The Ramayana, Mahabaratha and the Sangam works, Manimekalai and Purnaanooru makes reference to Kanya Kumari. It is called the Mallighai Maanagar or the City of Jasmines. There are mentions of Devi in Narayana Upanishad belonging to the Taittrya Arayanka of the Yajur Veda. It is believed that Devi’s deity was installed and worshiped by the Sage Parasurama. He is said to have reclaimed part of Kerala from the ocean, after which he was instrumental in building several shrines. Kanyakumari enjoys the reputation of giving the blessing of sunrise and sunset at the same time while one stands on the beach.
DEPICTION: The Goddess is depicted as a charming young girl dressed in beautiful sari. The deity is carved of dark blue stone and placed on a pedestal adorned with gold jewelry. She holds a rosary in her hands in a prayerful spiritual mood to attain the Supreme Lord. The rosary is symbolic of chanting God’s name, mantra japa. The left hand touches the garland depicting her connections with nature's spiritualism. The crown is majestic and embedded with precious gems and diamonds. Her sparkling nose jewel sheds lustrous radiance. Lord Shiva residing here is Sundharesvarar.
MYTHOLOGY: Lord Mahavishnu had to intervene when the demon Baanaasuran created havoc on earth. Together with other celestial Gods, humans included, Vishnu requested Mother Parashakti, the Primal Energy to vanquish the demon. The demon had obtained a boon that only a virgin-goddess could kill him. Mother is all loving and hearing the cause of the inhabitants, appeared as Kumari, a young virgin in Kanyakumari town. There She began austere penance with the desire of marrying Lord Shiva. The Lord consent and the marriage was to take place at Suchindram. Towards this Devi wears a beautiful diamond studded nose-ring. Her playmates Vijayasundari and Balasundari become excited over Devi’s alliance.
The Sage Narada, fixed the midnight hour as the auspicious time for tying the nuptial knot. In his usual style this was to scuttle the marriage. Lord Siva comes with his entourage and wedding party. When they reach Vazhukkumpaarai, a rooster crowed to herald daybreak. The Lord assumed that the auspicious hour had passed and returns to Kailasa.
Devi becomes disappointed. The wedding food was laid to waste on the beach and it turned into the colored sand which is typical of Kanyakumari beach. One fine day, Baanaasuran, upon hearing Devi’s story and given the fact she was alone, proceeded to Kanyakumari to re-propose the marriage. She refuses and he puts up a fight in which Devi’s 'chakrayutha' kills him. In veneration, the Devas called upon Devi to remain in the south and give them protective custody.
TEMPLE: Devi has a black stone image in the sanctum with a prominent and enchanting garland. The glittering nose ring is visible from a distance. According to myths, the light emanating from this nose ring and the rubies adorning her misguided enemy ships and caused them to crash onto the rocky coasts. Indeed there is a door towards the east of the shrine which is opened five times a year. There are also shrines for Vijayasundari and Balasundari.
THEERTHAMS: Theertham means holy tank of a temple. It can also means water that is offered for a deity during abishekam or that which is offered as neivedya. After the offering, it is collected in a vessel and becomes theertha. The Holy Theertham of Kannyakumari finds mention in Skanda Purana and Padma Purana. According to legends Goddess Parvathi in her Kanya Kumari manifestation did penance on one of the rocks of this land’ end to obtain Lord Siva’s hand in holy matrimony. It is also said that at the moment of his death, Baanaasura repented for his villanous acts and prayed to Parashakthi to have compassion upon him and absolve him, and anyone else, who bathed in the waters off Kanya Kumari of their sins. Devi granted Banasura the boon, and this is why people come from all over India to bathe in this holy confluence of seas
A dip in the ocean here is considered holy to rid of papas. Besides abisheka and archanas, people bath in the rough ocean to offer tarpana to departed ancestors for their salvation. The holy springs in Kanya Kumari are called Papanasa Theertham. There are a total of eleven theerthams associated with the temple in the ocean surrounding the area. A well inside the second prakaram, known as Moola Ganga Theertham provides water for Devi’s abhishekam. Kanyakumari, the southern tip of the Indian subcontinent has been held sacred for centuries and theertham water is held holy.
FESTIVALS: Temples in Kerala enjoy certain uniqueness. Worship is carried out there throughout the day. There is similar practice in Kanyakumari. It is worthwhile remembering that Kanyakumari was a part of the erstwhile Travancore Kingdom. Up until 1956 it was under the rule of the Maharaja of Travancore. The land was called the Granary of Travancore. Later it came under the Tamil Nadu administrative system. There are suggestions that the Paravas of Travancore built the temple in admiration to Sea Goddess so one has the story of the goddess giving protection by misguiding enemy boats.
The Vaishaka festival is celebrated in the Tamil month of Vaikshakam where the Deity of Goddess Devi Kanya Kumari is brought in a procession on various mounts. The Aaraatu is when the eastern door to the shrine is opened. It is also opened on new moon days in the months of Thai, Aadi, during Navarathri and Kaarthikai months.
Kalabham is the sandal festival in the month of Aadi. The deity is covered with sandal paste and on the 13th day, the last Friday of the month, the deity is covered with vast quantities of flowers brought in from several villages in the vicinity.
Navarathri festivals see the Deity being worshipped in the Navarathri mandapam. This worship and procession mark the festive celebrations on each of the nine nights. On the concluding Vijaya Dasami day, the Deity is taken in procession on a horse mount to Mahadanapuram, a nearby village.
SWAMI VIVEKANANDA: The Vivekananda Rock Memorial at Kanyakumari stands on a rock island. It is built in honor of Swami Vevekananda who spent time in deep meditation on this rock. As a wandering young monk, he found himself at Kanyakumari after 3 yerars and swam across the waters to reach this rock. It is here that he attained enlightenment. Even prior to the Swami’s visit, this rock island has been revered to be sacred. It is believed to be blessed by the sacred feet of Goddess Kumari while She meditated prior to killing Baanaasura. This rock island carried Vivekananda’s statute and a meditation hall, the Vivekananda Mandapam.
THIRUVALLUVAR: Thiruvalluvar gave the world the philosophical work, Thirukkural. Together with Vivekananda’s statute, the Thiruvalluvar Statute on another rock island is another de-facto landmark of Kanyakumari. The monument and the 133 feet tall pedestal is meant to represent the 38 chapters of "virtue" as described in the Thurukkural. In terms of combining design with philosophy, the statue represents arta and kama that can be earned when life is lived on the foundation of solid dharma.
GAYATHRI: "Katyayanayai vidmahe Kanya-kumarim deemahi Tan no Durgih procadayat"
HISTORICAL COMEDY: There are western historians suggesting that Kanyakumari was found by Ptolemy who drew some maritime maps of the globe. Like many other western claims, this page too has to be torn and pasted to a comic book. The so called Cape Comorin is a corruption of the word ‘Kumari’. All that Ptolemy did was to identify the cape for its pearl fishery and commercial connections with the Roman empire.
Indeed one Bechart, in Chanaan Book I, points out to the anomaly “……(Ptolemy) speaks of the fame cape and Colis resembling the Indian word Koil….there is a very famous one in the inland adjoining to the promontory; ….by an error of more surveying , as it is easy to trace Comorin in Ptolemy himself under the name of Comeria….he mistakes Colchi for Cochin…… the country we have been surveying the coast from Cape Comorin, Medura and Marava …was one of its ancient dependencies inland parts whereof inserted in the map from Indian Memoirs which bore the name of Panai Mandalam or land of the King of Paandi…” Perhaps Ghandiji’s words would be of solace “I am writing this at the cape, in front of the sea, where three waters meet and furnish a sight unequalled in the world. For this is no port of all for vessels. Like the Goddess, the waters around are virgin….”