Rameshwaram had always been a pilgrimage to all ,but my recent visit to place revealed quite a mixed bag of things other than just a pilgrimage.I would rather call it a melange of things ,from visits to temples , serene beaches ,tit bits of mythology strewn everywhere,or even places of inspiration as the newly constructed memorial of Dr. Abdul Kalam Azad.
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First and foremost -The Temple
The Ramanathaswamy Temple in Rameshwaram is the most coveted place for pilgrims to the island.
It houses one of the twelve Jyotir Lings in India and it is believed that a visit to Kedarnath or Badrinath in the north is not complete without a visit to Rameshwaram .This small town in the Pambam island is a very popular destination for shaivites as well as vaisnavites,since Rameshwaram is also associated with numerous incidents in the epic of Ramayana.It is from this island that Lord Rama is believed to have waged a war against Ravana to bring back Sita from Sri Lanka.
Once in Rameshwaram ,you will be surprised to see signboards of many teerthams all over the place .The teerthams are basically holy water tanks all over the island with temples built along with them. Each teertham has a different mythological story associated with it.Twenty two of these teerthams are located inside the Ramanathaswamy temple itself and are referred to as Agni Teertham.
The visit to the temple for Darshan
There can be many ways of getting Darshan
1-You can start with a bath in the sea and enter through the east gate.and then take baths in the 22 tanks inside the temple and go for Darshan
2- If you are not interested in a bath in the sea you can even go for a bathing ritual at the 22 tanks inside the temple and go for Darshan to the main shrine.The queue starts at the east gate for the 22 tanks also known as Agni Teertham
3-In case you are not going for the ritualistic bath (Agni Teertham), you can even go for Darshan straight(that is what we did)
|A quick breakfast in front of the temple before starting for Dhanushkodi|
I shall admit that I visited the place not so much for a pilgrimage as for the much heard of Dhanushkodi.
. Dhanushkodi is the south eastern most tip of the island,and it is believed that lord Rama had broken his bow here at the sea coast after the battle with Ravana and hence the name..Frankly I was interested in visiting Dhanushkodi to see the ruins of a huge cyclone which had hit the place on the sixties.Now those were things I had read about.But the very intriguing landscape there won over me completely .I had not seen a similar landscape before .As the bus proceeded towards the tip of this end of the island I could see the landscape slowly getting more and more barren .But within a few minutes of this ride waters of two seas started lining the landscape.We had the Indian ocean with its very aggressive waves to one side and the very quiet Bay of Bengal to the other side.The only habitation seen here was that of huts of the fishermen s village.
In brief ,Dhanushkodi is a small strip of land with many tales to tell.
A cyclone in 1964 , devastated the entire township at the coast and killed nearly 2000 people .An entire train with passengers was washed away to the sea.A railway line connected Mandapan to Dhanushkodi at that time no longer exists. The ruins of the once existing township ,like the remains of a water tank or a church stand in the barren landscape as a testimony to it here.The cyclone had submerged much of this end of the island ,which was exposed for a few minutes in 2004 again before the tsunami struck the coast.
How to reach Dhanushkodi
The tip of Dhanushkodi is about 15 kms. from the Ramanathaswamy temple.In case you are dependent on public transport ,buses ply at regular intervals and can be boarded from the temple gate.Bus number 3 takes you straight to Dhanushkodi .One can spend about an hour at Dhanushkodi and board another bus back.Till 2016 ,the road at Dhanushkodi was not good enough for buses to ply ,and the last few kms had to be travelled by a jeep .By the end of 2016 a proper pitched road has been constructed ending all travel woes.
The other option is that of an auto rickshaw ,which is very common at Rameshwaram ,the autorickshaw has to be hired with some bargaining . The autorickshaw has to wait at Dhanushkodi and bring you back to Rameshwaram.While negotiating it needs to be mentioned that the Autorickshaw will take you for a visit to the Bibhison (Ravana's brother) temple on the way
The waves of the Indian ocean at Dhanushkodi
|I am standing here with the Bay Of Bengal in the background|
Dhanushkodi through pictures
Then there are surprises awaiting everywhere.This tiny island was the home town of Dr.Abdul Kalam Azad .IT surprised me to think that a man of his stature had his very modest childhood ,and education here,considering it was so much more remote in those days.A memorial has been recently constructed here,as a tribute to the great man.(The memorial and Dr. Kalam's house are two different places.The house is not open to the Public since his family still lives there)
|Dr.Abdul Kalam's Memorial|
Kannur --7 must visit places in Kannur (Kerala)
A boat ride in Kannur
The Bibhison Temple
This temple is located to the left of the road on the way to Dhanushkodi.We visited it on the way back .You shall get a big crowd and many shops in front of the temple.As you can see in the pic the fields lining the roads to the temple wore a whitish hue,It reminded me of the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat .Probably the sea water here had got land locked ,which evaporated to leave behind the salt.
As for the temple ,when seen from inside could be inferred as quite an old one.The temple houses idols of Rama ,Sita, Laxmana and Bibhison .The priest at the temple enlightened us about the significance of the temple.According to him ,this was the place near the sea where Rama first met Bibhison. Lord Rama's entire army including Sugriv tried to convince Rama against accommodating Bibhison in his army .It was only Hanuman who was convinced that Bibhison was a saint and would mean no harm to them even if he was Ravana's brother.
|The Bibhison Temple can be seen at the distance|
|An autoride through the breezy township|
The autorickshaw is the best and the most convenient option to go around Rameshwram.The auto rickshaw can be hired for going around all the teerthams (small temples )all over Rameshwaram.The autorickshaws here have a different fare for each group of points to see .WE hired one to visit the road bridge and
watch the trains passing over th Pamban bridge running parallely. On the way back we visited the Vilom Teertham and the memorial of Dr.Abdul Kalam Azad.WE paid about 500 rupees for this trip.
A steamer ride in the blue sea
We had plans to take a bath in the sea adjacent to the temple ,but we discarded our plans as the place seemed to be very crowded.You can definitely pay a visit to this place as this place as the remarkable thing here is that no waves are formed in this part of the sea.You can also enjoy a quick south Indian breakfast here at the many shacks around the shore and then go for a steamer ride .My kids enjoyed the ride the most .The view of the temple and the shore from the steamer is wonderful .I enjoyed the cool breeze and watched the fishing boats all around me.
|The temple as seen from the steamer|
|The very appealing view from the streamer|
Rameshwaram is located in the Pamban Island ,which is an island in the east of the tip of peninsular India.This island can be spotted in the map of India as a piece of land between India and Sri Lanka
So the very first excitement lies in crossing the sea over a road bridge and watching the Pamban bridge running parallely.The Pamban bridge is a rail bridge and was the only connection to the island till.The most interesting part is that the rail bridge opens up when a ship has to pass.
The Vilom Teertham
The Vilom Teertham is a place where Rama is believed to have struck the arrow into the ground in the sea to quench Sitas thirst.So even in the midst of salty sea water he could get fresh water for his beloved wife.So there is a well marking the place.THis place can be reached on the way back from the bridge(it is close to the bridge).
What we enjoyed is the time spent in the adjoining sea water.I would not suggest a dip here . Few could be seen taking a dip ,possibly because the sea bed was very coarse with rough edgy pebbles.
|The sea from the bridge|
Otherwise,their are ample options for road transport which take an average of 3 to 4 hours.
Stay at Rameshwaram
The best option would be to stay at the Tamil Nadu Tourism Property,which can be booked online.It is located right at the shore,there are many cottages too to get an excellent view of the ocean.Apart from this ,their are numerous other options around the Ramanathaswamy Temple.
A stay of three days and two nights are enough for a visit to this island. Rameshwarm is best visited in the winters.Though the place is very breezy due to the sea,it can get very hot in the summer months.