An age old Centre of Shakti worship on the southern end of the Indian sub-continent.
Devi here is known as Kanyakumari- meaning the Goddess who is virgin. The legend is that Devi came here to kill a demon called Banasura as he got a boon from Lord Brahma that he can only be killed by a virgin girl.
Another legend tells us why she remains virgin even after her mission to kill the demon Banasura is over. According to it, after killing Banasura, Devi wanted to marry Lord Shiva of Suchindram temple, which is nearby. She did severe penance to please Lord Shiva. Finally, on advice from sage Narada, Lord Shiva agreed to marry Devi Kanyakumari. Sage Narada fixed the Muhurtham at midnight. All arrangements were made for the marriage function, even food for the guests were prepared.
The thing took a sudden change when a hen cried accidentally as the ceremonial procession of bride groom reached almost near to Kanyakumari. On hearing the cry of hen, Lord Shiva thought midnight is over and it was about to sunrise. So he returned to Suchindram as the Muhurtham is over.
On hearing this, Devi became disappointed. She threw the food prepared for the function on the sand making it red even now.
The reference to this Devi can be traced back to Yajurveda; hindu epics of Mahabharat and Ramayana also mention this temple. Moreover the well-known travelogue of Greek sea-travellers “periplus of Erythrean sea” has words on this temple taking its antiquity to the 1st century AD.
Beautiful black stone idol of Devi in Sanctorum is note worthy. In ancient times a glittering nose ring on this idol misguided the ships on sea to this rocky shore, causing them to crash on rocks. At present there is a closed door on the east, facing the sea, which blocks the light from the nose ring. The door is opened only for special occasions like during the Aarattu (ceremonial dip in Sea), Navaratri and also new moon days of Tamil month of Aadi and Thai.
The temple’s association with Swami Vivekanand, the celebrated Hindu monk and the founder of Sri Ramakrishna Misson, Kolkota, is well-known. He came to Kanyakumari and prayed to the Goddess here before embarking his famous International tour to propagate Hindu Philosophy in 1892. The Vivekananda Rock memorial, off the coast of Kanyakumari, commemorates this event.
This temple was part of Travancore State until Independence of India in 1947. So the festivals and rituals have a Kerala touch on it.
Kanyakumari is 90 kilometers from Trivandrum- the capital of Kerala and the nearest major city.