There is an ancient stone mantapam on the seashore in front of a shrine to Adi Shankara. From here you can see the waves thrashing on the rocks below, the statue of poet Tiruvalluvar and the Swami Vivekananda Rock in the far distance. Behind you is the temple of Devi Kanyakumari.
I am thrilled to be here, this southern most tip of India, meeting place of a great ocean and two seas- the mighty Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. Across the sea the lights come on in the Vivekananda Memorial. Darkness falls and it is time to visit the Kanyakumari Devi temple.
The temple of Kanyakumari Bhagavathy is right on the seashore surrounded by the seas. Men are asked to remove their shirts and no cameras are allowed inside the temple. We enter the precincts and stand before Divine Mother.
The image before us is that of a beautiful girl, a japa-mala in her right hand and a smile on her lips. The priests ask us to see the Mookuthi, which is a shimmering diamond nose-stud worn by Devi KanyaKumari. The sense of peace that fills our being as we stand there cannot be described in words.
As we do Pradhakshinam (going around) around the main shrine we worship at a shrine for Indrakanta Ganapathy and at shrines for Goddess BalaSundari and Goddess Vijaya sundari, friends of Devi KanyaKumari.
What is unique about this temple?
- This is a 3000 years old temple.
- This is the first Durga Devi prathishta ( installation) out of 108 done by Bhagavan Parasurama.
- It is an important Shakthi Peetam-one of 51 Shakthi Peetas all over India.
- For thousands of years this southern most tip of the sub-continent (confluence of three seas) has been one of India’s main pilgrimage sites.
- The Kanyakumari temple is an ancient one and there are references to it in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and in ancient Tamil literature of the Sangam period called Purananooru and Manimekalai.
- It was originally built by the Pandyas.
- Poojas in this temple are out according to Tantra Samuchayam like the temples in Kerala. Kanyakumari was once part of the Travancore kingdom.
- In the days of yore, the light from the shimmering diamond nose-stud of the goddess is said to have misguided arriving ships causing them to crash on the rocky coast. Hence, the eastern door of the temple which faces the Bay of Bengal stays closed .It is opened only five times a year for the Aaraatu rituals. Eastern door is also opened on new moon days in the months of Thai, Aadi, during Navarathri and in the month of Karthigai.
The demon king Banasura, grandson of King Mahabali, was an evil king. He obtained a boon from Lord Shiva that only a virgin could kill him. He terrorized the people, sages and devas who prayed to Goddess Parvati to rescue them. Devi Parvati, answering their prayers appeared as a girl and proceeded to meditate on Lord Shiva to marry him, in the southernmost tip of the continent.
Lord Shiva, decided to marry her .The divine sage Narada felt that the marriage between them would defeat the very purpose of Devi’s incarnation which was to slay Banasura. So he tried to stop the wedding. He asked Devi Kanyakumari to test Lord Shiva to see if he was really all-powerful. Acting on his advice, Devi asked Lord Shiva to bring three things that could not be obtained anywhere in the world. These were,
- A coconut without eyes
- A stalk of sugarcane without joints, and,
- A betel leaf without veins.
Lord Shiva easily fulfilled this difficult challenge and the marriage was to take place in Kanyakumari..
Sage Narada then fixed the midnight hour as the auspicious time for the wedding! The wedding party started from Suchindram, which is 14 km. away, towards Kanyakumari. When it reached a place called Vazhukkumparai, Narada assumed the form of a rooster and crowed. On hearing the crowing of the cock, Lord Shiva, thinking that it was daybreak and the auspicious hour was past, returned to Suchindram.
Meanwhile, in Kanyakumari, all awaited the arrival of Lord Shiva. When he did not turn up at the auspicious hour, the wedding was called off. The rice and cereals meant for the wedding remained uncooked and were scattered all over the sea-shore. Even today tourists can buy the stones and colored sands that look like rice and cereals, the leftovers of the wedding that did not take place.
Devi Kumari resumed her penance on the rock called Sripada parai. Banasura, on hearing of the beauty of the goddess came to win her hand by force. This led to a fierce battle which ended with Devi slaying Banasura with her Chakra (discus) in Mahadanapuram(4 Km. north of Kanyakuari). Lord Parasurama built a temple for her and installed a beautiful image. Here she does eternal penance blessing all those who worship before her.
Morning: 4.30 a.m to 12.30 p.m
Evening: 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
WHERE TO STAY
Kanyakumari is an important tourist destination and there are plenty of hotels. Hotel Tamil-Nadu offers clean accommodation and is very conveniently located near the Lighthouse. From here, we could walk down to the KanyaKumari Temple and the seashore. Our stay at Hotel Tamil-Nadu came with a complimentary break-fast of sweet pongal, kitchdi ,idly,dosa and vada with sambar , chutney and coffee. Sumptuous!