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On the sands of time

The southernmost tip of India is a charming town blessed with beautiful temples, historical monuments and serene beaches. Kanniyakumari has been and remains a preferred destination for tourists. Part 5 of an Outlook special on tourism in Tamil Nadu.

Kanniyakumari is much more than its cartographic significance. Spiritual reflection, pilgrimage, history, architecture and natural beauty – all come together in this cape town. Kanniyakumari is a meeting point of three oceans and an amalgamation of different cultures, religions and ideas developed over centuries. 

Two wave-washed rocky outcrops are the most recognised visuals of Kanniyakumari. At this spot of unparalleled beauty where three oceans – the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea – meet, Mahatma Gandhi wrote “I am writing this at the cape, in front of the sea, where three waters meet and furnish a sight unequalled in the world.”

Gandhiji’s ashes were strewn to the elements here. The spiritual history of these rocks go further back in time –Swami Vivekananda attained enlightenment here and myths say that Goddess Kanniyakumari performed ‘tapasya’ for Lord Shiva here millennia ago. 

All these threads are beautifully represented. The Gandhi Memorial and the Vivekananda Rock Memorial provide visitors places of reflection. The Thiruvalluvar Statue, a 133-feet-tall stone sculpture of Tamil poet and philosopher Valluvar, gazes out over this seascape. The 133 feet mark the 133 chapters of the ancient Tamil text, Tirukkural. The 38-feet pedestal represents the 38 chapters of Virtue, the first of the three books. The statue itself, at 95 feet, represents the second and third books – Wealth and Love. In its entirety, the statue signifies that wealth and love should be enjoyed on the foundation of virtue. 

The confluence of three oceans renders this place holy, further strengthened by the legend of the Kumari. The Kumari Amman temple here is one of the 108 shaktipeeths in India, and is around 3000 years old. 

Kanniyakumari is first and foremost a seaside town, though the beach experience here is completely opposite from others. Pilgrims bathing, practicing yoga, airing their sarees, bargaining with seashell souvenir vendors, differently coloured sand, stunning sunrises and sunsets and the lighthouse with the Vivekananda Memorial in the backdrop – all make for picture-perfect moments. 

Kanniyakumari district’s rich history is evident in its architectural monuments. The 16th-century teakwood Padmanabhapuram Palace, a fine example of Taccusastra (the ancient science of carpentry), is proof of the architectural brilliance of the erstwhile kingdom of Travancore. This and the Vattakottai Fort, the last of the coastal forts of Travancore Kingdom, is maintained by Kerala, though they are located in Tamil Nadu and form part of its intangible heritage. 

The Chittar Dams, part of the Kodayar System Major Irrigation Project, are an important source of irrigation but also a favoured picnic spot. Construction of these dams created Chittar Lake, a well-known tourist spot thanks to its superb views of waterfalls and cascades.

The Mathoor Hanging Trough is another point of interest– the tallest as well as the longest trough bridge in Asia, with a height of 115 feet and a length of one kilometre has been constructed at Mathoor across the river Parazhiyar. 

At Thiruparappu, 55 kilometers from Kanniyakumari, the Kodayar makes its descent. A rocky river bed causes the water to fall from a height of nearly 50 feet and for seven months in a year. The District Administration has constructed a swimming pool for children. This is also near several rubber plantations. These provide interesting guided tours to visitors. 

Kanniyakumari district has interesting food as well. For foodies, apart from the tiffin staples of dosas and vadas, the kottu (minced fried paratha), appam, paazha sharbat (an unusual mixed fruit juice), sweet avial, paazha bhaaji (ripe banana fritters) tickle the taste buds. For non-vegetarians, regional delicacies like tapioca with fish and other seafood dishes delight the senses. 

All in all, Kanniyakumari is a destination known yet unknown, as wondrous for the first-time visitor as for the repeat traveller. 

Getting there

By air: Trivandrum is the nearest airport. 

By train: From all major cities such as Chennai, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi

By bus: From all cities and towns in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.


Hotel Tamil Nadu Kanniyakumari,

Light House Main Road, Near to Sea Shore, KanniyaKumari. 

Contact. No. 9176995850

For booking:


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