3 days continuously at the same place. 3 minutes were obviously not enough.
A bookstore outside sells the books by the Vivekananda Kendra. Due to incessant rains, I did not pick up any books. Finally came home and downloaded the book – India’s contribution to world thought and culture.
It is said that Swami Vivekananda swam to this rock. He had a vision of Goddess. He must have been alone on this rock when he meditated. Now the rock is full of all kind of people – travelers, tourists, devotees, and staff.
Bang opposite the Vivekananda Mandapa is the Sripada Mandapa or the hall that houses the footprint of the Devi on a rock. This is supposed to be her blessing. The rock is now inside a temple-like structure on a square platform. There is small squarish shikra on top of the Garbha Griha. A pillared corridor runs all around it. It is a small but very peaceful temple.
Landscape view of the town
One of the advantages of cloudy skies is to get a spectacular view of the city from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial. Take a look at the buildings/monuments and the clouds & Hills.
Read More – 50 Cities in India named after Devi
Giant statue of Thiruvalluvar
Here you cannot miss the giant statue of Thiruvalluvar. Thiruvalluvar is an ancient poet and philosopher of Tamil Nadu, who is said to have lived in the town. This statue was installed at the dawn of the 21st century on Jan 1st, 2000. That makes it a modern Indian marvel.
The literature on this statue says that it stands on 38 feet platform to mark the 38 chapters of virtue in his work Thirukurral. The stone statue is 133 feet high with face alone some 20 feet high. It seems it has been handcrafted under the supervision of Stapathi or a sculptor and is based on the principles of Vaastu Shastra.
Pity is that there is no in situ documentation or guide service that explains this when you are there. I wish Thiruvalluvar’s poetry and literature was available close to this giant statue.
Aesthetically, I found the height of the Thiruvalluvar statue its most overpowering characteristic. It stands tall in the middle of the ocean. Towering the other rock with two temples and overlooking the city. You can see the stones assembled to stitch the statue together. I wondered if we have lost the art of concealing the joints like in our ancient temples? Have we lost the art of having monolithic statues – and think of a complete monolithic temple we carved at Ellora? I wanted to know why is he facing the city and not the ocean. If you know the answer, please share.
Read More – Monolithic statues of Bahubali in Karnataka
The ferry does not stop at this island. You just pass by it, but you can see the Thiruvalluvar statue clearly from the Vivekananda Rock Memorial.
After soaking in literally and figuratively we came back to land, had our food and proceeded to see other things like the small stone structures on the rocky beach, with waves that go very high when they strike the rocks.
Kanyakumari Devi Temple
Back on the shore, we headed to the Devi temple. I stood impatiently in the queue for a good 20 minutes. It was dark inside the temple, lit only with oil lamps – giving a bit mystical and surreal feeling. The idol was beautiful with the oil lamps on the door frame making it glow. Strangely, I found the depiction of the goddess very North Indian. I know the legend is pan-Indian but I have rarely seen the dressing style of deities in South India in the North Indian style. This is a point to be explored further.
Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham
A small temple here is dedicated to Adi Shankaracharya right on the edge of the land. This commemorates his visit to teach the Advaita philosophy. Such temples can be found almost in all corners of the country where he visited.
Read More – Adi Shankaracharya – Hinduism’s greatest thinker
Gandhi Memorial Mandapam
Gandhi Mandapam is a modern building where a part of Gandhiji’s ashes is kept. The dome above the ashes is designed in such a way that hole above the ashes never lets any rainwater in. However, the sun rays hit the ashes on 2nd October every year at the time of Gandhiji’s birth – so we were told. I assume the design is inspired by temples like Sun Temple at Modhera where sun rays fall on deities feet on given days.
Read More – Porbandar – the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi
Besides Gandhi memorial is Kamaraj memorial, which is just a huge hall with a lot of pictures of Kamaraj.
Triveni Sangam or Tri-Sea Sangam – Holy Dip in Confluence
Right next to the Gandhi Mandapam is the Triveni Sangam or Tri-Sea Sangam or the confluence of three Seas. At this beach, while you face the south, the Bay of Bengal is on the left, the Arabian Sea on the right & the Indian Ocean straightforward. A dip in the Sangam of rivers & seas is considered a holy one that washes away one’s sins. Take care not to venture deeper into the rocky sea’s.
The sea at Kanyakumari is actually called Lakshadweep Sea.
On a sunny day post monsoon, if you have time, explore the lush green paddy fields and hinterland landscapes lined with Coconut trees and backwaters.
Palm Fruit & Coconut Water
Beat the heat & humidity of the place with local fresh Palm fruits & Tender Coconut water. They are tasty, juicy & nutritious.
Places to visit near Kanyakumari – Day trips
You may do the following on day trips or cover them en route to the destinations like Trivandrum. Do plan to make your trip accordingly.
Padmanabhapuram Palace & Fort
The biggest wooden structure in Asia, Padmanabhapuram Palace at Padmanabhapuram is located en route. It is a unique palace of the erstwhile kings of Travancore who ruled from here between 1552 – 1790 CE. That includes the rule of its famous king Marthanda Varma of the dynasty. It lies en route from Trivandrum.
Read More – Padmanabhapuram Palace of Travancore
Suchindram Temple or Thanumalayan Temple
If you travel from Trivandrum, Suchindram temple is en route. This temple is unique because here the chief deity is a combination of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva – all of them represented in one idol.
The temple is also associated with the legend of Kanyakumari. It is said that Devi was waiting for Shiva on the rock in the sea dressed as a bride. There was a deadline for them to be married that day itself. Shiva went away for some work and before he could reach the rock, he was at this temple. Narada, as usual, played a prank and made it appear as if the day has passed. So the Devi remains unmarried forever and came to be known as Kanyakumari.
She is still worshiped as a maiden waiting for Shiva dressed in bridal finery. Suchindram temple is a typical Chola-style temple with long corridors with carved pillars on both sides and painted ceilings. There were giant ornate chariots outside the temple that were getting soaked in the rain just like the devotees.
Other Tourist Places on my bucket list
We could not visit all these tourist places due to the paucity of time. You may consider them if you are planning a trip. Do gather more information before visiting them.
This is the hub of various activities by Vivekanand Kendra. Their latest project is Ramayana Darshanam Bharatmala Sadanam that will have a giant statue of Bharat Mata and Hanuman.
Museum of Wandering Monk
Walking distance from the shore is this small but important museum that celebrates the life of Swami Vivekananda. In a nutshell, it introduces the visitor to his works.
These are 300 feet long waterfalls about 50 feet deep. Thirparappu falls is 55 km away. Next to these falls is an ancient Shiva temple called Mahadever Kovil with inscriptions dating back to Pandya Era or about 9th CE.
This famous waterfall is in Kodayar River. The Kodayar makes its descend at Thirparappu. This place is about 13 km from the downstream Pechiparai dam. It is a rain-fed seasonal waterfall. Attractive to visit for about 6 months of a year.
Marunthuvazh Malai Hill
The southernmost part of the Western Ghats in Kanyakumari. Also called Marunthu Vazhum Malai meaning abode of medicinal herbs. According to mythology, the Marunthuvazh Malai hill is a fragment that fell down while Hanuman carried a mountain called Dronagiri from the Himalayas to Sri Lanka. As Hanuman could not identify/locate the life-saving Sanjeevani Booti meaning herb, he carried the whole mountain to Lanka to enable treating the unconscious Lakshmana, brother of Rama.
Read More – Ramayana Temples in Sri Lanka
Stone steps which lead to the top of Marunthuvazh Malai hill. The hill is about 800 feet in height and stretches over a kilometer.
Chitharal Jain Temple
On way to the Thirupparappu walls, there are rock-cut caves with Digambara Jain temples called Chitharal Malai Kovil. There are sculptures of Jain Tirthankaras carved. These caves were excavated in 9th CE under the King Mahendravarman-I. In my view, they are the southernmost Jain temples in India.
Little ahead of Thirupparappu falls, is the Pechiparai dam on Kodayar river. Built during the reign of Travancore kings is worth visiting.
Vattakottai literally means a circular fort. This small fort stands on the southern edge of India. What is interesting about this fort is that it was built during the reign of Martanda Varma, the famous Travancore king but by a Dutch Naval officer.
- Muttom Beach
- Nagercoil Beach
- Cape Comorin
- Windmill Park
- Mathu Aquaduct
- Manakudy Bridge
- Flamingos birds sighting
Personally, Visiting the Vivekananda rock was like crossing hurdle that had been standing in front of me for years. I am happy finally I visited a dream destination.
- You need 3-4 days to explore.
- Be prepared for overcast Skies & unexpected showers.
- Sunny days are hot & humid.
Do share your memorable thoughts after visiting these Kanyakumari Tourist Places.