The virgin goddess of Kanyakumari #spirituality #mythology #pilgrimage #temples

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The beautiful temple of Kanyakumari is situated at the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. It is dedicated to the virgin goddess and has a beautiful story connected with it. At the request of the gods, Parvati, the consort of Shiva, was once forced to take birth on earth in order to kill some demons. Her name in her earthly form was Punyakshi, and she was naturally a great devotee of Lord Shiva. She longed with all her heart to marry him. However, the gods did not want her to marry, since only a virgin had the power to kill the demons. She begged Shiva to intercede with the gods on her behalf and come and take her as his bride. Ever ready to comply with the wishes of his devotee, Shiva asked the gods to allow him to marry her. The gods could not refuse the request, but they thought of a trick by which they could stop the wedding. “Anyone who marries her will have to pay the bride price,” they said. “What is this price?” asked Lord Shiva. “The bride price is a sugarcane stem without rings, a betel leaf without veins, and a coconut without eyes,” they said. Shiva laughed at their tricks and conjured up these gifts in a trice. “Now you can fix the time for the wedding,” he told the astonished gods. They were determined to thwart him somehow, so they said, “You will have to marry her before the cock crows tomorrow, or else you will have to wait till the end of this age.” This was quite a challenge, since Punyakshi lived at the very tip of the Indian peninsula and Shiva at the very top, in Kailasa. Shiva agreed and set out immediately for the South. Just before he reached Kanyakumari, he heard the cock crow. The gods had duped him by making the cock crow at midnight. Thinking it to be dawn, Shiva decided that there was no point in proceeding further, since he would not be able to reach his bride before the appointed time. He broke his journey and decided to stay in the form of a linga in the town called Suchindram, close to Kanyakumari. There he remains, waiting for the end of this epoch in order to keep his promise to his beloved Punyakshi. Punyakshi was told of the time of the nuptials, and she decked herself out in all her bridal finery and waited for the Lord to appear. The guests arrived, and even the food had been prepared for the feast that would follow the wedding. Unfortunately, Shiva was unable to keep his promise since the gods had seen to it that he was obstructed on the way. The cock crowed as the sun rose, and there was no bridegroom. Punyakshi was terribly disappointed. She burst into tears, kicked the pots of food into the sand, and threw away her ornaments. The demons teased her and said, “Why don’t you marry us instead!” She was so furious that she picked up a sickle and threw it at them and killed the whole lot of them, much to the delight of the gods, who had gleefully planned the whole coup. Punyakshi took up her abode at the very tip of the subcontinent of India and came to be known as the virgin goddess—Kanyakumari. There she waits to this day for Shiva, her betrothed. The gods promised her that at the end of this cycle of cosmic evolution she would be united with her Lord. The food she overturned mixed with the sand, and even today we find sand of many different colors and shapes on the beach of Kanyakumari.

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