Travel Review

Trip to Rameswaram

A few weeks back I got to visit Rameswaram town after a decade or so. The main reason for the trip was to visit the recently opened memorial for Dr Kalam at Peikarumbu, Rameswaram.

We travelled from Chennai by train – the newly introduced “Faizabad Express” (16794) that runs from Ayodhya to Rameswaram.  The train leaves Chennai Egmore at 18:50 to reach Rameswaram next day morning 07:10. It was a new route, the coaches were brand new and comfortable, with bio-toilets that don’t dirty the tracks with its waste.

Second AC coaches - Faizabad Express
Second AC coaches – Faizabad Express
"Faizabad Express" (16794) that runs from Ayodhya to Rameswaram
“Faizabad Express” (16794) that runs from Ayodhya to Rameswaram
Train as it goes over the historic Pamban Bridge
Train as it goes over the historic Pamban Bridge
Fishing boats as seen from Pamban Bridge
Fishing boats as seen from Pamban Bridge
Mini truck going over the new road bridge to Pamban village
Mini truck going over the new road bridge to Pamban village
Rameswaram Station
Rameswaram Station

We stayed at Daiwik Hotels Rameswaram, which was one of the best hotels in town.

Daiwik Hotels Rameswaram
Daiwik Hotels Rameswaram
Model depicting the story behind Rameswaram - Rama & Seetha praying to Lord Siva
Model depicting the story behind Rameswaram – Rama & Sita praying to Lord Siva – Seen at Hotel Royal Park, Rameswaram

After settling down in the hotel and a bath, we went for a darshan at the famous Ramanathaswamy Temple on Rameswaram Island dedicated to the God Shiva. It is one of the 274 Paadal Petra Sthalams, where the three of the most revered Nayanars (Saivite saints) have glorified the temple with their songs. The temple was expanded during the 12th century by Pandya Dynasty. The presiding deity, the Lingam of Ramanathaswamy (Shiva), is believed to have been established and worshipped by Rama, an avatar of the God Vishnu, to absolve the sins created during the Ramayana war at Sri Lanka. According to Skānda Purāṇa, twenty-four Tīrthas (holy water bodies) that are on this island are important. Bathing in these Tīrthas is a major aspect of the pilgrimage to Rameswaram and is considered equivalent to penance. Twenty-two of the Tīrthas are within the Rāmanāthasvāmī Temple, hence you will see on any given day thousands of pilgrims queueing for the holy bath. As pilgrims move around in half-dried clothes, the corridors in the temple can be wet – the elderly have to be careful while walking.

South tower of Ramanathaswamy Temple
South tower of Ramanathaswamy Temple
Pilgrims near the east tower entrance
Pilgrims near the east tower entrance
Pilgrims queueing for the holy bath at the 22 theerthams of the temple
Pilgrims queueing for the holy bath at the 22 theerthams of the temple
Rameswaram is famous for its handy craft items made from conch and seashells - a shop selling decorative lamp holders
Rameswaram is famous for its handy craft items made from conch and seashells – a shop selling decorative lamp holders
Every inch of the temple is sculptured elegantly with images of Gods and Goddessess
Every inch of the temple is sculptured elegantly with images of Gods and Goddessess
Main tower (Tower) of Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram
Main tower (Tower) of Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram
Beautifully decorated temple corridor, one of the longest in India
Beautifully decorated temple corridor, one of the longest in India
East-West Corridor is 649 feet long; North-South Corridor is 395 feet; Each Pillar is 22 feet in height. Overall 1212 Pillars are at Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram
East-West Corridor is 649 feet long; North-South Corridor is 395 feet; Each Pillar is 22 feet in height. Overall 1212 Pillars are at Ramanathaswamy Temple, Rameswaram
Mythical lions and devas are depicted in every pillar
Mythical lions and devas are depicted in every pillar
Even the ceilings are beautifully painted - Rameswaram temple corridors
Even the ceilings are beautifully painted – Rameswaram temple corridors

After having a good darshan, we went for a boat ride on the sea near Rameswaram temple. The joyride was operated by a small outfit who charged Rs.60 per person for the 30-minute ride on the sea close to the shore. Apart from us, there were about 50 passengers who went on the ride, which were being operated continuously during the day.

With my friend E.Ravi (on the left)
With my friend E.Ravi (on the left)
One of the bathing ghats
One of the bathing ghats
View from sea all the four gopurams of Ramanathaswamy temple, Rameswaram
View from sea all the four gopurams of Ramanathaswamy temple, Rameswaram

After lunch on the first day of our stay in Rameswaram, we went to House of Kalam and then to Dr A P J Abdul Kalam Memorial at Peikarumbu.

On the second day, we decided to first visit Dhanushkodi (தனுஷ்கோடி) town which was destroyed completely during the 1964 cyclone and remains uninhabited for decades. A few months back, during the visit by Prime Minister Of India, a new road was constructed connecting Dhanushkodi to Rameswaram Island. We were told by local residents, after the new road, thousands of tourist are visiting Dhanushkodi every day and tourism is booming.

Dhanushkodi (தனுஷ்கோடி) town - National Highway 49
Dhanushkodi (தனுஷ்கோடி) town – National Highway 49
(நீர்) இருக்கும்வரை உன் நினைவிருக்கும் - பென்னிகுயிக். A poem dedicated to British Engineer John Pennycuick who built Mullaiperiyar dam.
(நீர்) இருக்கும்வரை உன் நினைவிருக்கும் – பென்னிகுயிக். A poem dedicated to British Engineer John Pennycuick who built Mullaiperiyar dam.
India Post - Post Office functioning from a hut
India Post – Post Office functioning from a hut
Turkey?
Turkey?
Old railway station - Dhanushkodi
Old railway station – Dhanushkodi
What remains of the old railway station - Dhanushkodi
What remains of the old railway station – Dhanushkodi
What remains of the destroyed railway track
What remains of the destroyed railway track
Inside view of the front wall of the destroyed Church
Inside view of the front wall of the destroyed Church
Front facade of the destroyed Church - Dhanushkodi
Front facade of the destroyed Church – Dhanushkodi
Ruins of the chapel - Dhanushkodi
Ruins of the chapel – Dhanushkodi
Ruins of the Hindu Temple, standing next to the Chapel - Dhanushkodi
Ruins of the Hindu Temple, standing next to the Chapel – Dhanushkodi
More ruins - Dhanushkodi
More ruins – Dhanushkodi
Destroyed houses in Dhanushkodi
Destroyed houses in Dhanushkodi

Dhanushkodi was off-limits for civilians for many decades, during that period it was rumoured to be a heaven of smuggling and for being the port of entry for illegal immigrants from Sri Lanka during the civil war in that country. Now, it feels like any other popular tourist destination in India – crowded with people everywhere, hundreds of vehicles and shops selling everything from showpieces to coconut water.

Shops selling seashells and even 'lays' chips
Shops selling seashells and even ‘lays’ chips
Hundreds of tourists visiting the pristine beaches in Dhanushkodi
Hundreds of tourists visiting the pristine beaches in Dhanushkodi
A man enthusiastically posing for his picture
A man enthusiastically posing for his picture
Pink sugar candy seller with a bell to sound his arrival
Pink sugar candy seller with a bell to sound his arrival
Venkatarangan on a boat to nowhere
Venkatarangan on a boat to nowhere
Anchor, rusted?
Anchor, rusted?
Pristine waves on the shore of Dhanushkodi
Pristine waves on the shore of Dhanushkodi
Ravi captured this spontaneous smile
Ravi captured this spontaneous smile
Colourful fishing net
Colourful fishing net
National emblem of India featuring four Asiatic lions standing back to back. At the bottom is a horse and a bull, and at its centre is a wheel (Dharma chakra).
The National emblem of India featuring four Asiatic lions standing back to back. At the bottom is a horse and a bull, and at its centre is a wheel (Dharma Chakra).

After Dhanushkodi, we went for a quick darshan at Kothandaramar Temple (கோதண்டராமர் திருக்கோயில்) which is on the way from Rameswaram to Dhanushkodi.

Kothandaramar Temple (கோதண்டராமர் திருக்கோயில்)
Kothandaramar Temple (கோதண்டராமர் திருக்கோயில்)
This holy place is where Lord Rama conducted crowning (Pattabhisekam) of Vibheeshunar, brother of King Ravana after the battle
This holy place is where Lord Rama conducted crowning (Pattabhisekam) of Vibheeshunar, brother of King Ravana after the battle
The temple tower depicting Goddess Seetha, God Rama and his brother Lakshmana along with Hanuman and Vibhheeshunar
The temple tower depicting Goddess Seetha, God Rama and his brother Lakshmana along with Hanuman and Vibhheeshunar

After lunch, we went to Vivekananda Memorial Hall, which marks the place where Swami Vivekananda landed on his return from his historic visit to America. It is situated about 5 kilometres from the main road, peaceful, ideal for meditating and free of the tourist crowd. You get brilliant view of Pamban road bridge from here.

Vivekananda Memorial Hall, Rameswaram
Vivekananda Memorial Hall, Rameswaram
Swami Vivekananda (சுவாமி விவேகானந்தர்) 1863-1902
Swami Vivekananda (சுவாமி விவேகானந்தர்) 1863-1902
On his return from west, Swami Vivekananda was received by King of Ramnad Bhaskara Sethupathy - 26 January 1897
On his return from west, Swami Vivekananda was received by King of Ramnad Bhaskara Sethupathy – 26 January 1897
Beach behind the Vivekananda Hall
Beach behind the Vivekananda Hall

Our last stop for the visit was to the new Pamban road bridge (Annai Indira Gandhi road bridge) which connects the National Highway (NH 49) with the Rameswaram island.

Though prohibited, tourist vehicles stop on top of the road bridge for a good view
Though prohibited, tourist vehicles stop on top of the road bridge for a good view
Fishing hamlets as seen from Pamban road bridge
Fishing hamlets as seen from Pamban road bridge
Fishing boats
Fishing boats
The Railway men repairing the track - Pambam rail bridge
The Railway men repairing the track – Pambam rail bridge
Iconic Pambam rail bridge
Iconic Pambam rail bridge
Venkatarangan in front of the Iconic Pambam rail bridge
Venkatarangan in front of the Iconic Pambam rail bridge

Overall, the long-awaited trip to Rameswaram was fun and spiritual too.

Read here the post on my visit to House of Kalam and Dr Kalam’s memorial.

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