The Padmanabhapuram Palace of Kanyakumari, a symbol of rich cultural legacy, is one of the chief attractions of Tamil Nadu.
Padmanabhapuram Palace that spread over a sprawling 6 acres is situated at the foot of Veli Hills of Western Ghats. This Palace was built by Iravipillai Iravivarma Kulasekhara Perumal in the 17th century. Padmanabhapuram Palace is mostly a wooden structure that exhibits the traditional architectural style of Kerala.
The walls of the palace have wooden planks which have carvings of Anantasayana, which portrays Lord Vishnu in a reclined pose on the serpent lord, Ananta. The floor of the palace is formed of burnt coconut shells, laterite, lime and sand. The wooden ceiling has carvings of 90 different floral designs.
The ‘Navarathri Mandapam’ within the hall of the palace, which is 66 feet long and 27 feet wide, is made of black granite. The Council chamber is a famous section in the Palace. The King’s Council is coloured with mica and it has many windows. The Council is also noteworthy for the intricate latticework done on its inner walls and for the floor made of coconut shells and egg white.
The inner walls of the Prayer Hall are adorned with about 50 murals that depict Lord Vishnu with his consorts and Lord Krishna with gopikas. Several paintings depicting significant incidents from the life of Marthanda Verma can be seen on the walls of the corridor leading to the guest house.
Today, Padmanabhapuram Palace of Kanyakumari is being take care by the Archeological Department of Kerala.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial
Vivekananda Rock Memorial is dedicated to Swami Vivekananda, a follower of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, the founder of Ramakrishna Mission. Vivekananda Rock Memorial was built between 1963 and 1970 in red and blue granite. It is located on the top of a rock island, at a height of about 17 meters above sea level, covering an area of about 6 acres.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial is about 490 meters offshore close to the confluence of the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. In 1970, Swami Vireshwarananda, the president of Ramakrishna Mission, consecrated Vivekananda Rock Memorial and it was opened to the public by V.V. Giri, the then President of India.
Vivekananda Rock Memorial consists of two main structures – Vivekananda Mandapam and Shripada Mandapam. Shripada Mandapam is situated on Shripada Parai, an ancient sacred spot believed to be blessed by Goddess Kanyakumari.
It is believed that Swami Vivekananda swam across the sea to Shripada Parai for deep meditation and enlightenment. As per legends, it was on Shripada Parai that Goddess Kanyakumari did meditation. The footprint on Shripada Parai is believed to be that of Goddess Kanyakumari.
Vivekananda Mandapam of Vivekananda Rock Memorial has a rectangular floor plan and it has four parts – Dhyana Mandapam (Meditation Hall), Sabha Mandapam (Assembly Hall), Mukha Mandapam (Front Portion) and the Front Entrance. Ferry services connect the mainland to the rocky island.
Mahatma Gandhi Memorial
The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial or Gandhi Mandapam is one amid the frequented visitor attractions in Kanyakumari. The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial was built to honor Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation.
The Memorial was built in 1956, in the Orissa temple architectural style. The memorial is built in the same place where his ashes were kept for the public to pay homage, before its immersion in the confluence.
The middle structure of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial is 79 feet high, which represents his age at the time of his death. The Gandhi Memorial is designed in such a way that at noon, on October 2nd every year, the sun rays fall on the exact spot where the ash of Gandhiji was kept before raptness.
The Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, which is a fine example of contemporary architecture, is situated nearby the Kumari Amman Temple. It is also known for the library which houses old pamphlets, magazines, books, etc. of the pre-Independence era, which is functional only on Friday and Saturday.
Thiruvalluvar Statue is a popular tourist spot in Kanyakumari. Thiruvalluvar Statue is one of the biggest statues in India. Thiruvalluvar Statue was built in the year 2000 to remember Thiruvalluvar who was a famous ancient Tamil saint and poet who wrote Thirukkural.
The statuette of Thirukkural stands on a 3 – level pedestal, known as Atharapeedam. Atharapeedam is bordered by the 38 feet high Alankara Mandapam. There are ten elephant statues surrounding the Alankara Mandapam that symbolise the ten directions – eight for earth, one for sky and one for the space down.
The total height of the sculpture of Thiruvalluvar is about 133 feet, which corresponds to the total number of chapters in the Book of Thirukkural. The 38 feet high pedestal or Atharapeedam corresponds to the 38 chapters of the Book of Aram. The 95 feet high statue on the pedestal correlates to the total number of chapters in the Books of Porul and Inbam.
Thiruvalluvar Statue is a frequented all round the year. There are about 140 steps in the mandapam for worshippers to reach the feet of the holy statue. Ferry rides are accessible from the mainland to reach Thiruvalluvar Statue.
Kanyakumari Beach is a beach destination and religious spot situated towards the southern-most tip of peninsular India. The sun set and sun rise at Kanyakumari Beach, particularly during Chaitrapurnima are highly popular among visitors. During Chaitrapurnima, visitors can watch both sunset and moon rise simultaneously at Kanyakumari Beach.
Kanyakumari Beach has rocky shores and the sea is rough due to the confluence of the three waters – Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. The sand of Kanyakumari Beach is famous for its softness and diverse hues.
There is a light house at Kanyakumari Beach from where panoramic views of the sea are available.
The Government Museum is situated on Beach Road, near the Tourist Office. The Government Museum of Kanyakumari was established in the year 1991 as a multipurpose museum.
There is a huge collection of exhibits in the museum which are related to anthropology, archaeology, numismatics, philately, botany, zoology and geology.
The sculptures of Srinivasa, Manickavasagar, Tirumangai Alwar, Rama, etc. are some of the prominent exhibits. Old coins, tribal objects, wood carvings, musical items, zoological and botanical specimens, bronzes, etc. are also on display here. The Travancore Gallery is also popular because it contains memorabilia of the history of Travancore.
Udayagiri Fort stands as a remnant of the historic Travancore power. Udayagiri Fort is an ancient fort which was constructed in 1600 AD. It was later re-built by the Travancore King Marthanda Varma between 1741 – 1744. Udayagiri Fort was an significant garrison town for the Travancore kings. Later it came under the power of the East India Company in the 19th century.
During the reign of Marthanda Varma, Udayagiri Fort was known by the name De Lannoy’s Fort or Dillannai Kottai. De Lannoy was a Dutch general who was defeated by Marthanda Varma in the battle at Vattakottai Fort. He became the trusted General of Marthanda Varma and remained faithful to him for 37 years.
Udayagiri Fort encloses the tomb of De Lannoy, within a chapel. The tombs of De Lannoy’s wife and son can also be seen here. A foundry for casting guns can also be seen in the fort. The fort also encloses a Biodiversity Park where visitors can see deer, ducks, birds and more than 100 varieties of trees.
Kanyakumari Bhagavathiamman Temple is a principal attraction of Kanyakumari and is devoted to the virgin Goddess Kanyakumari, an incarnation of Goddess Parvathi.
Goddess Kanyakumari is the presiding deity of Kanyakumari. As per legends, the marriage between Goddess Kanyakumari and Lord Shiva did not take place, as a result of which the Goddess determined to remain a virgin. It is believed that the rice and cereals which were meant for the marriage were left uncooked and they turned to stones. The stones resembling cereals can be seen even at present.
The Kumari Amman Temple of Kanyakumari has a peculiar architectural style which is an amalgamation of the architectural styles of different eras. Kumari Amman Temple was initially built by the kings of the Pandya Dynasty in the 8th century. It was later renovated by the Chola, Vijayanagara and Nayaka rulers.
The Kumari Amman Temple of Kanyakumari has three corridors and a sanctum sanctorum. The Navarathri Mandapam, a famous part of the temple, is situated in the external corridor of the temple. The Navarathri Mandapam is decorated with paintings and carvings which reflect the architectural brilliance of Kumari Amman Temple.
In the sanctum sanctorum of the temple there is the idol of the goddess who faces east. Kumari Amman Temple also encloses an 18th century shrine which worships the footprints of Goddess Kanyakumari.
The main festivals of the Kumari Amman Temple are the Car Festival and the Navarathri Festival. The Car Festival is held during Vaikasi.
St Xavier Church
St Xavier Church was constructed by St Francis Xavier in the 1600s, in Kottar of Nagercoil. St Francis Xavier was a priest from Goa, who frequented Kottar. He was known by the name ‘Valiya Pandaram’ amid the masses.
According to history, St Francis Xavier helped to avert the Padagas from invading Travancore. The king granted him a plot at Kottar, which had housed a church earlier. St Francis Xavier built the church on the site adjacent to the Church of St. Mary.
St Xavier Church was later modernized in 1865 and the Church of St. Mary was taken over. In the year 1930, St Xavier Church rose to the status of a Cathedral.
In 1942, a tower to honour St Francis Xavier was constructed. A grotto for St. Mary and a minor shrine for St. Ignatius were also constructed within the premises of this cathedral. In 1955, the church was again renovated and the Chapel of St. Mary was included to this church.
Annual celebrations are conducted at St Xavier Church during November – December which last for about 10days.
Vattakottai Fort is one of the main tourist attractions of Kanyakumari. Vattakottai Fort or the circular fort is located in Agasteeswaram taluk.
Vattakottai Fort, built in the 18th century, was the last one in a string of coastal forts built by the Travancore Kings. Vattakottai Fort was constructed during the reign of Marthanda Varma as a defence measure for Nanjil Nadu.
The fort walls are about 25 feet high with a thickness of about 29 feet in the front portion. The walls of Vattakottai Fort were reinforced by De Lannoy, the trusted General of Travancore King, Marthanda Varma.
Vattakottai Fort, built of stone, consists of watchtowers, rest rooms and weapon rooms. Many of the walls inside the fort have carvings of the fish motif, which is believed to be the symbol of the Pandyas. According to archaeologists, Vattakottai Fort was once under the control of the Pandyas.
A view of the sea is available from the raised parade ground situated top Vattakottai Fort. The calm water of the Arabian Sea is visible from one side of the parade ground and the rough water of the Bay of Bengal can be seen on the other side.
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