Kanyakumari (Tamil: கன்னியாகுமரி), or Kanniyakumari and formerly Cape Comorin is the southernmost town in mainland India. It has a population of about 20,000 and this is where the Arabian Sea, the Gulf of Mannar and the Indian Ocean meet. In addition, it is among one of the best destinations in the world to witness both sunrise and sunset. And finally, in the pilgrimage site of Kanyakumari, you will also find a number of special attractions that you should definitely not miss. Are you planning a visit to Kanyakumari? Then read on and find out more about this fantastic destination in India in this travel guide….
What would you like to know about Kanyakumari, India?
- History – A brief history of Kanyakumari
- Sightseeing – 7 x things to see and do in Kanyakumari?
- Accommodation – Where to stay?
- Transportation – How to get there?
The history of Kanyakumari – A virgin girl
Kanyakumari was a part of the kingdom of Travancore for two centuries (1729-1949). But the reason Hindus love to come to Kanyakumari is because of the story of the goddess Kanya Kumari, which means virgin girl. This refers to the goddess who has been worshipped in Hinduism since Vedic times (1500-500 BC). Her story in brief is that because of her virginity she was chosen by the gods to defeat the powerful demon Banasura.
She left for the southernmost town to meditate and receive the blessing of the god Shiva. The latter was impressed by her meditation and spontaneously fell in love with her. He proposed marriage to her and she answered with approval. Since Kanya Kumari could only defeat the demon Banasura as a virgin, the divine sage Narada devised a ruse to prevent the wedding from taking place.
The marriage between Shiva and Kanya Kumari was to take place at midnight. Narada went to where Shiva lived, turned into a rooster and crowed just before midnight. Shiva was startled awake, thinking that a new day was at hand, and left thinking that he had missed the wedding. Kanya Kumari was left in tears by him.
The demon Banasura took his chance and also proposed marriage. Kanya Kumari refused and a fight ensued. The virgin girl won and defeated the demon. Kanya Kumari hoped to marry Shiva after all and continued to meditate to infinity….
Sightseeing – 7 x things to see and do in Kanyakumari
Are you planning a visit to the southernmost tip of India? In principle, you can have seen most of the city within one day. But do you have more time? Then make sure you add another half day, so that you can get to know Kanyakumari and its surroundings inside out. Here are some great tips and attractions.
1. Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue
Walk towards the southern tip and Thiruvalluvar is already looking at you with his big bronze eyes. The two islets 300 meters away from the mainland of India are the main attractions of Kanyakumari. The first islet you visit by boat is dedicated to the monk Vivekananda and the second to the philosopher Thiruvalluvar. Historically, this is a special place that you should definitely not skip in Kanyakumari. Would you like to know more about the history of both individuals and how your visit to both islets looks like? Then read the article Thiruvalluvar Statue and Vivekananda Rock Memorial | Review & History
2. The Bhagvaty Amman Temple
The Bhagvaty Amman Temple with its red and white striped walls is the most important shrine in the city and in India. It is dedicated to the goddess Kanya Kumari, who you know by now is the virgin girl. It is a temple with a history of over 3,000 years and an absolute must if you want to learn more about the history of this place. Are you here in May? Then you can visit the most famous festival held here at the Bhagvaty Amman Temple: the Vaisakhi Festival.
3. Ashes of Mohatma Gandhi
Besides the Bhagvaty Amman Temple, you can visit Gandhi Mandapam. This is a memorial in memory of Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1949), the father of the nation. In his lifetime, he paid regular visits to Kanyakumari. It is said that some of his ashes were kept here before finally being scattered in the sea. On October 2, Gandhi’s birthday, the sun’s rays shine through the roof of the memorial and fall on the spot where his ashes were once kept.
4. Discover history at Padmanabhapuram Palace
Located 35 kilometers northwest of Kanyakumari is the Padmanabhapuram Palace. This palace was built in 1601, making it probably the oldest palace in India. In the 18th century, Padmanabhapuram was the capital of the Kingdom of Travancore (1729-1949) and the king lived in this beautiful building. Although Padmanabhapuram Palace is located in the state of Tamil Nadu, it is maintained by the neighboring state of Kerala. The complex is still in good condition and an ideal destination for a (half) day trip from Kanyakumari.
5. Swimming in 3 seas at once…?
If you are at the Bhagvaty Amman Temple on the coast you will regularly see people swimming in the water. Kanyakumari is an important pilgrimage site for Hindus who bathe here to wash away all their sins. And besides, it is nice to be able to say that you have swum in three oceans at the same time (Okay, not quite right, but the idea is funny, right?).
6. Watch the sunrise and sunset
If there is one place in the world where you can easily see the sunrise and sunset without having to travel for it, it is in Kanyakumari. For this you have to get up early, because around 6 o’clock the sun rises. But the view is beautiful and absolutely a must if you are at the southernmost tip of India.
7. Discover the history of Vattakottai Fort
About 6 kilometers north of Kanyakumari, on the Bengal coast is a beautiful fortress called Vattakottai Fort. It was built in the 18th century by the Kingdom of Travancore as a defensive structure. After being poorly maintained for a while, today it is one of the most important historical landmarks in Kanyakumari and the surrounding area. Part of the fort extends into a small stretch of sea. It is especially an ideal place for taking some beautiful photos of the surroundings.
Accommodation – Where to stay in Kanyakumari?
Kanyakumari is not a large city and has a population of about 20,000. Most hotels are located in the center of town within walking distance of the southernmost tip of India. I myself stayed at Oyo 5482 Melody Park. I booked this hotel through the app MakeMyTrip (with credit card) and it cost about 11 euros per night. Furthermore, here you have a private room from 6 euros per night.
Food & Drinks: Looking for a nice restaurant in Kanyakumari? Generally, there are plenty of places to eat in the city center, but a few restaurants with good food are Hotel Seaview, Saravana or Hotel Seashore.
Transport – How to get to Kanyakumari?
Kanyakumari, located in the state of Tamil Nadu, is also home to the southernmost railway station in India. It is located in the center of the city. From here trains depart for Bangalore and there is even a train that goes to New Delhi. It takes 46 hours to cover the 3,000 kilometers. For that, of course, it is better to take the plane. The nearest airport is Trinvandrum, about 100 kilometers northwest of Kanyakumari. You can take a bus from the bus station 1.5 kilometers west of the center.
Need more tips & inspiration about India?
- Chennai – A historical travel guide to old Madras
- Mahabalipuram – Discover the beautiful temples of the Pallava Dynasty
Do you have any tips, ideas or comments about the southernmost tip of India, Kanyakumari? Feel free to leave a comment below!