THE SOUTHERNMOST TIP of the Indian subcontinent, where the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal meet, Kanniyakumari enchants visitors with itsspectacular views, especially  at sunrise and sunset. The most breathtaking of these occurs on Chaitra Purnima (the full moon night in April) when both sunset and moonrise occur at the same time.

Kanniyakumari is believed to be the abode of human, the Virgin Goddess, who is supposed to have done penance here so that shecould marry Shiva. The  marriage, however, did not take place, since it was deemed that she remain a virgin in order to save the world. Her temple, the Kumari Amman Temple, a popular pilgrimage centre on the seashore, was built by the Pandya kings in the 8th century and was extensively renovated by the Chola, Vijayanagar and Nayaka rulers. A magnificent structure, the temple has a Navaratri Mandapa with a beautifully painted panel of Mahishasuramardini (Durga killing the demon Mahisha). An 18thcentury shrine within the temple contains the footprints (sripadaparai of the goddess human, who performed her penance at this spot.

The Gandhi Memorial, near the temple, is where Mahatma Gandhi’s ashes were kept before immersion. The building is designed so that every year on October 2nd (Gandhi’s birthday), at midday, the rays of the sun fall on the exact spot where his ashes were placed.

Just off the coast, on a rocky island, the Vlvekananda Memorial marks the spot where the great Indian philosopher,Swami Vivekananda  tee meditated before attending the World Religious Conference in Chicago in 1893. Near the memorial is the imposing 40-m (131-ft) highstatue of Tiruvalluvar, the 1stcentury BC Tamil poet, who wrote the epic Tirukural, often referred to as one of the greatest classics of Tamil literature.

The Church of Our Lady of Joy, which was  founded by St Francis Xavier in the 1540s, is located at the southern edge of the town. Other attractions include the sandy beaches and the multicoloured granite rocks.

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