Kanyakumari, the southernmost point of India, is a spiritual sojourn of sorts for the modern traveller
Kanyakumari is on every travellers’ list, and for good reason. Geographically, the coastal town sits at the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent – literally the last habitable place in India.
It is also the point of confluence of three major water bodies – the Arabian Sea, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. This small town in Tamil Nadu is also home to another unique geographical phenomenon – you can watch the sun rise and set at the same beach!
Swami Vivekananda, the famous Indian poet and philosopher, spent long periods of time meditating in Kanyakumari. In his honour, the Vivekananda Rock Memorial was constructed in 1970. It is one of the major tourist attractions and a sacred monument in Kanyakumari. It stands on one of the two rocks located about 500 metres off the mainland. Moving ahead, the Thiruvalluvar Statue is another marvel to witness. It is 95 feet high and stands upon a 38-foot rock that represents the 38 chapters of ‘virtue’ in the Thirukkural, classic Tamil sangam literature authored by Valluvar.
While in Kanyakumari, you cannot miss this bright pink monument known as Gandhi Mandapan. After Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, his remains were cremated and sent to various parts of the country. Kanyakumari is one of the places where some of his ashes were displayed before being ritually deposited in the sea. After the ashes were removed, the Gandhi Mandapam (a pillared structure used for public ritual) was built on the site where the ashes rested. The central spire of the pink facade also stands exactly 79 feet high in honour of Gandhi Ji’s age at the time of his death.
Kanyakumari is also home to several churches, one of them being the 100-year-old Church of Our Lady of Ransom on the shoreline of the Bay of Bengal. Built in the Gothic style of architecture with a strong Portuguese influence, the church is slightly off-white in appearance with three massive towering spires and stained glass windowpanes. Another attraction of the church is the Central Tower. It is 153 feet high and is crowned with a cross of pure gold.
Back on track
Kanyakumari was one of the many affected areas in the massive tsunami that rocked the world in 2004. In the memory of the deceased, a Tsunami Memorial was later erected on the seashore. The memorial is a 16-foot-high, blue-coloured statue made from steel. The monument shows a giant wave that is held in place by a ‘hand’, while the other ‘hand’ holds on to a lamp, probably depicting hope. The plaque below it records the date and importance of this monument. Travelling to Kanyakumari gives a sense of absolute calm – and also a realisation that nature finally prevails.
Words: Kunal Doley