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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kanyakumari district


Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, India

Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, India

Kanyakumari District (Tamil: கன்னியாகுமரி மாவட்டம்)(also spelt 'Kanniyakumari' or 'Kanniakumari District' ) is a district of Tamil Nadu state, India and also the southernmost land area and district of mainland India.

Kanyakumari District is one of the 30 districts of Tamil Nadu state, and also the smallest. The district takes its name from the tourist town of Kanyakumari, which is at the tip of the Indian Peninsula and faces the Indian Ocean. The headquarters (capital) of the District is Nagercoil, which is 22 km from Kanyakumari town.

The district is a land of tourist attractions with many historic and religious sites that are centuries-old and also endowed with great natural beauty, both on the coasts and the mountainous interior, with a rich variety of flora and fauna.


Contents


Location

A ferry (Vallam) crossing the Thengapattnam Estuary

A ferry (Vallam) crossing the Thengapattnam Estuary

Kanyakumari District is located at the southern tip of peninsular India and bordered by Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala state to the west and Tirunelveli District of Tamil Nadu to the north and east. Travellers sometimes refer to it as "Land's End".[1]

The district lies between 77° 15' and 77° 36' of the eastern longitudes and 8° 03' and 8° 35' of the northern Latitudes. The south-eastern boundary (coastal) is the Gulf of Mannar (Bay of Bengal), while on the South and the South West, the boundaries are the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea.

Administrative Divisions

Nagercoil town is the administrative headquarters (capital) of Kanyakumari district.

History

Kanyakumari District takes its name from the town of Kanyakumari, at the southern tip of India. (In many Indian languages Kumari means virgin girl). Thus, Kanyakumari District is also sometimes called 'Kumari' District. Kanyakumari town is named after the Goddess Kanyakumari Amman, a popular deity of the area. Legend has it that the Goddess Parvati in one of her incarnations as Devi Kanniya did penance on one of the rocks of this 'land's end' to obtain the hand of Lord Shiva.

The town of Kanyakumari is geographically a Cape, and it was known earlier as Cape Comorin. Since ancient times, Kanyakumari District has consisted of two geographical areas, known locally as Nanjilnadu and Idainadu. The etymologists interpret the word Nanjilnadu as the country ('nadu') where there were (and still has) several agriculture plantations and fields. Nanjilnadu is mentioned in old Tamil literature as a rich agrarian area, where the town of Kottar, (today, a locality in Nagercoil) as a major commercial centre. Ancient temples and inscriptions reveal a major Jain influence in ancient times. The district is home to many practitioners of various branches of ancient India's health tradition, including siddha, ayurvedha, varma kalai.

Palace at Padmanabhapuram, the capital of the ertswhile state of Travancore ; The capital was later shifted to Trivandrum

Palace at Padmanabhapuram, the capital of the ertswhile state of Travancore ; The capital was later shifted to Trivandrum

Nanjilnadu, which is the present Agasteeswaram and Thovalai taluks (administrative sub-divisions) of the district, was under the rule of Pandyas till the early 10th century and then under Cheras. Idainadu including Kalkulam and Vilavancode taluks were under the rule of Cheras. When the power of Cheras declined due to the rise of Hoysalas and western Chalukyas, the Venad (Travancore) Chieftains (descendants of the Cheras) took advantage of the situation and gradually established their hold, on many areas of Nanjilnadu. The annexation commenced by Veera Kerala Varma was to a large extent continued by his successors and completed by 1115 A.D.

For about four centuries, Venad was ruled by powerful kings who were consistently making incursions into the pandyan territories. As a result the Vijayanagar kings proceeded against venad. In 1609 Kanyakumari fell in to the mighty hands of Viswanatha Nayak of Madurai. Consequent to this, there was no serious threat to Nanjilnadu, until 1634.

In 1729, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma took control of Venad after putting down the insurgency of the Ettuveettil Pillamars. He defeated the forces of the Dutch East India Company under Eustachius De Lannoy in 1741 at the Battle of Colachel. In the later part of the 18th century, Chanda Sahib, a rebel commandant related to the Nawab of Arcot attacked Nagercoil and other areas. Travancore had to contend with such attacks and monetary demands from the Carnatic Nawabs or from their rebellious governors until the English fully supported the state of Travancore. In spite of the troubles encountered in the southern border of Venad, Marthanda Varma expanded the kingdom towards north up to Aluva and established the state of Travancore. By this, the present day Kanyakumari District came to be known as Southern Travancore. Later, the capital was shifted from Padmanabhapuram (in present day Kanyakumari District) to Thiruvananthapuram.

After Marthanda varma, Venad had to face incursions of Mysore's Tipu Sultan. This led to treaties with the English East India Company. Subsequently, the kings of Travancore ruled the country accepting the hegemony of the English. In 1762, a treaty with the Carnatic Nawab brokered by the English gave control of Shengottai and Kanyakumari to Travancore.

The rule of the Travancore royals finally ceased in 1947 when Travancore had to join the independent Indian Union. In 1949, Kanyakumari district became part of the newly constituted Travancore-Cochin State. The majority of the people of South Travancore Taluks (Kanyakumari District) were Tamil-speaking and a popular agitation for merging the Tamil majority areas of South Travancore to Madras State (now Tamil Nadu) was started during this period .The State's Reorganisation Commission also recommended this. Accordingly, the Indian States Reorganisation Act, 1956 was passed and Kanyakumari District was formed on 1 November 1956 , with the four Taluks, Viz., Agasteeswarem, Thovalai, Kalkulam and Vilavancode, merged with Tamil Nadu. Thiru. R .Thirumalai, I.A.S., assumed charge as the first Collector of Kanyakumari District on 1 November, 1956.

Though generally a peaceful place, violence flared up between Christians and Hindus in 1982 at the coastal village of Mandaicadu. In the subsequent violence and police shoot-outs in several parts of the coastal areas of the district and in Nagercoil, several people were killed.

On 26 December, 2004, the Indian Ocean Tsunami that struck several countries of South Asia, South-East and Africa caused havoc in the coastal areas of the district, with the western coast of the district severely affected. Casualties were close to 900 deaths and several hundreds missing and injured. Social organizations from several countries and the Government have since been working on rehabilitating the affected people and property.

The Land & Geographical Features

Kanyakumari is the smallest District in Tamil Nadu, with a land spread of 1,684 km² and has almost all ecosystems - forests, wetlands, freshwater resources, marine, etc.

The district, once called 'The Granary of Travancore' is fertile, with hundreds of water bodies and an excellent canal irrigation system. Rubber and spice plantations are found on the hilly terrain, while paddy fields, plantain (banana) and coconut plantations are found on the plains, near the coast.

The district is generally hilly, with plains found near the coast. The land from the sea-coast gradually rises from sea-level to the Western-Ghats hills in the deep interior of the district. The District has 62 km of coast on the western side (Arabian Sea coast) and 6 km of coast on the eastern side (Gulf of Mannar/Bay of Bengal coast).

There are three important riverine ecosystems, which confluence with Arabian Sea. They are :

  1. Thengapattinam estuary, formed by the confluence of river Tampirabarani in between Thengapattinam and Eraiummanthurai.
  2. Valliyar estuary formed by the river Valloiyar near Kadiapattinam.
  3. Manakudy estuary formed by the confluence of river Pazhayar in between East and West Manakudy villages.

Apart from these, are two minor estuaries also: they are Pambar estuary near Colachel and Pantri estuary near Rajakkamangalam. These are formed by excess water in the drainage canal during monsoon and the water drained from the irrigational fields.

Soil types -

  1. Laterite soil is found at Thiruvattar, Killiyoor, Munchirai, Rajakamanagalam, Thuckalay blocks.
  2. Red and Alluvial soil are found at Agastheeswaram and Thovalai blocks.

The soil pH is between 4.5 to 8.0. The minerals in soil - nitrogen: low to medium, phosphorus: medium, potassium: high

Land Use - 48.9% under cultivation and 32.5% under forests.

Demography

Kanyakumari District is the third-most advanced district in Tamil Nadu. It had a population of 1,676,034, as of 2001. It is 71.27% urbanised as per Census 2001. [3]

The district has a literacy rate of 91.11%, the highest in the state.

Climate

Based on a 50 year study, it is found that during the North-East monsoon, between October and December, a precipitation of 549 mm is received in 24 rainy days and during the South-West monsoon 537 mm is received from June to September in 27 rainy days. In summer, 332 mm of rainfall is received in 11 rainy days between March and May. The annual average rainfall in the district is 1465 mm with a maximum of around 247 mm in October and a minimum of 21 mm in February. Relative humidity ranges between 60 to 100%.

People, Culture & Religion

Language

The main languages spoken by people of the district are Tamil and Malayalam. English is widely understood in the urban areas. While the majority in the district speak Tamil, Malayalam is an important language, and spoken by many, in the northern and western areas of the district.

People of the district celebrate both Tamil and Keralite (Malayalam) festivals, apart from religious festivals. Tamil Pongal festival and keralite Onam festival are both popular in the district.

Religion

An Octo-circular Ayyavazhi Thangal near Thiruvattar on the Marthandam - Kulasekaram road.

An Octo-circular Ayyavazhi Thangal near Thiruvattar on the Marthandam - Kulasekaram road.

Hinduism, Christianity and Islam are the three main religions represented in the district, with Hindus forming 52% of the population and Christians 45%.

This district is the birth place of Ayyavazhi. Apart from the role in the religious universe, Ayyavazhi also plays a major role in the social history of Kanyakumari in the mid-nineteenth century.[2]

Roman Catholic Christianity was introduced in Kanyakumari area by the European missionary, St. Francis Xavier, who resided at Kottar while doing missionary work in the neighbouring areas. Protestant missionaries arrived later. The district has the third largest Christian population among all districts in India.[3] Also, about one-fifth of the Christian population of Tamil Nadu live in this district.

Islam had a firm foothold in this region since ancient times. The Main Mosque (Valiya Palli) in Thengapattanam is believed to have been built by the missionary team lead by Malik ibn Deenar in the 7th century.

Food

Rice is the staple food of the people, though for some people in the hilly areas, Tapioca is the main food. Though there are some vegetarians among the populace, a majority of the people use agro, meat and fish products. Fish caught in the seas around the district during the night or early morning hours reach the markets in the interior towns and villages in the early morning. Though the food is spicy, it is less spicy than the food prepared in the other districts of Tamil Nadu, and the people in the district tend to use more grated coconut in their curries and food-preparations, like neighbouring Kerala.

Decorative lights at a church in Marthandam during the Christmas season

Decorative lights at a church in Marthandam during the Christmas season

Festivals

Kanyakumari District has important religious sites for all three major religions in the district, viz., Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. The Ayyavazhi festival, Ayya vaikunda Avataram is widely celebrated throughout the district.[4] [5] The Kodiyettru Thirunal celebrated in the religious head quarters, Swamithope pathi attracts a huge crowd[6] across from and beyond the state.[7][8][9] The car festival at Suchindram also attracts large crowds in the month of January. The Kodai festival in the month of March at the Mandaicadu temple also attracts large crowds, both from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Thirukalya Utsavam in Kumaracoil temple, near Thuckalay, is celebrated in the month of March - April, and attracts large numbers from Kerala. In the St. Xavier's Church at Kottar, the annual festival on the 3rd of December, is celebrated with grandeur, and attracts Catholic people (and some Hindus too) from all over South India.[citation needed] All important religious festivals like Christmas, Deepavali, Ramzan are celebrated with fervour.

New Year is grandly celebrated with Vana Vediakkai (fireworks) and local games such as Valukku Panai (slippery palm - The game in which the person has to get to the top of the bamboo stick which is flooded with oil)

Folk Arts

There are several Folk Arts practiced in temples for Sastha (ayyanar), Sudalaimadan and Isakkiamman. Villupattu is especially for Sastha temples and Kaniankoothu is practiced for Sudalaimadan. Grand Tamil poetess Avvaiyar temples are found along with Isakki amman temples and worship of teachings of Avvaiyar can be observed

Many Folk arts and dances are popular in this district. They are played during the time of festivals in temples, celebrations in schools etc.

Bow Song (Villu Paatu) is an ancient form of musical - story - telling art of southern Tamil Nadu. Villu Paatu has been especially popular in Thovalai and neighbouring areas of the district.

Bow, the age-old weapon of warriors - paradoxically lends itself to be used as a primary musical instrument for the Villu Pattu artists. There are Udukku , Kudam, Thala, Kattai, etc. as supplementary instruments in their performances. Udukku, mentioned in the ancient Tamil literature as Thudi, is a small drum with a slender middle portion which is held in the left hand and played by the fingers of the right hand . Occasionally, the Villu Pattu team divides itself into two groups, each trying to prove opposite points-of-view of a subject. This is called Lavani Pattu. The songs used by the Villu Pattu artists are mostly traditional folk-songs.

Thiruvathirai Kali occupies the pride of place among the folk dances. It resembles Kummi and is played especially during Onam festival. The players are young girls. The necessary number of girls is 8,10,12 or 16 for each dance. They move round and sing in chorus. Each girl strikes the stick (Kole) which she holds in each hand, and the striking of the sticks and the steps , which she makes are rhythmical to the tune.

Kalial is a folk dance played by group of men or boys in the country side. A group leader sings songs and keeps time with cymbals. The players stand in a circle with sticks in their hand and dance round a lighted lamp repeating the songs sung by the leader. They turn, twist, lean forward and backward, squat and move round singing to the tune. At the beginning the steps are elaborate and at times, they are also very quick . When invited to perform in a function, the players generally begin the dance with an invocation for heavenly aid and conclude the dance with a torch - dance using lighted torches. This folk dance exhibits the artistic and recreative life of the country side.

Kathakali is a unique form of drama, which has its origin in Travancore. Kathakali (story-dance) is a relatively recent (fifteenth or sixteenth century) development of earlier dances, which, like dances every where, arose out of religious expression through symbolical action. In this art-form, the characters express their ideas not by words, but by significant gestures. In Kanyakumari District, it is now played in the temples at Thiruvattar, Thirparappu, Ponmana, Kuzhithurai, Neyyoor and Munchira during the time of festivals.

Ottam Thullal is a form of story telling. It is a popular for of amusement, staged in the temple premises and Malayalam is the language commonly used. Ottam Thullal is now played in the temples of Thiruvaattar, Thirparappu, Ponmana and Thirunanthikara in the district during the time of festivals.

Kalari, also known as Adimurai in Kanyakumari district, is an ancient martial art, still preserved in the villages of the district, and also in Kerala. A tradition believed to have been founded by Parasurama is known as Vadakkan Kalari ; another is credited to Agasthiar in which the emphasis is on striking at vital points of the body and not on weapons, even through sword, knife, Urumi (rolling sword), Mankombu (horns of a deer), Kandakkodali, (a kind of axe), mazhu (a kind of axe) etc., are also used.

Infrastructure

Greenery along the National Highway 47, near Chunkankadai

Greenery along the National Highway 47, near Chunkankadai

Transport & Highways

There are two major National Highways (NH) roads emanating from Kanyakumari town. One is the NH 7 that starts from the town and runs through Madurai and the other is the NH 47 that runs to Salem through Kerala, touching some important cities in Kerala like Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi and also in Tamil Nadu. The road stretch from Kanyakumari to Thiruvananthapuram is one of the busiest Highway stretches in India.

The state-owned Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation is the major operator of bus services in the district, though licences are issued for specific routes to private operators.

Today, there are 3495.80 km of surfaced roads in the district.

The nearest airport is Thiruvananthapuram International Airport which is 70 km away from Nagercoil, the capital of Kanyakumari District.

Railways

Nagercoil is a major railway junction, connecting the eastern and western rail-lines. The western line runs through the west coast (though Kerala) and the eastern line runs through the east into Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu, towards Chennai. The rail-link to Kanyakumari was established only in 1978, mainly because establishing a rail line through the district posed some challenges for the rail department and took a lot of efforts, especially the western line. The western line that runs to Thiruvananthapuram today runs through some huge artificial ground-elevations and number of hill-tunnels. For nature-lovers, the rail-route from Nagercoil to Thiruvananthapuram should be a real delight.

Kanyakumari District is connected through direct train services with all leading metropolitan cities in India, like New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore & Kolkata. These Express trains originate either from Kanyakumari or Nagercoil.

Passenger (local) train services and other express-trains run between Thiruvananthapuram and either Nagercoil or Kanyakumari. The journey by train from Thiruvananthapuram to Nagercoil usually takes an hour-and-half.

India's longest-running train, both in time and distance, The Himsagar Express runs between Kanyakumari town and Jammu Tawi. The train covers 3,751 km between Kanyakumari and Jammu Tawi, in 74 hours and 55 minutes.

Electricity Generation

There are two hydro-electric power stations at Kodayar, generating a combined 100 MW of power. Aramboly in Kanyakumari District is a major centre for generation of wind-mill power and one of the largest in South Asia, led by major corporations like suzlon and Micon.

Colachel Port

Colachel Port is a small, but natural harbour, in the western side of the district, near the town of Colachel. The Government has plans to turn it into a major port / container trans-shipment terminal and is now in the process of making a feasibility study. Colachel Port would have certain advantages over other neighbouring ports in India when developed, in that, it would be closer to international shipping lanes - shipping traffic between Europe, West Asia and the Far East passes not far from the port. Also, the port is naturally deep. Being situated close to the tip of the Indian Peninsula and with major ports like Colombo and Singapore in the vicinity, the port is expected to become a busy port.

Education

The Protestant Missionaries who arrived in the 19th century were the first to introduce English Education in the District. The founder of the English School in the erstwhile Travancore State was Rev. William Tobias RingleTaube, a native of Prussia and a man of great force and character. He came to the State in 1806 and then onwards, he devoted his whole energy to evangelistic work and wherever he went, he carried with him the mission of English education. He was incessantly preaching and teaching and he established many schools for poor children, Christians as well as non-Christians. During the short period of ten years (1806 to 1816), he laid the foundation not only for the growth of the Christianity, but also for regular education in the area.

Several European missionaries who came to the district (then South Travancore) after Ringeltaube, also contributed immensely to the cause of regular education. Today, a number of old educational institutions in the district carry the names of these missionaries.

Kanyakumari District, today, tops the state in literacy levels and education. Colleges of higher education are found throughout the district - especially Arts and Sciences colleges and Engineering colleges. The Scott Christian College in Nagercoil is more than 100 years old.

Noted engineering colleges in the district include the St. Xavier's Catholic College of Engineering and the Noorul Islam College of Engineering, near Nagercoil.

The state runs the Kanyakumari Medical College at Asaripallam, near Nagercoil.

Number of Schools in Kanyakumari district -

  1. Pre Primary Schools - 83
  2. Primary Schools - 413
  3. Middle Schools - 147
  4. High Schools - 121
  5. Higher Secondary Schools - 120

Total - 884

List of Colleges in Kanyakumari District

  1. Aided colleges - 12
  2. Self financing colleges -4
  3. Colleges for special education -8
  4. Colleges for professional education - 25

Agriculture

Rubber Plantation near Pechiparai (Pechiparai Reservoir)

Rubber Plantation near Pechiparai (Pechiparai Reservoir)

Kanyakumari District accounts for more than 95% of the production of natural rubber in the state of Tamil Nadu. Rubber is cultivated mainly in the hilly areas (on the western ghats) in the interior, while paddy fields and other crops are mainly found on the plains, near the coast.

Major crops under cultivation -

  1. Rice - 400 km²
  2. Coconut - 210 km²
  3. Rubber - 194.78 km²
  4. Tapioca - 123.50 km²
  5. Banana - 50 km²
  6. Pulses - 30 km²
  7. Cashew - 20 km²
  8. Mango - 17.70 km²
  9. Palmyrah - 16.31 km²
  10. Tamarind - 13.33 km²
  11. Arecanut - 9.80 km²
  12. Jack Fruit - 7.65 km²
  13. Clove - 5.18 km²

Rivers

View from the Mathur Hanging Trough bridge with the Pahrali river flowing below.

View from the Mathur Hanging Trough bridge with the Pahrali river flowing below.

The major river in the district is Tambaraparani River locally known as Kuzhithuraiar. This river has got two major tributaries namely Kodayar and Paralayar with the Pechiparai Dam and Perunchani Dam respectively built across them. There are many tributaries for Kodayar river of which Chittar River I and Chittar II, with their dams, are the major ones. The origin of Tambaraparani river is in the Western Ghats and the river confluences with Arabian sea near Thengapattanam, about 56 km. west of Kanyakumari town.

Valliar, another small river and its tributary Thoovalar, originate from Velimalai Hills, collect the drainage from P.P. Channel and its branches, ayacuts (irrigated area under a tank) and confluence with Arabian sea near Manavalakurichi.

Pazhayar River another small river starts at Shorlacode, a place about 18 km north-west of Nagercoil. This is mainly a drainage river mostly collecting the drainages of Thovalai, Ananthanar and N.P. Channels.

Pahrali River flows through the district. The Mathur Hanging Trough, the highest and longest aqueduct in Asia, was built over it near Mathur.

Forests

The Forests in Kanyakumari District is verdant and virgin Forests and said to be of 75 million years old. Of the total district area of 1671.3 km², Government forests occupy an area of 504.86 km² which comes to about 30.2% the total geographical area of the district. The forests of the district are administered through the Kanyakumari Forest Division, with headquarters at Nagercoil, the capital of Kanyakumari District.

Types of Forest in Kanyakumari Division : 14 types of forests from luxuriant tropical wet evergreen to tropical thorn forests occur in this District because of diverse locality factors, (according to Champion and Seths classification) Rainfall varies from 103 cm to 310 cm elevation from sea level to 1829 m. The forest area is 30.2% of total district geographical area which is next to Nilgiris district with 59% and Dharmapuri District with 38% in Tamil Nadu State. The District has 52% of its forests as dense forests coming only second to Dharmapuri District with 58%.

The forests consist of soaring and lofty trees of Mesua ferrea, Bischofia Javanica, Vitex altissima to smaller trees of Dillini a species festooning climber, shrubs, valuable herbs, variety of orchids, two types of canes, many indigenous palms and cycas. The important timbers are Teak, Rosewood, Vengai and Aini and this District is worth mentioning here for the easy availability and quality of the above timbers. Various types of forest produces like bamboos, reeds, canes soft wood, tamarind, lemon grass, rubber, coconut, Arecanut, Kadukai, Cinna momum bark, Nelli, Cardamom, Mango and many medicinal plants of high value are harvested in this District. The Maruthuvalmalai located among green paddy fields and fluttering coconut palms is famous for valuable medicinal plants. This is the only District in Tamil Nadu, where rubber and clove plantations have been raised in Reserve Forests in an area of 47.857 km² and 1.1 km² respectively. The district is rich in wildlife with at least 25 types of mammals, about 60 species of birds including 14 species of migratory birds and many species of fishes, reptiles and amphibians listed. In short, these forests are a veritable trove of biological diversion.

From tourism angle, the forests are highly enhancing with pleasant sholas hill top forests, beautiful grass lands, panoramic valleys, top hillocks, singing streams, vast stretches of rubber plantations, valuable teak plantations and excellent climate. Mahendragiri, Maramalai, Sea field and Balamore estate, Ecology farm, Kalikesam, Pechiparai Dam, Perunchani Dam, Upper Kodayar, Maruthamparai and Mukkudal are some of the many places in the district of great scenic beauty.

The following are the Reserve Forests in Kanyakumari Forest Division :

1. Therkumalai East and West - 1741 ha 2. Thadagaimalai - 797 ha 3. Poigaimalai - 1,243 ha 4. Mahendragiri - 4,360 ha 5. Veerapuli - 28,109 ha 6. Velimalai - 1,126 ha 7. Old Kulasekaram - 694 ha 8. Kilamalai - 8,106 ha 9. Asambu - 4,310 ha


Flora and Fauna

Fauna

The flora and fauna of Kanyakumari District are vast and diverse.

Animals on the hills of the district include porcupines, hedgehogs, wild boars, etc., while storks , water hens, cranes are commonly found in the water bodies and wetlands. Reptiles include monitor lizards, pythons and other snakes.

In Mahendragiri hills (about 4,000 ft (1,200 m) above sea level), one can find bucks, leopards and deer. (Leopard-cubs often stray onto the highway near the hills and are sometimes run over by motorists).

Keeriparai and Maramalai, are habitats for wild elephants, while bisons are found in the Kodayar hills.

In the Theroor wetlands, one can see several varieties of storks and migratory birds during specific seasons. Trout fish is among other varieties of freshwater-fish found in the Pechiparai reservoir (lake).

Flora

Kanyakumari district is noted for its medicinal plants and herbs. The district also has a huge forest cover, accommodating a wide variety of plants, trees, shrubs, etc.

Commercial varieties include various kinds of Plantain (like Nenthiram, Palayamkotan, Thuluvam, Matti), Jack fruit (like Varikila and Koolan), Mango (varieties like Alphonsa, Bangalora, Neelam and Ottu) and coconut, which add to the richness of the cultivated crops and plants of the district. In addition to fruits, a variety of flowers like roses and jasmine are also produced.

Gardening is a big passion among the locals (throughout the district) and some of the best varieties of plants are seen on display outside houses. Common garden varieties include Crotons, Lillies, Dahlia, etc.

In areas like Keeriparai, one can see varieties of ferns, bamboo and other tropical plants. At Pechipaarai, one comes across trees like 'Flame of the Forest', with its reddish and orange leaves and flowers, sparkling in an area of green cover.

Rubber estates are found in the hilly areas surrounding Arumanai, Kaliyal, Kadayal etc.

Maruthuvazhmalai (or medicinal) Hill, near Kanyakumari.

Maruthuvazhmalai (or medicinal) Hill, near Kanyakumari.

Medicinal Plants

The district is endowed by nature with several hills and mountains with rich herbs of medicinal value and minerals. Marunthuvazhmalai or Maruthuvamalai, a hill in the district located near Kanyakumari, literally means medicinal hill, and is referred to by Therapeutics (Buddhist monks) who belonged to the period of Emperor Asoka, as having medical and spiritual heritage. According to traditional beliefs, the hill was a piece of the mountain Gandha Madhana which dropped, while the mountain was being carried by Hanuman to Lanka during the epic war between Rama and Ravana. Today, rare medicinal herbs are available here in abundance.

Sage Agasthiya, the first grammarian of good old Tamil was also the foremost of the Siddhars (the practitioners of herbal medicines). This sage is believed to have lived in 'the land’s end' and there is also a village by the name Agasteeswaram near Maruthuvamalai which owes its name to the dwarf sage. In this village, there is a temple dedicated to Agasteeswaramudaiyar which is believed to have been consecrated by Agasthiya himself. Besides medicine and grammar, Agasthiya was also adept in Varma Sastra. General palm leaf records like ‘Varmani’ and Varma Sastra were written by Agasthiya. Even today, this healing art of varmam treatment is taught in Kanyakumari in the Guru-Sishya tradition, and treatment is also done by elders who are quite conversant with this method of treatment by applying Tamil medicines in required proportion.

Marine Life and Resources

More than 200 species of marine fishes have been recorded in the coastal region of Kanyakumari district, which includes skates, rays, sharks, sardine, mackerel, etc. Apart from fishes different species of prawns, lobsters, crabs, bivalves, gastropods, cephalopods and turtles are seen in the catch.

The coastline is rocky in several places, while sandy in other areas.

Wadge Bank

Wadge bank is a fertile fishing found where rich marine biological diversity occurs. Wadge bank may also be defined as a place of marine environment, where there is a rich availability of fish food organisms. The water depth of this region is low. The physical features of the water like under-water current, tides and waves will have less impact on the fishes and animals of this region. Fishes select this region for feeding and breeding purposes. Throughout the maritime countries of the world there are about twenty such wadge banks. Of these one is situated near Kanyakumari on the coastline of Kanyakumari District on the eastward as well as on the westward region for about 30 km. Here representatives of fish species of the three seas occur.

Mineral Sands on the coast

Beaches in specific areas of the district are rich in mineral content (and the sands look partly black). The state-owned Indian Rare Earths Ltd mines the sands for Zircon, ilmenite, monazite, Thorium and other minerals. Thorium is used in India's nuclear programme and nuclear power reactors.

Handicrafts and Cottage Industries

This district is known for its traditional skills in handicrafts items. Making 'Monkey-doll' from the un-husked coconut and other handicrafts items from coconut shell or wood are two major activities in the cluster. Coconut shell handicrafts include making of spoons, ladles, forks, ice-cream cups, soup bowls, table-lamps, pen-stand, jewellery etc. Handicrafts made of seashells are available at Kanyakumari.

The district contributes nearly 28.4 per cent of the total coir rope production in the State and is the first in the production of mats (98 per cent). The district accounts for 61.5 per cent of matting produced in the State and qualitatively, the fibre produced in the district is rated as among the best. Nagercoil, Agasteeswaram, Kalkulam and Vilavancode are the potential areas of the industry.

List of Products

Kanyakumari District is noted for two important agro-products : Honey and Cashewnuts. The honey produced near Martandam town in the district is marketed around India as 'Martandam Honey', while cashewnut production is an important activity around Martandam town.

Items/Products produced in the district : Honey and honey based products, Pickles, Sea foods, Wafers (appalam), Flour items, Bakery items, Masala Powders, Fried Chips like banana, tapioca etc., Murukku, Awal, Jams, squash etc., Palm candies, Oils like coconut etc., Coconut shell charcoal, Plant fibre brushes, Rose water, Temple articles, jewellery, Greeting cards from plant materials, Vermicompost, coir pith compost, Thatched palm leaf, Detergents, soaps, Phenyl, Ready mades, Embroidery products, Pin lace products, Cloth items, Granite and marble based products, Sculptures, Boat building, Handlooms, Metal crafts like jewellery, Wood based items, furniture, carvings, leather products, Pottery items, Flower and flower products like bouquets, Roof and flooring tiles, Herbal medicines, Clay and hollow bricks.

Tourism & Places of Interest

Kanyakumari - Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue at sunrise

Kanyakumari - Vivekananda Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue at sunrise
Thiruparappu waterfalls

Thiruparappu waterfalls
View of the Western Ghats at Keeriparai

View of the Western Ghats at Keeriparai
Chothavilai Beach, near Nagercoil

Chothavilai Beach, near Nagercoil
Thirparappu Temple, near Thirparappu Waterfalls

Thirparappu Temple, near Thirparappu Waterfalls
Mathur Aqueduct (Mathur Hanging Trough Bridge)

Mathur Aqueduct (Mathur Hanging Trough Bridge)

The district is a major tourist attraction in India, with a year-round tourist traffic at Kanyakumari town and several important tourist spots like Padmnabhapuram while seasonal in other tourist spots. The following are some of the major tourist attractions in Kanyakumari District, distances being given from Nagercoil:

  • Kanyakumari, the Land's end, and the confluence of the three water bodies, is 20 km to the south of Nagercoil, with tourist attractions of its own which include the Vivekanda Rock Memorial, 133 ft (41 m) high statue of Tamil poet-saint Tiruvalluvar - both on the mid-sea on rocky islands; the place is also famous for its distinctly beautiful (reddish) sunrise and sunset.
  • Vattakottai Fort, or Circular Fort, is a fort near Kanyakumari, right on the sea-shore, built under the orders of De Lannoy during the reign of Marthanda varma (1729-58 AD). The view from the top of the fort, of the sea and the palm-fringed beach below is fantastic.
  • Suchindrum (Thanumalayan) Temple, about 6 km from the heart of town and Nagaraja Temple (in the town), are some tourist attractions within the town.
  • St. Xavier’s Church, (Kottar in the town), built in the year 1600 AD, has historic importance due to the visit of St.Francis Xavier. The church was built in the land allotted to St. Xavier by the Venad king.
  • Swamithoppe Ayya Vaikundar Pathi, about 11 km from Kanyakumari, which is the religious headquarters of Ayyavazhi, is well known for its non-idolatry system of worship.
  • Padmanabhapuram Palace, (22 km from Nagercoil), once the seat of the Travancore kings, is India's only palace made completely of wood (16th century).
  • Chitharal Jain Monuments (about 35 km near Marthandam), impressive rock shelters and idols dated 9-11th Century.
  • Thirunandikkara temple (about 20 km), rock-cut cave temple of Pallava art can be traced back to seventh and eighth century AD.
  • Thengapattinam Beach. This beach is located on the west coast near Painkulam village in Vilancode Taluk. It is a fine beach adorned with coconut groves. It is also a magnificent estuary where the river meets the sea. Riding in a catamaran (small boat) in the river can be a pleasant experience which can be arranged through local fishermen. It is 35 km from Nagercoil, 12 km from Kuzhithurai and 54 km from Kanyakumari.
  • Udayagiri Fort, built by the Travancore kings, is a fort previously used for training the Travancore forces and also served as Barracks. Capt. Eustachius De Lannoy's tomb is within the fort. The fort (about 90 acres and almost full of vegetation now, with several plants, reptiles, etc.) is presently declared as a bio-diversity park and maintained by the Kanyakumari forest department.
  • Mathur Hanging Trough, near Thiruvattar in the District, is an aqueduct that carries irrigation water through a canal between two hills. The canal itself goes above a small river. Built on very high pillars, it is said to be one of the biggest aqueducts, both in height and length, in Asia.
  • Olakaruvi waterfalls, about 20 km from Nagercoil is on the middle of a hill and requires an hour's trek by foot from the base of the hill (better to go in a group, as it is a forested area)
  • Keeriparai - for nature-lovers and adventurers - pristine and beautiful, places like Keeriparai haven’t been publicized much by the Forest Department for various reasons - Keeriparai hills (30 km from Nagercoil) and the nearby Kalikesam are good picnic spots - one can enjoy water rushing through small mountain streams - with pebbles and ferns all around. There are also a few small waterfalls in this area - the popular one being Vattaparai Falls. Maramalai, which is further up in the hills of Keeriparai is famous for Wild elephants.
  • Kodhayar (called Kodhayar Lower Camp) – is about 60 km and takes travellers through some exciting hill roads (motorable roads) with some thrilling 'hair-pin bends' and U-turns - Kodhayar forests are famous for bisons, though there are other wild animals too. Access to some areas need prior permission from the Forest Department.
  • Pechiparai Reservoir, about 30 km from the town, in the hills, and also Perunchaani and Chittar dams are a must-see for the nature-lover (with clouds touching the top of the hills around the dams on a misty day !).
  • Thiruparrapu Falls, is a waterfall near Thiruparrapu.
  • Muttom, a coastal village, is another popular place with tourists. The terrain in this village and its surroundings is hilly and from a height one can have an idyllic view of the place, with a Portuguese style church standing in the middle of the village. The beach-area is somewhat rocky. There is also a 100-year old lighthouse. The lighthouse, though near the sea, is situated on a land mass some 105 feet (32 m) above sea level. Another attractive feature of this area, is a reddish ravine-like area with casurina trees near the seaside. This place with very popular with Tamil and Keralite film-makers, especially Tamil film director Bharathiraja.
  • Sanguthurai Beach, about 8 km from Nagercoil is a palm-fringed and sandy beach. Sothavilai Beach is another good beach, about 7 km from the heart of town. Both beaches were hit by the Indian Ocean Tsunami, but authorities have taken steps to improve facilities again. There is a very good lagoon (estuary - place where the river meets the sea) at Manakudy - 10 km from the town.
  • Panchappathis, the five holyplaces of Ayyavazhi, all situated within 10 km radius from Kanyakumari
  • Mukkudal reservoir : Fresh water supply to Nagercoil is from the Mukkadal Reservoir, about 8 km from the town, in the interior - itself a very scenic place, with a small bushy island in the middle of the dam. The dam is surrounded by hills of the Western Ghats.

Tourist Information

Kanyakumari town and Nagercoil are directly connected by rail with almost all metropolitan cities in India.

Nearest Airport : Thiruvananthapuram (Trivandrum) International Airport, 85 km away from Kanyakumari Town and 65 km from Nagercoil.

Indian Ocean Tsunami

Kanyakumari district was one of the worst affected districts in India in the Tsunami that ravaged the coasts of various countries in South and South East Asia, on 26th Dec 2004. Casualties were close to 900 deaths and several hundreds missing and injured. Social organizations from several countries and the Government have since been working on rehabilitating the affected people and property.

Manakudy, Kottilpadu and Colachel were the worst affected areas in the district. Being a holiday (Sunday) and the peak of the tourist season, several people were washed away from the shores of Kanyakumari town also. A concrete road bridge across the Manakudy estuary was carried away by the waves for several metres into the estuary. Several people on the beaches near Nagercoil were also taken unawares.

Famous Personalities

Famous personalities from this district include:

[edit] References

  1. ^ E.g. [1], [2]
  2. ^ Dr. R. Ponnu's, Sri Vaikunda Swamigal and Struggle for Social Equality in South India, Ram Publishers, 2000, Page 86.
  3. ^ 43 pc of Keralites are Muslims, Christians -India-The Times of India
  4. ^ The Daily Thanthi, Nagercoil Edition, 5/4/2006.
  5. ^ "Report on declaration of holiday for the festival Dina Malar". Retrieved on 2007-02-03.
  6. ^ "Report on the festival The Hindu" ("Thousands of people witnessed the Vaikasi car festival at Vaikundar temple at Swamithoppu..."). Retrieved on 2008-06-03.
  7. ^ The Daily Thanthi (Nagercoil Edition), 29-1-2007, Page 12, "Devotees from the districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Thoothukkudi, Theni, Chennai, Coimbatore and also from the State of Kerala participated in the Car festival."
  8. ^ The Daily Thanthi (Coimbatore Edition), 3-6-2008, Page 4, "Thousands of devotees from the districts of Madurai, Tirunelveli, Thoothukkudi, Theni, Coimbatore and also from the State of Kerala participated in the Car festival."
  9. ^ Dinakaran (Tirunelveli Edition), 3-6-2008, Page 6, "Thousands of devotees from the districts of Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Thoothukkudi, Theni, and also from the State of Kerala participated in the Car festival."

External links

3 comments:

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