By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Kanyakumari, KanyAkumAri, Kanyaakumaari
Kanyākumārī is situated at the southernmost tip of India in the Kanyākumāri district of Tamil Nadu. It is very near to Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum), the capital city of Kerala State. The distance from there is just 87 km. (54 miles). It is on the sea-shore where the Indian ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian sea merge.
Mythological Accounts of Kanyākumārī
Kanyākumārī is also known as ‘Kanyātīrtha’. It is a very ancient place of pilgrimage of over two thousand years. It is dedicated to the Divine Mother in her virgin aspect. There are three mythological accounts connected with this deity.
The first account signifies her to be the female child that escaped from the clutches of Kañsa. She assumed the form of Durgā and warned him about his killer Kṛṣṇa living elsewhere. She settled down in Kanyākumārī.
As per the second account, Puṇyakeśī, the daughter of Mayāsura performed severe tapas or austerities here to get Lord Śiva as her husband. Śiva promised to marry her at the end of the kalpa but advised her to continue her tapas. While doing so, a terrible demon Bāṇāsura pressed her to marry him. She was obliged to kill him by using her cakra or discus. After this she resumed her tapas and waited for her final union with Śiva.
According to the third account, the Devi was born as the daughter of a king in order to kill the demon Bāṇāsura. This demon had become invincible by divine boons. Only a maiden could kill him. When the Devī started meditating on Lord Śiva and appealed him to marry her, he came down from Kailāṣa. He waited at the town Śucīndram for the auspicious moment for their marriage. The gods became afraid that their purpose of the Devi as a maiden killing Bāṇāsura would be rendered fruitless. They made a fake cock crow to rouse Śiva from meditation. In utter dismay he found that the auspicious moment had passed off. So he remained at Śucīndram itself. The Devi indefinitely waited with the garland in her hand for Śiva. She killed Bāṇāsura also who appeared there and fought with her.
There is a Kātyāyanī temple at Kanyākumārī. The goddess Kātyāyanīis an aspect of Pārvatī. The idol of the virgin goddess is in the standing posture with two arms. She is holding an akṣamālā or rosary in her hand. There is a carved figure of simha or lion suggesting that she is Durgā on the pedestal.
There are four pillars in the temple which, when struck, emit musical sounds like those of:
- Mṛdaṅga - drum
- Vīṇā - lute
- Jalataraṅga - porcelain water cup instrument
Swami Vivekānanda Temple
There is a beautiful and magnificent temple with an imposing idol of Swami Vivekānanda. It is built on the bigger rock in the sea. It is not far from the coast. There is a regular ferry service from the coast to the temple.
- Mayāsura was the chief architect of the asuras or demon race.
- Kātyāyanī was the daughter of the sage Katya.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore