Muttom Point Lighthouse

IALA Heritage Lighthouse of the Year 2020 Nominee

Location: INDIA - Tamilnadu. Kanniyakumari District.

Lighthouse Operator: Director General of Lighthouse and Lightships

Source: (photos as submitted to accompany nomination form submitted by Director General of Lighthouse and Lightships in 2020)

Lighthouse Description and History

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Director General of Lighthouse and Lightships in 2020)
Proposal for a lighthouse to mark the southern tip of Indian subcontinent was first propounded by the British Government in latter half of the 19th century. Shipping industry was anticipating a surge in trade between Europe and Asian countries after opening up of Suez Canal. Till then, European ships sailing towards Asian ports had to take the route discovered by Vasco da Gama, encircling the African coast. Suez Canal was cut to connect Red Sea with Arabian Sea to facilitate ships an easy route between Europe and Asia. Suez Canal opened a safe path for ships from Europe, bounding towards Asians ports, circumventing the fury of Atlantic Sea. Traders and insurance companies demanded erection of lighthouses at Cape Comerin (Kanyakumari) in South India and Minicoy Islandto make the shipping channel between Red Sea and southern tip of Indiasafer for mariners. They wanted a referral point at the southernmost tip of India, preferably at Kanyakumari.

Mr. Hugh Crawford, then Master Attendant of Princely state of Travancore suggested Muttom as the apt point to erect the proposed lighthouse. The presence of crocodile rock lying 3 Kilometers off Muttom point was the reason behind such a proposition. Muttom, a sleepy fishermen village then, had strong connections with Chola dynasty that ruled the entire South India.

A 20-meter-high stone tower was erected on Muttom hillock and a fixed light was commissioned in September 1875. A new granite stone tower hexagonal in shape and painted with black and white horizontal bands was built in 1882 as a part of upgradation of lighting apparatus. The new 1st order Dioptric fixed apparatus was commissioned on 1st January 1883. The light was converted to a flashing light, using a second order revolving optic on 1st January 1910. The same apparatus is still in use with a change in illuminant from Petroleum vapour burner to Electric lamp.

Reason For Nomination

(Text extracted from nomination form submitted by Director General of Lighthouse and Lightships in 2020)
Intrinsic Heritage Interest of the Lighthouse

Chola kingdom, that was one of the longest ruling dynasties in the world treated Muttom as an important point. A stone inscription of A.D. 1063, on the eastern wall of Thirunandhikkaraitemple,around 30 kilometers away from lighthouse, corroborates the renaming Muttom village as MummudiCholanellur by Great Raja RajaCholan -I, to mark his visit to the village. Cholas had erected a fort on one of the two islets off Muttom shore, to keep an eye on the ship movement towards the southern tip of Indian sub continent.

The Roman and Greek ships had to circumnavigate this tip to reach the prestigious ancient port Pukar of Cholas. Legends say that Maldives also was under Chola rule and the erection of a fort on the Islet might have an aim to warn mariners about the dangers from crocodile rock also. The fort that remained till end of 18th century was toppled by waves of Arabian Sea and in the first half of 19th century the two islets ‘Kota’andAduma’ also were taken by raged waves. So Muttom lighthouse can be considered as the continuation of the aid to navigation erected by Chola Dynasty. The land required for the erection of lighthouse was donated free of cost by the Princely state of Travancore.


The state of preservation lighthouse and the efforts that have been taken to conserve it. This may include alternative uses.

The lighthouse is conserved in the pristine shape by the Directorate General of Lighthouses and Lightships. The lighthouse is working without any interruption since its establishment. The bull eye and prisms of the 2nd order optic is maintained by the Light Keepers without a chipping.

During the last 110 years they found happiness in keeping the brass and glass parts spot free. The incredulous look of visitors on seeing the brass parts shining like gold has always inspired them. The old Lighthouse Supernatants’ quarters is converted as museum without losing heritage value of the building. Directorate of Lighthouses and Lightships never thought of replacing this beautiful apparatus with small acrylic lenses and lamps to save energy. Instead they provided green energy by installing sufficient solar panels.

Public Access and Education

The efforts that have been made to facilitate public access to the lighthouse and/or to educate the public about the heritage of the nominated lighthouse as well as the wider context of aids to navigation.

Public are allowed to visit the lighthouse on all days except Mondays. Lighthouse and Museum is getting an average of 100 visitors on normal days and during weekends and holidays, it even crosses 250 mark. Lighthouse staff accompanies student groups to explain them the functioning of lighthouse and the important role played by lighthouses when there were no electronic aids to navigation. As a part of improving tourism in lighthouses, Directorate of Lighthouses and Lightships established a Heritage Lighthouse Maritime Museum on 19th November, 2017. The museum is set to pass valuable information about the history of navigation, trade and evolution of lights and lighthouses. While replicas of Sailing ships, steamers, Naval and Coast guard ships provide information about the vessels in the past, different types of illuminants used in lighthouses from Wick lamps to LED lights will teach about the evolution of lamps. The master attraction of the museum is the 1st order optic brought from Vengurla Rock lighthouse. It gives a chance to know about this light that saved the vessels from crashing on submerged rocks strewn around Vengurla and the sufferings and deaths faced by light keepers on that dangerous rock in mid sea, to keep the light uninterrupted.

Touch screen kiosks provided in the museum will gives visitors additional information on museum exhibits apart from the trilingual information boards placed along with every exhibit. A mini hall inside the museum building is screening short films about the history of navigation and lighthouses free on charges.