Kanyakumari is at the southernmost tip of mainland India. It is the point where 3 seas i.e. the Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea meet and the confluence of these three seas is also referred as ‘Thriveni Sangamam’. The Kanyakumari is known for its association with Swami Vivekananda, he attained enlightenment here. During British rule Kanyakumari was known as Cape Comorin, even today the railway station’s code is “Cape”. Watching the sunrise at Kanyakumari beach is one of the most popular activities. Every morning before a sunrise crowd gathers at the seashore, on hotel’s roof or any other place from where the sunrise can be seen. There are many places to visit in Kanyakumari and around but Vivekanand rock memorial is the most visited place in Kanyakumari.
We traveled from Trivandrum to Kanyakumari by cab and it took us 3 hours by car. We had 2 full days to explore Kanyakumari as our train to Rameshwaram was next night.
I decided to first visit Vivekananda Rock Memorial, which is the most popular tourist attraction and synonymous with Kanyakumari. The Vivekananda Rock Memorial stands on one of two rocks located about 500 meters off the mainland. On the adjacent rock stands the statue of famous Tamil philosopher Thiruvalluvar.
Swami Vivekananda swam to this small rock island and meditated here, he attained enlightenment on this rock. Vivekananda Rock Memorial is regarded as a sacred place and many visits this place as a holy destination. It was built in 1970 after 7 years of construction.
The Vivekanand Rock Memorial can be reached by ferry only. There is only one company called Poompuhar Shipping, which operates the ferry for rock. It was middle of the week still, there was a long queue at ferry ticket counter. I came to know that during the weekends, the queue is much longer. I got my ticket within 10 minutes but the queue and moved into the corridor. There was a much longer queue to board the ferry and I had to wait for half an hour.
To beat the long queues it is advisable to buy VIP tickets. Though this ticket is expensive as compared to the regular ticket still it is worth considering the waiting time in the queue. The ferry took 15 minutes to reach the Vivekananda rock memorial from the jetty. There was an entry ticket to visit the memorial and the counter was next to the deboarding point of the ferry.
While I was approaching the stairs leading to the main mandapam, I noticed there were a lot of shoes lying on sides. The shoes are not allowed in the main mandapam area and I deposited my shoes at the counter, they gave me a token. The stone floor of Vivekananda Rock memorial gets hot during the day so it is advisable to wear the socks otherwise it will be difficult to walk around.
The important places to visit at Vivekananda rock memorial are Dhyana Mandapam (The Meditation Hall), Sabha Mandapam (The Assembly Hall), Pralima Mandapam (Statue section), Mukha Mandapam, a corridor and an open courtyard that round the Sabha Mandapam.
Another important structure is Shripada Mandapam hall with Garbha Graham, Inner Prakaram, Outer Prakaram and Outer Platform.
Both the Mandapams are designed in a way that the vision of Vivekananda’s statue is directed towards the Shripadam Mandapam.
There is also Sri Padaparai Mandapam which is a shrine erected at the spot where the footprint of the Virgin Goddess Kanyakumari was seen on the rock.
There were bookstalls selling literature and other souvenir items related to Swami Vivekanand’s teachings.
I spent more than an hour on Vivekanand Rock Memorial, you can stay there as long as you wish but keep in mind that you have to wait in the queue to board the ferry. There is always tourist rush to visit Vivekanand rock because it is top in the list of places to visit in Kanyakumari.
From Vivekanand rock memorial, few ferries go to Thiruvalluvar Statue and others return back to Kanyakumari beach. I took a ferry for Thiruvalluvar Statue, which is next to Vivekanand Rock memorial. There is no separate ferry ticket for this place. The 95 feet tall statue of Thiruvalluvar is standing on a 38 feet high platform. There were stairs inside the platform, I climbed to the second-floor of the platform. From this height, Vivekanand rock memorial looks very interesting.
*Sometimes the entry to the Thiruvalluvar Statue is restricted due to different reasons.*
I took a ferry from Thiruvalluvar Statue and returned to the Kanyakumari beach. There are many restaurants in the jetty market area but I decided to have lunch in Vivekananda Kendra Ashram, which is 1.5 km from the Kanyakumari beach jetty.
This is the headquarters of spiritual organization Vivekananda Kendra. In the ashram compound, they have a canteen in the ashram where they serve vegetarian food and we had thali for lunch.
Vivekananda Kendra Ashram offers different types of accommodation, a variety of yoga retreats and other spiritual activities. Room booking can be done online but they allow a maximum of 3 days stays at a time.
There are a number of places to see within Vivekananda Kendra Ashram campus. The Ramayana Darshanam (grand pictorial Exhibition), Bharat Mata Mandir, a gallery of Vivekananda (It covers his life and teachings through pictures and texts), Gramodaya, Pictorial exhibition of Eknathji are some of the important places.
Peacock sanctuary is another interesting place, there was a small pond here and I was able to spot a couple of peacocks. In morning hours, there are many Peacocks in this area.
There is a small beach with Vivekananda Kendra Ashram and it’s a good place to watch the sunrise in Kanyakumari.
I spent few hours in ashram exploring the area and then returned to Kanyakumari beach.
Near the Kanyakumari beach is Kumari Amman Temple, which is popularly known as Kanyakumari Temple. This temple is dedicated to the goddess Devi Kumari Amman. The temple houses an opulent black statue of the deity. Temple is of great religious importance and thousands of people pay their respects and seek the blessings of the goddess every year.
This is a Shakti Peetha and legend has it that pieces of Goddess Sati’s body fell here during the Lord Shiva’s Tandav dance.
After visiting Kanyakumari temple we decided to return to the hotel for a power nap because there was still some time to sunset.
My parents didn’t want to go for sunset so they stayed in the hotel, so I went alone. First I went to watchtower near my hotel. The watchtower is a perfectly located on Kanyakumari beach and is a good place to watch sunrise and sunset. There is a ramp to climb to the top of the tower and it was definitely better than climbing the stairs. At the top, it was very windy but it’s a nice place to spend an evening. But as I am very particular about watching sunrise and sunset while traveling, so I said goodbye to the view tower.
I went to sunset point but the effort I made to go to sunset point turned out waste of time and energy because it was too cloudy. Here is my experience of Kanyakumari sunrise and sunset.
Vivekanand Rock and Thiruvalluvar Statue look Vibrant at night.
While I was in Vivekananda Kendra Ashram, someone in canteen told me that they illuminate the Ramayana Darshanam and it looks beautiful. If you had read my earlier posts then you definitely know that I love illuminated buildings and light & sound shows. I could not resist myself and again went to Vivekananda Kendra. Ramayana Darshanam was looking beautiful, I must say that going there to see it at night was one of the wisest decision I took in Kanyakumari. The Ramayana Darshanam exhibition and the building looked totally different at night. Definitely, a place to visit and it was worth the effort.
We have planned to visit places around Kanyakumari on the second day. After visiting Our Lady of Ransom Church, we left for a full day exploration around Kanyakumari.
We first visited Suchindrum temple, which is 11 Km from Kanyakumari beach. There were fewer people so we managed to have quick darshan. Suchindrum temple was built in the distinctive Dravidian style and is adorned with massive gopurams which are a common characteristic of all the Dravidian temples. The entrance tower was visible from the distance as it rises to 134 feet, the tower is covered with sculptures from Hindu mythology characters like most temples in the south of India.
Suchindrum temple is unique in concept as it is dedicated to three different deities (Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva) but represented three of them by one image in the sanctum and it is called “Sthanumalayan”. There was one corridor running along the outer wall of the temple with many small shrines and mandapams. There were about 30 shrines to various deities within the temple complex and the large Lingam in the sanctum.
The sculptures of the temple are worth visiting but they didn’t allow photography inside the temple.
From Suchindrum temple we drove to Padamanabhapuram Palace, which is around 22 km north of Suchindrum temple (From Kanyakumari it’s 40 Km and from Trivandrum 60 Km). The Padamanabhapuram Palace is located in the foothills of the Velli Hills and offers nice views against the backdrop of hills. Though the Padamanabhapuram palace is located in Kanyakumari district of Tamilnadu state, it is administered and managed by the Government of Kerala.
The clock tower in the palace complex has an approx 300-year-old clock and it still keeps the correct time. We were told that we cannot go inside the palace with shoes and we have to go barefoot. They have a locker room to keep the shoes, we deposited our shoes there but walking barefoot was tough, as we are not used to. It was difficult especially when we went to another building with the kitchen and resting place, it was around 150 meters from the main palace. Both buildings were connected with rain stone path and it was a bit too rough for walking barefoot. It is advisable to keep a pair of thick socks.
Coming back to the palace, it is mainly built using wooden material except for some stone used here and there or the tiled used on top of the roof. Floors, walls, roofs, stairs, all were made of the wooden material. In some parts, the roof has intricate carving, which enhances the beauty of the palace. They have kept all rooms and halls bare, there were no decoration or furniture in them. The roofs of some rooms and corridors were low and I was able to touch them when I stretched my arm.
There is a long hall which can accommodate around 1000 guests at a time, and we have been informed that in this are king hosted ceremonial feasts on auspicious occasions.
The King’s Council Hall is in open and surrounded by palace building. It is the only building built with the mica dark colored and ornately decorated stone in Padamanabhapuram Palace.
Some of the doors in the palace were closed with locks. We have been told that doors lead to secret passage through which the king, his immediate family members, and their entourage could escape to another palace in an event of an emergency. After exploring the Padamanabhapuram Palace’s inner areas, I came out.
There is a small museum in Padamanabhapuram Palace and it houses old Chinese jars, weapons, paintings etc.
Our driver said you must visit Thirparappu Falls, it was not in our original plan but then we thought why not see a waterfall. The driver told us that there are some nice restaurants in Thirparappu Falls area. We first had lunch and then as suggested by the driver, we went to see the falls. After walking towards fall we came across a ticket counter. There were 3-4 guys, they asked us to buy tickets if wanted to go further. The ticket was only 10 INR, we bought the tickets and went ahead. It felt strange buying a ticket to see the waterfall. After climbing downstairs we came across a nicely landscaped and manicured garden. My father and I got confused because we never saw this kind of an artificial garden near a waterfall. Anyways we walked more now we can hear the sound of water but I can’t see any waterfall, we were getting confused. So, we asked a guy, “Where is the waterfall”, he pointed toward a place where water was falling from some 20-25 feet high wall and people were standing under bathing and playing.
It was a picnic spot, where anyone can take bath or play in water falling from a small height. It didn’t look like a natural waterfall to me. It was such a disappointment for us as we expected a waterfall. I personally not recommend this places to visit in Kanyakumari.
After this disappointing stop, we drove to Mathur Hanging Bridge (Aqueduct). This is Asia’s longest as well as tallest trough bridge. Mathur Aqueduct was constructed for agricultural development and as a drought relief measure in 1966 over the Parazhiyar River (also called Pahrali) in Mathoor. It is almost one kilometer long and 115 feet tall. The concrete structure of Mathur Aqueduct is supported by 28 huge pillars and carries water for irrigation from Pattanamkal Canal from one side of the hill to another.
The Mathur Aqueduct is divided into two parts, a trough canal, and a road. The trough structure is 7.5 feet in width and 7 feet in height. There is a flight of stairs to climb the Mathur Aqueduct but we drove directly to the bridge by road.
There were 2-3 man and women sitting before entry point of Mathur Aqueduct with pink and yellow tickets (Written in Tamil) and they asked us to buy tickets if we want to walk on the bridge. I don’t know if these tickets were legal or illegal, we bought the tickets as they cost only 5 INR per person.
The view from the bridge was beautiful with lush green hills at sides and trees under it. There was no water in the canal during our visit, which was disappointing.
There were few stalls before Mathur Aqueduct selling water, cold drinks, coconut water, pineapple, and Jackfruit. We had some fresh pineapple before returning back.
This area was quite lush green with many banana plantations on side of the road. There were banana farms on few km stretches. After driving for some time we reached an area Nagarcoilwhere there were rubber plantations. We stopped at one rubber plantation to see how they scrap the bark and attach the vessel to collect the rubber sap.
On the way, we stopped in Nagercoil to see the temple. The market area around the temple was very crowded and there were long queues to enter the temple. We were tired and we have a railway train to catch same evening, so we returned back to Kanyakumari to rest for sometime.
It was a long and busy day but we saw some interesting places before taking an evening train to Rameshwaram from Kanyakumari.