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Situated on Cape Comorin, the southern tip of India, Kanyakumari is a tourist and pilgrimage centre named for the goddess Kanya Kumari ("Youthful Virgin"), whose love for Shiva was never consummated. The tsunami of Dec 2004 claimed over a thousand human lives in this district. On a rocky island just off the coast is a monument for Swami Vivekananda built in 1970. Another island has a giant statue of Thiruvalluvar, a Tamil poet-saint and author of the Tirukkural ("Sacred Couplets"), often compared to the Bible, John Milton's Paradise Lost, and the works of Plato. Little is known about his life except that he lived in Mylapore, India, no later than the 4th century CE. He was probably a Jain ascetic who worked as a weaver. Both Buddhists and Shaivites, however, claim him as their own; he is especially revered by those of low caste. Aphoristic in nature, many ideas in the Tirukkural were bold for his time. He dismissed the caste system: "One is not great because of one's birth in a noble family; one is not low because of one's low birth." Goodness is its own reward, not a mere means to a comfortable afterlife. Now the patron saint of Chennai bus drivers, his likeness appears above the windshields in the vehicles of the city's official Tiruvalluvar Bus Company. [Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica]
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