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Tirunelveli - The Place Known for Its Geographical Diversity
Getting Familiar with the City
Tirunelveli, or Nellai as it was originally called, is a city in the district of the same name in Tamil Nadu. Located on the western banks of River Thamirabarani, this culturally rich ancient city is famous for its numerous temples and churches as well as other sites of tourist interest.  The history of the city dates back to 900 BC, when it was under the reign of the Pandaya kings, who treated it as their secondary capital.  The city is located just a short distance away from India’s southernmost tip and is known for its five distinct geographical landscapes, which include mountains, forests, coastal areas, deserts and paddy fields. 

Prominent Tourist Destinations
Swamy Nellaiappar Temple: This temple is the most prominent religious structure in the city of Tiruneliveli. Considered to be an architectural masterpiece, the temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and built according to the principles of Rama Pandian’s agama shastras. Although the temple is much older, some its most significant parts are believed to have been constructed in the 17th century by Nindrasir Nedumaran. Most prominent among these relatively recent structures are the chain mandapam and the flower garden, which also houses the famous 100 pillared vasantha mandapam built in a square shape.  Another important feature of the temple is its huge chariot that has a weight of 400 tons and which makes it the third largest such chariot of India. 

The Venkatachalapathy Temple: This highly sacred place of Tiruneliveli is located on the Tirunelveli-Tiruchendur Road in the village of Krishnapuram. The temple is dedicated to Lord Venkatachalapathy, who, it is believed lives here with his wives Goddesses Bhudevi and Sridevi. The temple is constructed with great architectural and sculptural skills which attracts numerous tourists to this holy place.  Perfect examples of these skills are the images of the two elephants that are carved at the entrance to the Veerappa Naick Mandapam. In addition, the temple is beautifully decorated with the numerous carved images which portray different scenes from ancient Hindu text of Puranas.   The temple also features a wide range of stone sculptures which are scattered within the complex.

Kootapuly: This village is one of the most significant parts of Tirunelveli, which is renowned for housing St. Joseph’s Church.  This church is considered to be the first Church of St. Joseph in India, and it is also one of the oldest Christian holy places in the world. The church is located amidst breathtakingly beautiful surroundings, where visitors can see high mountains on one side and the deep sea on the other side, which help to further enhance the popularity of the church as a tourist hot spot.

The Kappal Matha Church: This small church dedicated to St. Mary, has been run by the Pastors of Goa mission since a long time, and they celebrated various festivals at this church during this period.  The church celebrates a special festival on 18th September every year, as it is on this day that the statue of Selvamatha was surrounded by bright light for over an hour, despite no candles having been lit. This event occurred on an occasion when a young maiden was visiting the church nunnery. There is now a tradition of the church nunnery being visited by young maidens at night and departing only at dawn. The present church was rebuilt in 1974, on the ruins of the old church, which was destroyed due to sea erosion. The shape of this new sea facing Kappal Matha Church is like a ship, which is quite unique for a Christian holy place. 


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