The statue of the philosopher Thiruvalluvar is silhouetted against the sunrise at Kanyakumari. Wikipedia

Fr. Raymond de Souza: We musn’t lose sight of who created nature

  • January 18, 2020

KANYAKUMARI, TAMIL NADU, INDIA -- A new year is upon us, which comes first a new day. At Kanyakumari each new day is marked with festivity.

Tourists and pilgrims come to this southern tip of India — formerly known as Cape Comorin — to see both, the sunrise and the sunset. Kanyakumari is surrounded by bodies of water which create a vast horizon, an empty canvas for the illuminating sun. The confluence of the three bodies of water — Indian Ocean, Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea — inspires visitors to watch the sun rise in the east, making its way across the sky to set in the west. The sun emerges from the water only to return; the two observatory points are a mere 2.5 kilometres apart. 

Tourists come for the breathtaking views but are inclined to visit the large monuments off the coast of the city. A short, yet choppy, ferry ride brings them to the Vivekananda Rock Memorial built in honour of Swami Vivekananda, a guru who is said to have attained spiritual enlightenment in that location. 

A temple of the virgin goddess Kanya Kumari — whom the city is named after — and a meditation centre lies there. Across the memorial stands a massive, 133-feet tall statue of Tamil poet and philosopher Thiruvalluvar. The Thiruvalluvar statue and temple are the Hindu shrines that mark the sunrise viewing point. In contrast, at the sunset viewing point is a more modest, but still tall, statue of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, Stella Maris. 

At sunrise, there were some 10,000 to 15,000 Hindu pilgrims thronging the sunrise point. Hinduism has many gods and like all polytheistic religions — ancient Egypt comes to mind in the biblical context — tends to divinize nature itself. The opening lines of the Bible — In the beginning God created the heavens and the Earth — make it clear that the Judeo-Christian tradition firmly rejects the worship of nature as idolatry. Nature is not God; only the God who created the natural world is God. Having both Hindu and Catholic shrines in close proximity underlines that contrast. 

"From the rising of the sun to its setting, may the name of the Lord be praised"

– Psalm 113

The Third Eucharistic Prayer, echoing the psalmist, prays that “from the rising of the sun to its setting a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name.” Visiting Kanyakumari in that light, where the sunrise and sunset define local life, makes it something of a pilgrimage even for a Catholic, who comes not to worship the sun itself. Indeed, at the Stella Maris statue we prayed the rosary awaiting the sunset.

In Kanyakumari, Hindu mythology foretells an adolescent virgin bringing to end the evil reign of Bana, a demon king. The Hindi goddess of love, Parvathi, was reincarnated into Kanya Kumari (“a virgin teenage girl”) in order to fulfill the prophecy. However, Kanya Kumari fell in love and was engaged to marry Lord Shiva. 

To preserve the prophecy, the marriage was undermined and the bridegroom was manipulated to think the wedding had passed. Heartbroken, Kanya Kumari vowed to remain a virgin. The prophecy was fulfilled, and the heroine won the battle against Bana, however, not without cost.

At sunrise there is the temple of Kanya Kumari; at sunset the statue of Our Lady, Stella Maris. Even independent of what is true, one tale is rather more comforting and hopeful than the other. 

Pope Pius XII, quoting Bernard of Clairvaux, remarked the title of Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, “befits the Virgin Mother … (for) as the ray does not diminish the brightness of the star, neither did the Child born of her tarnish the beauty of Mary’s virginity.” 

The meeting points of the three seas makes Kanyakumari sacred for Hindus; after the sun, it is water that is the most powerful force in nature. Bathing in Kanyakumari’s waters is believed to absolve the sins of the faithful; a pagan baptism of sorts.

But as we recalled recently on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus, it is not the waters that are sacred, but the entry of Jesus into them that makes them holy. 

Sacred Scripture is replete with references to nature, extolling the greatness and power of creation. But it remains always that, the creation of a still greater, still more powerful Creator. 

The temptation to worship nature never entirely goes away; indeed, in our time it is growing stronger, even in the Church, as a love of nature becomes disproportionate. 

As Catholics, we don’t really love nature, which in any case cannot love us back. We love God, who created nature, and who loved us first. 

(Fr. de Souza is editor-in-chief of and a pastor in the Archdiocese of  Kingston.)

Comments (1)

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Dear ignoramus,

You are a part of nature. Your ancestors were once Hindu. And, you bought your way into an alien cult. A cult that prays to idols and figurines of a malnourished man strung from 2 pieces of wood. You build giant buildings and...

Dear ignoramus,

You are a part of nature. Your ancestors were once Hindu. And, you bought your way into an alien cult. A cult that prays to idols and figurines of a malnourished man strung from 2 pieces of wood. You build giant buildings and conduct opulent rituals. And, yet, like a true hypocrite, you have no moral and ethical integrity to call yourself as an idolator. You appropriate and steal other's cultural norms, and yet act as if thee is pure.
You have no respect towards Hindus, their culture and their civilization. Makar Sankranthi is an auspicious time for Hindus and India. If you don't like where you stay and respect those people, then your I'll can walk out. Jesu will not mind. It is evident from your evilish writings that you hold hatred in every cell of your putrid body. You may call me a heathen, and I will deem you a Rakshasa who is slave to his vices, and I see many vices in you.

You do not have the faintest ideas of nature and you certainly do not know God. But, hey, bask in your ignorance for your place is reserved in hell.

May he divine Shiva lead you from ignorance to knowledge, from Adharmic cults slavery to Dharmic spirituality.

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Divya Atma
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