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Legends, tradition, culture and religion blend to form a brilliant potpourri that is Kanyakumari. It is India’s southernmost tip where the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea join the Indian Ocean. Sprawled out on the shore of this great ‘Triveni sangam’ is the Kanyakumari town home to an array of beautiful temples, most importantly the iconic Kumari Amman temple, a colorful beach bazaar and the Vivekananda Rock Memorial standing sentinel over the sea. The memorial is built in honor of Swami Vivekananda who swam in this rough sea to the rock and meditated for days. The town gradually came up around the famous shore temple dedicated to the virgin goddess, Kanyakumari.
Kanyakumari is an ancient city on the southern tip of India that takes its name from the shore temple of Kumari Amman or Kanyakumari. It is an important centre for pearl fishery. According to Travancore Consensus 1931, the Paravars ruled this coast and built the temple for their great reverence to sea goddess. There are many legends associated with the building of this temple. The most popular one has it that Goddess Kanyakumari, an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi was set to marry Lord Shiva who failed to show up on the wedding day. Infuriated she cursed the rice, sweets, ornaments bought in anticipation of the wedding, which turned into stones of different shapes, colors and forms. This is believed to be the reason for the multi-colored sand found on Kanyakumari beach. After this episode she pledged to remain a virgin all her life.
Since beginning Kanyakumari has been a big centre for art and religion, not to mention trade and commerce as well. The Cholas, Cheras, Pandyas and the Nayaks ruled this region and left their imprint in the form of some wonderful architectural sites such as temples of exquisite beauty. Subsequently, Kanyakumari went on to become a part of the Venad kingdom with its capital at Padmanabhapuram. Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, the monarch of Travancore extended his territory further north up to Azhva during his reign from 1729 to 1758. Following which the present Kanyakumari district came to be known as Southern Travancore. The Battle of Colachel was fought in 1741 between Marthanda Varma and the Dutch East India Company in which the Dutch forces were crushed by the Maharaja’s army.
Initially the Paravar kings ruled Kanyakumari, after whose downfall the Travancore kings took over. Their reign ended after Travancore joined the independent Indian Union in 1947. Under the Travancore state Kanyakumari district gained both socially and economically. Two years later, Kanyakumari became a part of the reconstituted Travancore-Cochin state. Soon an agitation among the Tamil-speaking majority gained momentum for the amalgamation of Kanyakumari district with Tamil Nadu. And in 1956 during the linguistic re-organization of states, Kanyakumari was merged with Tamil Nadu. A certain Kumari Thanthai Marshal Nesamony is said to be instrumental in this merger.
A wave of Christianity spread across South India around 52 AD through St. Thomas, one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. But Christianity flourished with the arrival of the European missionaries in the 16th century, pioneered by St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552). He used to make trips to Kanyakumari from Goa and stay here for sometime. During his stay in Kottar, Saint Xavier used to worship Mother Mary in a small temple. He even averted the invasion of the Padagas on the people of Venad which was appreciated greatly by the ruling king. And as a token of appreciation, the king allotted him a piece of land in Kottar to get a Catholic church constructed. The site already had a church in 1544 where the St. Xavier Church now stands.
It would be apt to say that Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Jainism have together contributed to the architectural and literary heritage of the region.
State buses and auto-rickshaws are popular modes of transport in this coastal town. You can hail an auto-rickshaw from the railway station and other places of tourist interest. Or request your hotel of stay to arrange you a private taxi to take you around.
Tourist Traps in the City
The fast-paced commercialization notwithstanding, Kanyakumari still remains a place where you needn’t be wary of anything. Locals are a calm lot and extremely god fearing (like most South Indian cities). So chances of your running into a tout are very less. Do strike a bargain while souvenir shopping from the local bazaar; the prices are hiked a little for tourists. If you are stuck anywhere, you can seek help of the locals who are generally friendly but might have a tough time in deciphering a language outside of their mother tongue!
The locals have a traditional outlook, so when visiting a temple or any religious site dress modestly and avoid wearing short or revealing clothes. There are a variety of beaches in Kanyakumari, but not all are suitable for sunbathing. The famous Kanyakumari Beach opening up to a rough sea is composed of coarse multi-colored sand, making it an absolute no-no for stretching back and soaking up the sun. Though, you can spend the whole day here sitting on the paved wall and watching the sea, or browsing the local beach bazaar.
What Kanyakumari does with its seashells is something to be witnessed at the local beach bazaar. The array of curios from looking mirrors framed with millions of tiny seashells, lampshades, wall hangings, junk jewelry, trinkets, bags with shell designs, to conchs in different shapes and hues, make the experience of flipping through souvenir shops very fascinating. If nothing else, at least pick up a few trinkets made of seashells – they are one-off and a popular-buy here. The local bazaar on the outer fringes of the Kanyakumari beach is a hub to find shell-craft in addition to an assortment of artifacts made of bamboo, cane and teak, miniature paintings on palm leaves, textiles, fabrics and handicraft typical of Tamil Nadu. Palm leaf utility articles also make for a good buy. This local bazaar is an eclectic mix of little kiosks to proper shops selling South Indian silk sarees, coconut-shell souvenirs, colorful Kathakali masks, patchwork and embroidered handbags, batik dress material, paintings, fresh coconut nectar, seashell jewelry, seashell artifacts and many other fascinating bric-a-brac.
And if you want it all under one roof, head to Tamil Nadu Co-optex Sales Emporium, Tamil Nadu Crafts or Poompuhar. These are well-known shopping centres in the town from where you can pick up fabrics, textiles and handicraft for yourself and your loved ones back home.
Within the Kumari Amman temple premise too there are handicraft shops selling attractive seashell souvenirs. At the memorial shop of the Vivekananda Rock Memorial you get to choose from many interesting books on the life and philosophy of Swami Vivekananda and other related mementos.
Phones :Cell phone rates are one of the cheapest in the world.
There are four GSM service providers:
* BSNL  GSM Triband
* Airtel  GSM Triband
* Vodafone  GSM Triband
* Idea GSM Triband
CDMA service providers are
* Reliance Communications
* Tata Indicom
Internet: There are several internet cafes / Cyber Cafes from where you can access the Internet for sending email or uploading your digital photos.
* Reliance world offers you broadband connectivity at many locations across the city.
* Sify iway also offers broadband connectivity at different locations spread all over the city.