by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222
This page describes the Story of Kanyakumari included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).
Mahābhārata makes references in many places to Kanyākumārī, the southern extremity of former Kerala and Gokarṇa, the northern boundary. It must, therefore, be surmised that these two holy places were very ancient ones. Vana Parva, praises Kanyākumārī at many places. If any one bathes at this place one will become very famous. (Anuśāsana Parva, Mahābhārata).
Chapter eightyfive of Araṇya Parva, of Bhāṣā Bhārata speaks praisingly of Kanyākumārī and Gokarṇa among other places. It says thus: "If you visit Ṛṣabhācala of Pāṇḍyadeśa you will get the benefit of conducting an Aśvamedhayāga. Then you must go farther south and take a dip in Kanyātīrṭha. The touch of that water absolves you of all sins. Then visit Gokarṇa situated in the ocean famous in all the three worlds and worshipped by all."
From this it is to be understood that ot the time of Mahābhārata Kanyākumārī was part of Pāṇḍyadeśa and that Gokarṇa was an island.
Purāṇic stories about Kanyākumārī.
There are several stories regarding the origin and renown of Kanyākumārī in the Purāṇas. The most important ones are given below.
Absolver of sins.
The wife of a brahmin named Apañcika living in Kāśī became unchaste and to wash away her sin she came to Kanyākumārī walking all the way and did penance there, daily bathing in its waters. She attained Salvation and it is believed that a bath in its waters would absolve anybody of all his sins. (Maṇimekhala).
Cakra tīrtha of Kanyākumārī.
Puṇyakāśī, daughter of Mayāsura, once went to Kailāsa and worshipped Śiva. After three yugas Śiva appeared before her and asked her what she wanted. She replied that she wanted to be merged in Śiva always. Śiva then said 'Three hundred and sixtyfive days would make a year. Four lakhs and thirtythree years would make a Kali Yuga. Kṛta, Tretā, Dvāpara and Kali are four Yugas and when two thousand such Yugas are over Brahmā finishes a day. Such thirty days make one month and twelve months, a year for Brahmā. When such hundred years of Brahmā are over the great deluge comes. Such ten deluges make a nāzhikā (twentyfour minutes) of Viṣṇu. Counting thus when you pass ten Viṣṇu deluges Śiva passes a second. Then is the time for the fulfilment of your desire. Till that time you sit in meditation on the shores of the south seas. Your hermitage would be known as Kanyākṣetra or Tapaḥ Sthala. During your stay there you must kill all the wicked people like Bāṇāsura and give relief to the people. I will also come and stay with you there then."
Puṇyakāśī after prostrating before Śiva went to the south seas. Taking a Japamālā (necklace for prayer) in her hands she assumed the name Kanyākumārī, and started her penance. After conquering all the three worlds demon Bāṇa was having a wicked rule over his people when he saw Kanyākumārī and asked her to be his wife. He approached her with his wicked servants Durmukha and Durdarśana. But Kanyākumārī flatly refused and in the battle that ensued, Bāṇāsura fell dead by the Cakrāyudha (Discus) of Devī and at that spot is the Cakratīrtha. (Skanda Purāṇa).
The Geographical view.
It is said that there was an extension of the present continent to the south and that expansive land called Lamūria was later submerged in waters. There is a description of such an extended land in some of the old literature like Cilappadikāram." Kanyākumārī which was called 'Kumāri-ambādi' also was the first setu; Dhanuṣkoṭi the middle setu; and Koṭikkara, last setu. (Setu Purāṇa)
Kanyākumārī had attracted the attention of foreigners long before Christ. Herodotus who lived in the third century B.C. has written about Kanyākumārī in one of his books.
In the book 'Periplus' written in 60 A.D. there is a mention of Kanyākumārī. It says: "Pious persons at the fag end of their lives dedicate their lives to God and go to Kanyākumārī on a pilgrimage and stay there accepting an ascetic life. A divine lady bathed in the holy waters there grants you 'darśana'."
Ptolemy another traveller who lived two thousand years ago refers to Kanyākumārī in his book as 'Komaria Akron'. He had bathed in those waters and worshipped in the Kanyākumārī temple.
Marco Polo of Venice who had travelled these parts in 1243 A.D. has written of his worshipping in the Kanyākumārī temple. He has also recorded having seen thirty miles from Kanyākumārī a glittering figure like that of the Pole-star.
Ibn Batūtā who lived in 1203 A.D. has referred to Kanyākumārī in his book as Rāskuṃhari.