Maybe Kanyakumari doesn’t tell you much, but it is a very special place in India. And there are 3 reasons for that. First of all this is the southernmost point of mainland India. Secondly, you can see both the sunrise and sunset here. And finally it is a place of pilgrimage with a 3000 year old temple and two special islands along the coast. And especially those two islands are more than worth a visit to Kanyakumari…
A virgin girl: Kanyakumari
Kanyakumari, formerly known as Cape Comorin, is a place of about 20,000 inhabitants in the state of Tamil Nadu. The meaning of the word Kanyakumari is ‘virgin girl’. This refers to the goddess who has been worshipped in Hinduism since the Vedic times (1500-500 B.C.).
The 3000 year old Arulmigu Bhagavathy Amman Temple is dedicated to her. If you walk to the southernmost tip of India you can’t miss this temple. It is surrounded by a red/white wall and it is crowded.
And that hustle and bustle also applies to the islands off the coast. This is the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and the statue of Thiruvalluvar. And both islands are dedicated to special people. We go on our way to both islands …
From Kanyakumari to Vivekananda Rock Memorial
The only way to get to the islands is by boat. The wait takes at least half an hour, because the boat leaves in 10 minutes. And it is quite busy there, even though it is in the afternoon. But once in the ramshackle ferry you are within 10 minutes at Vivekananda Rock Memorial. An orange lifejacket is mandatory and that is generally pointed out to everyone.
Ambassador of Hinduism
The first island is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda. Vivekananda (Calcutta, 1863-1902) was a Hindu monk from Calcutta. He was one of the most important representatives of the Vedanta. This movement within Hinduism assumes that man is essentially divine. By practicing spiritual disciplines, this divine status can be achieved.
Swami Vivekananda is venerated in India, because he gave the teaching of the Vedanta international prestige. He did so in 1893 at the World Religious Conference in the United States. This made such an impression that he was invited to give lectures all over the world. At the end of the 19th century, Hinduism was once again one of the world’s religions. Vivekananda can rightly be seen as an important ambassador of this age-old spiritual philosophy.
But why a Memorial here?
In 1970 a Memorial was started in memory of Swami Vivekananda. Two small temples stand here, made in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu style. But why was a Memorial built here?
It is suspected that this is the place where the ideas of Vivekananda came about. A year before the conference in the United States he sat on this rock to think deeply. Eventually this led to a worldwide growth in popularity for Hinduism.
2 minutes in the boat: on to Thiruvalluvar Statue
After taking several pictures it is time to continue. The next island is waiting for me. The trip to the statue of Thiruvalluvar takes at least 2 minutes. You are not obliged to get out of the car and many Indians don’t do that either. And then they miss that big statue of Thiruvalluvar.
But who was Thiruvalluvar?
A good question because we know very little about his life. It is suspected that he must have lived somewhere between 500 BC and 500 BC. The only thing that is known is that he was a poet and philosopher from the state of Tamil Nadu.
His most famous work is the Thirukural, a book of 1330 verses about the everyday virtues of an individual. It is seen as one of the most important works on ethics and morality. This book is still a source of inspiration in India as to how one should live.
The statue of Thiruvalluvar
Of course from the quay the image of Thiruvalluvar is the most impressive of what you can see from the islands. And that is no different than when you stand before it. Just taking a picture is not an easy task.
The statue was made by the sculptor Ganapati Sthapati in 2000 and weighs 7000 tons. The statue is a reference to his book Thirukural and is full of symbolism. It is 133 feet (40.6 meters) high and symbolizes the 133 chapters of his book. The right hand of the statue also points with 3 fingers in the air. This is a reference to the 3 objectives in life according to Thiruvalluvar: love, health and virtue.
Unfortunately the thought started cloudy and the day ended without much sun. Nevertheless, the two islands along the coast at Kanykumari are a great option if you are in this place.
Would you like to visit Kanyakumari?
How do I get there?
By boat, unless you like to swim. But of course that is not allowed.
In Kanyakumari, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, there is also the southernmost train station of India. It is about 15 minutes walk from the ferry. The bus station is 1.5 km west of the ferry and can be reached on foot or by bus.
Finally, the boat’s Ferry costs 20 rupees. Admission to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue is free, only the first one does not allow shoes to be worn.
Open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but in November until 5 p.m., according to my own experience.
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