Kanyakumari, , formerly known as Cape Comorin, is a town in Kanyakumari District in the state of Tamil Nadu in India. It lies at the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent (the southern extremity of India as a whole being Indira Point on Great Nicobar Island). Cape Comorin is the southern tip of the Cardamom Hills, an extension of the Western Ghats range along the west coast of India. The nearest major city is Nagercoil, the administrative headquarters of Kanyakumari District, away. Kanyakumari was one of the important towns of the ancient Tamilakam (Sangam period) and is a popular tourist destination.
Ptolemy's geography describes commercial relations between western India and Alexandria, the chief eastern emporium of the Roman Empire. He identified Kanyakumari (Cape of Comorin) along with the Gulf of Mannar as a center for pearl fishery. He also identifies Korkai, a place to the east of Kanyakumari, as an emporium of pearl trade.
Another ancient Greek book, the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, contains sailing directions for merchants from the Red Sea to the Indus and Malabar, and even indicates that the coast from Barygaza (Baroch) had a general southward direction down to and far beyond Cape Komari.
According to Christian legends, Christianity arrived in South India around AD 52 through St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Christ. However, European missionaries, who arrived in the 16th century, propagated Christianity in the area. St. Francis Xavier (7 April 1506 – 2 December 1552) was the pioneer in preaching Christianity in what is now Kanyakumari district.
Islam is believed to have entered the southern part of India through Kanyakumari during the early part of the eighth century AD through traders and missionaries who came through sea-routes. Islam, Christianity and Jainism have also contributed to the architectural wealth and literary heritage of the region.
Kanyakumari District consists of those parts known locally as Nanjil Nadu and Idai Nadu. The names of the villages of the district such as Azhagiapaandipuram, Bhoothapandy, Cholapuram and Kulasekaram reveal that these places were governed by several rulers at difficult periods of time. Nanjilnadu was under the rule of Pandiyas till the early 10th century and then under Cheras.
The Kalkulam and Vilavancode taluks were under the rule of the Chera Dynasty. When the power of Chola declined due to the rise of Hoysalas and western Chalukyas, the Venad (Travancore) Chieftains (descendants of the central Chera family) took advantage of the situation and gradually established their hold on considerable areas in Nanjilnadu. Veera Kerala Varma, one such chieftain, styled himself as "Nanjil Kuravan". The annexation commenced by Veera Kerala Varma was to a large extent continued by his successors and completed by AD 1115.
For about four centuries, the Venad was ruled by powerful kings who were consistently making incursions into the Pandian territories. As a result Vijayanagar kings proceeded against Venad. In 1609 Kanyakumari fell into the hands of Viswanatha Nayak of Madurai. Consequent on this, there was no serious threat to Nanjilnadu until 1634. During the regime of Ravi Varma and Marthanda Varma, Venad was disturbed by the internal strife.
Sanda Sahib of Arcot took advantage of this situation and attacked Nanjilnadu. Although Marthanda Varma could succeed in the famous battle at Colachel defeating the Dutch armouries who helped the local feudatories, he could not cope with the threat from Sanda sahib and made him to withdraw the battle field. After Marthanda Varma, Venad had weak rulers. Therefore there was frequent interference by the British whose control was completely established over Venad and continued till 1947. From 1947 to 1956, it was under the personal rule of Maharaja of Travancore. During the period between 1956–1961, the administrative system has fallen in line with that of other districts in Tamil Nadu.
Kanyakumari has been a great centre for art and religion for centuries. It was also an area of great trade and commerce. It was ruled by the Cholas, the Cheras, the Pandyas and the Nayaks. The architectural beauty of the temples in the area are the works of these rulers. Later Kanyakumari became part of the Venad kingdom with its capital at Quilon. The king of Venad, Anizham Thirunal Marthanda Varma, established Travancore by extending his domain further north up to Azhva, during his reign from 1729 to 1758. By this, the present Kanyakumari District came to be known as Southern Travancore. In 1741, Maharaja Marthanda Varma defeated the Dutch East India Company at the famous Battle of Colachel.
Kanyakumari was under the rule of the Pandyan Kings till the downfall of Pandyas, and later by kings of Travancore under the overall suzerainty of the British until 1947, when India became independent. Travancore joined the independent Indian Union in 1947. The reign of the Travancore royals came to an end.
Under Travancore rule, the town, and the modern administrative district that bears its name, Kanyakumari District, progressed both socially and economically. Still a significant part of population study and speak Malayalam as their mother-tongue. The culture followed by Kanyakumari people is mixed and has more influence from Travancore.
In 1949, Kanyakumari became part of the reconstituted Travancore-Cochin State. Around this time, a popular agitation by the Tamil-speaking people of the district for the amalgamation of Kanyakumari District with Tamil Nadu intensified under the leadership of Marshal Nesamony. Kumari Thanthai Marshal Nesamony was instrumental in the merger of Kanyakumari district with Tamil Nadu (then known as Madras State) in 1956 during the linguistic reorganisation of states.